TRAVEL: Day Trip to Yehliu and Jiufen in Taiwan (2/3)

September 21, 2015

Yehliu Port

Attractions

  • Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園)
  • Jiufen (九份)

Located to the north of Taipei are two destinations that warrant a visit for its beautiful rock formations (Yehliu) and historical gold mining town (Jiufen). From Taipei, one can take the local bus to either of these sights. From our hotel, we took the subway to the Taipei City Hall exit and then walked to the bus terminal. Here we took Bus 1815 towards Jinshan. It was about a 45-minute ride to the nearest stop (Gang Dong Road) to the geopark.

Yehliu

Admission to the geopark during our visit was $80 national Taiwan dollars per adult. The geopark contains unique rock formations that have been shaped by sea erosion. The first part of the park shows several mushroom rocks.

Yehliu

The second part shows rock formations that have been given names; one may see and line up for a photo opportunity with the iconic Queen’s Head.

Yehliu - Queen's Head

Yehliu - Pineapple Bun

Finally, the last part takes us over to the steep hill on the other side of the cape. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Taipei, Taiwan in 72 hours (1/3)

September 20-23, 2015

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Attractions

  • Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺)
  • Ximending (西門町)
  • Red House (西門紅樓)
  • National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)
  • National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (國民革命忠烈祠)
  • Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

During the end of September 2015, we found ourselves an opportunity to visit Taipei in Taiwan for three days before heading to Hong Kong for a major family gathering. After hearing so much about Taipei from one of my classmates, I was decidedly excited to see and experience for myself the Taiwanese culture and history. September is one of the better times to go; the weather starts to cool off although there may be a typhoon.

We stayed three nights (September 20-22) at the Park City Hotel- Luzhou Taipei located above the Saint Ignatius High School subway exit. The hotel room is very clean and the hotel offers free self-service laundry facility, which we used before we left for Hong Kong on the 23rd. Upon our arrival to the hotel after the 12-hour flight on September 20th, we were too early to check in so we stored our luggage with the hotel staff. We then washed up and refreshed ourselves before heading down to the subway.

At the station, we purchased Easy Cards for each member of the family. Each card requires a $100 deposit of national Taiwan dollars and then you may add your desired monetary amount to the card. It saves time from having to buy a fare for each trip on the subway. See the Taipei Rapid Transit website for more information. On our trip, we deposited $2000 national Taiwan dollars total and this covered the entirety of our trip and the bus ride to Jiufen (side trip on September 21).

We took the subway to the Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺), a temple that was damaged during World War II but renovated to its current revered state. The elaborately carved dragons guard the tiled roofs.

Longshan Temple

Inside, one can see people praying and chanting. There are also several Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian statues. There are deity charms and jade bracelets in the temple shop. It was definitely worth visiting.

Longshan Temple

 

Longshan Temple

After exploring the temple and paying our respects, we walked to the Ximending (西門町) district along the busy streets. On the way there, we encountered the red-bricked buildings of Bopiliao Historical Block (剝皮寮歷史街區).

Old Taipei Street

It was still early in the morning and some shops were in the process of opening. We were lucky that a pork and beef jerky shop had just prepared a fresh batch of jerky when we popped in to buy some for ourselves and relatives.

Fresh Jerky

We continued our trek and browsed a couple of the shops and temples, until we finally reached Ximending (西門町)— a popular district for fashion, hip bars, and other trendy shops.

Streets of Taipei

Continue reading

Travels in Italy 2015: Overview

Regions of Italy

Regions of Italy (courtesy of World Atlas)

During our trip with Trafalgar, we explored several different regions of Italy in 14 days. After the tour, we spent 4 additional days in Rome on our own. Below is our itinerary.
Key: [region]

 

References

Italy Guides. (n.d.). ItalyGuides.it: A Sightseeing Revolution – A Virtual Travel of Italy. Retrieved from http://www.italyguides.it/en/

Machiavelli, F., Martin, S., Townsend, H., & Tyrrell, N. (Eds.). (2014). Italy. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Travel.

Rick Steves. (n.d.). Italy Travel Guide by Rick Steves. Retrieved from https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/italy

Italy

Travels in Italy: Lazio – Ostica Antica, an ancient Roman harbor (June 2, 2015)

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Ostica Antica was Rome’s main harbor for more than 600 years until commercial competition brought the city into decline. The city was well preserved by silt. As far as the eye can see, the main street was the Decumanus Maximus and the ruins of the buildings were those of multi-story apartments complete with shops, baths, and bars on the ground floor. It was undoubtedly very cosmopolitan for its time. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Lazio – Rome the Eternal City Part II (May 31 & June 1-4, 2015)

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Attractions:

  • Piazza Navona
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Pantheon
  • Bartolucci (Pinnochio shop)
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Piazza de Popolo
  • Spanish Steps
  • San Lorenzo Church
  • Roman Forum
  • Museum Capitalino
  • Ostia Antica (June 2)
  • San Luigi dei Francesi Church
  • Santa Maria della Vittoria

Piazza Navona

From May 31 to June 4, we stayed at a boutique hotel in Piazza Navona, the district within walking distance of St. Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo. The area is very peaceful and away from most of the busy tourist crowds. The Piazza contains fountains and buildings that are influenced by the Baroque style. Several cafes line the Piazza and provide an interesting place to people watch and observe street artists. We had lunch at a pasta shop. The pasta is cooked al dente—the noodles were not as soft but the sauce was rich and flavorful.

Pantheon

On May 31, we visited the Pantheon, which is located in the financial and governmental district of Rome. The Pantheon is a well-preserved building from 1st century AD.

Oculus of the Pantheon

The circular oculus of the Pantheon has inspired several neo-classical, governmental buildings in America.

Bartolucci workworking company

Next as we wandered the streets nearby the Pantheon, we visited Bartolucci – a renowned woodwork company by Francesco Bartolucci. This woodwork shop has an exhibit of Pinocchio (the famous marionette puppet story) complete with Geppetto’s workshop.  All the pieces in the shop are handcrafted in Italy. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Lazio – Rome the Eternal City Part I (May 19-20 & 30, 2015)

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Attractions:

  • Colosseum
  • Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Vatican Museum
  • Peter’s Basilica & Pietá

Upon our arrival in Rome on May 19, we were given an introductory tour of the city by our Trafalgar Tour Director, Vittorio; we passed by major landmarks, such as the Colosseum, Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. Afterwards, we rested and ate at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner.

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The following day on May 20, we began the tour with an early visit to Vatican—the world center of Catholicism. Vatican City is a sovereign state that has a population of about 500 and its own facilities, such as post office, banks, judicial system, radio station, shops, newspaper, and currency.

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The Vatican Museum houses the treasures of art by Michelangelo, Raphael, and other famous artists. Of course, we visited the Sistine Chapel but unfortunately photos were not allowed in the esteemed room. In the same area, St. Peter’s Cathedral is located beyond the Piazza San Pietro. We would visit this site near the end of our tour. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Tuscany – Siena (May 30, 2015)

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Attractions:

  • Piazzo del Campo
    • Palazzo Pubblico
    • Fonte Gaia
  • Duomo
Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

We stopped briefly at Siena on our way back to Rome. This hillside town is where horse races took place. We entered the town at the Piazza del Campo, where we admired the medieval Palazzo Pubblico’s bell tower and the Fonte Gaia.

Interior of Palazzo Pubblico

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We briefly stopped in a café for a latte. Afterwards, we explored the narrow streets. Old buildings lined the street and displayed brightly colored flags with animal symbols; each flag symbolizes the ancient rivalries of the influential families of the town. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Tuscany – Florence (May 28-29, 2015)

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Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

Attractions:

  • Galleria dell’Academia
  • Duomo
  • Piazza della Signoria
  • Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Ponte Vecchio
  • Palazzo Pitti (Palatine Gallery)
  • Uffizi

Upon our arrival to Florence, our tour director took us to the Galleria dell’Academia, where we met our local guide. Founded in 1563, the Academia was the first school of drawing, painting, and sculpture in Europe. Today, it houses several Renaissance pieces by Florentine artists, including Michelangelo’s David and Boticelli’s Madonna del Mare. After hearing and reading about these famous works, it was a breathtaking experience to walk and gaze up at the magnificent works of art made by the local Florentine artists.

Galleria dell’Accademia - David

Afterwards, we were taken to the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)—the iconic cathedral of the city—and briefed on the history of the cathedral but we did not go inside. Then we were allowed to spend the rest of the time on our own.

Brunelleschi's Dome

We explored the streets of Florence and visited the Piazza della Signoria, where the David was originally placed before being moved to the Academia for safekeeping. It now exhibits sculptures of Roman emperors. For dinner, we tried the famous Florentine steak at Ristorante Boccadama in located in the Piazza di Santa Croce. It was seasoned perfectly! Continue reading