National Palace Museum,Taipei Zoo, and Maokong

25 11 2011

On Tuesday, I decided the head downtown to sign up for another half marathon. I am running the Fubon Taipei Half Marathon on December 18th. It was much easier to do in person, compared to having multiple people translate a tiny document for me.

Afterwards, I went to the National Palace Museum. It’s home to the largest collection of chinese art and historical artifacts in the world. I strolled throughout the museum for the better part of three hours and then headed home.

At the entrance to the NPM

The National Palace Museum

Garden outside the museum

On the  weekend, a group of us decided to visit Taipei Zoo. It was only 60 NT ($2) to get in, which is insane considering the quality. The zoo itself is laid out quite nice and has a good mixture of animals. We spent a few hours there and headed out as the sun was setting.

Flamingos

Posing for the Formosan Black Bear

Funny monkeys

Da group

Upon leaving, we walked a block down the road and took the gondola up to Maokong for some food and tea. We finished the day by sitting outside at a large stone table sipping Oolong tea for the better part of 2 hours before departing back to Chungli.

Paul had the tea procedure under control without any help from Katie

Mmmm, hot oolong on one of the first chilly nights in Taiwan

And some other exciting news is:

We finally managed to book our tickets for Chinese New Year in January. Asia Air had declined all of our credit cards for over two weeks for no reason, but the other night one finally went through.

I will be venturing away from this lovely island for the first time to go to Malaysia with four awesome friends: Scott, Paul, Rachel and Katie. We are still working out the logistics once we get there, but the plan is to go trekking through one of the oldest rain-forests in the world for at least a few days, if not for the entire week. Can’t wait!

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Alishan Sunrise

24 11 2011

It had been pouring for 3 days straight and my hopes of visiting one of Taiwan’s most famous tourist destinations were diminishing. The upcoming few days were showing only a slightly promising 30 % chance of rain in the middle of the island. However, after some discussion, we agreed to take the chance and go for it.

Alishan is famous for its sunrises. If it’s raining, then that kills the point. Luckily, while it was raining in Chungli, it was perfect in Alishan.

The trip down was a long one, consisting of a two-hour train ride, and followed by a two and a half hour nauseating bus ride through the mountains. Once there, we quickly booked a hotel and began walking throughout the park.

This tree grew generations on top of itself

Giant Red Cyprus

More trees!

There is a vast network of hiking paths and small pedestrian roads. We wandered throughout the forest for the rest of the afternoon gazing at massive red cyprus trees. Most of the forest had a dense fog creeping through the lower portion, which added an awesome ambiance to the experience.

Cool bridge throughout the trees

Dense fog creeping throughout the forest

The four amigos

Serene pond along the path

Once the sun began to set, we started to make our way back to the main village. We stopped for some apple strudel and tea/coffee before ending up back at the hotel. Still hungry, we decided on the first restaurant we saw. After finishing dinner we all headed back to the hotel and stayed up until around midnight playing card games and chatting.

The courtesy call came in at 4:50 AM. We quickly got ready and then slowly worked our way up to the train station, which would take us to the famous spot for viewing the sunrise.

Unfortunately, once we arrived, the tranquil viewing of the sunrise was interrupted with chinese tour guides screaming through megaphones explaining the location and talking about the sunrise – way to kill a peaceful viewing of the sunrise.

I don’t understand why this is one of the most famous things to do in Taiwan. It’s a sunrise; and while the scenery is pretty, once you’ve seen one sunrise, you’ve seen them all (and I’ve seen much better without having to hear someone scream through a megaphone the entire time).

We watched the sunrise and then strolled back to the village to wait on our bus to take us back to Chiayi City. We bought our return tickets at the same time as purchasing our ones to get to the park, so when we went to board the bus we were wondering why there were so many people.

Sunrise!

Turns out we had to check in that morning and get assigned seats. The next bus didn’t leave for two hours, which would put us getting back into Chungli after 4 PM causing some of us to be late for work. We decided to stand, and so two and a half hours of standing on a bus that was swerving through the mountains ensued.

Once off, we transferred to the high-speed rail and head back to Taoyuan. It was a fun trip and I’m glad that I did it, but it’s not something I would recommend to someone with limited time in Taiwan to experience. The country has so many more amazing things to do and see, and if you get up early enough you could watch a sunrise at any of them and be better off.





Taroko Half Marathon and Inaugural Taiwan Cup

7 11 2011

Friday night I finished class at 9:10, hopped on the back of Paul’s scooter, and raced towards the Taoyuan High Speed Rail. Around 9:45 we arrived, I ran inside trying to make the 9:50 train.

I paid for my ticket at an automated kiosk unaware that I would get my change back in coins. Shouldn’t have broken a 1000 on a 150 NT ticket; haha, oh well. I grab my hundred some odd coins and ran downstairs. Just missed it. The next one came about 20 minutes later.

Luckily, I got to Taipei and was still able to secure a seat on the train to Hualien at 11:50 at night. I boarded the train and read most of the way to Hualien and arrived at the station around 2:45 AM.

I met up with Chrissy and Bonnie outside the station and we took a cab to the hotel. By the time we got to our room, it was 3:15 in the morning. We discussed if we were even going to try to sleep, and after agreeing we laid down for a solid 40 minute nap before our wake up call came shortly afterwards at 4:20 AM.

We ll got dressed and headed out to make our way to Taroko. We jumped in a cab outside the hotel and started making out way to the train station, which was only around 5 minutes away. The cab driver was going a different way than when we were dropped off earlier, but that’s how cabs are – they all have the “fastest route”. Whatever, we let it be.

Unfortunately, our decision to let it be became an issue minutes later. We realized that the driver thought we wanted him to take us directly to Taroko, about 40 minutes away from Hualien. Since we had free transfers, we weren’t about to pay 700 NT  for a cab. Multiple attempts later, he finally understood that he was going in the wrong direction.

The only train would leave Hualien at 5:30 sharp. It was 5:20 and we were quite a ways outside of town. He took his sweet time returning, and my temper was about to boil over. I was going to be pissed if I spent all night traveling half way around the island, not sleeping, only to have an ignorant cab driver screw it up and make us miss the marathon (one I wasn’t too stoked to be doing anyways, due to lack of training and not really knowing the girls I was crashing with).

Side note, the park wasn’t allowing cabs inside due to traffic reasons, so if we missed this train, we wouldn’t be running. We get back near Hualien and the clock is at 5:27 AM. We get stuck at a railroad crossing and are convinced it’s over. Finally, the train passes, and we pull into the station.

People are running towards the gate from every direction. We get out throw some money at the driver and join the masses in an attempt to catch the train. We squeezed into a car as the doors were closing and made the cut. Stressful start to the race.

Me, Chrissy and Bonnie at the start of the race

The 3 amigos at the finish

The race started by heading away from the gorge for about 2 km before turning around and heading straight into the park. Once inside the park, stunning views emerged around every turn.

Around 5 or 6 km into the race the grade started to kick up. Uphill we go. My cardio was in top form from cycling so much, but my legs were not feeling too hot. I paced myself off a Taiwanese man for the better part of the climb, and once he tapered off, I pushed through until the turnaround.

Part of the run -- yep: B-E-A-utiful

Early part of the run

The run went around this as well

We were offered helmets just before the turnaround due to falling rocks. I saw no one take one, so I followed suit and headed on without. Luckily that wasn’t an issue during the race.

I finished just under/around 1:50. Not great by any means, but not terrible considering the course was straight uphill and downhill and running 3 times in the previous 5 months before the race. I am satisfied with the time and how I felt in the days afterwards.

After the race, the three of us went back to the hotel, showered and then grabbed a bite to eat before chilling in the room. The girls both passed out shortly after and I read and watched a movie. The rest of the day was low-key and I passed out around 8:30 that night.

Sunday morning I woke up around 7 AM and left to find the staging area for the inaugural Taiwan Cup. It’s a cycling race, which attracted some teams from all over the world.

Rabobank sent a few guys

Why be sponsored by Fuji and ride Specialized?

Start of the 1st Taiwan Cup

After finding the start, I went back to the hotel, grabbed my things and said my goodbyes to the girls. After a few failed attempts at finding a place to rent a scooter, I stopped by a breakfast shop to ask for directions.

Three women argued for a few minutes, I guess, about the best place, one gave me a helmet and told me to get on her scooter. Looks like she would personally be driving me to one – sweet! I love Taiwanese people; they are so friendly.

After getting turned down from a few due to not having a license, we finally found someone who would rent to me. She said her goodbyes, I thank her profusely and we went our separate ways.

My ride

I made it back to the course just in time for the parade of police, race organizers and eventually cyclists to pass by. Took a few snap shots and then headed up to Taroko.

Once in Taroko I spent my time driving though the gorge, pulling off doing short hikes (more like paths, but still impressive) and chilling down by the river in a secluded spot off the trail. It was an awesome day exploring the area and is a remarkable place.

Sweet views

Right before the climb

Helmets were offered to those doing the full marathon due to falling rocks

Me at the Eternal Spring

Chilled and had some tea with this view

Sweet rope bridge

Lunch spot

So pretty

One of the hikes I did

A view of the gorge from the top

Sweet bell tower at the top

I caught a train back to Chungli around 4 PM and arrived back home by around 7:30. It was a tiring weekend, but a ton of fun and I’m stoked that I actually went and did it.