This morning saw us getting out of bed at a decent hour and heading down to breakfast before heading out to Elephant Mountain.
Elephant Mountain, also known as Xiangshan is well known as for its hiking trail. As Nick had seen plenty of hiking the previous day, we had resolved to have an easy day and the trail was short, though some parts were rather steep.
The only thing that was quite tricky was the humidity. It felt like breathing in liquid air and though it really was an easy enough trail, I was sweating fit for a 10km run in high Summer back home. I honestly don’t think I have sweated as much this entire trip as I did this morning.
There were some pleasant viewpoints along the walk and a cool little area called “the six giant rocks” which Nick took a bit of joy in climbing up and jumping along. Typically on the way back down there was a really nice cooler breeze which cooled our sweat dampened skin.
In the hopes of avoiding skin irritation for me, we decided to head back to the hotel after this, shower and change before heading out to our next stop, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park.
The Huashan Creative Park sprung from a abandoned factory in which an acting troupe decided to ‘restore’ a small area so they could stage experimental perfomances. They were quite popular but sadly, eventually charged for trespassing.
Other local artists became drawn to the open spaces, high ceilings and abundant natural light the factory space offered. Soon art and literary giants from across Taipei began using the factory as an inspirational work space, giving performances and leaving their distinctive mark on the structures themselves.
Word about this unique environment spread further and in 1999 the restoration of the factory into a full fledged arts centre was commissioned. The factory was renamed the Huashan Creative Park and, in 2005, the rebuilding of the Creative Park officially began.
Today, the area is ringed with trendy and fashionable restaurants and clothes outlets. Of particular note was a shop called ‘Wooderful Life’ which specialses in handcrafted wood toys and machines. They were absolutely gorgeous. They also had a section for laser cutting to specific designs and a workshop area where patrons could assemble their own fantastic creations.
We stopped in their cute dining area as well to snack on a lemon tart and an apple pie before continuing on our way.
The other store which really entranced me was a natural shop – ‘Yufen’ which sold handmade oil blend soaps and perfumes. They sold a wonderful rose balm perfume which I now have extreme buyer’s remorse for not buying at the time.
Our next stop was Guanghua Digital Plaza which was a multistory tech mall with each floor given a whimsical name such as ‘touch’, ‘play’ (for gaming systems), ‘click’ for photography goods) etc.
This was a really cool, high-tech area. One of the most interesting areas was the Virtual Reality simulator floor where people could get geared up and play virtual games. We watched some people in VR headsets driving cars which vibrated and jerked with impacts and another lad was playing a war sim and loading rocket launchers with his own arm movements before firing them into tanks. It was really REALLY cool.
Nick also liked a set of puzzle/assemblies called U-gear which are like wooden mechano sets that you put together to become functional machines like trains or even combination safes. They don’t even involve glue!
I got a little carried away in the ‘Game’ section posing with the various superheros and items.
We also took the time to purchase another SD card for the camera and a small portable mouse for me and my blogging. I know we only have a week to go of this trip but I like to think of it as a future investment.
We had a very late lunch in the basement level of this building. Nick asked me “would you judge me if I had a burger?” Gosh no! …but I WILL blog about it ha ha.
I had a really tasty bibimbap which is a Korean rice bowl with meat, an egg and various other toppings which is made in a very hot stoneware bowl. The heat of the bowl causes the rice to become crunchy right on the edge. Its usually stirred up right before eating. Nick had to help me out with mine but even together we couldn’t finish it. It was super tasty though.
We returned to the hotel after this to take care of some domestic work (laundry and packing for the next phase of the journey) and relax a little before heading out to the Shida Night Market for dinner.
Our thoughts today, thanks to the late lunch were that we would just browse the Night Market and buy any foods that took our fancy. If a place had a long line, it was worth considering. Accordingly, on the way we found a packed stall that was selling a roti like bread – Taiwanese scallion pancake. You could buy them plain, or with egg, cheese, ham, Taiwanese basil or any number of other toppings. We just took one plain one and brushed it with the chilli and sweet soy based sauces that were at the stall. It was very similar in texture and taste to roti bread and Nick and I devoured it greedily on the street side. A very good start to the night.
We wondered the streets and checked out the cool stalls before hitting the market proper. Once there we were immediately assaulted by the smell of stinky tofu. Honestly, Nick had been psyching himself up to try it this time. REALLY try it. But on that first whiff his courage failed. I cannot blame him at all – it really just smells unappetising.
Once we had walked far enough away to escape the reek, we found our next promising food stop. Pineapple bread with butter. There was a fair line and we decided to try the special which was pineapple bread with anchor butter (there were 3 different grades of butter they were selling, one was an expensive French brand) and an iced lemon tea. As the night was still very hot the icy drink would be much appreciated.
We had to wait for some rolls to come fresh out of the oven but man, was it worth the wait. The buttery treat was warm and semi-sweet and amazing. The iced tea was also really refreshing – you could see the slices of lemon in it too which was quite nice!
I really enjoyed meandering through the market as there were a fair mix of stalls. Jewellery (being handmade by the artisans), thrift shop looking clothes and hair accessories mixed in with food stalls, restaurants and tech stalls.
For our very last food stop we found a busy looking shop that was selling Portuguese egg tarts. We took a couple of these and that was a very nice end to the night. We had a very pleasant walk back to the hotel and we packed up before turning in for the night.
Tomorrow we check out of the Dandy Hotel and head off to spa country. Hot springs! I am looking forward to the write up tomorrow.