Friday, April 27, 2018

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Days 21-22: Roving Taipei & Goodbye Taiwan!

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Days 21 & 22: Roving Taipei & Goodbye Taiwan!
Taiwan Day 21 & 22 : Friday & Saturday, 3rd-4th- November - Around Taipei
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, on our further exploration of Taipei (臺北市):
Day 21 Route: Ximending (西門町)>Bopiliao Ancient Street (剝皮寮歷史街區)>Lungshan Temple (龍山寺)>Herb Lane (青草巷)>Bangka Park (艋舺公園)>by MRT>Taipei 101 (台北101)>by MRT>Chiang Kai-shek Memorial (國立中正紀念堂)>by MRT>Ximending (西門町).
Cycle Distance = Not relevant as no cycling.

Day 22 Route: Ximending (西門町)>Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園)>Taipei North Gate (臺北府城北門)>Taipei Main Station Mall (台北車站)>Taipei City Mall (台北地下街)>by MRT>Ximending (西門町).
Cycle Distance = Not relevant as no cycling.

This is page 19 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D20 Taipei 2          |        Go to Other Days       |       Go to Bikes On Planes >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     The Taiwan (台湾) is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
No cycling these two daysas we turned tourists to visit the various places of interest around Taipei.

3. Weather
     At Taipei (臺北市), day temperature ranged from 22°C to 25°C with clear skies. Wind speed averaged 22kph.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the Taiwan are the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
Day 21:
   - Bopiliao Ancient Street (剝皮寮歷史街區) (GPS: 25.03683, 121.50216).
   - Lungshan Temple (龍山寺) (GPS: 25.03716, 121.49990).
   - Herb Lane (青草巷) (GPS: 25.03689, 121.50038).
   - Bangka Park (艋舺公園) (GPS: 25.03601, 121.49991).
   - Taipei 101 (台北101) (GPS: 25.03396, 121.56447).
   - National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂) (GPS: 25.03461, 121.52178). Tip: Go there at dusk as there are nice views of the lit up buildings.
Day 22:
   - 
Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園) (GPS: 25.04471, 121.50319).
   - Taipei North Gate (臺北府城北門) (GPS: 25.04772, 121.51123).
   - Taipei Main Station Mall (台北車站(GPS: 25.04774, 121.51707).
   - Taipei City Mall (台北地下街) (GPS: 25.04905, 121.51472).

5. Food
Day 21:
   Lunch: Yakiniku set at Jinan-Bou Yakiniku Restaurant (牛角次男坊) (GPS: 25.03394, 121.56407) in Taipei 101 (台北101) food court.
   Dinner: Minced-pork rice set with Xiaolongbao (小籠包, Little Dragon Dumplings) opposite the iVideo Ximending Outlet (iVideo西門門市) (GPS: 25.04319, 121.50777near our hotel at Ximending.
Day 22:
   Breakfast: Taiwanese burgers at in Little Beanie Chinese Quick Service Restaurant (小豆豆中西式速食) 
(GPS: 25.04333, 121.50775stall in Ximending.
   Lunch: Taiwanese noodles with pork/chicken chop at Hei Mein Tsai Restaurant in the Taipei City Mall.
   Afternoon Tea: Mushroom soup set at 777咖啡 Cafe (GPS: 25.04994, 121.51131in the Taipei City Mall.
   Dinner: Minced-pork rice set with Corn Buns desserts at a stall near our hotel in Ximending.
  
6. Accommodations
Pre-booked and pre-paid accommodations via Air BnB for three nights at Freebird Apartments (GPS: 25.04349, 121.50803) at Emei Street in Ximending. It was a single apartment for six price at  NTD2,000 per night. It came with two queen beds and two floor mattresses, rudimentary utensils, fridge and even a washing machine. The only complain was that the bath and W.C. were combined, so we had to patiently take turns.
- Three nights a double room for two at Mei Lodge (GPS: 25.0421, 121.50536in Ximending.

7. Travelling By Trains And Bringing Bikes Onto Trains In Taiwan
    Folding bicycle are allowed onto most trains (express, local and metro trains) but must be bagged before entering the platform, and only unbagged after leaving the platform. Unbagged folding bikes (and full-sized bikes) will usually face a charge equivalent to 50% of the fare. Do note that at smaller stations there are not lifts or escalators for getting to the platforms, so do expect some carrying across bridges or underpasses. A few stations do provide bike-way for pushing across the tracks, do look for signages indicating these; but use of them is subject to the station master's discretion on safety.
    For more details on charges on bringing bikes onto the different trains (local or express trains) click here for the Taiwan Railway Administration Guide On Carriage of Bicycles.
   Click here for a link to the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) website for booking train routes and fares; and also to see which railway line totally does not allow bicycles on board.
    Click here for guidelines on bringing folidng bikes onto the Taipei Metro.
    Train services are quite regular between larger towns, but at smaller towns services may not be that regular (perhaps like every two or three hours). Do check at the respective stations for the train schedules or at this TRA booking site link.
    Click here for the Taipei Metro Fares & Travel Time.
    
8. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest.
    At Taipei Taoyuan Airport Terminal One, just after exiting the into the arrival hall, there are several booths on the left selling pre-paid phone SIM cards. We got pre-paid 4G prepaid SIM cards from Chung Hwa as they had good coverage even in remote areas. These cost NTD1,000 for a 30-day plan that includes unlimited data and NTD$430 credit for texts or calls. These can also be booked on line.
    Those without sim card could try using free Wifi that are sometimes available at the airport, some bigger train stations or hotels; do note that these free wifi may not be stable and registration could be required.

9. Communicating with Locals
    Most Taiwanese (台湾人) speaks Mandarin (官话) and Hokkien (福建話), and very few speak English. So it would be good to have a person in the team who can converse in Mandarin or Hokkien.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedules.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.

_________________________________________________________________________
PRELUDE

The previous day was more a day of train rides with some short stints of cycling thrown in as we headed towards the Tamsui Rivermouth with a long stop at Shilin to visit the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院), one of the best museums in the world as it showcases thousands of exhibits from China's more that three thousand years recorded history. How I wish that we had more time at Tamsui (淡水, Danshui) as there are nice cycling paths there and also at Bali (八里) on the opposite bank.
Today & tomorrow we leave our bicycles behind and went for short walks culminating with shopping at the underground malls.

THE RIDE


Day 21 Destinations: Ximending (西門町)>Bopiliao Ancient Street (剝皮寮歷史街區)>Lungshan Temple (龍山寺)>Herb Lane (青草巷)>Bangka Park (艋舺公園)>by MRT>Taipei 101 (台北101)>by MRT>Chiang Kai-shek Memorial (國立中正紀念堂)>by MRT>Ximending (西門町).
Cycle Distance = Not relevant as no cycling.
(Note: map shows the destinations of Days 21 & 22.
These map shows the various places of interest that we visited during the last two days of our stay in Taiwan. No route is show, so feel free to explore the streets. The destination notation is for the places I visited on Day 21.

DAY 21
Poor me was down with a light case of diarrhea, and while my buddies headed out, I rested a while for my tummy to settle down and only left the hotel close to noon for my own walking adventure.
After seeing how effective the Taiwan's cough & sore throat lozenges medication was, my first task was to hunt for shops that sell this. It's to bring back for my better half back home. With Google Maps as a guide, I started off for the first of many shops indicated on the map.... and then... got distracted along the way ... haha!
What caught my eye were these red brick houses that stood out conspicuously among the newer shop houses. These are the restored old buildings of the Bopiliao Ancient Street; nobody stays here anymore but a few of the houses have been turned into a information centre, and a Bopiliao Heritage and Culture Education Center.

This historic enclave occupies a few streets, traffic is not allowed into these streets. At one corner was an empty site which was probably an old cinema as indicated by a poster of a feature film.
During the Qing DynastyBopiliao Street was a major passage between the Mangka District and Guting District. In the Japanese Colonial Period, this street was displaced by the current Guangzhou Street, and the old street was relegated as a back alley. In July 2003, several projects were implemented to repair and restore the buildings and roads as an historical site.

While there, one should not miss the Information Centre situated at No. 9, Lane 173, Kangding Road (GPS: 25.03693, 121.50199). Like the rest of the houses here, its timber facade has been well restored.

One can get much information about the place from the guides present there; but what is more interesting are the many photos on display at the adjacent unit. These photos shows live at Kinmen County (金門縣), like the one above of a lady vegetable seller in front of a wall mural.
Kinmen or Quemoy, officially called Kinmen County, is a group of islands, governed by the Republic of China (ROC), which is located just off the southeastern coast of mainland China, including Great Kinmen, Lesser KinmenWuqiu and several surrounding islets. Located only about two kilometres east of the mainland city of Xiamen, its strategic position has reflected the significant change of Cross-Strait relations, from a battlefront to a trading point between China and Taiwan.

Another photo shows a bride dressed in contemporary early 20th century red bridal gown in front of a Chinese altar.

I found several shops but the lozenges they sold were not the ones I was looking for I got distracted again .... and it's, another detour to the Lungshan Temple. Although it was a Friday, the place was busy with devotees.

At the large compound, offering were laid out for prayers...

Withing the main pavilion, devotees knelt down to prayer.
One of the most renowned temples in TaipeiLungshan Temple worships Guanyin and other divine spirits. It is now recognized as a Tier-Second historical site of Taiwan, being one of the four must-see attractions in Taipei. The temple features not only exquisite architecture but also a mass of Chinese poems, verses, and phrases onsite representing values of the religion and Chinese culture, offering visitors a detailed understanding of Chinese traditional architectures and religion.
Many locals celebrate Oixi Festival (七夕节
) by visiting temples like this, praying passionately to their gods at the vibrant temples. People held incense sticks and said prayers to the god of matchmaking and marriage, the legendary matchmaker known as the Yue Xia Lao Ren (月下老人), on Valentine’s Day, hoping to find their love ones.

Just behind the temple is Herb Lane located at Xichang Street. Here too I couldn't find the medication I was seeking for as this place only sell fresh and unprocessed herbs like aloelavender, etc. They even sold the Pandanus Tectorius a bright orange fruit which I saw at the Batanes during a cycling tour at the Philippines; I had thought that these were food eaten by coconuts crabs. Now I know that they are also used for herbal medicine.
On entering the lane, an intoxicating blend of herbal fragrances from the shops waft out to greet visitors. Over ten herb stores are packed here, selling just about anything herbal under the sun. As the story goes, disease was common to this area in early years, but the lack of Chinese medicine doctors forced the people instead to seek out herbal remedies, including soups with herbal infusions. Because of this, the area also was known then as 'salvation street.'
Today, the shops continue to focus on healthy products, including over one hundred types of herbs, many of them from southern Taiwan. The stores also sell herbal teas to help beat the summer heat. Along Lane 209 by Guangzhou Street and Herb Lane, the city government has established an educational herbal garden planted with aloe, Japanese Knotweed, saxifrage, lavender and other herbs.

Finally, at the Sunrise Pharmacy (日昇藥局) (GPS: 25.03658, 121.50119) nearby I found the lozenges. In Taiwan, processed medication such as these are found at pharmacies and not at traditional Chinese medicine hall like in Malaysia. They were not the same brand as Ann's but the friendly, assuring pharmacist confidently told me with a warm smile that they would do the trick.

Time to board the MRT and explore further away; I caught the train at the near the Bangka Park, a distinctively art-themed “folklore park” teeming with culturally significant details. For example, a dragon-inspired sculpture in the park’s east side is inspired by Chinese Feng Shui for good luck, being an azure dragon appearing on the left-hand side when facing south, while a boat sculpture (see photo above) in the west side recount a bit of history of the early settlers in the neighborhood who used canoes as a common means of transportation, ferrying and trade.

My next destination was the Taipei 101 Tower which soared skyward, completed in 2004, it was then the tallest building in the world. It is now the fifth tallest.
My diarrhea had settled down and here I had a Yakiniku lunch set at Jinan-Bou Yakiniku Restaurant located at the lower ground food court of the building.

Next to Taipei 101, is Taipei World Trade Center (GPS: ) with it's attractive pink blockish structure.

Sufficiently replenished, I boarded the MRT and headed for the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Entering through the Arch of the Liberty Square (由廣場牌樓) a wonderful sight greeted me. The Memorial Hall sat across the large Liberty Square compound, it was of a spartan yet beautifully distinct design.

Liberty Square (also Freedom Square) is a public plaza covering over 240,000 square meters. it has served as the public gathering place of choice since its completion in the late 1970s. The name of the square recalls the important historical role it played in Taiwan's transition from one-party rule to modern democracy in the 1990s. Liberty Square serves as a major site for public gatherings in Taipei and is home to three major landmarks as well as civic parks. At the east end of Liberty Square stands the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The square is flanked by the National Concert Hall on the north and the National Theater on the south.
Liberty Square regularly serves as the site of mass gatherings in Taiwan. It is the scene for red-carpet ceremonies when Taiwan's president greets foreign dignitaries. Crowds gather at the square throughout the year for outdoor festivals and concerts. The Taipei Lantern Festival regularly takes place on the square. On many days students, athletes and soldiers may be seen at the square, working on drills and dance routines.

When I was there the skies where dark with rain clouds, but this just added to the splendor of the building when I took this photo in a "dramatic mode" of my camera.

Inside I witnessed the marching soldiers as they performed the changing of guards, saluting honorably to the statue of Chiang Kai Shek.
The changing of the guard is held on the hour from 10 am to 4 pm, and on Wednesdays from 10 am to 6 pm.

I arrived here at around 4:00pm which is a good time as then I got to appreciate the buildings during day time, and then an hour later dusk setted in and the buidling were magically lit up beautifully. Above is the memorial hall at dusk with the inside glowing orange onto the white lit steps.

At the other end of the square the Arch of the Liberty Square (由廣場牌樓) (GPS: 25.03667, 121.51761) was grandly lit up in orangish-yellow.

In fact the wholes square was a kaleidoscope of different colours; on the two sides the pillars of the National Concert Hall and the National Theater glowed a bright red.

The lighting also exacerbated the dimensional design of the roof eaves of these two building.

I returned to Ximending to meet my buddies and there we ended the day with dinner of a Minced-pork rice set eaten together with steaming hot Xiaolongbao (小籠包, Little Dragon Dumplings). The stall we ate at was opposite the iVideo Ximending Outlet (iVideo西門門市)
_________________________________________________________________________

DAY 22

Day 22 Route: Ximending (西門町)>Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園)>Taipei North Gate (臺北府城北門)>Taipei Main Station Mall (台北車站)>Taipei City Mall (台北地下街)>by MRT>Ximending (西門町).
Our day started with breakfast at a place with a cute name -Little Beanie Chinese Quick Service Restaurant. They serves beans and peas in their menu hence that cute name, so don't go looking around for beanie hats or beanie bags here! We didn't have beans and peas and opted for their burgers together with pan fried radish cakes.
We will be flying back today but our flight was only at 11pm. So we literally had the whole day to see more of Taipei. Xiao Wei was most kind: we had to check out by 11am, but he had let us put our luggage and bagged bikes at another apartment in the same building.. and off we went!
Playing it safe, we will stick around the vicinity and started with a walk to the Taipei Cinema Park. We had seen the place two days ago but then it was in the dark evening. So today we are having another go at it, to see the artwork there and better appreciate them in bright daylight. And the girls were their playful selves posing in various poses with the artwork; they are so cute here with a scary piece.

Some of the artwork are very realistic, this one I thought was purely art, but it was a misleading hole drawn around a door leading to an operating shop inside. Boy, was I surprised when the people inside started to move!

We wended through the narrow streets and reached a stoky squarish red building with pointed Chinese roofs. This is the Taipei North Gate (Cheng'en Gate) one of five historic city gates in Taipei: the others being the East Gate (Jingfu Gate), West Gate (Baocheng Gate), South Gate (Lizheng Gate), Lesser South Gate (Chongxi Gate). They were built by Liu Ming-chuan during the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty as a measure to expedite urban development by encouraging businessmen to invest in or build houses/streets in Taipei City.

These gates formed part of the Taipei City Walls (臺北府城) which was built in 1884 and formed defensive wall five kilometres long. Of all the gates only the North Gate remains, and nearby to it are sculptures of stone-workers chiseling out rocks to built the wall.

Well, sight-seeing time is over. Time to make the girls happy and go shopping, we started with the Taipei Main Station Mall, within which are many shops.

We had a quick noodles lunch at Hei Mien Tsai (黑面蔡) and then found out that corridors connect it to the Taipei City Mall, an even bigger underground shopping mall with even more shops to make the girls even happier.

All sorts of shops fill the malls, selling many goods and edible stuff. This one sells dried preserved fruits... we bought some. Other things that is recommended to buy are the self folding umbrellas, press a button and presto! the telescopic arm retracts and the umbrella folds inwards! One should also look for the stainless steel thermos flask as they are of a good quality, comes with a nifty bag, and cheaper here too.

While the girls continued their shopping spree, we guys rested our legs, had coffee and even a snooze at 777咖啡 Cafe. It's amazing, when it comes to shopping, girls have stronger legs than guys! Hahaha!

Back at Ximending, our last dinner before leaving Taiwan was a minced pork rice meal with side dishes followed by this nice dessert of a corn pancake that is something like a smaller version Malaysia's Ban Chang Kueh.

7:30pm - A last look at Ximending, nothing has changed, it's was busy as ever only thing that will be missing is us, soon.

7:30pm - Somehow we managed to squeezed our six bikes, our luggage (which had grown after our shopping trip) into the airport transfer van and off we went to the airport.

GOODBYE TAIWAN,
WE HAD A LOVELY TIME HERE.
GOOD CYCLING EXPERIENCES, FANTASTIC SCENERIES & WONDERFUL FOOD.
WE HOPE TO BE BACK SOON!
再见
(That's Zàijiàn, Goodbye in Chinese)

(For more photos of the Day 21, Click Here)
(For more photos of the Day 22, Click Here)
This is page 19 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D20 Taipei 2          |        Go to Other Days       |       Go to Bikes On Planes >

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