Monday, May 27, 2013

Taiwan Adventure Part 1 (Taipei City)

Greetings to all my readers! I just got back from Taiwan. I've been there for a two week tour with my aunts and I wanted to share with you all my experiences and side stories while I was staying at the beautiful country of Taiwan.

DAY 1.. Riding the plane and getting lost in Taipei 
My adventure started at NAIA international airport. After all the SOP (checking in our luggage, scans, blah blah blah), we stopped by Cafe France to get some light breakfast. It was still 5 in the morning so we took our time and watched as the plane crafts go by at the runway. After finishing our meals we stopped by Duty Free.

For travelers, Duty Free is a common place to pass some time before boarding the plane. For a kikay girl like me, their cosmetic section stole my full attention. I just had to get a photo of this because it's my first time ever to stop by Duty free.

We rode the PAL flight from Manila to Taipei. We boarded the plane at around 7:20 am. We were supposed to have boarded the plane at around 7:05 am but we totally lost track of time. Me being a first timer, I didn't know that it was time to board until we heard the airport paging our names. It was embarrassing and funny to experience my family being VIPs while boarding the plane. Most of the stewards we met along the way assisted us and it was just funny. It was a memorable experience for me. After ten more minutes the plane took off to our destination - Taoyuan International airport.

The view from the plane was just exhilarating. My first ride was fun. The air pressure was hugging me when we alighted. It caused me a momentary flush of anxiety. 

The clouds were fantastic. My inner frustrated photographer self came out without notice hence the shots. 

A few minutes into the ride and the stewards served us our breakfast. The plane's eatenirary for the morning was Beef tapa with itlog and kamatis plus a piece of Goldilucks' cinnamon bread for dessert. 

It was raining when we landed at the Taoyuan international airport and I was amazed by the beauty of it. I love their interior design and architecture. I can't even compare it to NAIA.

Our tour guide picked us up at the airport lobby and drove us to Golden China hotel. We had the whole day for ourselves so we unpacked our things and set off to eat lunch. We were craving for duck meat that day so right after setting down, we headed off to a nearby turo-turo store that sells yummy duck meat.

One meal costs about NT$120 (approx P167.00). Not bad for a big sized street food meal.
After eating we headed off to the nearby 行天宮 (xing tian gong) temple. 

The xing tian gong temple was said to be devoted to the god Guangong. Guangong was the Buddhist god of war and he was also believed to be adept in finance that's why you'll often see business people visiting this place.

There is a long stretch of fortune tellers at the entrance of the temple.
Most tourists crowd at this corner to get their fortunes told.
After taking a look at the temple, we decided to go to church to attend the mass. Then we grabbed our dinner at the nearby night market. The night market was just a stone's throw away from the church.

We got lost on our way back to the hotel. It's great that people in Taipei are nice. We've even met a guy who gladly assisted us to our hotel. 

Taiwan is proud for their low crime rate. It's pretty safe to wander at the streets even if it's already late. I even runned errands at 12 am in the morning (madaling araw) and people were kind and nice when I asked for help.

DAY 2.. Raining on a Mother's day 
To start the day, we headed to the hotel's buffet to charge up for our Taipei tour. 
Getting a quick selfie before going inside the buffet.
Most of the food served at Golden China's buffet was catered for Japanese visitors. They have miso soup, sushi and even ramen. My first plate consisted mostly of meat and salad.

We started our tour at around 8 am. The tour guide picked us up at the hotel lobby and we sent off to Zhongzheng park. Their main attraction: The goddess of mercy statue facing the Keelung Harbor.

The park's grand entrance

Left: Pagoda entrance; Center: Pagoda with guardian and walkway;
Bell pagoda for wishing
One thing most art and architecture people would appreciate here is their keen detail to structures. I personally love all the pagodas and statues inside the park because each one has their own story to tell. 

A grand Buddah statue will greet you upon entering the compound

We were also greeted by different spiritual statues before we reached the facade of the goddess of mercy. 

In front of the goddess of mercy is her two guardian lions. Legends in Taiwan explain that every god or deity will always have two mythical beasts that would protect them. The most common beast would be the lion symbolizing power and strength. Legends also say that one should not enter through the lion's gate because they are protectors. Any human who would enter their path (gate) would get bitten thus humans are instructed to pass through the dragons gate (which is commonly found at the back or right entrance). 

Legends depict that when the lion and the dragon are together, the lion will always be at the left side (for protection) and the dragon will always be at the right side (wisdom/knowledge). Stories say that by nature, man is associated with the tiger/lion and the woman is associated with the dragon. That is why when using the public toilets in Taiwan or China, one will find that the men's toilet will always be located at the left side and the woman's at the right side.

Facing the goddess of mercy statue is the Keelung Harbor. 
Inside the temple at Zhongzheng park
Bathing the Buddah.

After the historical and spiritual trip, we headed out to our next destination: the Yehliu park. Yehliu park is famous for it's one of a kind rock formations. We were greeted by these cute gwiyomi figures upon entering the park. 

It was raining hard when we arrived and the path was becoming slippery so we decided not to push further to the Queen's rock. But we still enjoyed the thrilling view and the cold cool rush of sea breeze~

Just kidding. Heck! I didn't get to enjoy this stop very much. It was crowded because it was a Sunday(oh and it was also mother's day) and the rain was pouring hard. The sea air was cold that it would give you shivers. If it were only a sunny day, we all could definitely have enjoyed the Yehliu park. 
The Yehliu rock formation - a beautiful view even from afar. 

Our tour guide told us to meet up at a nearby 7/11 store. We were the first ones in our group to arrive so I decided to look around while waiting for the others to come.

Unlike here in the Philippines, their convenience store looks more like a  shopping mall to me. They sell all kinds of stuff and of course being the kikay that I am, I just got to take a snap shot of this gondola. Taiwanese girls take pride for their soft, fair, and supple skin so in every 7/11 store you'll see a shelf full of face mask and sun screen.

Heck they even have a shelf for the world famous Burt's Bees products. I wasn't able to take snapshot of it. But when you guys get a chance to visit any 7/11 store in Taiwan remember to check out their Burt's Bees section. 

After the mind blowing visit to Yehliu park, our tour guide accompanied us to a famous tea store in Taipei city. They taught us everything about tea ceremony. 

The store owner discussed with us how much Taiwanese people love their tea and how they could read a person through tea drinking. She also discussed with us the proper way of preparing tea and it's benefits to the body.

She told us that like a child, a tea pot should be raised and taken good care of. To make a clay pot shine, one should constantly use it with only one kind of tea. Eventually the tea pot will adapt to the natural color of the tea used and it's color will become shiny and vibrant.

Before drinking tea, one should smell it's scent first. She told us that the sense of smell is the preliminary stage of tasting anything that we eat or drink. Smelling the tea first will engage appetite and will make the tea taste better.

A commemorative photo with the ever hyper tea owner.

After the tea ceremony we were brought to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall, a park dedicated to Chiang Kai Shek.

Chiang Kai Shek park entrance

Our group decided to watch the ceremonial march so we all went up to the hall.

Intricate architecture designed by architect Yang Cho Cheng.

Inside the hall is a large bronze statue of General Chiang Kai Shek. 

One thing that I love about travelling is the people you meet along the way. A commemorative photo with the amazing couple I've met during our tour ♥ 

There was a ceremonial change of guards when we reached the top of the hall. A lot of tourists were gathered here to watch a military performance. Our tour guide told us that all men of legal age should undergo military training and some of them were asked to become honor guards for memorial halls such as the Chiang Kai Shek Hall, Martyr's shrine and the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. 

They must have undergone intense military training. Their discipline and concentration is amazing. The guards stationed on the hall didn't even flinched since we entered the hall. 

After the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall, we then visited the neighboring memorial hall which is the Martyr's shrine. The shrine was built to commemorate the warriors who died from the Xinhai RevolutionNorthern ExpeditionSecond Sino-Japanese WarChinese Civil War, and the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crises. The shrine holds about 390,000 spirit tablets of  soldiers who passed away.

The place is very beautiful but solemn at the same time. We weren't allowed to enter the premises of the shrine so we could only take pictures of it's exterior view.

Say hi to the honor guard! I salute you for your hard work.

Before our group left, a ceremony of changing guards took place. Our group was lucky for not leaving a minute earlier or else we wouldn't have been able to watch the ceremony. 

After the long tiring tour, our guide accompanied us back to the hotel. We then re-organized our things and headed out to have dinner. Our eatenirary: Friend rice and Lamb meat!

One meal costs about NT$ 70 (approx P98.00). They had super big servings and all were jam packed with sahog. It wasn't a noteworthy yummy meal but it was good. After eating, we visited a nearby store called Guava and Banana. Guava and Banana specializes with cute umbrellas imported from Japan. They have all sorts of umbrellas, from UV umbrellas to waterproof umbrellas. They even have the cute designs that you'll never be able to see here in the Philippines. 

We then went to a travel store near our hotel. I had to buy a pair of new sneakers - after our tour (not to mention the rain) my chucks was so drenched and I had no other choice but to buy myself a new pair.

After we got home, I've set myself to wash my poor sneakers. But due to the lack of space, I washed my shoes in the tub of the hotel bathroom. It was a fun and unforgettable experience for me. 

Lesson learned, always bring an extra pair of shoes when travelling. 
Before I end my post I'd like to share with you all my favorite unique find in Taipei ♥
Because the hotel that we were staying at caters mostly to Japanese tourists, they had their toilets specially imported from Japan to satisfy their clients. 
(Yey me!) They had really high techs toilets! These ones can heat your butt while you poop. One of my dreams were finally achieved.

Well, that concludes the part 1 of my trip. I hope you guys enjoyed reading about it. Catch the next part by following me on facebook for updates. You can also follow me on google friend connect! Don't forget to comment if you have any thoughts about this post. 

Until my next post!

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