Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 12: Tango in Taipei

We woke up to a cold morning. A check with the thermometer at the reception area showed that the temperature was no more than 11°C, the coldest it had been the whole trip.

Breakfast that morning was not a buffet spread, but a set with ham and egg, gluten, veggies, tau sar pau, supplemented by a free flow of congee and pork floss. We figured that, now that the number of guests had dwindled further after the weekend, it did not make sense for the hotel to prepare that much food.

we each had one of these

a lovely day

We had time for one last walk after breakfast. From Bulowan, we walked down to Swallow Grotto via a very steep flight of stairs. We didn't fancy returning the same way, our knees already hurting from the climb down, so we stumbled through a rather dimly lit tunnel and then wound our way up the road to Bulowan. That took quite a while but at least the incline was gentle and there was much to see.

birds galore

fruit we did not know the name of

flowers we did not know the name of

Back at the Bulowan terrace, we meandered round the Meander core trail for the last time.

our last plumbeous water redstart, a female one

our last look at the Liwu River - note the commentary, possibly written by a disgruntled park employee!

pretty flowers

the last of the fall colours

our last white wagtail

... then visited the aboriginal exhibition and gift shop at the Visitors' Centre.

the obligatory weaving demonstration

check out the fishing trap, second from left

traditional aboriginal knives

my mother would love one of these

And then one last look around...

but they look so cute in that sign...

close-up of black bulbul 1

close-up of black bulbul 2

courting spiders?

Then it was time to leave. The day had warmed up, the temperature was at least 18°. Reluctantly, we packed and then said our final farewells.

goodbye Leader Village Taroko

goodbye mountains of Taroko

We suddenly found ourselves running late to catch our train. It was a mad dash, but we made it just in time, the Ah Boy* driving us speeding all the way, especially through the backlanes of Hualien.

*Our personable host from the first night's performance. He was able to speed and talk at the same time, telling us about other Singaporeans who had stayed at Leader Village Taroko, including a wellknown singer very popular in Taiwan and the region and how much she smoked!

Rushing onto the train, we didn't have the time to buy lunch. As the train pulled out of Hualien Station, we looked on sadly as everyone in our carriage, even a travelling monk, took out some form of bian dang aka box lunch. We had resigned ourselves to being hungry the duration of the journey when, lo and behold, a vendor appeared selling bian dang!

nothing fancy - egg, meat, tofu, veggie (60NT/SGD$3)

His wares were nowhere near as fancy as some of our fellow riders' but it was lunch nonetheless.

Back in Taipei, we took the subway from Taipei Main Station to the Xinyi district and checked into Tango Xinyi. For HM, it was love at first sight.

very masculine design, nothing frou-frou about it at all

workstation with Contessa office chair

The bathroom was huge and well-equipped.

the only feminine touch

note the TV facilities with the jacuzzi

stylo mylo washbasin but so shallow water splashed out occasionally...

Now that we were back in civilisation and the, to us, lap of luxury, we took our time to shower and soak.

By the time we emerged from our room, it was early evening. It being winter, the sun had already set. The weather though had stayed warm; it was at least 18°C out and a good night for a walk.

We weren't walking aimlessly. Our agenda for the evening was the Wufenpu wholesale clothing district. We were also ready for some food and were therefore pleased to chance upon a market in one of the backlanes round the corner from Tango Xinyi. Given that it was late in the day, we were amazed to find hoards of people buying fresh vegetables and meat.

We found a pau stall that seemed popular, just the thing to eat while walking around.

all kinds of pau and mantou

We shared one meat pau and one red bean pau (36NT/S$1.80 each) and continued walking.

black glutinous rice

are those dates sprinkled in the rice?

Wufenpu turned out to a warren of narrow alleys...

... laid out in a grid, with hundreds of small shops selling everything fashionable... or not! Each was a specialty shop in its own way, dealing in a particular type of product, a particular style or a particular age group.




boots and shoes



belly dancing gear

doggy wear


cheong sams



clothes for older women

clothes from an another era altogether (that's like the Stepford Wives...)

It was a mind-boggling array of clothes and more. There were of course many badly-made low-end rip offs of high-street trends amidst smart copies of designer goods (without any logos) and imported goods from Korea and Japan. One had to be a savvy shopper to sift out the gold from the dross. This was of course HM's territory. I entertained myself by taking photos of whatever caught my eye, especially the eye-catching signboards and cute animals.

We covered Wufenpu systematically, working our way from one end to the other. While HM mulled over what to buy, we sat down at an eating area with several stalls that seemed popular.

a different kind of qing wa xia dan stall

qing wa he xian nai (35NT/S$1.75)

Our "frog drinking milk" drink was mostly milk and brown sugar, and in that combination, tasted strangely (but deliciously!) like a chendol.

doing a roaring trade

We took the opportunity to try some Taiwanese-style lu wei.

a plate full of bits and bobs ala yong tau foo and ngoh hiang (130NT/SGD$6.50)

This came with a vaguely peanut-like sauce, called sacha sauce, not unpleasant at all.

We capped it all with a cup of jyu pu qing ren (35NT/S$1.75) – chrysanthemum, pu er tea and sour plum. Excellent stuff!

There was a temple right next door which, from our casual observation, seemed to have its fair share of supplicants, despite the lateness of the hour. We decided to check it out.

Like many of its counterparts in Taipei, the temple was both picturesque and intimate.

It turned out that the steady trickle of visitors had business of a rather diferent kind to tend to, proceeding to the temple's public toilets, as they did, rather than the altar.

After a fruitful evening of shopping, we returned to the hotel to take full advantage of that jacuzzi tub and the home theatre system before turning in for the night.

42-inch flatscreen tv

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