November 17, 2012

Taiwan 2012 (Day 2, 17 Nov)

The weather today was a stark contrast to the sunshine of yesterday. It was drizzling as we left the hotel and continued to rain all day long.

Before we embarked on our city sightseeing with the same driver from yesterday, we made pit stops at the train station to collect our tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Hualien, and also we popped by Ambience Hotel to check if we could leave our luggage overnight…we are switching hotels upon our return from Hualien.

There was a wedding party at the hotel, we were greeted by firecrackers…cool!
First stop on our day of sightseeing was Longshan Temple, an old Chinese temple ranked one of the top sights to see. There were lots of incense burners and ornate enclosures housing various Taoist and Buddhist deities.
Next we headed to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. My shoes were soaked by this point…of all days I decided to wear satin ballet flats!
Chiang Kai Shek is much revered in Taiwan, as a former Chinese military and political leader. He established a government in exile there after fleeing China when the Communists took over.
The memorial hall was free to visit and contained various memorabilia and paraphernalia from his life, including state cars. Quite interesting…

We played a prank on Jane when she went to the loo, by hiding her umbrella. Quite juvenile I know, but still we had a good laugh over it.

The history tour continued with a visit to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial. Sun Yat Sen was the founding father of the Republic of China and he has a huge statue in the memorial hall to honour him.

We didn’t visit any other exhibits in the hall except for the statue, for which there was a sign instructing visitors to salute, so I did!
From the hall, we could see Taipei 101 nearby and took turns taking pictures with it.
It was soon lunchtime and I had requested we try Din Tai Fung at least once while in Taiwan. We went to a fairly large outlet nearby, I have no idea where it was located but it was peak period and we queued nearly an hour to get in. There were lots of other tourists queuing and large tour groups.

Thankfully the food was served fast once we were seated. Truth be told, it tasted just like in Singapore so kudos to the team here for maintaining the same standards.
We had ourselves some xiao long bao, hot and sour soup, preserved vegetable noodles, fried pork rib, fried rice and red bean dumplings. I was a happy camper after the meal!
Taiwan being on the Pacific rim-of-fire is subject to tectonic movements and with all the volcanic activity, it has a number of hot springs.

We swung by the Beitou hot springs on the outskirts of the city to have a peak at one thermal pool but the cool weather made it extremely steamy so all we saw was smoke!
Danshui/Tamshui was next, a coastal city also known as Fisherman’s Wharf. It was freezing by this time, especially being next to the sea. The gals stayed indoors while I ventured to the harbour to take a look at the ‘rainbow’ bridge from far.
I couldn’t stand my soggy feet by this point and went into the first shoe store we came across as part of a hotel complex. There were some Adidas’ on sale and I picked out a purple pair. Ah dry feet…
We plied the streets of Tamshui next, popping in and out of stores. Bought some fish crackers recommended by Jane, shared bubble tea, sampled pineapple tarts and saw an electronic signboard for a temple!

Jane and Rena did some serious damage at a store called Porter International while Germaine and I explored some vintage sweet/toy shops.

We went back to the hotel to do a bag drop then headed to Ximending, the shopping area where the young and trendy hang out. I ate some pasta while window-shopping and then we stopped for some more mee sua, orhluak and braised pork rice. There was a Singaporean family in the same eatery, you can spot them a mile away!

I bought a pair of leopard print shoes for $9 and before we left Ximending, we stumbled upon a craft fair and stretch of shops specialising in some vintage and one-of-a-kind wares.

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