Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 6: A Yangmingshan Yarn Part II

We woke up to another day of blue skies and bright sunshine. Better yet, our tired aching muscles, which we had expected to be sore after our uphill trek the day before, had miraculously recovered. This was testament to the healing powers of the spring water, we were certain.

We traipsed downstairs to Shan Lan Cafe for breakfast.

the view from the cafe - a Chinese bulbul

Our breakfast of choice was the Asian set.

century egg porridge

(top) sweet peas and a fried egg (bottom) cruellers

a little fruit with brown sugar syrup

Having failed to see much of the national park the day before, our plan was to take the internal bus service round the park, stopping at just two key tourist attractions, the Erziping Trail and Xiaoyoukeng, for a proper lookaround. Hence after breakfast, we were back at the bus-stop outside the hotel, waiting for an R5 or 260.

the hotel

At the bus terminus, we were in luck. We were early enough for there not to be a queue.

Our first stop was the Erziping Trail, a good place for some birdwatching.

the Erziping Trail carpark

the view from the carpark

the trail - very civilised

At that time of the morning, it was still relatively quiet. That's not to say we didn't meet any fellow walkers. The Taiwanese seem to be early risers, and we met several people, all in their 50s and 60s and possibly YMS residents, all walking briskly.

there were other residents

It was a great morning for a walk - no wind, eleven degrees celsius in the shade and, we estimated, fifteen degrees in the sun.

in the shade

continuing on the trail

We finally reached an open area where amongst the tall grasses, we spotted many fast-moving birds. Unfortunately I could only identify one species for sure, and that was the grey-cheeked fulvetta. It didn't matter - the landscape more than made up for it. It was picturesque, to say the least.

amidst the mountains

flanking the path - silver grass, a YMS hallmark

We could have continued along the trail and eventually emerge at Beitou, but we weren't done with Yangmingshan yet.

on the way back, we took the path less trodden

back at the start

We hopped onto the next shutle bus which was fortunately still half empty. Our next stop was Xiaoyoukeng, YMS' most famous attraction.

a fumarole, spewing steam and sulphur

ok we were forewarned

the view from Xiaoyoukeng

heading back to the carpark

a secret miliary installation? hehe...

It was our first experience of fumaroles. We would have loved to stay a little longer but the crowds were slowly but surely coming in, by the carload and coachload. We thought we had better board the next shuttle bus and finish our "tour" of YMS. We would have to return to Yangmingshan the next time we visited Taipei.

Back at Landis Yangmingshan, we had ourselves one last soak, before checking out and having lunch at Shan Lan Cafe.

beef noodle set

healthy lunch set - poached cod fish and brown rice

ooh, orchids

some fragrant tea

We came away agreeing that the cuisine at Landis YMS was a real plus point.

It was a long ride back to downtown Taipei City. I nodded off while HM acquired an ah yi bus companion who was all too happy to chat with her about hot springs and more.

Our return to Taipei City was heralded by clouds rolling in. Before the weather turned completely bad, we headed out for a stroll through Datong, specifically the Dalongtong area with generations-old shops selling all things Chinese and traditional.

We wandered through Guide Street, looking for the puppet centre which did not seem to be there anymore. We meandered down Dihua Street, taking mental notes on what to buy as gifts.

a Dalongtong denizen

The highlight for us though was the Xiahai City Temple. Small and atmospheric, it was chockful of gods and door gods.

The temple was popular with young people in search of a prospective partner.

the matchmaker deity (click on the photo and read the sign)

Which accounted for the enterprising young man giving out flyers right outside the temple, for an online matchmaking service.

We were in the mood for just wandering around, but the cloud-laden sky looked ominous, so we did the next best thing. We wandered into Taipei's Underground Mall which was as fascinating as a night market! We found...

a million and one soft toys

harps and harpists

replica guns

and fur - was it faux? we didn't dare ask

Down in the Underground Mall, it was only a matter of time before we ended up at Taipei Main Station's Breeze Centre.

There were a number of food options...

not this one, obviously

We hadn't had any Shanghainese food yet, so we thought we would just give this restaurant a try.

double-boiled chicken soup

xia zheng jiao aka steamed prawn dumplings

tang bao aka soup dumplings

si gua tang bao

custard bao aka bun

It wasn't the best Shanghainese meal we had ever had nor, at NT$605 (S$30), the cheapest. It left us hankering for more and better.

As an immediate remedy, we sought out dessert.

at Kou Fu Tang

the menu

tofu ice-cream - outside (NT$68/S$3.40)

tofu ice cream - inside

mochi made with strawberry (NT$82/S$4.10)

The mochi were lovely. The ice cream though was too "dairy" for us; we prefer Mr Bean's tofu ice cream!

After dinner, we crossed the street to Shin Kong Mitsukoshi. The department store was bustling with people shopping after work. This wasn't it, however. It wasn't what we were looking for.

Shih Kong Mitsukoshi

In the end, we threw caution to the wind. Weather be damned! This was the night for Shihlin Night Market.

We took the train to Jiantan Station, the nearest MRT station to the night market. There was a light breeze and a few drops of rain. So far so good.

We weren't the only ones being optimistic. The crowds were really pouring in.

every woman and her dog was there

enjoying A Chung Mian Xian too

We plunged into the thick of things, and discovered a riotous mess of light entertainment...

rides for kids

games of chance, including a take on mahjong

with cheesy prizes

... many shopping options...

especially if one is into kitsch

... food to suit all palates...

Taipei's renowned "Super XL Chicken Cutlet"

yup, super XL chicken cutlets

deepfried crab

from smelly tofu to all things fowl

if you prefer your food fresh

make that super fresh

for dessert - maltose candy onnastick

.... and even healthcare services...

candling, anyone?

This was the mother of all night markets indeed.

We of course couldn't resist sampling some of the local delights, despite having already eaten. We had our first bowl of A Chung Mian Xian to see what the fuss was all about.

mian xian (rice vermicelli) with pig intestines

A small bowl cost NT$40 (S$2), and, dressed with ample vinegar, pepper and coriander, was a lipsmacking gooey mess. HM who normally does not eat pig intestines happily wolfed these down - not smelly, she said.

Then there was...

our first Super XL ji pa, in Taiwan, that is

The person serving us must have sniggered when I asked for "yi dian dian la jiao", just a little chilli. Whatever they used to flavour the chicken chop, it was nicer than its Singapore counterpart. Yummy!

We washed it all down with chrysanthemum tea aka ju hua cha (NT$30/S$1.50), in a (probably futile) bid to ward off heatiness.

Sated, we did some window shopping and price comparisons, before retiring for the night.

Shihlin Night Market rocks!

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