TRAVEL: Taipei, Taiwan in 72 hours (1/3)

September 20-23, 2015

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Attractions

  • Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺)
  • Ximending (西門町)
  • Red House (西門紅樓)
  • National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)
  • National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (國民革命忠烈祠)
  • Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

During the end of September 2015, we found ourselves an opportunity to visit Taipei in Taiwan for three days before heading to Hong Kong for a major family gathering. After hearing so much about Taipei from one of my classmates, I was decidedly excited to see and experience for myself the Taiwanese culture and history. September is one of the better times to go; the weather starts to cool off although there may be a typhoon.

We stayed three nights (September 20-22) at the Park City Hotel- Luzhou Taipei located above the Saint Ignatius High School subway exit. The hotel room is very clean and the hotel offers free self-service laundry facility, which we used before we left for Hong Kong on the 23rd. Upon our arrival to the hotel after the 12-hour flight on September 20th, we were too early to check in so we stored our luggage with the hotel staff. We then washed up and refreshed ourselves before heading down to the subway.

At the station, we purchased Easy Cards for each member of the family. Each card requires a $100 deposit of national Taiwan dollars and then you may add your desired monetary amount to the card. It saves time from having to buy a fare for each trip on the subway. See the Taipei Rapid Transit website for more information. On our trip, we deposited $2000 national Taiwan dollars total and this covered the entirety of our trip and the bus ride to Jiufen (side trip on September 21).

We took the subway to the Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺), a temple that was damaged during World War II but renovated to its current revered state. The elaborately carved dragons guard the tiled roofs.

Longshan Temple

Inside, one can see people praying and chanting. There are also several Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian statues. There are deity charms and jade bracelets in the temple shop. It was definitely worth visiting.

Longshan Temple

 

Longshan Temple

After exploring the temple and paying our respects, we walked to the Ximending (西門町) district along the busy streets. On the way there, we encountered the red-bricked buildings of Bopiliao Historical Block (剝皮寮歷史街區).

Old Taipei Street

It was still early in the morning and some shops were in the process of opening. We were lucky that a pork and beef jerky shop had just prepared a fresh batch of jerky when we popped in to buy some for ourselves and relatives.

Fresh Jerky

We continued our trek and browsed a couple of the shops and temples, until we finally reached Ximending (西門町)— a popular district for fashion, hip bars, and other trendy shops.

Streets of Taipei

Continue reading

Advertisements

Kunming, Yunnan: City of Flowers and Poetry

Panorama of Kunming (courtesy of BMCL)

Panorama of Kunming (courtesy of BMCL)

After touring the Sichuan province, we made our way to Yunnan province located in the western part of China. In ancient times (circa 2nd century B.C.E.), Kunming was one of the main stops along the Southwest Silk Road that spanned from X’ian to India. Today, it is the home of more than 26 ethnic groups—the largest being the Bai people.

As the “City of Eternal Spring,” Kunming has flowers blooming all-year-round. Every day the bustling flower market opens at 3-5AM, during which many businessmen bid, buy, and sell local flora. More than 40 floral species are grown in the Yunnan province to be used as essential oils, a profitable enterprise.

Attraction List:

  • Bamboo Monastery
    (August 10)
  • Golden Temple (August 19)
  • Stone Forest (Shilin)
    [August 19]
  • Dynamic Yunnan song and dance show
    (August 19)

August 10, 2012

Golden rhinoceros relief symbolizes the founding symbol of the Bamboo Monastery, Kunming

The founding symbol of the Bamboo Monastery, Kunming

Our first stop in Kunming with our guide, Lulu, was a visit to the Bamboo Monastery.

Legend says that two royal brothers pursued a white rhinoceros into the Yu’an Mountain, where the animal vanished. Instead of the rhinoceros, the brothers beheld the sight of six monks holding bamboo walking sticks.

Upon seeing the two brothers, the monks vanished leaving behind their sticks in the ground. The following day a bamboo forest grew in their place, marking holy land. In reverence for the land, a Buddhist temple was built in the monks’ honor.

Bamboo Monastery, Kunming

Bamboo Monastery, Kunming

In truth, the Bamboo Monastery was established in 1280 (Yuan Dynasty). This monastery is famous for 500 lively, colorful Buddhist arhats (luohans) by artist, Li Guangxiu, from the 1880s (Qing Dynasty). Continue reading