Epilogue and Chapter 4: Hot rocks by the beach, they look like other things

By February 20th, 2019

My last full day at the hotel and I finally manage to partake in their “semi-buffet style” breakfast. It translated to a set plate with all the beverage and soup you want. Unfortunately, I had to rush to finish it since I spied my tour van parked outside 30 minutes earlier than expected.

The Yehliu Geopark

After getting everyone picked up, we headed to Yehliu Geopark where there were interesting rock formations by the beach. Note: bring sun protection and plenty of water. The rocky beach tends to reflect heat and makes the temperature much hotter than the surrounding area. I found a path leading to a staircase with a gazebo at the top of a rise and a view of the beach below. There’s a waterpark across the way from the geopark if you have the rest of the day to cool down. Otherwise, the local 7-11 has a rest area upstairs with central AC.

There are some waterfalls by the main road on the drive up to Jiufen. If you’re self-driving there, make a quick stop.

A quick stop for waterfall photos along the road
The tea houses remind you of the Spirited Away bath house

Exploring Jiufen involves stairs. Lots. Of. Stairs. Make sure you try the stuffed honey pancakes and the grilled mushroom. Also, a refreshing iced milk tea beverage always helps. If you are a Studio Ghibli fan like me, you can channel your inner Chihiro Ogino and explore after dark. Watch out for the spirits and don’t let No-Face follow you home. I didn’t get to stay the night since our tour group had more places to see. I’m saving that adventure for my return visit.

Chihiro’s parents would have been quite at home here
Shifen Falls
A welcoming breeze blows through the trees and prayer ribbons

Before heading back to Taipei, we stopped at Shifen. There’s a trail that leads to a gorgeous waterfall before you reach the town. Shifen itself is a small village by a set of train tracks with plenty of touristy shops. If you squint a little, you can almost imagine travelling back in time to when the mines were still functional and life was so much simpler. The town’s main street is lined with shops that sell snacks, cold drinks, and souvenirs. Here you can write wishes on a paper lantern and float it up to the sky. I wished sincerely for more adventures and the requisite good health and happiness. It was a nice ending to my tour. I walked around up and down the main drag and by the train tracks but it seemed pretty obvious all the other shops were selling the same things so I decided to pass up on the heat and humidity and decided to relax in the van.

The wind damper

On the way back, I asked to be dropped off at the Taipei 101 Building. I bought the Privilege Pass(about $40 and costs twice as much as a regular ticket). If you don’t want to wait in line forever to get up there, it’s worth the spend. You also get savings coupons for shops and a special gift if you buy something from the gift shop. Don’t forget to check out the gem shop. It’s a nice place to buy gifts and souvenirs, and a little shiny thing for yourself as well. Also, check out the damper ball and go upstairs for access to the outdoor walkway if weather permits. I’m trying to establish a travel tradition of going to the highest viewpoint of every destination for a “golden hour” evening shot so I hung around the view deck waiting for sunset and the golden hour for some awesome “from high on up” shots.

Taipei at twilight from Taipei 101 Tower
Taipei’s Golden Hour

The bottom 5 floors are home to shops much like in a typical mall with high end shops as well as stores for plebeians like you and me. I didn’t really spend a whole lot of time window shopping since there wasn’t anything overly unique on sale that I wouldn’t be able to buy online. I ate my dinner at the food court downstairs before taking the MTR back to Shilin and to my hotel (there is an MTR station downstairs inside the building).

I spent the rest of the night packing and getting ready for my flight to the Philippines to see my family. The next day, I woke up early and checked out of the hotel. The desk staff was kind enough to call me a cab to the airport. And just like that, off I went to my next adventure.

Chapter 3: I saw things, and ate things

By February 4th, 2019

I planned on today being a free day for me since I had a whole day tour the next day. I slept in,woke up near noon time and found my way to the National Palace Museum. The plan was to catch the trolley from there and explore the rest of the city.

The National Palace Museum main gate

The National Palace Museum is huge. There are different kinds of exhibits in each of the 3 floors and basement of the main exhibition area. Another separate exhibition building can be seen outside. There is also a South branch located in Taibao City on the southeastern region of the country.

Sculptures guarding the entrance

After I queued up and bought my ticket, I decided to have lunch before going in to see the exhibit. There are restaurants in the main lobby where you can buy food and beverages. Despite not wanting to eat rice, I opted to try their rice burger.It composed of a burger patty topped with a teriyaki-ish sauce and the usual burger veggies: lettuce, tomatoes, onion. The bun is actually rice molded into shape and crisped on the flat top. That and some coffee was enough to get my day started.

A Beef and Onion Rice Burger
Plenty of Buddhist statues in the museum

The museum being a popular tourist spot, there were so many people. Tour guides were herding flocks of tourists from one exhibit area to another. Not the place to go if you’re considering having some peace and quiet in a museum. There were a lot of exhibits of  beautiful art and intricate house wares from bygone eras. I found the displays of ancient texts and literature the most interesting. I tried to see if I could get lucky and catch a glimpse of the jade lettuce but the crowd was a bit too much for me and I decided to spend the rest of the day exploring Taipei instead of standing in line for who knows how long. If you intend to see the jade lettuce, a useful tip would be to go early, as soon as the museum opens, and make a beeline for the upper floor before the tour crowds arrive.

Ornately carved wooden statues
And beautiful pottery

I caught the trolley right outside the museum and got off at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was closed that day so I decided to explore the park across the street and walk to the Taipei Story House. After a quick photo stop, I caught the trolley to main station and took the blue trolley line and enjoyed a narrated tour of the downtown area.

I’m curious to know who lives here.

After finishing the tour, I took the MRT back to my hotel in the Shilin district, took a quick break from the outside to cool down in my hotel room’s AC, and went to the nearby Shilin Night Market to find dinner. It was still rather early for the dinner rush so I was able to take my time looking around and finally settled on some yummy grilled mystery meats on sticks and a hot cup of vermicelli soup. Some places claim to be Michelin starred, not sure if it’s legit but I personally think it’s well deserved. The steamed buns were also good. Cheap eats aren’t always so bad. Sometimes they’re pretty amazing if you know where to go (follow the crowds). I would suggest going before the dinner rush (6 pm or so) to avoid the crowds and long lines. It starts getting super busy after 8 pm.

The Shilin Night Market

I walk-ate my way around the rest of the market, got some steamed buns to go, and went back to my hotel room to relax for the rest of the night. Tomorrow is going to be another sweltering day of adventure.