Sights: Taipei Zoo

Okay this, like many posts I’m hoping to put up in the coming weeks, has been a long time coming.  Last summer a few friends and I planned an outing to Taipei Zoo.  It just so happened that a typhoon developed that week, and was just off the coast of Taiwan that day.  Needless to say we had a wet, cloudy, sometimes sunny, and very muggy day wandering around what is a very nice zoo, nestled up against the Mountains to the South of the city.

I haven’t got any pictures of the day, because one – they’d mostly be of animals, and two – the weather was pretty bad at times, so my camera stayed in my backpack.

It’s not hard to get to the Zoo.  Take the MRT Brown Line to the last stop, which is called Taipei Zoo Station.  This is the same station you get off at to go to Maokong via the gondola.  Actually, both can easily be done as part of day-trip, and you’d still have plenty of time (perhaps not the energy though) to visit a night market that night!

Entrance to the Zoo is NT$60 for adults, and when you realise how big it actually is, and how long you can while away in there, it’s a very good deal.  There’s a small buggy-train thing inside the Zoo too, which can help take you from place to place.

There’s a good mix of animals, and habitats as you walk through.  The main attraction though are the Panda’s (especially baby) and there’s plenty of panda paraphernalia you can pick up at the enclosure too.  There are also quite a few monkeys & apes at the Zoo, which are always fun to watch.  For me, it was also good to see some of the Aussie animals there, such as the resident emus.

All up, Taipei Zoo (and Maokong) make a good whole-day trip, if you are looking for something to do, especially with children in tow.  Just try to avoid a Typhoon 😉

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Video: 走路回家 | The walk home

I know it’s been a while, and I’ve finally got some time on my hands tonight to go through the many photos I have sitting on my laptop waiting to be looked at – hopefully there’ll be a proper post in the next day or so.

In the meantime, here’s something else I do when I don’t particularly want to study – make short movies.

I made this one many Sundays ago at a small coffee shop in behind ShiDa called “T.Loafer“.  It’s a really tiny, but cute little place – you can read more about it here: http://curatingcuteness.com/2013/01/t-loafer-cafe/ It’s not somewhere that you’d really go to study, but I like to sometimes, just to change things up.  While I was there on the Sunday in question, I also had my camera & tripod with me.  Naturally I got bored to studying fairly quickly, and out came the photographic equipment & I played around with a few of the things in the shop.  Here’s the result:

Places: Beitou

Beitou is a popular stop for Taipeiers looking for a relaxing hot spring escape.  Only about 30 minutes north of the city, it is extremely easy to reach, and makes for a perfect day trip if you don’t have long in Taipei, and want to get your hot spring fix.

I explored Beitou as part of a free walking tour, organised by the team at Topology tours (website | Facebook).  I’ve been looking out for something like this in Taipei for a while now, and this one is the first of its kind that I’ve found.  While travelling around Europe last year I went on free walking tours of every city I visited.  They were a great way to orient oneself with the city, quickly see all the main sights, hear the stories behind them, and most importantly, meet a whole bunch of new people.  The team at Topology hold a free walking tour at different locations around Taipei every Saturday, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events – who knows, we may just meet 🙂

The tour of Beitou started at 10:30 at Xinbeitou station.  The group was small, and to be honest, there was actually an equal number of Topology staff & visitors.  That said, the walking tour is actually a form of training for the Topology tour guides, and having so many of them there was good to get ideas & insights into other places around Taipei & Taiwan too.

We started from the station, walking up through the back streets of Beitou, stopping at different houses & streets, and being told of the history of the area, especially during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, when Beitou’s hot springs were the last port of call for the Japanese Kamakazi (suicide mission) soldiers.  Seeing various old houses in the area, it was interesting to see them juxtaposed with newer buildings, which underline Beitou’s popularity as a retreat for wealthier Taipeiers.

The main hot spring area in Beitou has a mix of high end, expensive resorts, cheaper options, and even an outdoor public pool.  On the muggy day that we went, I wasn’t too keen to jump into a hot spring, though I can imagine they would be very nice on a windy, wet Taipei winters day.  There is an outdoor pool of hot sulphuric water, that you can smell as your enter town, and even a stream running beside the street of the same water.

After a ramen lunch at what seemed like a very popular Japanese place in town (sorry I didn’t take a business card) we made our way to last remaining free stops on the tour – the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, and the Beitou Public Library.  The Hot Spring Museum has a limited amount of English information, but there’s a nice park around it (and the public hot spring, mentioned above, is next door) so you can easily spend a few hours in/around it.

The day finished with a walk to a nearby market for some shaved ice & then saying our goodbyes at Beitou station.  It was a great day, everyone made a lot of new friends, and we all went home with very, very tired legs 😀

Events: BOUNCE Exhibition (BOUNCE就是要跳藝術展)

I found out about this exhibition through a friend.  I can’t tell you too much about it, because all the information online & at the exhibition itself is in Chinese, so I would strongly advise going along with a friend who can read Chinese.

That said, I can tell you this.  The event is being held in Nangang, which is an area of Taipei City which I certainly don’t frequent all that often, so it was nice to get out there & see somewhere new.  It is being presented by Heineken Light, and features the work of six Taiwanese artists,  including Akibo Lee – the man behind the Big Pow robot at Zhongshan (if you don’t know what I’m talking about … http://myblog-joseph.blogspot.tw/2010/09/blog-post_14.html).

It was a rainy day, and the exhibition is housed in several buildings, in what seemed to be a former industrial estate, so getting between the different artists displays was a bit of a drag (walking in the rain, avoiding puddles etc).  There weren’t many people there, and the layout of the event is a little all over the place, though it was a good way to while away a few hours, rather than being stuck at home watching the rain come down.  My personal favourite display was a rocking horse & video display, who’s speed was controlled by the pace of the rider’s pulse.  Very cool.

I’ve included a map below, so that you can find your way there from Nangang MRT Station.  Please note this is Nangang station, not Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre Station!  More info @ http://www.wowlavie.com/agenda_in.php?keyword&article_id=AE1300479&c=%E9%80%9B%E5%B1%95%E8%A6%BD (all in Chinese).

Useful: Taipei Free WiFi

I’ve been living in Taipei for 6 months now, and I haven’t once purchase a mobile data plan for my phone.  That is something special, coming from someone who was nearly permanently connected to his phone back home in Sydney.  That said, I haven’t been living the life on an online hermit while I’m out & about in Taipei city (or other places in Taiwan for that matter).  That’s because Taipei has a very good free public wifi network, so of course, I’ve signed up to that!

Signing up is easy, and takes a matter of minutes.  Just find TPE-Free in the list of available networks on your phone (or other mobile device), and follow the steps to sign-in (if using Android, you may need to open a web browser first).  The first page you see will be in Chinese, but there’s a link for an English version in there.  If all else fails, here’s a link to the sign-up instructions 🙂 Once you’re signed up, you just need to make sure you are within range of the network, and sign-in when you want to use the internet.

TPE-Free is available at many major public places around Taipei, at every MRT station, most bus stops (from what I’ve seen), and even random street corners, parks and markets.  There’s been many times when I’ve been wandering the city, or waiting at a traffic light, only to look down at my phone & see that I’m connected to the internet!  Of course, the first thing I do then is jump onto Facebook -_-”

One final benefit of signing up to TPE-Free is that it lets you also access other free internet services that are available around Taiwan.  I used the service in Hualien (at the station) to connect to the iTaiwan free wifi network (which is at most government buildings, and train stations).  That came in very handy when figuring out where I was planning to go, or quickly looking up a map before I headed out of the station.

Kaohsiung also has a free public wifi, from memory, though I only remember finding it at metro stations (that was two years ago though, I’ll write up something about how it is these days when I get some time to go down to Taiwan’s southern major city).

Events: WoodyWoody @ Odeum Square (NTU)

I happened upon this concert just by chance.  I was looking around the NTU (National Taiwan University) website & accidentally clicked on this link.  Being a student at the NTU language school, and not living on campus, I sometimes feel like I’m not able to fully get involved in activities/events at the university.  So when I saw this, and had a listen to the guys music, I made sure that I would go!

WoodyWoody is a band formed in 2008 by two friends who met through guitar.  They’ve released 3 EPs & an album, and their work is a purely acoustic guitar (a lot of it played using the “fingerstyle”) and comprises of solos & duets.  I have to say I was really impressed with their guitar skills, and the songs they composed & performed.  It was a great, very relaxing, way to end a nice spring day, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for any more of their performances around town.  Below is the only picture I took from the night, using my phone, and another from their Facebook page.  I’ve also included a YouTube link to one of their songs.  Enjoy.

Nice crowd, good weather, great performance.

Nice crowd, good weather, great performance.

WoodyWoody + Guest

Sights: National Palace Museum

So … it rains a lot here in Taipei.  Here’s a good list of suggestions for what to do on rainy days in Taipei.  One thing you can definitely do is make a visit to the National Palace Museum (aka GuGong) at Shilin.  The museum has 3 floors (well, 5 if you include the giftshop basement & top floor tea house) and a vast collection of artefacts, manuscripts, paintings etc. from the dynasties that ruled over China.  Pretty much what you’d expect from any museum, right?

The museum, obviously, is a stopping point for tour groups, so you’ll sometimes find yourself having to crane your neck around hordes of Koreans, Japanese or Chinese to catch a glimpse.  Going on a rainy day also means that you’ll have more Taiwanese people there too, so it’ll be a busy place.  But don’t let that deter you.  I believe the museum itself also runs English language tours, you can find out more information from their site.

Level 3 is where the ‘big ticket’ displays are. On particularly busy days, the museum will cordon off these sections & regulate the flow of people.  So you may have to line up a little while here.  The rest of level 3, and the rest of the museum is open for you to wander around as you wish.  There’s no eating/drinking allowed inside so make sure you’ve had a good feed before you go in.  Also, there’s no photography allowed & they do keep an eye out for that fairly rigorously.

My tip for tackling the museum would be to start at room 101 (orientation room) to get an idea of the different dynastic periods that are covered at the museum, then make your way directly to level 3 and start from there.  In this way you’ll still be fresh & eager when you get to the main exhibits, rather than doing them at the end when you may be at your wits end.  Work your way down from level 3.  Obviously being a large museum, displays & exhibits do change from time to time.

It’s easy to spend 4 hours plus inside the museum, and you’ll undoubtedly find something there that makes you go “wow, cool/beautiful”.   You can also pick up an audio guide (I didn’t so can’t comment on the usefulness) before heading in.  I would recommend going there with a partner (or group) though.  Going alone can make things fairly monotonous, fairly quickly.

For most, getting there is a combination of MRT & Bus.  The best way is to take the MRT to Shilin station (red line) and then take one of the many buses that go to the museum.  The museum is commonly referred to as GuGong so listen out of that (or ask people using that term). More transport information at the museum’s website.

Sights: NTU Farm – Taipei

NTU Farm is a very nice place to go early in the morning, or makes for a good starting point to explore the Gongguan area (including Treasure Hill).  I go to language school at NTU (National Taiwan University, also know as TaiDa), but was surprised to find out that there was a farm on the university campus.

I went along on a Saturday morning & was pleasantly surprised.  It’s amazing to find such a place in the middle of the city, but the farm area & the lake that’s next to it make a great spot for photography, or just chilling out.  When I went there were children planting corn.  The kids were having a great time, though I’m not sure how families can arrange to join in on these activities.  There’s also a rice museum located just beyond the farm (on the opposite side of the road to the pastures).  Though there’s no English, the guides there are patient with non-native Chinese speakers & I was able to get the gist of what they were saying.

NTU Farm is also has very nice ice cream, which is sold (along with plenty of other items) at the school store, located on the main road through the university (you’ll see it as you walk to the farm from Gongguan station).

Getting to NTU Farm, take a train or a bus to MRT Gongguan Station.  Find Exit 2, and there will be an entrance to the university behind it.  Walk up that road & you’ll see the school shop on your left & eventually get to the lake & farm (over a small bridge) on your left.

Sights: Lin An-Tai Residence

Sure, this place isn’t towards the top of “must sees” in Taipei, however after reading about at My Kafkaesque Life, I decided to go & have a look.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Despite being located under the flightpath of Songshan Airport, it was a particularly peaceful place.  It wasn’t full of hordes of people, and was a very nice place to just spend an afternoon.  You may see a few people doing photo shoots, but that’s really about it.

The residence itself has been relocated from a previous location, however the grounds are very nice & spacious.  The main residence itself doubles as a museum, showcasing various items & describing the old way of life.  There’s plenty of see outside of the main house too, with a small lake, with pagodas surrounding it which makes a nice place to relax.  There’s a trail that goes around the grounds, which is nice to follow at a leisurely pace.

To get there, you can either take the bus, or walk from Yuanshan MRT station.  It’s a nice walk (about 15 minutes) through parks.  More information on how to get there at the Lin An-Tai Historical House website.

The below photos were taken on an Olympus Pen EE-3 (old half-frame film camera).