22 July 2010

Taiwan Trip 2010 (Part 2)

Part 1 - click here

June 13, 2010 (Sunday)

The phone in our hotel room began to ring at six in the morning. Groggily, I took the receiver and listened to the voice on the other end. It was our wake up call. Tommy had told us that today was a really packed day, and an early start was necessary so we can cover everything in the schedule.

We had to leave the hotel by 7.30 in the morning - of course, by 7.30 we still weren't ready, to the worry of our tour guide. We departed China Trust by 8, and headed on to the Kenting Peninsula, the southernmost part of Taiwan. It was a 2 hour trip getting there and with our sunglasses on, most of us fell back into sweet repose.

Along the way though, Tommy discussed with us our options - since we have a 2.30 train to catch, we would have to forgo one of the two spots that we were supposed to visit. After much debate, the group agreed to just skip lunch and proceed to the two places originally plotted out in our schedule.

We first went to Maopitou, literally meaning "The Cat's Nose" in chinese, as there is supposedly a rock formation that resembles a crouching cat with its gaze fixed towards the wide expanse of water. We were in such a hurry, that we snapped a few photographs and headed on. There weren't any charges to visit this place, but it was a wonderful natural spectacle to behold.
Below is a picture from afar, apparently, there were other tourists beginning to crowd the place. We noticed that Tommy was able to, usually, bring us to a tourist spot a few minutes ahead of the other groups - most of which are composed of Chinese tourists. That, we are extremely thankful of. Other tourists can be quite an annoyance, especially when they start crossing in front of you, while you're posing for a picture.

So here is our group, in our violet uniforms, holding up our association banner - with not much of a view in the background except for a whole bunch of other tourists.

After Maopitou, our group headed on to Kengting National Park, one of Taiwan's oldest park. According to the description of the said park in our itinerary, "Kenting National Park is home to tropical forests, meadows, mountains and seaside cliffs.." True enough, as you enter the said park, you are welcomed by a wide expanse of grass, with a line of trees generously planted along the area. There is a path that would take you uphill towards the Eluanbi lighthouse. In that area, you can an intoxicating view of the ocean, with its cool sprays of salt and sand - the edge of Taiwan.
It was a breezy morning as we hiked towards the Eluanbi lighthouse. With a little online research, I learned that it was put up by the late 19th century after the Americans and Japanese have asked the Chinese government to construct one in response to the numerous ship accidents that have occurred decades prior. Interestingly, a fort was then raised in order to protect the said lighthouse from the locals of the vicinity - of what reason, it was not stated.
Climbing downhill to go back to the bus, we took a couple of moments to clean up, as we've mostly covered in sweat and salt. So here we were, relieving our ennui, hiding behind the trees while waiting for the others.
As I've mentioned earlier, we've given up our lunch to visit both places and thus had to endure a slightly grumbling stomach for a couple of hours in the bus as it rushed towards the nearest High Speed Rail Station. A couple of our peers brought along some treats to help ease our hunger, of which, we were very grateful for.

In the bus, we played Pinoy Henyo to pass the time.

We got caught in some heavy traffic and I feared we would not make it in time for our 2:36 train. We arrived outside the station approximately at 2:25 and Tommy asked us to do a double-time and make a run for it. Thankfully, we were all still young and able, and so, as our guide quickly unloaded our baggage out the bus, we instinctively got our things and headed straight into the station. Had I been in Tommy's shoes, I'm sure I'd be completely frazzled at this point, but I was impressed how he kept his cool as he counted everyone's attendance and directed us towards the train.

We ran down the flight of stairs, carrying our big bulky luggage. We were running out of time, and at this point, everyone was doing their best to move as speedily as they could. The train leaves promptly, whether we were there or not, Tommy warned us beforehand. We knew the risk, and we took it - and boy, are we glad we did. We were able to get in at the nick of time. We were now heading back to Taipei.

Once we got to Taipei, our first stop was the ever famous Taipei 101, the world's tallest building since 2004 boasting 101 floors above ground. A modern building infused with traditional Chinese know-hows and design, Taipei 101 is a one of a kind skyscraper. It is also a high-end (in my opinion) shopping center.

We meant to go to the topmost floor in order to get an amazing view of Taipei from the world's tallest building, but due to the bad weather, Tommy advised us that it won't be worth it. And for the second year in a row, I wasn't able to see Taipei in its glory. Rain rain go away, come again another day.
Once again, we had a schedule to keep up with, and were given an hour or so in the said shopping center, before we headed on to dinner.

One of the best dinners I've ever had - Mongolian Grill. We just had to choose our own ingredients as beef, pork, chicken, veggies and sauce (garlic, lemon, ginger, soy sauce, etc) in the quantity we deem would suit our taste buds, throw them all in one bowl and hand it over to the chef guys below to cook as you wait.
There was also a buffet table for those who'd want to try something else. I think we tried most of what they had to offer. Fried rice. Fried chicken. Taiwan halo-halo. Unlimited drinks. Happy us.

Below are our group photos with our to-yu, Tommy.

After dinner, we went to Ximending Night Market to do everyone's favorite activity. Shopping. Before going to Taiwan, I've asked my grandfather where I can find Black Bridge, which makes our favorite pork floss. He recommended the one nearest the Ximending Night Market. I grew up eating Black Bridge pork floss that I couldn't appreciate any other brand the same way - sentimental reasons again. A friend and myself found the said store and with a few Chinese words struggling out of our mouths, we were able to buy our proud pasalubongs.

That night, we retreated to Golden China Hotel located at the Sung Chiang Road. Tommy informed us that we will be leaving early the next day again and bid us good night. I'm sure, at the back of his mind, he was keeping his fingers crossed.

- End of Part 2 of 3-

Part 3 - click here

Some photos were personal photos taken from my camera, others were grabbed, with permission, from Connie Ong, Allen Ong, Eveleen Ong, Bernie Ong and Mark Wang's albums.

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