Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ximending: Taipei's Version of Harajuku

Been reading and hearing great things about Ximending.

My friend, Meme, who studied in Taiwan before, told me how she much loves Ximending.

I also read from MKL's blog that Ximending is the "Harajuku of Taipei" where young people hang out and shop. And truthfully, I'd really really like to go to Harajuku. Then again, Japan is too expensive so Ximending it is!

After Maokong Tea Gardens, we took the MRT to Ximending Station. Upon exiting the station, I was immediately amused by the place. I felt like I was in the movies. LOL.

There was a group of young people right in front of the station who had "FREE HUGS" signs with them so I went and took hugs!

Should have hugged a guy too. LOL. Why didn't I?

Hugging a girl from Budapest

I was still in a daze when we decided to start scouring the area.

I was able to buy a pair of boots for NTD 590 (around PhP885). I love the buckle details but the best thing is that it has a zipper closure and yet it fits my thick calves just fine! I was even wearing pants! Boots with zippers here in the Philippines never fit my calves (i.e. I can't close the zippers lol), pfft.

We bought dinner from 7-11 (I had onigiri and assam milk tea) and ate at Taipei Cinema Park (just a few minutes walk from the station).

Taipei Cinema Park

Ni Hao Philippines!

Went around more and found this really cool area of stalls (just tents and tables) where artists sell handmade products every weekend! Stuff I've never seen in Taipei before. A lot of products (especially accessories) caught my eye and I wanted to buy them but they were too expensive (as in hundreds of dollars)!

Totally digged one of the necklaces with star and wing charms. Too expensive though. :(

EEE people will love these. Resistors, capacitors and other electronic things turned into accessories

All the accessories were pretty (made of wire and real crystals), especially the mismatched earrings but they cost 700 to 900 dollars :(

This pretty lady speaks really fluent English so we got to talk to her a lot. Apparently, she grew up in the States.

Cool wire art yo.

The guy is the one who makes the wire art.

However, I was able to get this customized wire art product for NTD130. The character means light. A bit expensive for some pieces of wire. Then again, it's handmade and I don't see these in the Philippines.

The artists' stalls are just around Taipei Red House

It's great that we went on a Sunday. The artists' stalls are just too awesome for words. It felt so indie and very much refreshing from all the mass-produced stuff in Taipei! I wonder if there's something like it here in Manila.

Now, I understand why Meme loves Ximending a lot. I now declare it as one of my favorite places in the world (well, not that I've been to many places in the world but still, LOL).

After Ximending, we went back to the hostel to get our luggage, took a bus back to the airport and that's the end of it.

Wore the new boots to the airport because my old ones almost gave up from my endless walking.

Short but fun and great and not bitin! That's how my weekend in Taipei can be summarized. Until next time, Taipei!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maokong Tea Gardens and Maokong Gondola

I never got around to finishing my posts about the Taipei trip 2 weeks ago. So here's one.

The second and last day in Taipei was spent in Maokong Tea Gardens. We wanted to go there last September but we went on a Monday and we discovered that the Maokong Gondola (cable car) is closed every Monday.

So this time, we went on a Sunday. I was expecting a lot of people because it's a Sunday. But I guess due to the rains, we didn't have to line up very long. Unfortunately though, most of the view was covered by the fog.

The foggiest part!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mexicali Enchillada

I brought myself on a date after my class just to appease my Mexicali craving. Which is totally weird because I used to hate eating alone in restaurants or fast food stores.

I ordered chicken enchillada with rice and salad (PhP195).

Must stop eating like this. I'll surely get fat at this rate. (I happened to walk at the acad oval while going home. Makes me miss jogging.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shopping in Shilin

One of the best things about Taipei is the night market (or maybe shopping in general)! Cheap, fashionable clothes. A lot are mass-produced but there's still A LOT to choose from. And besides, while the clothes  may be common in Taipei, they are no longer common when you go back to Manila. Not everything has good quality (mass produced, yeah) but keep a good eye!

During the first night of our stay in Taipei last weekend, we went to Shilin night market. Oh, we never get tired of it. It's actually my fourth time to go there (first three was during the September 2011 trip). As far as I know, it's one of the most famous night markets in Taipei. It's just outside MRT Jiantan Station so it's very accessible and there are LOTS of shops as well! There's even branded stuff like Nike and Adidas. And Korean makeup brands like Skin Food, The Face Shop, Tony Moly, Etude House, and Nature Republic. As I said before, it's like Divisoria minus the sweat, the stink, the hassle, and the snatchers/pickpockets. 

Good to be back, huh

Yes, in the middle of the road!

I actually had a shopping list with me which consisted of a pair of red nautical flats, a pair of boots, a biker jacket, a chiffon midi skirt and pasalubong for my family. 

I first did pasalubong-shopping for my family. I got my brothers some polos on sale, which they liked. I got both polos for only NTD 500 (PhP750). Bonus that the salesperson was so nice and handsome LOL. For my dad, I got a taupe knit sweatshirt from Giordano for NTD800.

I was able to get the red nautical flats to match the blue ones I bought last September. (NTD390)

Unfortunately, for me, all the stores were selling winter wear so I could not find midi skirts that used to be abundant last September.

Of course, there were boots. Lots of them. But I could not find a not-so-expensive pair that I really liked.

I found cheap but great biker jackets too! Around NTD400 to NTD600. That's around PhP600 to PhP900 while biker jackets here in Manila usually cost no less than PhP1k. However, my practical self was kicking. The biker jackets in Shilin were too thick and were lined. Wearing them in Manila could equate to heat stroke. So I decided to let them go. Sigh.

In the middle of my shopping, it started raining hard! Also, I was getting tired because I had very little sleep the night before so after some more walks, I headed back to the hostel.

Oh, did I mention that our hostel is just a block away from Tonghua night market? It's a pretty nice place and a lot of people were selling food but it's a lot smaller than Shilin night market. After bringing my items to the hostel, I went down the night market for a while and I got myself a pair of thick black tights from a side street vendor for NTD200. I wasn't able to buy much because the stores were selling winter wear as well. I also wasn't able to take photos because I was so busy looking around.

So I guess the best advice to people from the tropics is that the best time to go shopping in Taipei is NOT during winter. Haha. Or maybe let's put it the other way around: if you're on a budget and would like to stop yourself from shopping, I guess winter would be a good time to go there.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dinner at the Toilet

Ever tried eating dinner while sitting down a toilet bowl?

Okaaaay, that was a little gross, I'm sorry. But no, this post is going to be fun and not gross, I promise!

After Zhishan Garden and NPM, we rode a bus back to MRT Jiantan Station, where Shilin nightmarket is located. For dinner, I insisted that we go to the Modern Toilet Restaurant in Shilin because I've always wanted to try it since September. It's a famous themed restaurant in Taipei which is... well, obviously, toilet-themed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Flowery Afternoon at Zhishan Garden

During my last trip to Taiwan, I was able to go to the National Palace Museum but not to the Zhishan Garden (a big park within the museum compound).

Just early this year, I learned that plum blossoms are blooming in Zhishan Garden so I made sure to go this time.

After Longshan Temple, we rode the MRT again from Longshan Temple station to Shilin station and then rode a shuttle bus to NPM. Just outside the entrance of Zhishan Garden, I already found what I was looking for...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Longshan Temple

After Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade Market, we proceeded to Longshan Temple. I really wanted to see a temple in Taiwan. I was surprised to see A LOT of people around the area, mostly old people. Could it be because it's a weekend? Or maybe because it's one week before Chinese New Year? Or both? Or maybe it's always like that?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade Market

We arrived in Taipei at around 1am when buses to the city were no longer operating. Taxis are too expensive so we chose to sleep at the airport (Terminal 1). However, my companions were hungry so they went to Terminal 2 because Terminal 1 is still under renovation and there wasn't a place to buy food. When they came back, they told us that we'd be more comfortable sleeping in Terminal 2 so we took the Skytrain. Better indeed. Terminal 1 chairs had armrests so we couldn't lie down! On the other hand, there were couches in Terminal 2 where a lot of people were also sleeping. No worries about our luggage because Taiwan is a safe place. I woke up a few times because of the carts' noise but I was pretty much okay with the amount of sleep (and energy) I got.

But maybe if I'm ever sleeping in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport again, I wouldn't go for the couches at the Arrival Area. I'd just go for the normal chairs without armrests at the Departure Area because it's very silent there.

So we left the airport and rode a bus to Taipei. Had breakfast at 7-11. I had onigiri, of course! I love onigiri!

Breakfast: Yakult (NTD10) and onigiri (NTD25)! How Japanese T_T
I also bought an EasyCard to make public transportation a lot more convenient. Just one card instead of having to buy individual tokens for the MRT, tickets for the gondola (cable car) and putting coins inside the bus. There's a deposit (NTD100) and a processing fee (NTD20) if you return the card in less than five months (or was it three?). But then an EasyCard entitles the user to 20% discount (!!!) on MRT rides! So if you spend at least NTD100 on the MRT, you will breakeven with the processing fee. I computed our fares beforehand so I knew that it'll still be better to get an EasyCard.

My EasyCard

And then we walked to the hostel.

Foggy, cold morning. Taipei 101 looked creepy on our way to the hostel.

Yay less fog!

We were just supposed to leave our luggage at JV's hostel but the staff, Nina, told us that we can already check in (maybe because the rooms were already ready). Great! I'll post more about our hostel soon!

We took our showers (ugh my hair can't go for 24 hours without shampoo) and then went to Jianguo Holiday Flower and Jade Market. We walked from the hostel to Liuzhangli MRT station (15 minutes), went down at Daan station (just one station away) and then walked for another 15 or 20 minutes.

The Holiday Flower Market was huge (or rather, long). And there was SO MUCH flowers! If I could, I would have brought home a pot of flowers or a cactus. But I can't so I took lots of photos instead.

Wujuju Siberian Husky. There are lots of cute dogs around Taipei


The markets are situated under a flyover. In the Philippines, it would have been an area for informal settlers.

some exhibit at the flower market

We couldn't decipher what it was at first (Sir Christian even said "carabao"). It's actually a dragon. Just a week before Chinese New Year!

These cacti are super tiny

And then, we went to the Holiday Jade Market. I was too amused by the market that I actually forgot to take photos!! Stupid. Sir Harold, Sir Romeo and I bought identical jade stud earrings for our mothers for NTD1050 (~PhP1575). The lady said that the setting was white gold but I'm not yet sure if it really is white gold. But I'll know soon enough. After buying jade, we immediately left before we found something much better than what we got. LOL

On the way back to Daan station (we had to pass by the flower market again), we saw another market, Artists' Corner. It's a place for arts and crafts! I saw stalls with painted ceramics, clay pots, handpainted clothes, calligraphy and handpainted postcards and posters. We didn't stick around for long because the stuff were too expensive! I saw this small painting of a peony on a 3 inches by 10 inches cardboard and the lady said it costs NTD300 (PhP450). Grah. Pretty but too expensive. I'll probably get sad looking at all those pretty yet expensive things if I stuck around.

SO AWESOME. I want the lanterns and the chinaware huhu.

Would I recomment the flower and jade market? Well, Nina said that the jade market is still the best and least expensive place to buy jade so unless you really intend to buy jade (like me and my companions), you'd be better off to other places. Fortunately, for us, the jade market is just one MRT Station (and minutes of walk) away from the hostel and we also had some time to kill before going to other places. Or if you wish to just look at handmade products, it would be great to go to that Artists' Corner. Just be sure it's a weekend because they only operate during weekends (hence the word "holiday").

Monday, January 16, 2012

Plum Blossoms in Zhishan Garden

I took the photo with an old point-and-shoot camera hoho.

Just got back from Taipei this morning. I spent an awesome and cold weekend there with my co-instructors. Pretty short (just 2 whole days) but it was far from bitin because we went to a lot of places. New experiences. Met a lot of people. My head, shoulders, arms and legs hurt! Will blog about the travel maybe later or tomorrow or this weekend. :)