Friday, April 18, 2014

Taiwan Day 2: Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade market, Longshan temple, Ximending, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and Shilin Night Market

Day 2 begun bright and early in Taipei despite a cloudy start that did not hinder our mood at all. When in Taipei, do purchase a MetroPass for ease of transportation. The card costs NTD100 which is refundable if returned to the MRT service desks or at selected convenience stores. Top up as much as you like and from memory, you can use this card to make purchases at 7-11s as well (a bit like Hong Kong).

We headed off to the jade market for a quick look and despite not buying anything, it was an interesting sight. Nobody haggled us to buy their items and best part was taking pictures were not a problem. This place was not difficult to find but bear in mind that you have to walk past the no-photography flower market zone prior to arriving here.

Nothing that we were keen on so we took the MRT to Longshan temple. Lots of signboards pointing us to the right direction. And you know you are within a temple zone when you see heaps of traditional temple items being sold in shops (items for praying/ offerings to the temple) and of course, traditional displays like red lanterns, deities and so forth.

There are a few restaurants to drop by for lunch but we were probably more drawn to nibbling some Taiwan made baked goods. The astonishingly huge size of each bun was a rare sight and it was cheap too. Kept us filled until dinner time, only wished I could have tried more flavours :9

Longshan temple was built in 1738 by Chinese settlers for worship purposes and have since then, survived war periods and constantly undergoes renovation to maintain it's glory. The carvings on the walls were extraordinary and until today, a lot of religious activities are still conducted in this temple. Definitely worth a visit for a glimpse of the past.

Up next, we took the train to Ximending aka Red House Theater, another historical site but this time, established by the Japanese for theater purposes. There is a mini exhibition inside the building, free of charge:) Ximending is also known to be a popular place for shopping and from personal experience, it appeared to be a trendier place for the younger generations to hang out in. Even my Taiwanese friend's friends frequented this place for the latest fashion trends and unique food outlets.

However, there was nothing that appealed to me that time (and the fact that I am heading back to Kuala Lumpur for a massive shopping spree) and so, we headed off to our next location, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Again, this place was not difficult to find thanks to the wonderful signboards in the train station. Coming here on a Sunday afternoon was probably not a good idea, as you can see. The place was packed full of people!

We wanted to watch the changing of guards service which happens on an hourly basis but sadly, a large crowd of people beat us to it so we could barely see anything. Not that youtube doesn't have it so don't be too disheartened if you don't get a view. On the flip side, the view from the top is pretty breathtaking:)

For dinner, we headed to Shilin night market for a taste of Taiwan. Yet again, this place was packed full of people during the weekends. I was told that this market had transformed into a more touristy outlet and prices are slightly more expensive compared to other night markets around Taipei. Nonetheless, it was a good first impression of the popular night market scene.

A lot of food stalls to choose from and each of them look equally tempting. We walked around the place and bought whatever we felt like eating but be warned, most of the food served here were deep fried/ fried although you can still find some healthy options around the market. It is a very big place, trust me.

One cannot go to Taiwan and not taste their fried chicken (I reckon it's a big fillet of chicken) which is deep fried and then tossed in some garlic and chilli powder, ready for consumption. Food packaging here is surprisingly neat despite the hustle and bustle happening all around. No spillage at all! Also worthwhile trying here would be their oyster mee sua noodles. Pretty yums for a cheap price:)

Take the stairs down the market and you will find another dimension of food stalls but this stalls provide seating for diners. Customer turnover is pretty quick although shop staff don't rush you to finish off your meals like in busy Hong Kong enterprises. The food tasted pretty much the same between every stall, it was just a matter of finding one that has comfortable seating for us. To sum it up, the food was edible but wasn't too yums for my liking.

So after a little feast in the night market, the gang and I headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. Will  blog about day 3 soon!:) Happy easter, folks!

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