Day 5-6: Taipei and Jiufen

With the growing fog, we decided not to visit the famed Alishan for the sunrise, and instead take an early train back to Taipei. It would have been a 2.5 hour journey to Alishan peak and we didn’t want to risk wasting our previous vacation time. Besides, we also heard that it was overcrowded with tourists…. It was with a heavy heart that we returned to the city; away from the mountains and nice folks.

The minsu’s boss’s elder brother took us to the train station and he was reputed to be the go-to person in Ruili (the nearest town). He chirpily told us about how his family has been planting tea and not to bother with any tea sold downtown as they were expensive and of inferior quality even if they claim to be from Alishan.

The train ride was less than 2 hours, and soon we were back in the hustle and bustle of city life. We headed towards Yong Kang street where the foodies gather. As we were going up the escaltor, an elderly lady  turned around to talk to us and it turned out she had just seen a newspaper special on all the good recommendations on Yong Kang street and being a retiree, she was about to go check them out. She kindly offered us tips and showed us to her favourite dumpling place which sold roughly the same things  as Din Tai Fung but for a cheaper price. And that is 高記. How nice of her!

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We didn’t quite make it to her extensive list, except for the dumpling place. It was PACKED! As we were so hungry, we decided to go hunting for other options and found this other place which served just as good food for an even cheaper price:

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We had to have the famed shaved ice dessert which was humongous:

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We spotted a cool ceramics shop – Lin’s ceramics studio and everything in there was so exquisite! I really wanted to get one of the cups as a memento and my cute hubby kept saying, its ok, I will make one for you. That is his style! Always preferring to make things himself. In the end, being the most awesome spouse, I still got my cup:) It has a nifty design with an inner cup to strain the tea leaves.

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We didn’t have many places which we wanted to visit in Taipei so we went to Wu Fen Pu to hunt for a backpack. Rows and rows of merchandise greeted us and I guessed I have now grown up so I no longer was attracted to shop as before. We were focused and didn’t get too distracted by the shops. Soon, it was nightfall and we headed to the nearby Raohe night market. Again, we ate and ate and went on to hunt for a massage place to ease our tired legs!

Like our Kyoto experience, we were by now OUT of CASH and the massage place did not accept any credit card. Thankfully an ATM was nearby and our wallets were restored again. For 1,000 TWD, we enjoyed a 2-hour massage which was really a very good deal.

The next morning, we headed early to Jiufen. This is a quaint old town where red lanterns and steps and turns were everywhere. There were mainly food stores here and we soon settled down into a teahouse to sit and be a little morose about our impending end of the vacation.

Entering into this sanctuary offered some respite from the tourists which were beginning to swarm into the alleys.

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There was also a nice pottery studio in the basement where there were some beautiful pieces. Love the dreamy starry glaze for this one:

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We had our own little tea platform and started to brew water on hot charcoal:

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Ta-da! Complete with tea biscuits which were yummy. The cat watching over the biscuits is the billing clerk.

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We sat there till our new toys from the night market also decided to come out and play:

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Our adventure did not end as suddenly the couple that we met at Taroko Lodge appeared! They were also surprised to see us here as they left on a different itinerary since the 2nd day we met them.

We managed to return to Taipei before the sea of tour buses which were emptying tourists took over Jiufen. We headed to Xi Men Ding, which is the epicenter of Taipei action and were greeted by a cute dinosaur giving away free hugs:

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I was really looking forward to visiting Eslite, the 24-hour bookstore. That was the highlight of the day for me. When we finally got to the Xinyi branch, it really didn’t disappoint. Floors and floors of books welcomed us. I was soon lost in the browsing and picked up 神の村 Book 1 and 2 while Kenneth picked up Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. We thought the next time perhaps we can skip on 1 night of accommodation and just get lost in the night with books.

Being the last night in Taipei, we wanted the night to last a little longer so we headed for massage again. This time it was a place near where we stayed and the kind shopkeeper even offered us some amazing pineapple tarts which he said won the competition for best pineapple tart. After trying them, we don’t doubt it at all! The place even had an individual TV screen just like in the airplane and it was showing 那些年,我们一起追过的女孩。We have all watched this funny movie movie and were happy to re-watch it all over again.

By the time we hit the apartment, we were a little tired and wrapped up the night with some hot instant mee from 7-11 and beer. It was 1am and we needed to catch the 4:30am bus to get to the airport for our 7:30am flight back home. Little did we know that we would fall back asleep after hearing the alarm ring…

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