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).

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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).

Places: Yonghe

On a cold, rainy Taipei day, I decided I’d had enough of just sitting at home, writing postcards & watching AFL (Aussie Rules Football) on the TV.  So I picked up my Olympus Pen EE-3 and decided to head to Yonghe, just to have a look at a part of Taipei that I’d never been to.

Okay, so there’s nothing special about Yonghe actually.  I know a few people who live there, but that’s about the only connection I have with the place.  It’s very much a residential area, though there is a fairly big market at Yongan Market, as well as the 823 Memorial Park & Taiwan National Library (get off at Yongan Market MRT Station for all these).  Other than that, there’s plenty of small alleys to lose yourself in, you can always go to the riverside park, and as always there’s plenty too eat too!

My excursion took in the three places I mentioned above.  I started with a quick visit to the National Taiwan Library, and a stroll around 823 Memorial Park.  The park is actually quite nice, and I can imagine it would be a really great place to unwind on a sultry summer’s afternoon.  Even on the rainy, miserable Sunday that I went, there were still plenty of old folk gathered to do various activities, especially playing mahjong (and drinking too, go them!)  From there, I just made it my mission to get lost in the maze of alleys that surround the Yongan Market.  The market itself is quite large & you can find almost anything you would need there.  It’s well worth a stroll, especially if you’re looking to find something “different” to include in your next meal.  The alleys around Yonghe are peaceful, and it’s very easy to just keep wandering.  It’s a very different place to the hustle & bustle of Guting or Gongguan, which I am now used to in my day-to-day life.

Yonghe may not even feature on any tourist to-do list, but if you have a day or two free in Taipei, it’s somewhere that you could pay a morning visit to, just to see a slightly different aspect of Taipei city life.

Places: Yuli (Hualien County)

Yuli is the next town heading south down Highway 9 from Ruisui (see my post about Ruisui here).  To be completely honest, there’s not much to do in Yuli township itself, however Yuli makes a fantastic base to explore the East Rift Valley.  Again, your own transportation is vital for travelling through this area. Here’s a list of some of the places you can go that are quite close to Yuli township:

  • Sixty Stone Mountain
    (I plan to go later this year, so there’ll be a post then 🙂 )
  • Walami Trail
    (You have the option of doing the trail in one, or two – staying in a cabin overnight – days)
  • Antong Hot Springs

I only spent 2 days in Yuli, and unfortunately it rained in the afternoon on both days.  That said, on the one full day I had there, I again hired a bike, and spent another day riding through the great countryside & up into the Eastern Mountains.  Again I hired the bike from the Giant bike shop in town.  The prices were the same as in Ruisui.

There is a bike path from right next to Yuli station, towards the Antong old train station.  The path continued further, though I’m not sure how much further it went.  The path is very flat, smooth, and actually runs along the old railway line between Yuli & Antong.  At the old Antong station, I turned off the track, and headed up along County Rd 30.  You can take this route over the mountains, and go down to the East Coast, however, my plan was simply to see how far I could get before the weather closed in or it got too late.  The path over the mountains is a challenge for a casual cyclist, so pack plenty of refreshments, and take plenty of stops on the way up.  There’s also a 2.6km tunnel that you pass through at the top.  On the way back down the mountain to Yuli, a stop at Antong Hot Springs is a must, to relieve your tired bones (or in my case, to simply get out of the rain!)

Some fellow cyclists riding off towards the Eastern Mountains.

Some fellow cyclists riding off towards the Eastern Mountains.

Where to Stay

There’s only one place I could possibly recommend to stay in Yuli.  Wisdom Garden Homestay.  This family run homestay (you’ll find it in the Lonely Planet too) is just outside of Yuli township itself, but is a beautiful, peaceful place to relax & refresh after a day of exploring.  The Hsu family, who run the homestay, will treat you to some of the best Taiwanese hospitality you will experience, and will fill you with the most delicious breakfasts you will have in your time in Taiwan.  The homestay is family friendly, and your kids will love running around in the lovely front garden & playing with the family dog, while you put your feet up & enjoy the scenery with a cup of tea.  Of a morning you can also watch Mrs Hsu create some amazing Chinese paintings in the main area of the house.  It’s really interesting to see the way she wields the brush and creates an artwork from an empty canvas.

Prices vary depending on the time of year you visit, but you can contact the family, and find more information about Wisdom Garden at this link.

And for a tip for something to eat in Yuli Township, here’s a good post about Yuli Noodles (makes me want to go back just to eat this!).

There's no place I'd rather be - the tranquil front garden at Wisdom Garden Homestay

There’s no place I’d rather be – the tranquil front garden at Wisdom Garden Homestay

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: Taroko Gorge (Taxi Guide)

This is a very quick post – the last time I was in Taiwan (2011) I did visit Taroko Gorge.  I hired a taxi from Hualien city, and the taxi driver played the role of both tour guide, driver & language tutor 😉  I just thought I’d share the details with you all, in case anyone is interested in using this method to see Taroko Gorge (best part is that it allows you a deal of flexibility too).

Her name is Tiffany, she or her husband would be your guides for the day.  Tiffany speaks reasonable English, though I’m not sure about her husband.  They will take you on the following route:

  • (Pick up) Hualien train station or hotel
  • Cingshuei Cliff *(Extra charge)
  • Entrance of Taroko
  • National Park – Shakadang Trail – Eternal Spring Shrine – Swallow Grotto – Tunnel of Nine Turns – Tzu Mu Bridge – Holiu Suspension Bridge – Tienhsiang
  • Baiyang Waterfall Trail *(Extra charge)
  • Return to Hualien

The costs are as follows:

(Cost per car)

  • one person – two people – NT2200
  • three – four people – NT2500
  • five – six people – NT3000

※ Cingshuei Cliff –  NT500 / per car
※ Baiyang Waterfall Trail ( It’s a 2-hour hiking trail ) –  NT500 / per car

※ Taroko tour takes about 5 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs takes about 6 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 7 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 8 hours.
If the trip extends beyond the above times, an extra NT500 is charged per hour.
If you’re interested, you can contact Tiffany by email (tiffany_935lk@yahoo.com.tw) or telephone (+886 912 522118).

Places: Hualien City

Most people use Hualien city (in Eastern Taiwan), as a base for visiting Taroko National Park, Taiwan’s premier tourist sight.  But after you visit Taroko Gorge, and dodge tourist buses, there’s some good eating, and some okay sights to be had in Hualien city.

Shopping
Things in Hualien are cheaper than they are in Taipei, so if you have some room in your suitcase/backpack head down Zhongshan Rd towards Zhongzheng Rd (about 25 minutes walk from the station) and you’ll be in the main downtown/shopping district of Hualien city.  This makes for a good starting point to an evening.

Eating
Downtown – Gong Zheng Bao Zi (公正包子)
Keep going down Zhongshan Rd and you’ll see a big line.  Alternately, jump into a taxi &  just say you want to go to Gong Zheng Bao Zi, they’ll know the one 🙂  This place is famous for its Shui Jiao (水餃) and I have to admit they’re pretty damn good.  Get a table if you can (you don’t line up for that, but you might need to wait a little while still), or you can line up and get some to go.

Look for the sign!!

Look for the sign!!

Night Market – Tzi Qiang Night Market (自強夜市)
The main night market in Hualien city is actually a fair way out of the city centre (about 20 minutes walk from the station).  The night market is small, taking up only a block, so it does get very, very crowded (especially on holidays & weekends).  There are some very long lines for some stalls, but it’s worth the wait.  You can try the Hualien version of Coffin Bread (pictured below), get some really good seafood, some spicy BBQ corn, and then wash it all down with a fruit juice/smoothie.

Full of yummy goodness.

Full of yummy goodness.

Breakfast – King Tang Cafe
This place is on Zhongshan Rd, not too far from the station (about 10 minutes walking).  This place is a very nice place, with seats inside & outside (at the back) too.  Breakfast/brunch sets are available, along with a good selection of coffees & other snacks.  It makes for a good start to the day before heading out for the day.
Address: 431 Zhongshan Rd, Hualien City

Sights
To be honest, I didn’t really see much in Hualien City, I actually used it more as a base for exploring the countryside of Hualien County.  There are a few parks (Meilunshan Park looked very nice), there is also a nice little street through the centre of town along some old railway tracks.  Other than that, you can take a stroll along the seaside parks (starting from Nanbin Park in the south).

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.

Events: Fubon’s Very Fun Park

I’m actually quite excited about this.  I hadn’t heard of the Fubon Art Foundation’s Very Fun Park concept until I read this article on Taipei 543.  I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s exhibition will be like, and looking forward to spending a day or two traversing parts of Taipei city in search of art.

Sometimes, as daily life goes on, we tend to get stuck just staying in our own local area, and we miss out on seeing so much more of Taipei City.  More things like this can help take us to some areas we’ve not yet seen.  Can’t wait!

Fubon Art Foundation website: http://www.fubonart.org.tw/ (information will be posted here)