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We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taipei Day 5 - More Shopping, A Monument of Love & Hunger

Time really flies when you're having a good time. Before we knew it, it's already the fifth day and we have to fly back home tomorrow.

Parliamentary building
Money flies fast too when you're having a good time that involves lots of shopping. So today, we have decided to head over to a Taiwanese bank to exchange some of my Lioness' SG dollars for extra local currency since we are running out of local economic vitamin M (i.e. money). I didn't standby enough SGD but I have my credit cards with me.

The nearest Taiwanese bank is within walking distance from 西门 and after asking the hotel staff and a local while on the road for directions, we begin to make progress towards the bank and passed by what I think is their parliament building, so I took a shot of that.

Speaking of which, Taiwanese parliament involves quite quirky scenarios if you've seen the news footages, which is something that always strikes me as odd and out of place. A friend of mine told me years ago that he saw on the news a footage of this cabinet member dumping a waste basket over the head of another halfway through a speech in parliament. Now that's badass.

Now that we've made it to the bank where no photography is allowed, I begin to utilize stealth to take photos of my Lioness doing the transaction with the teller anyway so that we can have our memory of this event in visual form.

I know that I'm not supposed to be doing this but it's not that I was planning to rob a bank, heh. I happen to be a law-abiding citizen who does nothing wrong except for maybe taking pictures in a bank on foreign ground. But it's all for memory's sake, there's nothing sinister about it. So keep your stones and move on already.

So we headed back to 西门站 train station after we were done at the bank to make our way back to 五分埔 to shop for clothes again. Standing inside the train, I just have to show here how the inside of a Taiwanese train looks like on a Thursday morning:

Inside the train

Back home, while I was right smack in the middle of a typical working day, I sometimes see tourists enjoying themselves while us locals go about our daily work routines. As of now, I'm having a role-reversal and wonder about the local folks before me in the train: what are they working as for a living and how is their work routines like?

I then begin to imagine myself living and working in Taipei just like they are and wonder how life would be like as such as compared to my own real life back home. Well, at least they get to enjoy seasonal cold weather like now, which is something I'm jealous about since the weather back home is like dreaded summer throughout the entire year. How I wish I could take the cold weather home with me.

Back to 五分埔

Arriving at 五分埔, it's quite a different sensation seeing the streets and shops with only sprinkles of people here and there. Well, today's a weekday morning, so this should come as no surprise. It's nice to shop around in cold weather without a crowd, I must say.

Arf got some fashion sense about me
We wanted to savor the barbecued squid again that we had during our first trip here and we bought that from a mobile stall at the back of the place near this particular red temple, so that's where we are heading to now.

Oops, now that we've reached the back, we don't see any stall selling barbecued squid, too bad. Looks like we are gonna miss out on the squid for this trip (and we did miss out). But I saw this really cute dog hanging around at one of the boutiques here and took a snapshot of it. It's adorable, isn't it? It has a fine fashion sense too. The Taiwanese folks in Taipei love their domesticated dogs to come in small sizes and fluffiness like this.

The cafe
Now we are done at 五分埔 and after getting cute T-shirts with cats for both our mums, we headed back to the train station. Passing by this little cafe across the road from the train station, I decided to pop in there for the experience. I'm figuring that since we always pass it on the way to 五分埔 and back from it, we should go in there and experience it for the memory.

Remember that nagging feeling that dreads me about the thought of us coming to the end of our trip I wrote about yesterday? Well, that motivates me to go into the cafe too since it looks cozy and I've always wondered about the place, having walked pass it so many times.

So we are now having drinks and a plate of snacks in there, sitting at one of the tables just next to the pavement you see in the pic there and this is the view of the inside of the premise from where I'm sitting:


So I'm glad we came to patronize this little cafe and I will remember it for a long time to come. Like I've said, I can be emotionally attached to places since they are like monuments that stand witness to my experiences, memories and the thoughts and feelings during the moments in time when I was there at those places. In other words, they make up my story, threaded together in this blog.

A view of the scenery outside the train
Our next plan is to head to 渔人码头 (Fisherman's Wharf) at the northern coast of Taiwan where 情人桥 (Lovers' Bridge) is located. After dumping the stuff we bought at 五分埔 in our hotel room, we headed to the train station to make our way all the way to 淡水 where we have to take a bus to 渔人码头.

Well, this is going to be our final train ride during the day for this trip, so I whipped out my iPhone and took a shot of the scenery of the view outside from inside the train's cabin I'm in as we get closer to 淡水. Well, I love Taiwan but I gotta say that a lot of their buildings, especially their residential ones, could sure benefit from a fresh paint job.

No offense meant at all but I do wonder why their government don't look into this particular infrastructure matter. I think Taiwan is truly a wonderful place but they should look into better maintenance for lots of their buildings. Just saying, simply because I hope for the best for Taiwan. I did mention that I love the place, didn't I? We came back here again not without a reason, fresh paint or not.

Arriving at 淡水, I'm hoping to see again this gentleman busking with a sort of musical instrument I do not know the name of playing near the shore of the lake there. His musical instrument makes a sort of haunting but yet beautifully unique sound.

So I am quite disappointed that I don't see him here today. Perhaps the weather here is too cold today. This place is just next to a huge body of water, which accounts for the fact that it's a lot colder here. Still, I can't help but wonder if he no longer plays here though. I hope he's doing well. We have to move on and so we hopped onboard the bus that will take us to 渔人码头.

渔人码头
Arriving at the destination really feels like a trip back in time since everything here still looks the same and nobody shifted the sea here elsewhere. The only difference this time is the weather, which makes it even more of a pleasant flashback experience.

But the price for the colder weather is that the sky here today is covered with grey clouds which will blanket up the glory of the coming sunset. During our previous virgin trip here when the weather was hot with clearer skies, the sunset we saw here during then was quite a sight.

But for me, I'll choose cold weather any day.

That's me playing tight-rope walking near the water's edge where yachts and small boats are docked. I did the exact same thing during my first time here and my Lioness took a shot of me doing so, so that's what I'm doing again as my Lioness snapped away with our camera.

I guess I can compare this photo with the previous one to see how much I've grown or something. I was wearing a T-shirt previously but this time, I'm in my coat and leather gloves.

Yup, it's really cold here this time of the year, so if you are coming here during this month of the year, be adequately dressed since this place is right next to the sea and places near huge bodies of water during the cold seasons will turn you into a popsicle if you have next to nothing on your skin.

Dusk is approaching and the lights are starting to come alive. See that cafe there with the outside seats at the bottom of the stairs in the pic on the right? My memory of this cafe is strong in my mind because an English song with Spanish arrangements was played here during the last time we were here and I was serenaded by it. Just think something along the lines of Sting's Desert Rose.

I wish I knew the title of that song I heard here previously. It was so sad to the point of anguish but so romantic at the same time my goosebumps stood just listening to it while I was feeling as if my heart was being torn out of me. When you hear music that touches you in a particular place, your memories of that place become empowered.

No, they are not playing that same song now that I'm back here again. What a pity. My goosebumps remain in their original positions unmoved.

The center of attraction in this place is the Lovers' Bridge, so I'll let the following pics do the talking here:

On the steps of Lovers' Bridge

Lovers' Bridge at dusk

Lovers' Bridge when night has fallen

When night falls, the beauty of 情人桥 truly shines, like love blossomed; just like a bloomed rose. For some reason, this monument of love seems lonely, overlooking the northern sea all on its own. Perhaps it needs a companion bridge.

The cold is making us hungry, so we are now looking around for a place for some chow but most of the restaurants and eateries here are closed and we can't find anything that we think can fill us up, so we begin to walk away from the area and ended up at this seafood place situated at this bend of the road.

While walking to this place, we had to cross a stretch of wide open space where the winds from the sea made us feel so cold that I experienced some pain in my ears. That is making me think that we better end up successful in finding a worthwhile place to dine after braving the cold and the painful sensation in my ears.

Apparently, business at this seafood place is poor since there are no customers here that I can see and one of the folks working here has to stand by the road waving a luminous lightstick to attract the drivers of passing cars.

In the end, we decided not to eat here since I'm having the feeling that if we did, we would be over-charged, as well as the fact that we are running low on Taiwanese currency again by now and the restaurant does not accept credit cards.

So it's back through that stretch of wide open space again since the area at this seafood place seems remote and I think we might get lost or something should we continue our hunt walking deeper and further into the area. I figure it's best to retrace our steps and head back to familiar ground and take a bus back to 淡水 from 渔人码头.

淡水老街
So that was what we did and we have arrived back at 淡水 after waiting at the bus stop and hopping onboard the bus with 2 other Korean ladies.

We went into the first restaurant we came across at 淡水 but decided not to eat there in the end since they made us wait for too long. So we are now heading to the outdoor stalls at 淡水老街 instead to temporarily suppress our hunger with the snacks and small bites sold there before heading back to 西门 to have steamboat opposite our hotel.

After all, being at 淡水老街 without trying their snacks is a wasted experience. And I just had to have a bite again of the wild boar sausages selling here, Asterix and Obelisk.

Back at 西门

So that was what we did before heading back to 西门 where we surrendered our transportation cards to get refunds for our leftover amount. Surrendering our transportation cards makes me feel a tinge of sadness, as it means that we will be leaving Taipei tomorrow. Sniff.

Signage at the steamboat restaurant
We are still hungry. Following our plan, we are now at the steamboat restaurant situated at the opposite stretch of road across from our hotel to have a proper dinner here. We've passed by this restaurant many times during our current and previous trip already, so this calls for having an experience of the food here. This is making me wonder why we haven't yet patronized this restaurant that is so close to our hotel.

It's funny how certain things in our immediate surroundings that we come across too often can sometimes get neglected or overlooked in favour of other things further or far away. Perhaps I'm mentally far-sighted or something and my mind's eye tends to leapfrog over things just around me, which is not a very good thing.



Inside the steamboat restaurant
But having steamboat in cold weather with a hungry stomach is undoubtedly a very good thing. I just wish that this restaurant had a hotplate-steamboat combo like my favorite restaurant at 忠孝复兴 though.

So how's the food here? Well, the food is alright but nothing mind-blowing. We weren't floored by the time we finished our steamboat dinner here since we are still standing firmly on our feet. But by all that's digestible, being able to satisfy our hunger finally after enduring it in cold weather which magnifies hunger is something quite beyond mere words.

Now that our stomachs are completely satisfied, we popped over to 85° cafe which is like just next to the steamboat restaurant where I just bought some good old Taiwanese Caramel Macchiato.

Sitting here side by side next to my Lioness at the bench outside 85°, I whip out my phone and begin to take pics of ourselves together as well as our immediate surrounding because I know that we are going to miss this place again after tomorrow:

85° cafe

View from the bench outside 85°

I also took shots of the lobby and the main entrance of our hotel earlier:




This actually feels like a desperate last moment hug with a loved one before you have to leave him or her for a long time to come.

This is our final night in Taipei for this trip. Join me tomorrow as I give Taipei that desperate hug.


- De Lion Speaks

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