Day 10 - Friday 21 November - Northern Taiwan

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6:30 - woke up from a dream I was on tour in outback queensland and there was complications with flooded roads and then I found the Holy Grail. Yup. But tried a different pillow and slept somewhat better.

Got up at 7:30 and we went down for breakfast at 9:15.

South-east Asia doesn't really do dairy - too many people just never got the mutation that lets people digest lactose.  This was pretty much the only cheese we saw.
South-east Asia doesn't really do dairy - too many people just never got the mutation that lets people digest lactose. This was pretty much the only cheese we saw.

At 10:00 we met two of Stu's friends from when he was studying Japanese in Japan two years ago. They brought along a friend who spoke better english, and one of the girl's dads, who became our chauffuer for the day. Yup we got driven around all day :) The drive out of Taipei was a crazy crazy mix of English, Japanese and Mandarin. Fun stuff :)

They first took us up to Jiufen, a little tourist village in the hills. We walked up the "old street" seeing lots of cool stuff, and tasting all sorts of food including taro balls, pineapple cake, peanut and ice cream rolls, bubble tea and Stu got an ice coffee.

North coast of Taiwan from Jiufen
North coast of Taiwan from Jiufen

This dude is shaving off peanut brittle onto ice cream in a wrap - sooo good!!
This dude is shaving off peanut brittle onto ice cream in a wrap - sooo good!!

The peanut brittle ice cream before being wrapped
The peanut brittle ice cream before being wrapped

The group at Jiufen
The group at Jiufen

Then the real foodie tour began. At the end of the street they took us into a "local" place (apparently the tourists don't know about it) where we had taro balls and beans on ice (I think I would have preffered them warm but they were nice enough anyway). Also a moichi cake with a radish filling which was a nice mix of sweet and savoury. I forgot to take a photo of the taro ball dish, but we had an amazing view from where we sat.

View from lunch
View from lunch

Then we dropped in to see the old Shengping movie theatre which used to entertain the gold miners.

Lanterns in Jiufen Old Street
Lanterns in Jiufen Old Street

Entrance to ShengPing Theatre
Entrance to ShengPing Theatre

Restored ShengPing Theatre interior
Restored ShengPing Theatre interior

Announcing a movie - or something - we don't actually know what!
Announcing a movie - or something - we don't actually know what!

Next foodie stop we had these jelly meatballs which had a jelly coating around some meat. Also a rice cake which was quite nice.

Rice cake and jelly meatballs
Rice cake and jelly meatballs

And finally another place that did fish balls, which had four different things in it.

Fish balls
Fish balls

All three restaurants were those crazy places that are always super crowded, but they specialise in one thing and it's super quick service so you're in and out quite quickly so doesn't take too long to get a table of six free. Otherwise you just join some other people until they're done and leave heh.

After that we were quite full, and then we went down to the Gold Ecological Park, a museum setup on the site of an old gold mine. That was all quite interesting.

The group at the Gold Mine
The group at the Gold Mine

Gold mine entrance
Gold mine entrance

Gold in the museum
Gold in the museum

Gold crabs in the museum
Gold crabs in the museum

Gold bar in the museum
Gold bar in the museum

Air compressor used in the mine
Air compressor used in the mine

Chamber used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922
Chamber used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922

Chalet used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922
Chalet used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922

Chalet used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922
Chalet used by Crown Prince Hirohito for his visit in 1922

Jiufen village
Jiufen village

Further down the valley we stopped at a nice waterfall (in a no stopping zone, but everyone else was stopping anyway).

waterfall north of Jiufen
waterfall north of Jiufen

Us at the waterfall
Us at the waterfall

And then onto the coast. It was such a lovely day and the mountains and the ocean looked glorious.

Mountains in northern Taiwan
Mountains in northern Taiwan

Mountains in northern Taiwan
Mountains in northern Taiwan

We dropped off one of the girls at the station as she had to go to work, then headed back into the mountains. We ended up at Pingxi where - Sky Lanterns!! We actually decorated this huge sky lantern with wishes (I couldn't think of anything to write so wrote something pretty inane). Then they lit it and we set it off. So much fun, but there must be hundreds of the things littering the surrounding countryside!

Siguangtandiao Bridge over the Keelung River, near PingXi
Siguangtandiao Bridge over the Keelung River, near PingXi

Us on the Siguangtandiao Bridge
Us on the Siguangtandiao Bridge

Keelung River in PingXi
Keelung River in PingXi

Railway bridge over the Keelung River
Railway bridge over the Keelung River

Sky lantern in flight
Sky lantern in flight

What the different colours are supposed to mean
What the different colours are supposed to mean

Us painting wishes on our lantern
Us painting wishes on our lantern

Stu's wishes
Stu's wishes

Train approaching
Train approaching

Lantern alit, about to take off
Lantern alit, about to take off

Letting go
Letting go

Flying away
Flying away

Flying away
Flying away

Lantern sculpture in PingXi
Lantern sculpture in PingXi

Then a fairly long drive back into Taipei. It was nearly 6pm by this point and we went to Din Tai Fung for dumplings (xiaolongbao). This place was very much organised chaos. You (apparently, I didn't see this part) go and get a number for the number of people in your group (1-2, 3-5 or 6+), along with a menu and an ordering sheet, then wait around outside. When your number is called you can go in. The restaurant is like four storeys high! Although the room we were in was fairly small - it had tables for six. We didn't have to wait long outside, but apparently the wait on the weekends can be like two hours! We got six dishes - three lots of dumplings (pork, chicken and vegetable), as well as some sort of chicken schnitzel, a noodle dish with "pork mince" that had some beans and tofu in it, and a noodle dish with peanut sauce. All thoroughly delicious.

Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung

Xiao Long Bao - soooo good!
Xiao Long Bao - soooo good! NT200 ($8.50AUD) for ten pieces - amazing value

Eating a Xiao Long Bao
Eating a Xiao Long Bao

Chicken schnitzel
Chicken schnitzel

Pork mince noodles
Pork mince noodles

Taipei 101 from near Din Tai Fung
Taipei 101 from near Din Tai Fung

Coloured pool in Daan Park
Coloured pool in Daan Park

And finally we got dropped off at our hotel.

It was a wonderful day and we saw stuff we would *never* have seen doing things by ourselves.

Collapsed in front of Jack the Giant Slayer before bed.

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