View from 茶壶山. After finishing class, we left home around 2 o’clock and headed to 茶壶山. It’s named 茶壶山 (Teapot Mountain) because the top part looks like a teapot. It’s located a bit further than 九份 and took us a little less than 2 hours to get there . It was a longer trail than 象山 and even MORE stairs, but it was BEAUTIFUL. Since we left home late, the weather was cooling down, and we could catch the sunset. Taipei has a lot of green space compared to cities in other countries, but it was still good to get out of the city and be in nature. I really loved this evening hike. It’s easy to access and is a great intermediate trail, so I highly recommend going there!
Another picture from the mountain.
I found another favorite 豆花 place–it’s called 庄头豆花担. After going to the gym (运动中心), I found this store on the way back home one time. Now, my motivation to go to the gym has changed from working out to getting 豆花 on the way back. Usually the 豆花 store only has 白豆花, which looks like normal white tofu, but this store has 黑豆花, which has a darker color and more nutrients. I usually do half and half. The nice thing about this restaurant is that you can add as many toppings as you like but only pay the highest topping price. Be careful not to add too many at once, or you will not be able to taste each one. I recommend adding black sugar sauce, shaved ice, 红豆 (red bean), 芋圆 (pumpkin mochi texture thing), and/or 粉粿 (similar texture as 芋圆 but not as chewy, made with sweet potato powder).
Over the weekend, we went to 台东. We left Taipei on Friday evening and arrived there at night. It was late at night, and Uber was not available, but a kind local Taiwanese couple gave us a ride, and we were able to have dinner. Moreover, they were very kind enough to buy us some famous Taiwanese food at the night market. Coming to Taiwan, I am always amazed at the kindness of the people here. Even when I stumble in conversation because my Chinese is still beginner-level, they wait patiently for me and make me feel as if they are kindly accepting me into their community. The next morning we woke up at 3 o’clock and took a 4:30 cab to see 热气球 (hot air balloons) at 鹿野高台. Despite being early in the morning, the place was packed with locals. I had never seen a hot air balloon up close, so it was worth getting up early in the morning to see it.
After that, we took a bus for two hours to the coast. It was surrounded by mountains and very beautiful. It was so hot that my cell phone shut down when I came back to land after swimming, so we decided to go home early.
阿玉水饺. My teacher always has lots of recommendations for food and sightseeing, and this was one of them. It is located on the street in front of Taiwan University, so it is very convenient to go there after classes. This restaurant only sells pre-made raw dumplings, so you have to boil them yourself at home. But the convenient thing about this is that you can freeze them at home and eat the dumplings whenever you want. I recommend the 高丽菜猪肉水饺(cabbage and pork) and 玉米鲜肉水饺(corn and pork).
After extending my visa, I went to the nearby 剥皮寮街. At first glance, the name may sound scary, but the name comes from the fact that during the Qing Dynasty, cedar wood was brought to this area by boat from 福州, China, where it was peeled and processed. It was very interesting to see the streetscape of 剥皮寮街, where the traditional Taiwanese architectural style and the Western baroque style are blended together. Items from the Japanese colonial period were also on display; some of them were newspaper articles written in Japanese. It is a strange feeling for me to often see shadows of Japan in a foreign country like Taiwan.
Night market found on the way to 龍山寺.
龍山寺. I knew it was popular among tourists as a powerful spot where wishes come true, but I was surprised to see so many local people when I entered the building. As you can see in the picture, they were reading sutras with sutra books in their hands and the monks’ voices in the background. The customs looked similar but completely different from those of Japanese temples. I saw some people repeatedly throwing a red wooden stone-like object on the ground and wondered why they were doing it. Later I asked my teacher about it, and she told me that they use the red stone-like object to talk to God and ask his opinion when they cannot decide something by themselves. When you throw two of them at the same time, if they both come out “back” and “front,” it means “OK,” and if both come out “front” or “back,” it means “NO.” Apparently, there are other rules on how to draw the fortune-telling slip, etc., so I would like to search up more details and go there again.
Photo at 宝蔵巌国際芸術村. 宝蔵巌国際芸術村 is the first historical village established by the Taipei City Government. Most of the buildings were illegal and were scheduled to be demolished, but they were renovated and preserved in a way that blends them with art. Houses are densely built on the slopes of a high hill, and the area is used by artists as a place to exhibit their art and as a residence, making it a special village with a mix of ateliers and private homes. At first glance, it appears to be an ordinary village, but it is a very pleasant place to walk around, with art mixed in here and there. As you can see from the pictures, I actually got to see the artists at work up close, which was fascinating to see. There was also an air-raid shelter from the Japanese colonial period, which I was able to enter for the first time. There was a small screen exhibition being held there, and the at-home atmosphere was a weird combination.
Picture from a day trip to 日月潭(Sun Moon Lake). We left the Taipei Train Station before 10:00 AM and arrived at Sun Moon Lake a little after 1:00 PM. It was a very relaxing and picturesque place with vivid scenery, including a cruise ship at anchor and a lake surrounded by mountains. When we arrived at the station, we took the ferry to the other side of the lake and ate the famous wild boar. The tea ice cream there was genuinely delicious and unforgettable. After a fascinating gondola ride, we went paddle boarding.
View from the gondola
View from the ferry terminal