Taichung to Taipei

Day 4, Taichung, Taipei

7th December 2010, Tuesday

Our driver managed to get us cheaper tickets for ferry ride along Sun Moon Lake. The usual price was NT300 per ride and we paid NT200. He also managed to get us tickets to Formosan Aboriginal Cultural village for NT600, instead of paying NT700.

Sunset at Sun Moon Lake, view from Wenwu Temple

The ferry ride along the Sun Moon Lake was a pleasant one. Too bad that the weather was rather foggy and was about to rain when we disembark at one of the stops nearby. There were some temples at the smaller islands or shores surrounding the lake. I didn’t take many photos here because everything is in shades of white and grey, and almost impossible to even see anything 1 km away from us. The ferry guy said, if weather is getting worse, there won’t be any ferry rides either due to poor visibility. Since I didn’t take many photos due to fog, here’s a blog link of the place.

Buying food at the Village

After the ferry ride, we were taken to the cable car station, going to Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village. The ticket of NT600 included the entrance fees and cable car ride. Here, the big group of us split and decided to meet up at some point in the village. We checked out for timetable for cultural shows while being in the Village. This place is called the Nine Tribes village, which form the majority out from 26 tribes, if not mistaken – the Naruwan, Paiwan, AMei, Tau, just to name a few.

Scenic view in the Cultural Village

I am getting really bored going to Cultural villages because I’ve been to far too many – in Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Guilin and even our own theme parks in Malaysia – Melaka’s A Famosa and Sarawak’s Cultural Village. It’s more or less the same! Anyway, the performers in this village are entertaining lots. The men were running half naked, only clad in loin cloth in the cold winter and did a high energy number on the stage, including jumping into the freezing water!

Then, there were this tribe having some wedding ceremony or something. And the funniest part was when the host asked us if we would like to have initiation ritual on us as well – single ladies to participate and would be blessed finding a good husband. At this stage, Gas Stove got all excited and started waving frantically. She actually wanted them to come and carry me to the stage for the ritual! I refused! I guess the “warriors” also would find me too heavy to be carried to the stage so they pretend they didn’t see Gas Stove. Haha! Eventually, a girl sitting in front opted to go for the ritual, she was carried to center stage, put on the rope swing, got swung a few times for “luck” and her feet were not supposed to touch the land. After that, the warrior would carry her back to her seat among the audience. It was quite funny actually. For more photos of the Cultural Village, check out this blog.

AhChung Mingxian

After visiting the park, we were already tired to the max. It has been a long but a rewarding day. We made our way to Ximending, Taipei. Here, we went to have the famous AhChung ming xian. It’s rather delicious – the broth is made from pork intestines and other porky stuff. It tasted somewhat like lor mee with extra vinegar to me. The hot broth is poured over a bowl of mee sua. Since most Taiwan eateries do not have places for you to sit down, the most just having some stools to sit but then it’s too difficult to balance the mee sua while sitting, so we all stood up eating the mee sua. Haha!

Night life at lively Ximending

After a tiring day out, we call it a night at our service apartment – Athena. However, it was rather a disappointing choice to stay because the apartment – even though looked rather presentable in the website  (it’s all lies!) – my room’s tv cabinet is infested with dust. I had to spend the night wiping and cleaning the cabinet because I worried for my sensitive nose! The shower room has no curtain so, when you take a shower, you basically flood the entire bathroom! Since I sprained my ankle, I wasn’t really happy to be sleeping on tatami again – it’s difficult to get out of bed when you are lying close to the floor!

The bed sheet looked stained and obviously, the owner didn’t change the bed sheet! We were too tired to even complain, so we slept on the dirty linen! I was scratching all over my body, I think it’s just a psychological reaction! Thank God, there is no bed bug! So people, if you still consider staying here after reading this in my blog, avoid Room 831 at all costs!

Sheep, Wine and Lake

Day 3, Taichung
6th December 2010, Monday

Ahh… what a nice feeling!

We had breakfast at the verandah of the hostel, overlooking the breathtaking view of Chingjing farmland. Simple breakfast of toast, eggs, porridge and freshly brewed coffee were order of the day. I simply couldn’t ask for more. We sat idly, chatting, laughing and admiring the view surrounding us, wishing we could stay here for another night! We reluctantly leave the very nice hostel to make our way to Chingjing Farm.

Chingjing Farm welcomes you

At first, most of us thought that, the farmland was around Xinshe, so there is nothing interesting about it, or maybe the Little Switzerland is the farm! Talk about not doing any homework for a trip! We reached Chingjing Farm and happy to find that, it is really a farm with sheep and horses! Since it was a weekday, we paid only NT80 and not NT100, for weekends.

Eat, eat and eat only

As we were walking up the stairs, I sprained my ankle on the uneven path! Damn it! The fun was just starting to roll out and here am I, ankle sprained! Anyhow, I tried my best and managed to get to the top of the farm, after a slow walk upwards! I seriously hate hiking! But the view is too wonderful to resist! Mental note: To include Salon Pas and Counterpain in my emergency kit the next trip!

We asked if we could watch sheep shearing but then, it’s winter now. So if they shear the sheep, probably the sheep will mati kesejukan! Haha! So, come during summer, then you will get to see sheep shearing and also blue skies!

Here, I had some wild boar sausages. The taste is exactly the same like any Taiwanese sausage, so, nothing special about it. We spent quite a bit of time here before heading to our next destination.

Plenty of barrels of wine

Next, we went to Puli town to visit their famous Shaoxing Winery. Here, they have a mini museum to educate people of the history of rice wine making. Finest grains of rice as well as river water were used to produce the sweet smelling wine. We didn’t try any because there was no guide in the museum. Then we walked about a shopping mall on the ground floor and tried their Shaoxing wine’s ice popsicles. We chose the wrong flavor – yam and it wasn’t very nice. Think of having the usual rice wine, meant to cook wine chicken or even siong tong lala mixed with yam. The fruity ones were not too bad!

Local eats

We stop by a local restaurant for dinner. The locals love to eat noodles with small servings of dishes like pork knuckles, tofu, seaweed and eggs. As usual, I left the ordering to my friends who know Mandarin because ALL MENU and order forms were in Mandarin!

After the late lunch, we went to Paper Dome. The place was built to commemorate the devastation by the earthquake on 21 September, 1999 (921). We weren’t informed of going to this place earlier and hence, we were not too sure what it was. Also, the flyers given were all in Mandarin, made it even more difficult to understand what this place is all about. Some of us opted to sit out of this because paying NT100 to enter a place which we were not even sure is just too much! After I got home, I googled about this place, only to find out that it’s actually a church!

A Thousand Bells along 366 steps of staircase

Our next stop is the Wenwu Temple, which is situated overlooking the beautiful Sun Moon Lake. It was already evening when we were there and the sun just starting to set. Some of us went up to the temple to have a look see, while others remained at the pavement along the temple to scout for food. I had some roasted salted pork and it tasted not too bad.

We proceeded to Sun Moon Lake to stay for the night. This time, we were put up at a home stay, where our host family is staying downstairs while the rest of us occupied the above rooms. It was a nice, quaint place where tatami mats and bed sets were placed. I am rather charmed by this place! The owner is a very nice man and since the staircase going up to the rooms is narrow and steep, he helped to carry 10 luggage up!

President Fish, at additional NT500!

We went to have dinner after that in a town nearby. This restaurant served a fish, called the “President Fish” merely because the Premier of Taiwan had dinner here before and ordered the fish. Very cliché again if you ask me! We ordered it anyway. It’s actually ikan jelawat – and being a lake water fish again, it has many, many tiny bones! Dinner was good – we ordered a set for 6 people and as usual, the portions were rather huge even for 10 of us!

After dinner, we hung out at the nearby shops around our hostel to shop for some souvenirs.

Ordinary Day

Day 2, Taichung
5th December 2010, Sunday

Finally, a simple hot food for the tummy

We walked about in the Fengjia market in the morning, looking for breakfast. Morning was a stark contrast to the night scene! It was almost deserted, save for a few stalls operating along the road. Locals buy their vegetables and meat here. Taiwanese seem to eat very simply in the morning – a sandwich and a soy drink, and that’s about it. The sandwiches were delicious! For only NT15, you could get egg and ham sandwiches and even salmon! Being greedy, I bought two sandwiches for myself, even after having a bowl of noodles along the market.

Cliché castle

When the drivers came to get us, we were relieved that, the first driver decided to change ours because of last night’s incident. We had to go in two cars because there were 10 of us. So, the new driver, at least he didn’t stink like a chimney and drove slightly better than the previous driver!

We made our way to Xinshe – a cliché botanical garden. It has European-styled castle and garden. I guess, after visiting places like Window of the World in Shenzhen, this place failed to impress me. The worst part is, we had to pay NT250 just to get into this place. 他媽的! Or perhaps, we came during winter season? Spring could be good as flowers would be sprouting? Just my guess.

Anyway, we went to have our early lunch at a restaurant specializes in mushrooms. One thing about having dinner here in Taichung, you can never order too little food. We ordered a set for 3-4 people for the 6 of us and I guess, being Malaysians, we always like to have a side dish to go with the main set. This greediness didn’t pay off. We ended having steamboat buffet enough for 12 people!

After having early lunch, we went to visit the mushroom farm. I’ve been to the mushroom farm in Tg Sepat before – so this place is like only 1/3 of what Tg. Sepat has! I guess again, probably the mushrooms had been harvested earlier on, that is why we didn’t see many of them.

Ring the bell for good luck

The next stop was Chung Tai Chan Monastery. There were many Buddha figurines here, some dated to hundreds of years. The nun there welcomed us and said, we were very lucky because we came at the right time. They have this giant Laughing Buddha on display where it was said to be rotated for display in temples the world. The Laughing Buddha just arrived from London, according to the nice nun. Then, we just offered some prayers to the 1,000 hands Buddha and I prayed for safety and peace for my family and friends.

We made our way to Chingjing farm, where we will stay for a night. Before that, we stopped by a place they called “Little Switzerland”. After learning from the first experience of visiting the unimpressive Xinshe, we didn’t want to risk in and pay NT100 for nothing. So, we hung out at the 7-11 shop next to it, instead. Haha.

Jingle bells!

We visited the paper handicraft shop next to it and managed to get a peek into “Little Switzerland”. From our spot in the paper handicraft shop, we could see there is actually nothing much to see in there, except for a few light bulbs here and there, depicting Christmas ornaments like the Santa Claus, Snowman, Christmas tree, etc. Our friends who went in complained, having to waste money seeing these very mundane things. I think, I City in Shah Alam would be much better and I guess we don’t even have to pay? We left, after 40 minutes hanging out there.

Huge ass claypot! We ordered for 6 people only yet, this one can feed at least 12 people!

After that, we were taken to this hotel on top of the hill. It was dark when we were there, and it’s already time for dinner. After freshened up in the hotel, we made a trip to a restaurant nearby and have their famous roasted chicken and claypot fish head soup. The chicken was rather delicious but I didn’t really fancy the claypot fish head. Since it’s a lake water fish, it has many bones! So one has to be careful when eating lake water fish!

We went back to the hotel, feeling rather exhausted due to the long journey and not-so-exciting day, we hope that tomorrow would be a better day.

Fengjia Madness

Day 1, Taichung

4th December 2010, Saturday

The flight to Taipei was a pleasant one. AirAsia’s captain, Michael Lim was a little chatty. He talked a lot about Taipei which makes us all think, he must be a Taiwanese who is working as pilot with AirAsia! At least he’s enthusiastic and spoke eloquently with his very good English!

We landed at Taoyuan Airport after 4 hours and 40 minutes flight. There was a slight delay of almost 40 minutes earlier at the LCCT airport because of long queue of planes at the runway, but the pilot made up for lost time and we actually landed in Taipei on time!

After that, some of our travel mates applied for Youth Card where we could get some discounts on entrance tickets. For me, I am already way over 30, so no youth card for me. Rather sad eh? Haha!

Our driver picked us up at Taoyuan Airport and we made our way to Taichung – some 2 hours away from Taoyuan Airport, where we spent a night nearby Fengjia night market. Since our group consisted of 10 people, we hired two vehicles – one cab and a van. I was in the van with 5 other girls. The journey was rather torturing because the driver stank of cigarettes. He must be smoking like a chimney before getting us at the airport.

It was a Saturday night, and yet the entire city was jammed packed with people, probably going back to their hometowns. Most highways were all jammed up. The drive drove recklessly to avoid jams and he ran almost all red lights which made us think that, red in Taiwan means go!

Such a pretty room! Unfortunately, not so happy hostel owner.

We were already tired because of the long journey. When we got near the hostel, the driver wanted to drop us off at a block away from the hostel and asked the hostel owner to fetch us. Fengjia market was starting to get a little crowded, so the driver didn’t want to get stuck in the crowd. The hostel owner told the driver to drop us at Fengjia University’s entrance and made our way to the hostel ourselves. The thought of bringing our trolley bags walking through Fengjia night market totally made me worried sick in the stomach!

After the driver argued with the fella on the phone, the hostel owner reluctantly came down to fetch us at Fengjia University’s entrance. Thank goodness, it’s not in the middle of the night market, so we still manage to walk to the hostel, with motorcycles blaring honks; weaving in and out between us.

If you ask me how to get to the hostel, I seriously don’t remember. It’s situated upstairs in some shop lot which has no signboard. What I remember is, it’s situated next to a beef noodle shop! Thank goodness, the hostel was rather clean and tidy, so it made the stay rather pleasant, except for the fact that the owner initial refusal to come down to get us and expected us to walk to the hostel ourselves! The hostel is named “Happy Times”. I guess it didn’t go well with the owner’s attitude!

We went to Fengjia night market, wanting to sample everything! Then we found that the food were rather too greasy- everything is either fried or BBQ-ed! I didn’t want to risk falling sick from eating greasy food the first night, but we couldn’t find plain food or anywhere to have a sit down dinner. So we ate some food along the way as we walked about. I saw stinky tofu and wanted to try but refrained myself because I didn’t want to get sore throat in the beginning of the trip!

Utter madness!

The night was still young but we decided to call it a night because the night market was getting too crowded. We made our way out from Fengjia night market and was shocked to see sea of people coming in! There were 5 lines of people getting into the night market as opposed to 1 line getting out, so everybody was actually pushing each other trying to get out from the market. I am not claustrophobic but I really hate crowds!! You don’t even have to walk. You will have people pushing you to move! Then, there were two very mischievous young lads walking behind me and they were laughing and squealing while holding onto my shoulder like I am their best friend!! I seriously don’t know how people could shop at Fengjia on weekend! They say, the crowd would swell up to 2x on weekends compared to weekdays! So, the moral of the story is – never, ever go to Fengjia night market on weekends!