Thursday, March 29, 2007


Something that's a nice change about being in Taiwan is that people smile. They're curious, interested, helpful. They don't give the stone-cold stare or look at you funny for being in their general vicinity.

We went to Yangmingshan National Park for a look-see. Setting off from Taipei main station, we plotted our day at a Mr. Brown's coffee shop. I was leery of this place, because they have a brand of canned coffee that's not that great. Well, I used to like canned coffee. But the novelty's worn off. And I mostly can't stand the stuff anymore. But the coffee shop was quite decent, their lattes and cakes made and served with skill and attention to detail. A pleasant surprise. We found, after some searching, the bus to Yangmingshan. The LP advises that it's possible to catch the bus from Zhongxiao road. It turns out this is true, but the line begins on the north side of the station, outside the train terminal.

It took about 30 minutes or so to get to the bus drop off. From there, it's a short hike to the visitors' center. Unfortunately, the maps provided there are not helpful for walking in the area. There's an English map for sale in the giftshop which we didn't buy.

Yangmingshan park is very beautiful. Too bad we didn't get to see very much of it. The weekday shuttle bus is infrequent and the bus stops are poorly posted. We wanted to see the waterfall, but it was a really long hike and we couldn't figure out how to catch the bus, even with the help of the welcome center staff. We sat around what we thought was a bus stop for at least an hour, feeding squirrels, partridges, and a really cool bird with a long blue tail that would occasionally swoop in and steal some bread.

Finally, tired of waiting, we went out to the main road and managed to flag a cab down. She had no idea what we were saying when we tried to pronounce the name of the waterfall, but I had written down the characters and showed them to her and recognition dawned on her face. She drove us there (it would have been a very long walk indeed) and we hiked down the last little ways to see it. Lovely; but it was getting dark already and we had a slim chance of catching the last shuttle bus. Either that, or we would have to try to flag down another cab on the lonely mountain road.

Fortunately, just as we emerged from the woodsy path and onto the road and to the bus stop, the shuttle appeared. From the bus plaza we caught another bus back into the city and wended our long way down the mountain, surrounded by students and folks with flowers and vegetables sticking out of their shopping bags.

We found a veggie restaurant at Taipower station called Su Yuen and then hit the Shida night market, where we finally achieved boba iced coffees with the assistance of a helpful teashop keeper. Chewy cool deliciousness.

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