Taiwan (Country #22) – part 3 of 3

TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Part 3 of 3)
March 17-23, 2010

March 21, 2010
SHILIN DISTRICT/XIMEN AREA/CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL

My husband and I started the day with brunch at Mos Burger – a fast food restaurant that originated from Japan. After lunch, I accompanied my husband along with 2 other friends back to Shilin market because he left his Canon flash at the foot spa place. Luckily they were open when we arrived and they were able to keep the flash (it’s relatively safe in Taiwan). Since we were at the market again, we took the opportunity to go around the area once more to take some street shots, not realizing how big it really was. Accidentally we found the Cixian Temple within the Shilin district which was apparently a historical site. We were able to eat some sweet bread, popocorn, stinky tofu and chicken steak.

Lanterns at the Cixian Temple

Street Shots

Strolling around the Shilin District (with popcorn!)


We then met our friends at the Ximen station. Our friend recommended the fried chicken (really good 5-spice fried chicken) for early dinner at a nearby eatery. We walked around the area a bit since it was a shopping district then we headed to an IT mall and looked around the camera stores. Then for some night shots we went back to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. Though our day was a bit relaxed, it was enough to make most of us happy.

Night Shoot at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial (Taken by Joseph Leh)

March 22, 2010
BOAI ROAD/TAIPEI 101

Our flight was not until 1 am of March 23 and we didn’t have to leave for the airport till 10 pm. Since we technically still had a full day, we just decided to make this our shopping day (for me this translated to looking for a point and shoot camera). My husband and I checked out before lunch, left our luggage at the hotel and then went to BoAi Road where a lot of camera stores were located. We bought a Canon s90 which was comparatively cheaper than the ones sold in Manila.  Then we went back to the hotel, met up with 2 others then went to the real IT center and looked around. Had a late lunch at the Japanese fast food restaurant there, and then proceeded to Taipei 101 to meet our friends.

Since some were still obsessed with taking pictures and night shots, we split up into two groups once again. Our group decided to go up the Taipei 101 (400 NT to go up to the 89th and 91st floor).

Taipei 101 is the 2nd tallest building (2nd highest architectural structure) in the world. With 101 floors, it stands at 502.9 meters high. Its elevator, if I’m not mistaken, is also the 2nd fastest in the world with speeds of 16.83m/s. It took us 37 seconds to get to the indoor observatory which was located at the 89th floor (382m up). Inside the indoor observatory you will be able to see the structure’s tuned mass damper (the largest in the world) which stabilizes the movement and reduces the movement of the tower by 40% which are often brought about by strong winds and tremors. You can climb up to the 91st floor as well to go to the outdoor observatory (but the view is somewhat obstructed due to the railings so the view from the 89th is better).

Elevator

Tuned Mass Damper

At the Taipei 101

We all had dinner when we got down then proceeded to the hotel to wait for the bus to take us to the airport.  At 10:15 pm, the bus picked us up and brought us to the International Airport and at 1 am we bid farewell to Taiwan.

It was pretty fun traveling around  Taiwan with new found friends who share the love for photography. I wouldn’t want to do it too often because it was exhausting but I know that someday soon we will once again explore and discover new places and try to capture as much as we can with just a click of a button.

March 21

My husband and I started the day with brunch at Mos Burger – a fast food restaurant that originated from Japan. After lunch, I accompanied my husband along with 2 other friends back to Shilin market because he left his Canon flash at the foot spa place. Luckily they were open when we arrived and they were able to keep the flash (its relatively safe in Taiwan). Since we were at the market again, we took the opportunity to go around the area once more to take some street shots, not realizing how big it really is. Accidentally we found the Cixian Temple within the Shilin district which was apparently a historical site. We were able to eat some sweet bread, popocorn, stinky tofu and chicken steak.

We met our friends at the Ximen station. We had fried chicken (really good 5-spice fried chicken) for early dinner at a nearby eatery. We walked around the area a bit since it was a shopping district then we headed to an IT mall and looked around the camera stores. Then for some night shots we went back to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.

March 22

Our flight was not until 1 am of March 23 and we didn’t have to leave for the airport till 10 pm. Since we technically still had a full day, we just decided to make this our shopping day. My husband and I checked out before lunch and then went to BoAi Road where a lot of camera stores were located. We bought a Canon s90 which was comparatively cheaper than the ones sold in Manila.  Then we went back to the hotel, met up with 2 others then went to the real IT center and looked around. Had a late lunch at the Japanese fast food restaurant there, and then proceeded to Taipei 101 to meet our friends.

Taipei 101

Since some were still obsessed with taking pictures and night shots, we split up into two groups once again. Our group decided to go up the Taipei 101 (400 NT to go up to the 89th and 91st floor).

Taipei 101 is the 2nd tallest building (2nd highest architectural structure) in the world. With 101 floors, it stands at 502.9 meters high. Its elevator, if I’m not mistaken, is also the 2nd fastest in the world with speeds of 16.83m/s. It took us 37 seconds to get to the indoor observatory which was located at the 89th floor (382m up). Inside the indoor observatory you will be able to see the structure’s tuned mass damper (the largest in the world) which stabilizes the movement and reduces the movement of the tower by 40% which are often brought about by strong winds. You can climb up to the 91st floor as well to go to the outdoor observatory (but the view is somewhat obstructed due to the railings so the view from the 89th is better).

We all had dinner when we got down then proceeded to the hotel to wait for the bus to take us to the airport.

At 10:15 pm, the bus picked us up and brought us to the International Airport and at 1 am we bid farewell to Taiwan.

Taiwan (Country #22) – part 2 of 3

TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Part 2 of 3)
March 17-23, 2010

March 19, 2010
SUNRISE SHOOT/NANYA ROCK FORMATIONS/YEHLIU GEOPARK

At 4 am we were all set and ready to go. Where? Apparently no one really knew. The guide didn’t understand where the group wanted to go (even though my husband and one of our friends told her the previous day where we wanted to shoot). An hour and ½ later towards the north of Taiwan, we thought we didn’t find “THE” place we were looking for but due to time constraints (the sky was a bit lit already) we had to settle for where we were. Not being a very big fan of hardcore landscape photography anymore, I had the luxury of taking useless shots (I actually really missed not having to care about the “shot”), taking paparazzi shots of my friends and enjoying the sunrise on top of rocks with the sea and mountains as my view.  Once the landscape photographers had their fill (and the light was too harsh) we left our sunrise spot.

Sunrise

Fellow Photographer

Our second destination for the day was the Nanya rock formations area. The northern coastline of Taiwan, where the they can be found, is known for sculpted rock formations brought about by the movement and force of the waves upon the rocks made out of sandstone. All these are part of the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area. Once again we stopped to take pictures – amazed with the magnificent coastline.  As soon as everyone got the shot that they wanted (jump shots along deserted highways included) we started moving north once again in search of our seafood lunch.

Nanya Rock Formations (Taken by Joseph Leh)

Since it was still a bit early for lunch, only a few establishments were willing to serve us food. For 275 NT/person, we got a simple lauriat style lunch that consisted of unlimited rice, fish soup, boiled chicken (yes, boiled chicken), steamed fish, seaweed gelatin, squid, and a couple of more dishes that I cannot remember.

After brunch, a number of our friends wanted to go up the Bitou Cape. Since most of us were still tired from our flight and hardly got any sleep the night before, the majority stayed in the bus and slept.

After a while, I had to go to the bathroom so a friend and I started walking around the area and found ourselves discovering the Bitou seaside port. Even for just a while, we were able to immerse ourselves in a real Taiwan setting. We found a quaint little temple in the middle of the small residences, saw boats and fishermen and a beautiful viewing deck which looked out to the coast. And after a 2 hour or so wait, our friends came back down and we moved on to our next stop.

Temple Details

Bitou Seaside Port View

The last stop in our itinerary for the day can now be considered as one of my favorite Taiwan destinations – Yehliu Geopark. The park can be found along the North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area. This consists of a vast area of sedimentary rocks that have formed into different shapes and sizes through time. One of the most popular rock formation is called the Queen’s head which actually looks like the profile of a lady with a crown. The allotted time given to us to go around the park was not enough. But this is the type of natural beauty that makes one realize how lovely our world truly is. And I know how lucky I am to be able to see such picturesque places. Taiwan has been truly blessed with natural wonders and next time I hope we get to see more.

Yehliu Geopark

Queen’s Head Rock (Taken by Joseph Leh)

We stopped at another area for the landscape enthusiasts (sunset, sunset, sunset!) which was I think just some random place we passed by on our way back to the city. Had dinner near our hotel and called it a day.

March 20, 2010
SUNRISE SHOOT/BITOU CAPE/YANGMINSHAN NATIONAL PARK

Another early start for all of us – 4 am we were all sort of ready to go (I think my husband and I were the last ones who were ready this time). First stop another sunrise shoot! I wasn’t so excited for it but it turned out pretty well for me considering I didn’t have a tripod (my husband is usually first dibs on our tripod).

Sunrise

Then much to my dismay, everyone wanted to go back to the Bitou Cape (which is apparently one of the three capes of northern Taiwan). Yesterday, in addition to not having the energy to walk the trail, no one really wanted to walk 1.5km uphill in the middle of the day. But they said that the “lolas” / older people could actually climb up in 30 mins so with a heavy heart and a scowl on my face I dragged my feet and climbed up with the rest. It was a pretty long walk (every hike becomes harder in jeans!) but the view at the Bitou cape lighthouse (Pitouchiao lighthouse) was breathtaking. The lighthouse was 120 meters tall and was first built in 1897. The current steel-made lighthouse was completed in 1971. They wanted to go down some hundred steps or so to get a closer view of the coast but I was happy where I was and was glad to have some alone time. So I sat by my lonesome for around an hour and 1/2 and while listening to my Ipod, enjoyed the view and relished in the peacefulness on top of the cape.

Bitou Cape

The downside of this trip were the casualties; nothing too bad as having to rush someone to the hospital but a couple of people slipped and fell, including my husband. He fell when they were near the coast and hurt his leg a bit but it wasn’t that serious. On the other hand, in order to break his fall he used our tripod (our very expensive tripod) and ended up breaking one of its legs. I would’ve preferred that or a camera or a lens breaking over my husband hurting himself but nevertheless seeing our carbon fiber tripod become slightly useless was a painful sight (the tripod cannot be used to its full height unless we have the leg replaced). So when they came back up, that was his news for me.  My peace flew straight out the window. Going back down was easier since we passed through the Bitou Elementary School (the climb up would’ve been easier as well if we passed that way).

We had another healthy lauriat lunch at a hotel on the way to Yangminshan National Park. This national park is unique since it is the only park in Taiwan with hot springs and a volcanic geography. Upon our arrival we realized that the Bus couldn’t drop us closer to the flower clock that was located at the Yangming park. Since it was considered the flower season, hordes of tourists go to the park to see the flowers in bloom and to see the clock. So it was another 1.5 km hike to the clock and we had roughly an hour to get to the clock and back to the bus. So once again, we split up into groups and a couple of us decided to just stay near the park’s entrance and lounge around.

On our way back to the city we stopped by the Grand Hotel in Taipei which is one of the tallest classic Chinese structure. It must be pretty expensive to stay there but the hotel lobby was grand and elegant; perfect for foreign ambassadors and guests.

Grand Hotel

We had dinner at a shabu-shabu place. They had good food but not very filling for people who like to eat a lot. But my husband and I always enjoy shabu-shabu so we were happy with this choice.

We went back to the hotel after dinner, rested a bit then those of us who still had energy went back to the Shilin market. We finally got a chance to try the 100 NT steak dinner. It was surprisingly good despite its price. Some of the guys tried one of the many foot spas around the market while the girls went shopping. It was past midnight when we finished so we had to take a cab back to the hotel (MRTs are only open till midnight).

This was the end of our 2 day bus tour around Taipei. It was tiring but I suppose because of it my love for photography was ignited once again.

Taiwan (Country #22)

TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Part 1 of 3)
March 17-23, 2010


http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/tw.htm

Last March 17-23,2010 I was able to visit the beautiful country of Taiwan. This was a trip organized by my husband for our photography group’s first international photo expedition.

Taiwan is located southeast of the Republic of China and north of the Philippines. Out of the 195 countries in the world, Taiwan, Kosovo and the Vatican City, are the only countries that are not members of the United Nations.

Similar to China, a visa is required to enter Taiwan. But for Philippine citizens who also have visas of any of the following: US/Canada/Japan/UK/Australia/New Zealand/Schengen States, all you need to do is visit this site https://nas.immigration.gov.tw/nase/ , fill up the necessary form and print. That will serve as your visa to Taiwan.

We arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport via Cebu Pacific Airlines (a low cost carrier based in the Philippines) after a 2 hour flight. We arrived before 1 am of the 18th, got picked up by a bus that was previously arranged by a contact in Manila (2200 NT for 9 people) and went directly to our hotel in Taipei – the Yomi Hotel. We chose this hotel due good reviews and its proximity to the Shuanglian MRT station. Our hotel was just a 3 star hotel but the rooms were pretty decent. The rooms had free wifi (internet cables can also be borrowed for free) and free snacks. The bathrooms were pretty big and could be used as a sauna. Restaurants/small eateries can be found around the hotel and some of them close pretty late (after arriving at the hotel, some of our friends still ate out at around 2 in the morning).

In my opinion, one really good thing about Taiwan is their reliable and efficient transportation systems. Metered taxis can be found anywhere (though one must always remember to have the card of their hotel and their destination written down in Chinese –most of the drivers CANNOT understand English). Their railway system (MRT) is very similar to Hong Kong’s which makes going around Taiwan trouble-free. Since we were a big group of photographers (some hobbyists, some not) we opted to rent a small bus/coaster and hire a guide for 2 days to be able to see the provinces outside of Taipei. Unfortunately, our driver was a better guide than the one we hired but fortunately we had mandarin/fukien speaking people in our group so they were able to help with the language barrier.

March 18, 2010
LIBERTY SQUARE/CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL/SHILIN NIGHT MARKET

Taking the red line from the Shuanglian station, we stopped at the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall station. Once we reached the exit, we found ourselves at the Liberty Square where the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall, National Theater and National Concert Hall were located.

Main Gate of the Liberty Square

National Theater and National Concert Hall

The national Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which can be found at the liberty square/freedom square, was built in honor of a former president Chiang Kai-Shek (a leader in 20th century China). The colors of the monument (blue, white and red) represent the colors that can be found in the ROC flag. The two sets of 89 steps leading to the top stand for the age when Chiang Kai-shek passed away. The octagonal shape of the roof symbolizes the number 8.

According to the Wikipedia website, the inscriptions that can be found on the walls inside the memorial translate to “The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity and The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe”.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall


After visiting the monument, we decided to head to Taipei 101 for a very late lunch at the shopping arcade food court. I had some of my favorite Xiao Long Bao (shanghai soup dumplings), soup and mushroom rice. After lunch we split into 2 groups – one group decided to go the camera stores and to the IT center. 4 of us decided to stay behind, walk around, kill time, go back to the hotel to meet and pay our tour guide, wait for it to get dark, go back near Taipei 101 for and take night shots of the city. After a couple of hours and realizing that we were getting hungry once more, we met with our other friends at the Shilin Night Market (take note people – to get to the Shilin market, you do not get off at the Shilin stop. You must go down at the Jiantan station). We took the mrt (blue line) from the Taipei City Hall station (not a short walk from Taipei 101) to the Taipei Main Station; switched to the red line and stopped at the shilin station – realized our mistake and went back one stop.

Taipei 101 at night

Taipei is full of night markets. The Shilin night market (open from around 6 pm till midnight) is one of the biggest and one of the most popular. For the adventurous type, the variety of food, snacks and drinks are amazing! From stinky tofu, fried sioapos (fried steamed buns), kiamoy/champuy/haw flakes flavored drinks, mushroom rice, octopus balls, oyster cakes, flavored ice cream, grilled sweet and spicy corn, candied strawberries, sausages/chorizos, steak dinners costing only 100 NT (with bottomless iced tea) etc. etc…your options are limitless. Besides the food, affordable clothes and accessories are everywhere. So there is always something to do for each and every one. At around 1030 pm we hopped back on the MRT and decided to call it a night.

Shilin Night Market