events

Taipei, Taiwan: Waterpipe Trail

Anyone who has been to Taipei knows that it is surrounded by mountains. I would bet that it is true on all sides, but I am only sure about the north, just before getting to the sea of Japan. So it goes something like this: a colleague asked me where I was going for the weekend and I muttered out something abotu Yangming Mountain and recommendations start coming and I took note. In Chinese, in my bad chinese, I believe one of the route that interest me is called the water pipe trail. It is not visible on the satellite maps, as it is a walking path up the mountain and ends up at the Chinese Cultural University, that large complex of building on the top of the mountain. Water pipe as it runs along a large pipe bringing water down the mountain. As I have now done the trip, I can say that it is a black water pipe that was constructed by the Japanese about 100 years ago.

This trip took me two tries. First was on a saturday and it was cut short by rain. Figured out rain, jogging shoes and mountains don't get along too well, and so I postponed it. Sunday was different. Woke up to a bright cheery day, even though the weather forecast was not that optimistic. And so, I go again...

The easy rule for this adventure was to take public transport all the time and having a rough idea where I was going, minimum use of Google Maps and GPS was allowed. I knew had to get to the end of Zhongshan Rd (that would be section 7). On Saturday, I got off Beitou MRT station and walked 3 hours before I got there, thanks to 4 MRT station overshoot, essentially bad planning. But this is part of the thrill. This Saturday reconnaisance trip indicated that it would be possible to take a bus from Taipei Train station directly to the foot of the mountain at Section 7. Bus 220 does that.

Trial Starting point at Tianmu town And on Sunday, from Zhongshan Rd Section 1 across from Taipei Train Station I stood looking for bus 220. Strangely, after 30 minutes I didn't see that bus passing at all, and not wanting to take my chances and wait another half an hour, I walked a little bit to the MRT station at the main train station and proceeded to go to Shipai MRT. Taking the bus to the starting point is not too difficult. Look for buses that goes to Tianmu.

It's easy to get there once I've been there once before. But if you look at the satellite map of the area around Tianmu, look for the end of Zhongshan Rd Section 7 and at the roundabout, walk uphill with the police station on your right. After a few streets, at the end, there will be a trailhead on the right with some signboards, essentially steps leading up to nowhere. And this is essentially what this trail is all about. The first section is a series of steps up the mountain, I didn't count it, but it must be at least half an hour or more of climbing steps after steps, with not too much flat areas to rest. It ends when it meets a road filled with restaurants offering nice views and meals plus drinks. Turning left, I continue the path around the mountain, this time flat muddy tracks with sufficient gravel to give a nice walk in the shade. It is easy to see that this path stays level and goes all the way, almost to the other side of the mountain, before you get to another series of steps. This section leads all the way up to a road, when it ends. Following the road to the right leads you all the way to the Cultural University.

Just for the fun of it, I came back down to rejoin the initial section of the steps and down to Tianmu town by walking through the University and going down via the winding road passing the restaurants, completing the mountain loop. Not too easy to picture nor show on the map, but it was a good 3-4 hour round trip including a 15 minute pause on the top of the mountain having a latte at a neighbourhood 7-11 convenience store.

Coming down is a lot easier, even though, as usual, bad on the knees. There was quite a high traffic of locals walking up the steps when I was coming down. The usual families and old people, so this trail, even though quite a climb, is nothing difficult nor dangerous. Most of the photo opportunities here are of plants, and very little vista. Maybe because it is mostly covered by the trees, so there are not too many places where you could catch a nice view. The best views are around the university at the top, so save your pictures till then.

Nice walk for the weekend. And a good substitute for a jog. Here's a tip, around the roundabout where the bus to tianmu stops along Zhongshan Rd Section 7, there is a nice oyster meesuah (starchy vermicilli dish) stall, where you can load up the cholesterol before burning the carbs and keeping the cholesterol when going up the mountain.

I definitely need to check out more routes up this mountain. Not the only one I believe.

Now for the new format. Will plug all the pictures here after the words... Doubt it will matter anyway....

*end*

Taipei, Taiwan: Guandu Nature Reserve

One very effective way to get attention is to distribute brochures. On this trip, it was a bimonthly pamphlet I found in my hotel room called "Spectacular Taipei". It was filled with sections dealing with flowers, and floral expositions (Spring is about to arrive) and one thing caught my eye, and it was a map of a Nature Reserve just outside of Taipei and a few stations  before Danshui, what I call "Deauville of Taiwan", and which I have been to many times. Best of all, it was reachable by the excellent Taipei MRT. On the map, Guandu looked like a small town, with a temple being the centre of attention, and a wetland park on its borders. Guandu straddles the Danshui and Keelung river.

Now I'll confess I'm bored with Taipei city centre, so anything nature is interesting to me at this stage.

Guandu Town

Getting there is straight forward. Get yourself onto the Danshui Metro line, and while my brain is still fresh from the trip, that's the blue line that goes up north. Somewhere along the way, some of the trains will terminate at Beitou and you will have to get off and switch to one that goes all the way to Danshui. Should be rather obvious when you're in the metro. The tip here is that the MRTs to Beitou is almost always empty, as the whole of Taipei goes to Danshui on the weekend.

Guandu Nature Park:

When you get to Guandu station,  there are buses going to the Nature Park or the temple, but it's not fun if you don't push it a little, so I walk instead. It takes a good half an hour to get to the Nature Park entrance. But that's mostly because I set off on a different direction and went through some nice tour of almost the whole of Guandu town.

At the metro station, if you do follow the signs, I believe it shoudn't take more than 15 mins to get to the entrance. Being an educational place, the park charges 50NTD for an adult to get in. I did not remember the price for kids, although the educated guess of 25NTD should be just about right. I mention children because this nature park is not a little less than I expected. It covers and area that is not too big, probably just nice for a family or a dating couple to cover before someone in the group starts complaining about wanting to play some video games, or wanting to do some shopping. In short, it is a family place.

There are ponds and plants aplenty, and as expected, plaques in simple terms on how an ecosystem works, and the intention seem to be to get kids coming out of the park to be more eco-friendly. I could definitely see the trend in the messages. For example, there's a small polluted stream that runs through the park, and the notes there are about how humans pollute water sources, etc.

However, there are still photo opportunities, and it was just nice that I have my camera with me.

Guandu Temple:

Right after the nature park, with a little bit of light left, I checked out the temple that dominated the map. And it is a large complex. The main temple itself is a few stories high. The site was supposed to be a few hundred years old, back to the Qing dynasty apparently, but I don't believe the main building towering behind the main prayer hall is that old. Perhaps it was renovated, I don't know,  but this is one impressive temple. There were plenty of people here today, perhaps something to do with the second week after Chinese New Year, with offerings on tables in front of the dieties and full of people with joss sticks and those wooden cookie looking thing that devotees drop on the floor probably after a prayer to see if it will be granted.

Along the road between the temple and the Danshui River there are many shops selling food. I was looking for the smelly tofu soup that I got to like after many trips to Taiwan, but I didn't find it.

The way back to the MRT can be quite pleasant, taking the walk along the Danshui river smelling the mud and the fresh breeze. It is particularly hazy today, but the breeze made up for it. The MRT station is not too difficult to find (especially with Google maps on the phone).

Guandu is a nice place to go outside of Taipei. Not too difficult trip to do, neither too strenous. There's some outdoor involved, but not drastically difficult that anyone could attempt it. I would rate this as an easy day out compared to the other trips I have made so far. Easy does it...

*end*

Keelung, Taiwan: Returning to the coast

Another view of the Hollywood-esque sign in downtown Keelung 27 June 2009

This is my second trip to Keelung. The first trip is here. So no long introductory pleasantries in this post. Tapping this out on my E71 as I go along, and with my fat fingers, the less I type the better it would be. Now that I've made my apologies, I'll let my laziness take it from here. Will make the pictures do all the talking.

This weekend the port is devoid of any large ships, unlike the first time I was here

And before I start a post about Taiwan, why not start with a photo of the bikes!

By train from Taipei central train station. 43NTD by TRA train. The tickets can be bought at any of the TRA counters, but may be a lot quicker to go to the basement next to the entrance gate to the trains and buy the ticker at the vending machine there. First mistake of the day for me. First train starts just before 6 am. I took the 9:34am train. Quite obviously I woke up later than planned.

The weather forecast is wrong today. Was expecting thunderstorms but got greeted with a years supply of sunlight in a day. Its hot as hell and I have a large umbrella from the hotel with me. Not a day I feel like spending wholy outdoors out of the shade! Taking bus 301 to the Dutch City (Taibaizhuang). Fare seems to be 15NTD. The bus is a small mini bus with blaring local radio in Taiwanese. Loud advertising, and loud old 80s style songs.

The first route I took was a deadend, but nice photo opportunities, so it was not a waste

Bus 301 is driven by a mute thug. Dropped me off at the last stop that looks like nothing much. A few exploratory walk, and it looks like the right direction is towards the sea and on the left is a little road up the hill. According to the map, this road leads either to the Baimiwong fort or a Power Station on the top of the hill. Temperature is soaring today, sunny by far.

Baimiwong Fort parking lot; who knows where those planes came from

View of the Port of Keelung from the fort

An arty photo of tourists on a hot day above the remains of the fort's guns

Baimiwong Fort with power station smoke stacks in the background

A better view of the power station

Got up to the top of the hill and Baimiwong fort is up here. The power station is at sea level and doesn't look as though there is a path to go down there. Nothing special about this fort, 3 big guns that are no longer there, and a hill top lookout that requires some extra stairs climbing. As with most places in Taipei, there is a couple here for a wedding photoshoot. I wander for a while, took a picture or two with the 2 cameras I have with me and then its time to go back where I came from.

Roadside construction crew on the long walk back to Keelung Port

Port cranes up close

At one of the temple I stumbled across on the way...

... you will always find appetizing street food anywhere in Taiwan

Was hoping to go westwards but there are no road other than a highway which I probably can't walk on. So the only way is to walk back towards Keelung and see if there are anything interesting along the way. So far this place is quiet. Very very quiet.

Fishing Village at Siehe Road

With a popular looking swimming spot

But what I'm interested in is the port itself

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This Taiwanese version of the Pinyin is confusing at best. Went on Zhonghua Rd (also labelled Jhonghua here) after emerging from the Zhongshan tunnel and went north west wards towards Waimushan. There are quite a number of cyclists here and they mainly ride mountain or touring bikes with straight bars but the trend now seems to be big bikes with small wheels. Looks to me like riding mules. Not my cup of tea. So I continue the walk and turned into Siehe Rd onto the coast. In front of 2 big fuel tanks there's a small fishing village with a temple, roughly the typical taiwanese village. There is a little area for swimming as well. Plenty of weekenders swimming. After a while shooting fishing boats it started to rain and the sky is starting to turn dark and I set -3 stops on my M2's sunny f16 setting.

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A few minutes rest (must have walked a few km in the hot sun) its time to walk back to Keelung. The shops are mainly closed this saturday except for the occasional beetlenut shop with bright neon lights and motorcycle repair shops.

Walked back to the main train station at 1645hrs and its time for a little ice mocha and catch up with a little blog writing at Starbucks.

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Because next would be a night out at the night market at Dianji Temple!! And so the warm rain of an almost tropical island started dripping, and now I'm glad I brought an umbrella with me! First off an oyster omellette (60NTD) egg on top, small oyster and lettuce inside and gelatinous paste at the bottom and topped with sweet sauce and something that looks like chilli but tastes like sweet red sauce.

Next up: starchy rice with mushrooms and a bowl of pork and viscous soup (70NTD). I think its enough, not going to stuff myself solid tonight.

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On the way back to the train station, realised I have sun burn on my shoulder and sandal strap marks on my feet. Body all sticky from the sweat and its time to take a 30 min nap in the train and go back to Taipei main train station. Time check 1826hrs, a good 8 hrs out walking and exploring Keelung. Fine fine hiking day today, though a little hot, next trip will require me to cycle to cover longer distances.

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*End of post*

Keelung, Taiwan: Northern Taiwan Coastline

Keelung Harbour Wikipedia opens the article for Keelung as a major port city situated in the northeastern part of Taiwan. Fine. That is not the reason I wanted to check out the town during the idle weekend in Taipei, but more because the town has nice rocky coastlines and most importantly food. More on that later. Being close enough from Taipei, it doesn't require a long commute to get there, and from what I can see it looks like a different world altogether from the capital city. Do-able in a day, nice coastlines, and food. That seals it for me!

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This is why I'm here: Coastlines...

All great leap starts with a small step. Finding how to get to Keelung from Neihu is not that difficult. Its not fair, I know, but that starts by asking a secretary in the local office. After a few minutes the email came in and it is simple enough. Although it is possible to catch a train, the easiest solution would be to go over to the bus stop on the main road close to Miramar Neihu (look for the out of place giant ferris wheel) and catch a "Capital Star" bus (http://www.capital-bus.com.tw/). And if you have seen the buses in Taiwan, they are usually nice buses with ultra tacky colours, graphic designs and an interior only a pimp could love. Hope I don't get that in the golden star!

Started off the day early, 6am and having soya milk and buns at a popular 24 hour local corner shop near Miramar. It is one of those place I never remember the name, nor do I care, but I can tell where it is on the map. For Taiwanese out there, maybe you know where it is when I tell you a couple years back some gangster got gunned down. Tofu? Get it?

Inside the Capital Star Keelung express

So back to the point. Capital star bus that goes to Keelung is easy enough to find. It stops at the first bus stop below the new elevated metro line just in front of the Miramar. Price to get all the way to the end at Keelung train station would be 41 NTD. That is also sometimes called "dirt cheap". The frequency for this bus is frequent enough. Let's say it seems to come often enough not to worry at all. This is a slightly better version of a public bus, not the tacky pimp-mobile. LEDs, LCDs, it has all the 3 letter acronyms!

Pilot boats at Keelung harbour

Keelung. Just like Hollywood!

Fast forward, the trip is basically leaving Taipei, go through a small mountain range, and end up in Keelung. Quick enough to be uneventful and unworthy of any transit photographs. The final stop is at the train station. And since it is still early in the morning, and a Starbucks is in sight, nothing better than a hot cup of coffee while waiting for the darn rain to stop. And the forecast today is not that great. Drizzle at best all day long. Armed with a hotel umbrella, it doesn't matter. And so before I move on, the arsenal today is a move-light pack filled with a Ricoh GRD (all colour photos are coming from this little wonder) and a Leica M6 with a Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH loaded with ERA 100 film. Shall I say the Summilux is the best 50mm out there? Maybe I should. But everyone already knows.

When you see plenty of yellow taxis like these, you know you're in Taiwan.

After the morning coffee, and a little finger to the weather which continues to drizzle, its time to walk around the train station looking for bus to get to the coast. There is a tourist center here that speaks reasonable english and helpful people manning the place. What would you expect from a tourist center, I mean. The plan was to see the rock formations at Heping island, but was told its closed. No reasons, maybe too early in the morning, or maybe because of the weather.

Location of bus stop, Start of today's walking trip.

Nothing stops me, not the rain, not the closure of the original destination. Picked a route and jumped onto a local bus and before long got off at a stop which is not too far from the town, but still about 10km away. Far enough to walk back along the coast, which will be the adventure for the day.

Concrete breakwater

And now why would someone want to construct something in the sea?

The bus dropped us in the middle of what looked like nowhere, and it is time to track back. There are breakwaters everywhere and anglers fishing away in the stormy seas. The rain continues and the wind whips up large waves in the sea. Perfect time to catch a photo or two of the tempestuous seas while walking along highway 2 (Beining Rd) towards Keelung. I had my google maps on my E71 active at all time and it was possible to see that in front of me is a peninsular called coastal park called Ba Dou Zi. I'm sure it has an English name but I will follow whatever is on the map.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats...

... and more.

On there way there, I would pass a safe harbour filled with fishing boats. The gmap shows the location. The only thing strange about these fishing boats are the numerous lamps that seems to line the wires above the boat. Now, common sense would tell me that this would be useful for nighttime fishing for some marine creature that loves light. I've seen fishing documentaries on Discovery and I'm sure this is not for the Alaskan crabs! Doesn't matter. Looks strange, so deserves a picture or two. There are some sailors hanging around the deck of some of the boats, and they are quite clearly Indonesians, given away by the language they speak.

Coastal park facilities

... just no one here...

... except for an anonymous someone that popped into my pictures once in a while (sorry bui!)

Am I the only one to see the sign asking us to just point at the bin?

And so on to the park. There are not that many people in this weather, just me and a colleague. Cliffs are all around us and after a while we realised it is not possible to walk around the to the other side of the peninsular and we had to turn around. But enough photos showing the strange what-nots at this peninsular.

Fish market at the seafood restaurant

And of course, it is possible to go cheap and eat al-fresco

Time now to walk back to Keelung along the coast. The bus took a nice 30 minutes including all stops to get to where we got off, and it will take almost the whole day to walk back to the town. And so we continue back on highway 2 stopping over for lunch in a small local eatery, nothing much to remember. And before long, and by that I mean a few kilometers, stumbled upon a large seafood food. GPS locations are stored in my Nokia E71. This look like the type of place where you select your live fish and they cook for you in the restaurant nearby. The only issue is there are a lot of the same restaurants lining the place so when you have plenty, you have annoying touts. Since we had lunch before we got here, no food for us here. It is one of those place that you know is built for the tourist, bus loads of them.

One of the curios along the way: a portable temple.

One of the many workshops that repair lamps used on fishing boats.

Going off for the long walk back to Keelung we passed a university, and a generally sleepy town. It was a nice walk, on a rainy day. Along the way there were ancient French cemeteries and relics from the past, but I won't go on and describe them all, I'm sure a search on the internet on Keelung would reveal more than what I will type here. That's beside the point anyway. And before long, containers were in sight, signalling that the port is close. From the satellite photos I could see that there is a container port just before hitting the harbour proper. The harbour is at the end of an inlet, which probably how the port of Keelung is protected from the typhoons and storms.

Keelung container port

At the container port, two large ships were visible. First was a large submarine cable-laying ship with a Norwegian name, which I cannot now recall. It's not that difficult to tell its purpose, the rear of the giant ship has 2 strange looking channel where the cables exit. The second ship is a large, huge, no... giant colossal passenger liner. Could see clearly it's called the Diamond Princess.

Street in Keelung with the Diamond Princess in the distance

Diamond Princess: Doors closing portside

Steaming away into the distance

A quick on site googling tells me that it is one of the largest passenger ship around, owned by P&O liner. So, this is what people on cruises do. They land in foreign land, then they dressed up as tourists and go ransack the whole town. There is a little micro economy, nay, micro town set up around the ship landing site just to cater to their needs. So we stood there admiring the ship from outside, and just at the right time the door started to close, quite impressive really. And before long it was pushed sideways, and it was quite obvious there are side propulsion system on the ship. The impressive thing about this ship is the speed it was able to move. After getting pushed starboard side, it started disappearing away from sight. We stood there in awe. Like a local seeing a giant ship move for the first time, which is the case for me. It's one of those moments, like seeing a plane take off and wondering how something that big was able to take off.

Miaokou Night Market

And yet more food...

Food.

More food...

And the grand finale.

Check on the watch, and its close to 6pm and that can only mean one thing. Taiwan, famous for one thing, and that's food and no where better to try it than the night market. Obviously this was researched well before we were in Keelung, and Miaokou Night Market is where we wanted to go for dinner. The good thing about walking 10km is to be able to eat as much as we wanted without worrying about the side effects. The best way we thought to do this would be to try one small dish in every store. At the end of the night we stopped in at least 5 stalls, all different dishes. Well satisfied. And with the full stomach, it was time to take a short walk back to the train station, and taking a train back to Taipei, leaving the station at around 8pm.

This trip was well worth the day. Now that we are a little more ambitious, the next trip will involve more of the coast. An idea in my mind involves biking the coasts. But hopefully next time the weather would be a lot better than this weekend!

Cycling the coast just like this, but with a Colnago road bike.

*end of post*

More Taipei Night Market

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Subject of the current trip is to visit the largest night market in Taipei. And usually what that means is narrow corridors with tons of people squeezed into impossible-to-move spaces. And for that the Shihlin market does not disappoint. I cannot recall if the size of this market is bigger than the Longhua market that I went to during my last visit, but surely this beats any market in terms of impossibility of moving.

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The layout is the same as most asian markets. During the day you have normal shops, and when the evening comes, stalls spring up on the road and sidewalks and the customers walk on the road. By now the shops would have been concealed unless you know which and where to go.

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Most of the stalls here are food stalls. Taiwanese sausages, pork knuckles, noodles, chicken feet, smelly tofu, all can be found here. No snake as far as I could see. Occassionally there would be some clothing stall, but its mostly food and more food. Can't help but try some. Had a portion of sliced sausage to go with fresh garlic, and downed with iced cane juice. Rather expensive at a total of 140NT$ for both! Roughly 50/50 for the two!

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In the middle of the market is a temple. I've not found the name of this temple yet but its also surrounded by stalls so when you get into the stream of people you dont have too much room to stop and look. You just keep on moving.

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Around the place there are also a lot of people, if not because of surrounding markets, I'm guessing its because of people commuting to Shihlin market. The whole place is full of people for sure.

*end*

Taipei 102

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In Taipei this week. The land of the scooters, buzzing like mosquitoes all over the place. Nothing new here, just gloomy weather. No earthquake yet. As usual, on the flight from PVG-HKG someone took my seat again. And again, there's a lot of people that just refuses to sit down during boarding and prefering to block the aisle when everyone is trying to get to theirs. And again, even on Dragonair and Cathay Pacific, its advisable to do the online check-in so that you avoid the queues. When I got to Pudong Airport, within 15mins I was already at the waiting gate. Ok, the 7am time is partly the reason.

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Also heard on a podcast this morning (Google for 'TWIT') that frequent travellers pack their bag at the last minute. I do that all the time! At least someone's validating that this is the most efficient way to pack. If you pack too early, you will always have items that you will need to pack later, and chances are you'll forget it. I pack usually the night before the flight.

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Otherwise, nothing special on this trip to Taipei. My third in 2007, and numerous in a lifetime. Here are some photos during the trip. Most of the time I'm in the office working, otherwise I'm looking for some Taiwanese food on the street. Most of them I can't find outside of Taiwan at all, so that's definitely interesting.

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And here's one of the waiting room at the Taipei Main Train Station where most people are, I assume, waiting to get their tickets since the booths are directly in front of them.

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As usual, my hard working Ricoh GR Digital at work, sometimes with the 21mm wide angle adaptor, and sometimes without.

Travels: Taipei

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While on business trip in Taipei, had the weekend of 8-9 Sept 2007 to roam the city. Saturday was with Jerry, an old colleague and friend. Sunday was me roaming Taipei without a map or a real plan, but eventually visiting Kwanghwa Market and Taipei 101.

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Po-Ai Street

First thing to do in the morning while waiting for Jerry to pick me up for a Saturday Taipei tour... What is a visit to any city without a visit to where locals buy photographic stuff? Po-Ai Street is the place to go in Taipei, it seems. Quite close to the main train station. Coordinates are: 25.04692N, 121.51124E for the start of the road closer to the train station. How do I like that place? I don't think it has the feel of a place I'd like to shop in. Most shops look like the type that sell mainstream stuff from the major brands. Ok, they need to make some buck, but I didn't find anything very interesting in the shops. All more or less the same. Schmidt Marketing (regional distributor of Leica cameras) has a showroom over there that looks a little more like a museum with a guy with suit and a tie on. Very big contrast compared to the other shops in that area. Ok, result is I didn't find what I was looking for and since I was going to Hong Kong the next week, I was not in a hurry to get anything.

Ba Li Seaside Town

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Now this is a strange name for a seaside town next to Taipei, and its difficult to imagine that it was not copied from the other one in Indonesia. Anyways, nothing remarkable, just a nice walk on the seaside all the way to an abandoned sewage treatment plant and then a bus back to the car park. Its interesting that there's a story to why the treatment plant was left abandoned. My friend told me that its a political thing, to demonstrate "corruption", but if you've already spent the taxpayer's money, why not put it into use? Anyway. Ba Li also has a bunch of shops selling all kinds of Taiwanese tidbit finger foods. Nice place to get away from the busy streets of Taipei, but for sure not Bali. Then again, I've never been to Bali, but since westerners love it so much, there must be something there.

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Guangzhou Street Night Market

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Ok, most people have heard of Shilin night market in Taipei. I was at this one after going to the seaside because I got Jerry to drop me off over there. The idea is that this market is quite close to the hotel (3 metro stops away) and next to Longshan Temple, which could be interesting at night.

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What's funny is that after visiting that particular night market, I realised its also called Hwahsi market, aka the Snake Alley. What's funny was that I didn't see any snakes at all. Maybe I didn't walk the entire length, but everyone seems to be selling the usual fried stuff on sticks, and I had a cheap dinner for the fun of it (less than 100NTD for a couple of dish and soup). Night markets always make good curios, and I was putting my Ricoh's high ISO b&w mode into test in the challenging lighting conditions. for sure it was on manual mode, and metered like how I would on a manual camera, meter once and keep the same setting for all shots.

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Longshan Temple

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After dinner at the "snake-alley-with-no-snakes" its time to cross the road over to the Longshan temple. By the time I got there it was well past dark, and the place is still packed with devotees. In fact, I was worried about walking around and either get poked by lighted joss-sticks or get thrown out for not "praying". Anyway, for respect, I didn't take any photos inside. Could make for a nice shot, but will need some time and it looked too obvious I was just there to take photos, even with a GRD. Nothing much to report from the temple, except its got a free and clean toilet in the basement!

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Kwanghwa Electronics Market

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This is a strange one. I know Kwanghwa Electronics market since the first time I was in Taipei. And I always thought it was composed of two parts (at least to me). First would be the normal shops that lined the streets, usual stuff, walk by the covered sidewalk, see the shop you like (they're all more or less the same anyway) go in, and browse. Then there's a second part that's a crowded electronics supermarket under a highway. That's where you get all kinds of accessories for your computer, and if its a Taiwanese made thing, usually its quite cheap. That's where you go to get a USB hub, a USB fan, some fake inkjet inks, rewritable DVDs. Except this time I couldnt' find the supermarket below the highway! Looks like they demolished the placed. Anyway, I was thinking that maybe I wont find this place anymore, then noticed the crowd seems to be all filing into a little lane branching off Bade Street. Followed them and came upon this makeshift 5 enclosed rows of shops (25.04436N, 121.53266E) that looks like the same guys that were under the highway some years back! Mission accomplished! But didn't get anything. Was looking for a UDMA CF card reader, but no one sells it here yet it seems.

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Taipei 101

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After some hesitation, I thought since I'm in Taipei, there's no point in missing the Taipei 101 (25.03402N, 121.56467E), so far still the tallest anything in the world. First the problem was getting there from Kwanghwa Market without a map. What saved the day was google search on my Nokia E61. To save bandwidth, I just log into m.google.com and did a search on "taipei 101 mrt station" and Taipei City Hall came up. So into the MRT I went and after a 20NTD trip, arrived in Taipei City Hall. Signs were everywhere advertising a free shuttle bus to Taipei 101. Unfortunately, outside the station there were a couple of bus stops, and it took some time before finding the stop where the shuttle bus was going to pick up passengers. After waiting 5 minutes I decided to walk.

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Taipei 101 is not more than 10mins walk away from the MRT station, and the way there are full of new buildings (I suspect an micro economy that's thriving because of the 101). There were some nice vantage point and photo ops opportunity with the 101 in the background, but generally the photo shoot was not that great in the afternoon since the sun was shining from behind the 101 (more silhouette than proper definition).

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Like all major buildings, the Taipei 101 had a high class shopping centre attached to it. The ticketing office to the viewpoint on the 89th floor is on the 5th floor of the shopping centre. Simple enough to find. Tickets cost 350NTD to get to the 89th floor. The lifts to get up there is quite interesting. I've heard its the world's fastest, and you have to be in one to believe it. There's a nice graphic display showing where you are in the building, and since it takes about 30 seconds to get up to the 89th floor, its moving rather fast. Apparently it moves up faster than coming down. 1000m per minute up and 600m per minute down!

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The viewing gallery is just like what you would see in a typical tower. Tourists by the plenty. Kids smudging the glass so that its difficult to get a clear shot out the window unless you're a six footer and clear of the smudge zones. The ticket comes with a free of charge audio commentary. But most of the time there's nothing too educating, better to read for yourself the texts at every section. At the middle of the floor, there's the large metal damper used to keep the building from shaking too much in an earthquake. Would have been interesting to experience the 6.5 earthquake from last week while watching the damper move but it was not to be. They even had a marketing name for the big blob of steel (Damper Baby!) and cartoon mascot of it all over the place.

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