Showing posts with label taipei_county. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taipei_county. Show all posts

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall (銀河洞越嶺步道)

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This short hike (more like hellishly steep, but short, stair climb in nature) is quite well known, covered in Taipei Escapes, Taipei Day Trips, and blogged by David on Formosa. I hadn't done it before, though, so I thought I'd add a few photos. It begins in Xindian (or Maokong if you are so inclined), snakes up (or down) a stair-trail through the mountains and takes in a slender silver waterfall backed by a cave, into which a retro little temple has been built.

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It will also get its own entry under "easy day hikes in Taipei for lazy people" (updated!) as you can easily begin this hike around or even after lunch time and arrive in Maokong with a comfortable amount of daylight remaining. Its fairly unchallenging nature - unless you hate stairs (and I do) - proximity and short duration are perfect for those who want to do something but didn't get up until 10am.

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I like this hike because it connects two disparate parts of the greater Taipei area: Maokong/Muzha and Xindian. You go up the long, ridge-like Maokong mountain, stop at a waterfall and temple on the way, pass a short trail to the summit (you can head up there if you like - but there's no view) and then come down to the road across the street from Maokong's cable car station. Straight up and straight down.

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There are buses and such you can take to get there; you can take any bus headed along Beiyi Road (Highway 9 or 北宜公路) towards Pinglin and get off at Yinhe Road (銀河路), hiking up from there.  However, it's only about NT155 to take a taxi from MRT Xindian to the trail entrance (tell any driver you want to go to 銀河洞越嶺步道 on Yinhe Road), so why not just do that?

Or you can go the other way - take the gondola to the top of Maokong, and directly across the street start hiking up the hill past the temple under renovation, turning behind a house (should be marked), past an old stone house, and up some more on a concrete path until you hit the woods again. Past the summit and then down, down, down to the waterfall and Xindian, and catch a bus on Beiyi Road back to the MRT. This way involves less uphill hiking and few, if any, uphill stairs.

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But we went the hard way, and ended up in Maokong at a great time for tea and snacks, hanging out until sunset and dinnertime. We went to my favorite teahouse on Maokong, 山中茶 - I like their fried sweet potato and their lemon diced chicken (檸檬雞丁).

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This trail is very much discovered - solo hikers (it's very safe) and large groups, often with dogs, meander along it, stopping for lunch near the temple. The temple itself was built sometime after the KMT landed in Taiwan, and tiles painted with a story in Chinese marking this fact, plus the obvious non-fact that "everyone in Taiwan celebrated Retrocession Day" (uh, NO THEY DIDN'T) and a list of temple donors.

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 You can walk behind the waterfall up a path just beyond the cave - the path continues, but it's better to take the path up to the right of the temple for a quicker ascent to Maokong.  photo IMG_5387.jpg

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

All Things Weird & Wonderful: Fuhe Bridge Flea Market

The best way to display watches on your arms is to do it with a seashell
up your butt.


The best post on flea markets in Taipei has already been written, so I won't make this much of an informational post. The information is already out there.

Instead, I'll post a few pictures and write up my own experience at Fuhe Bridge Flea Market, which I went to on Saturday morning with my friend June.

To get to Fuhe Market, you can take a free shuttle from MRT Dingxi, but it's super slow and doesn't come often. I'd say just take a cab to the Yonghe side of Fuhe Bridge and follow people as they walk toward the river (it's next to the riverside park).


We decided to check out Fuhe Bridge Flea Market, figuring that if we liked that one, Chongxin Flea Market could be our next stop. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, although I have my eyes out generally for a few coveted items:

1.) A real wood folding table, preferably vintage, that folds up almost completely (about 20cm is all I can spare when it's folded completely) in a medium-color wood (not too dark or blond) without too much heavy lacquer or varnish

2.) Vintage Taiwan Beer drinking glasses - the small kind you get in the 100-kuai stir fry restaurants. I have a pair of new ones, but I would love some vintage ones

3.) A bigger Yixing teapot - I have two tiny ones. I saw a lot of good contenders and may go back for one.
4.) A vintage ceramic plate bearing the stylized character (often looks like one of these)

5.) Cool beaded things of not-high value or production quality I can take apart and turn into my own jewelry items

6.) And I'm pretty much always on board with vintage scarves, jewelry and purses

Someday, someday, I might also come across the right size and weight of carved Chinese wooden door panels/screens in a style and wood I like, to have installed on either side of our Japanese tea room. Not holding my breath for those, though.


While I didn't see those specific items at Fuhe Market, we did come across a lot of cool items. Not just secondhand appliances and electronics (although there were plenty of those, including some electronics you could unironically call "vintage"), but also interesting antiques, like the kind you might find at Treasure Hunt or in the Jianguo Weekend Market.

Treasure Hunt, while fantastic and well-curated, tends to be expensive, and Jianguo Weekend Market tends to be full of fakes - if you want a vintage item to decorate your home, I'd say you're better off here. The people who shop here seem to mostly be old thrifty folks and people buying to resell. They won't be fooled by fakes. You can bargain - June says "anything over NT300 is fair game for bargaining".

I picked up one not-too-vintage Art Deco style purse (looks like something Jordan might've carried in the latest Great Gatsby film) for NT150 and didn't bother bargaining because it seemed like a great price.

And you can get your hair cut. No joke.


You can also find vintage items that are totally cool, but aren't found in antique stores. Clothing, sometimes (really inspect every item you are interested in before making an offer), old signs, old Datong fans that apparently still work, vintage and secondhand musical instruments (for the Western ones, don't look for great quality - most are student models).


Two things you can be sure of are these:

1.) If you've ever encountered a shoe thief in Taipei (one used to - and still might - target my building, which is why our shoe basket for any shoes that are actually worth anything is just inside our door, not outside of it), then your shoes probably wound up here or at the other flea market. Most - maybe not all, but most - shoes sold here are absolutely stolen. The vendors don't do the stealing, but also ask questions.

2.) If you've ever recycled any item that wasn't just an empty plastic bottle - be it an old clock, an old computer, an old chair or even an old phone - by giving it to one of the old ladies with a cart who hang out around garbage time, it almost certainly ends up here or at the other market.

Scary Discount Soldier Babies!


You can also find toys - some old, some vintage, some horrifying:


I WANT THIS OLD DATONG FAN. It would totally match my guestroom and is just the right kind of vintage. I didn't feel like lugging it to my private class today, and I am definitely on a budget this month, but I saw many models of this fan at the market. If I can find one that works, I will certainly buy it, clean it up, and put it in our guest room (one wall is the same "Thai teal" color - it would look great).


I kinda like the one on the right, and I might go back for it or something like it, if I can justify buying yet another thing to hang on my wall (there's already quite a bit of wall decoration going on at our place).


...but maybe not the handcuffs.


...or the creepy forehead-eye book.


I did find cool beads, but didn't buy much as I plan to go back with a bigger spending budget soon (this month will see me paying for my Delta Module 1 and my one-on-one Chinese class). One guy sold vintage aboriginal beads that looked to mostly be the real deal.


This market is also popular with tea enthusiasts, who will come to buy good leaves, or participate in auctions for the best Yixing teapots. I don't think I will really consider myself local until I participate in one such auction and nab one such teapot. Soon, my precious. Sooooon....


You have to go early - 9am is a good time to show up - and in the summer, be ready - it's hot. Like asphalt and no shade hot. There is also a food market, and there are a few stands selling quick local meals (there's a breakfast place across the street from the walkway to the entrance, too). There are people selling cold drinks. I downed an entire iced sugarless tea in 20 minutes and was sweating so much I didn't even need to pee. And I did get a sunburn.


I also came home with some red lentils to make daal, and June bought a purse and a cute hat. We split a necklace made of beads that look like red and black dice, because we'll both use them.



So many cool plates, but no Long Life plate.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tombs of the Sky Lanterns and Bamboo Cathedrals

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Not long ago we did a lovely, not-too-challenging hike in Pingxi, taking the Dongshige (東勢格) trail from the bottom end of town (if you come by train - right on the road if you come by bus). We hadn't been hiking in Taiwan in ages because we've both been wary after Brendan's terrible fall, and we were out of commission hike-wise for several months anyway for his recovery. We did do World's End and Horton Plains in Sri Lanka (in lieu of still-not-quite-ready-for-it Adam's Peak) in February, but that's been it since September. So if you've been wondering why I haven't done any hiking posts...that's why.

Oh yeah, and from February to May it rained more or less every weekend in Taipei. Months on end. No good hiking.

Ready to start hiking again and wanting to take advantage of a few weekends of not-terrible weather, but not ready for anything too challenging (gotta recapture that muscle memory, or really, just gotta get back in some form of hiking shape) - and probably never again willing to try anything too risky on a hiking trail - we opted to do this lovely, rambling hike.

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The three key features of Dongshige are the gentle rock scrambles, often around a cool, bubbling creek (all have ropes for balance and none are impossible to navigate for even the most novice hiker), tall copses of bamboo that arc together high above the trail to create the feeling of a verdant, natural cathedral ceiling, and sky lanterns set off from Pingxi town that have fallen in the hills beyond, ending their lives among the trees.

It's quite lovely to walk along in the dappled sunlight under the trees (assuming you get a sunny day, which you should never assume in northern Taiwan, let alone Pingxi) and catch sight of red, blue, pink and striped sky lanterns saying their last goodbyes, either at your feet or in the trees. Some are so new that you can read the wishes on them. Others have been at rest for so long that the paper has long since disintegrated and all you've got are a few tattered remnants of color - if that - and the metal base of the lantern. They're lifted into the sky by hot air/smoke - think very crude hot air balloon technology - so when the sterno-like fire goes out of their base, they fall where they fall.

And they are everywhere in these hills. I wonder if the one we made a few months before our wedding is up here somewhere.

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We accidentally went the wrong way when we started off, and found ourselves on a trail Joseph, our companion, has done before with Richard Saunders - the Stone Candle trail, which from what we've heard is absolutely gorgeous, and also 8+ hours of risky, rocky trails and pure torture if you're not in great shape. (The link above includes photos of our friends Joseph and Emily doing this hike). The first part of the trail is pretty easy, though, and quite lovely as it winds through farmland and up gentle hills to a set of old stone steps (which is where it gets more challenging), so we decided to stay on it for awhile. Then we turned around and hit Dongshige - we didn't complete it, in part because we'd started out too late, in part because we'd spent time on the wrong trail, and finally because my water bottle was not capped properly and I lost my entire water supply in my backpack and down the back of my pants about halfway through.


You can get to the start of Stone Candle, Dutiful Son Mountain, Loving Mother Mountain, Dongshige and more from about the same area - from the train to Pingxi, walk down through the town, turn left and walk down some more, and turn left again at the road at the bottom of the old street. Walk for awhile on hot pavement and the trail entrances will eventually start appearing on your left.

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From there, grab a smartphone photo of the map (the correct entrance has a map of Dongshige Trail) and head up. If you find yourself on the right side of the creek, walking through farmland and not on a road scooters can drive down, you're headed to Stone Candle. Turn back (or keep going until you're tired, it's a nice walk at first). You should instead be on a road so easy that it is somewhat motorable up to a certain point.. You end up at an old tunnel (on the way you'll pass the "disused house", "disused office" and "disused tunnel" - this area is full of old forest ruins so you'll see a lot of this kind of stuff) - the trail is pretty obvious from here on out (head right just before you reach the house, the bridge between the forks doesn't look stable).

If you instead head up Stone Candle, to the right of the creek, the easy trail terminates at a long set of slippery stone steps to your right. At the top of that are some old man-made shallow caves, which appear to be some sort of shrine-like dedication to Chiang Kai-Shek (eugh!):

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There's another, harder to read inscription that is more obviously Chiang Kai-shek related, too.

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But assuming you stay on the Dongshige Trail (left of the creek, for awhile), this is where you hit a series of gentle rock scrambles, some near or in the water, some not.

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A red sky lantern impaled on bamboo

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The "disused tunnel"

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From the Stone Candle (i.e., wrong) trail

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The trail gently inclines for awhile - nothing too strenuous, but it's not entirely flat going - and is mostly shaded, The rocks and creek (and lack of pavement) keep it cool, so it's a good choice for a very hot day. Just bring more water than we did, and don't screw the cap on wrong like this idiot here.

After some time, on your right you'll hit a signpost and a turn-off to another super-challenging, Richard-Saunders-style hike that we didn't attempt. It cuts a natural, almost imperceptible trail up a steep, rocky, overgrown hillside and disappears into the jungle above. Maybe someday - not now. Keep going on the route that's not kind of scary, along the rock scramble.

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Yes, I am aware that this looks like a giant discarded condom.

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You'll also pass an Earth God shrine (you usually do on these hikes!)

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We never made it to the "natural endpoint" of this hike - some lovely grasslands about another kilometer away - because of the water situation (we also wouldn't have had enough daylight to go to Houtong to see the cats, but realistically we could have done that on another day), but the hike seems to continue to gently ascend from there and could easily be completed without issue had we a bit more water and time.

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On the way back, along the easy motorable trail, you also get some lovely views across the river of Shulong Peak and Stone Bamboo Shoot, which are accessible from Jingtong.

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