Things to do in Taipei for a long weekend

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I would never have thought I get to return to Taiwan after my 2009 visit so soon, as my wish was to visit places that I have never visit first before re-visiting to places that I have been! Though this re-visit, I was like a proper tourist without a local friend’s guide…looking at the map, planning what I should explore, where to shop for foods/snacks, where to dine .. all of these makes the process of being a tourist more exciting and unpredictable!

IMG_3903Maokong Gondola

I was never interested in cable cars (!) however, Maokong was definitely on my list of places to visit while I was in Taipei. Its located near east side of Taipei, the nearest station for the gondola is Taipei Zoo Station. Once you have got offthe Taipei Zoo Station, jump off and follow all the exit sign to gondola station; you will walk pass the main road, the walking distance should be less than 5 mins. Remember to wait for the crystall gondola where you can see the scenery beneath your feets. A pleasant experience of the Taipei green lands that I would remember you to see!

IMG_4054Tea house in Maokong

It was not on our list to chill in a Maokong for tea, but there wasn’t much to do around the area, apart from walking along the path, eatery area a little further up by the station or find a place to chill. In the end, we walk along the path and eat as we walk while hunting for a tea house to chill and enjoyed a bit of the view down from the mountain.

Sadly to say, the sky didn’t like us at the time with grey sky all day but we still enjoyed the chilled time. It actually makes you slow your foot down to absorb, observe and appreciate the city that you are visiting. Never complain the bad things you see but really appreciate the tiny tiny details that you can spot in your trip!

Enjoying this peaceful time in the tea house was unexpected and once again has made me realised sometimes unplanned itinerary could make your trip better than planned itinerary.

Additional point is when you walk back to the station to catch your gondola or bus down, make sure you buy a tea leaves softserve from the shop that’s next to the bus stop. It’s their specialty of Maokong!!! On a side note, I would recommend you to take the bus down to the nearest MRT station, the ride was fun, the scenery is different and its cheaper to go back down via bus too!!

IMG_3828Taiwan 101 Tower

A must when you are in Taiwan, although you might think observatory is the same anywhere in the world. It maybe true but I still think that it is important for you to have an overview of how beautiful this city is whether is it in day time or evening time. I think perhaps the best time to come here is before sunset, so you get to see the before and after sun view. Yet, if you are on budget as a backpacker, I would simply pop by to the 101 Tower district, walk around and then find a clear space to snap this 101 behind you. I did this on my 2nd Taipei visit and equally it is a pleasant experience. Oh, not to mention Tower 101 has a few floors full of shops while the rest are offices, a bit similar to UK’s Shard or Walkie Talkie building.

IMG_3838Yang Ming Shan National Park

This is one of the best place to have your dinner at dawn, can’t comment much on the food quality as I had hot pot, regardless you will be rewarded with such beautiful scenery, isn’t this amazing?? Its definitely worth to ride up here for this amazing night view of the city.
On the other hand, by day this National park are full of hiking trail for you to explore the mountains in Taipei. I initially want to hike Elephant Mountain (XiangShan) to see this city view but in the end I didn’t get to do any hiking! So please (x 100 times) hike into any one of them, you will never regret this experience.

IMG_4351Dihua Street 

It wasn’t really on our list of places to visit before we board the fly, we went there to get the thin pork paper at night and found the street to be quite unique and hip which made us to decide to go back during day time. This end up to be the best decision ever made, this area was amazingly good, streets were full of shop signs of specialist shops with different settings, loads of lamp post…no wonder people says when you’re in Taiwan, you can see a little feature of Japan.

What’s best to do here? Stroll around all the alley way and shop around, you  find kitchen housewares, Chinese tea leaves to snack shops… We stopped by Summer Tree for a bowl of ice shave dessert to end our Taipei trip.

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Just couldn’t resist snapping and snapping… 

IMG_4142Yehliu Geo Park

We want to see some nature beauty and found Yehliu Geo Park to be somewhere that we can fit for the day before we head to Jiufen as a full day trip. By taking KuoKuang bus from Taipei West Bus Station – Terminal A to Yehliu Geopark. This journey takes about 90 minutes and the bus stops at the main street with a large Yehliu Geopark entrance sign. We went on a wet grey day with the ticket hall full of groups of tourist.. go through to the main Geopark, you will see countless of geographical formation. What you need to look out its the Queen’s Head but perhaps to get that earlier so you will see this beauty nature without many tourist. I gave up having a snap with the Queen’s head. Will be an amazing scenic if you go on amazing day but as a Londoner, we can survive any type of weather (hahah~~~).

IMG_4203Jiufen 九份

As mention above, I’ve made a day trip of Yehliu Geopark with Jiufen, I wanted to fit in Shifen into this day too but we did not managed due to time constraints… Nevertheless, from Yehliu Geopark, we walked back to the main road and walked across the road to this 7-11 shop where there’s a bus stop, await for the bus to Keelung; once you are at Keelung station, walk across the bridge and to the local bus stops. Look out for the bus to Jiufen which will take another hour or so to reach to. Once you are at the turn that states Jiufen Old Street entrance, alight there and enjoy your stroll where you will be belly full. A few must eat are taro icecream wrap in pastry, fishballs, wheel pancake, taro/sweet potato dumpling sweet soup.. and keep strolling until you see a steps down on your right hand side, where if you walk down  to the end and look up. You will get this amazing view as the picture above.

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I ended my Yehliu and Jiufun exploring by enjoying a warm cup of tea in a trendy tea house and enjoy such scenery before I stroll back to the entrance to get my ride back to Taipei.

I have to say, I tried to squeeze in as much as I can while I was in Hong Kong so I decided to revisit Taipei again since my 2009 visit. I enjoyed the city and got to know the beauty of this city even more by exploring like a tourist. Its never fun having guide taking you around the town. A weekend in one area is definitely worth it and if you have got two weeks to stay in Taiwan, you can certainly do a round tour of the Island of Taiwan..

Sculpture in the City

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Sculpture in the City 

Have you ever thought of exploring the City within the city that you’re living in right now? Probably not, particularly if you work in the City you would just want to go home straight away after work, right?

I would have done the same until I decided to look for the miniature sculpture of Tomoaki Suzuki.. and there I was walking about my ‘well-known’ city one day after work, instead of one sculpture piece of work I found many more.

IMG_1736Bells II – Kris Martin

IMG_1733Broken Pillar – Shan Hur

Some sculptures are blended into the actual environment of the city.. like this one, if you don’t go looking you wouldn’t have notice this sculpture and thought it exist ages ago…

IMG_1730-2Breakout II – Bruce Beasley

It feel pretty amazing that there are sculptures scattered around between tall buildings…

IMG_1725Charity – Damien Hirst

… Would urge you to slow down your walking pace and explore this or your city slowly.

IMG_1720Red Altas – Ekkehard Altenburger 

have to say, some pieces it takes a longer time to understand or might not have the same interpretation as others….  but nevertheless, use your own imagination to interpretation that piece of work!

…… on a side note, I really cannot interpret the Red Altas above. (Sweat~~~)

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Miniature Sculpture – Tomoaki Suzuki

Favourite piece of this year….. Love miniature sculptures. Have you ever watched the anime The Borrower Arrietty, its about those little borrower that lives under house. Doesn’t it sound like Pixel’s Inside Out?

IMG_1706-2Miniature Sculpture – Tomoaki Suzuki

IMG_1585Days of Judgement – Cat 1 & 2 – Laura Ford

I bumped into this one random day without realising its part of the Sculpture in the City and it really caught my eyes like it did to this business man. You wonder why is this believe in suits but head are covered. Fat cat? but it also looks like a humanize rats.

Art is a beautiful that exist in this world and please go explore around this city, whether it is something you like or not, try doing something new will be good for you. Enjoy art. Explore this public art Sculpture in the City until Summer 2016.

Soft boiled egg and avocado on Seeded toast

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What’s the best thing on weekend? Instead of breakfast, you make brunch that’s because I need to sleep in!
And what makes it even better is when you have avocado and your favourite 5 seeds bread at home.

This is what I have made to make myself happy on my last Saturday.

Soft boiled eggs x 2, shell peeled
Perfectly ripen Avocado half, sliced
Two 5 seeds bread, toasted

Cut the toasts into triangle, it work better in uneven number on plate. Eat one triangle of toast.
Scatter the toast freely as you like.
Then line the avocado freely and half one egg while keeping one as whole, line them as you wish.
A little salt and grounded pepper on top, ½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil drizzle lightly over and serve.

I did one of the egg poorly where the yolk is in the corner!!! Tips; turn the egg around when you place it in the sauce pan to boil to make the yolk going to the middle.

Now have this with a cuppa and enjoy the rest of the day.

Lung Ha Wan Country Park Trail

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Most people understand as a city that’s full of sky scrapers and neighbour area full of housing estates but the least you know is that Hong Kong has amazing green lands. Although, I didn’t do as many trails I would want within the 6 months that I was there but there are some unforgettable trails that I went on and definitely has been an eye opening experience to what country side of Hong Kong can offers.

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I went on this hike via meetup.com on Hong Kong Hiking Group, the trail organiser and assistants at the hike were amazing. Guided the hike all the way and make sure everyone is at the similar pace and ensure the same number of people are there from start to finish.

Beginning of the hike was a little too much of stairs, how on earth you do a nature hike on stairs I wonder, this is totally different to any UK hike that I have been on. Once I was 1/3 up, not to the summit but almost, the scenery that I have got rewarded was breathe taking.

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Took a photo with the girl, Sophia, that was queuing next to me before we got on the bus. She is such a nice girl with a more western mindset in comparison to local Hong Konger I would say. Quite enjoyable talking to people mixed age and widen my perspective on what kids nowadays thinking like..

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Would you not say these scenery is amazing?

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I went wonder how people lives in villages, must be quite tiring travelling so far for the city.

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Once we made up to the summit, there were some areas that were pretty easy and flat. We admire the scenery that we got rewarded and starting to hike downhill and reach the Lung Ha Wan aka Lobster Bay.

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We took some group photo for the meetup website and we quickly ran off for our own sport outfit shoots (hahahhaaa~~~~~~). In fact, I have taken more photos with myself in it than scenic only on this hike. Pretty good to have Sophia on board.

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Great hike. Hong Kong Government has made some really good website for hiking info, below I have included the official hiking link to this hike. Please do check out other routes while you’re there.

Lung Ha Wan Trail – Hiking gov reference

Trail information
Bus journey – Diamond Hill Plaza Holloway; Take Bus 91 and get off at Tai Au Mun Road: Journey should take around 40 -45 mins
Hiking route – Start off at Tai Au Mun Road, walk for 10-15 mins to the starting point of the Lobster Bay Country Trail; takes about 25-30 mins to reach to summit; another 30 mins down and walk back to the Tai Au Mun Road
Hike statistics – 5 km, total ascent 200 m, estimated time 2.5 hours
Finishing Point transport – You can catch Bus 91 and travel back to Diamond Hill Plaza Hollywood to take the MTR/Taxi/Buses for your next destination.

Must visit coffee spots in Hong Kong

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Apparently, there is a steadily increase in the number of western coffee shops around Hong Kong in comparison to the traditional canton style cafe which are decreasing. I mean its such a struggle to take preference as I love both equally and definitely does not want our canton style cafe disappearing because that’s where the fundamental Hong Kong foodie culture comes from.

Nevertheless, my take on sharing with you where I have been (in the past 6 months in HK) and let you decide whether its worth adding them onto your to visit list while visiting Hong Kong…

Cafe Deadend – 72 Po Hing Fong, Hong Kong
Located on the quiet area of Sheung Wan, this cafe is famous for quality food menu served with bread made from Po Atelier next door. What I enjoy the most is coming early around this area and enjoy a quiet breakfast sitting outside while reading your book. This place gets a little busy at lunch and afternoon so its probably wiser to come early. Beside the good hot or iced latte that I have tried, their apple tart is something that you should not be missed out on.  I made my way after my leather class one Sunday and learnt that it was SOLD OUT only around 3pm. You might have guessed what I did… I went before my class just to eat their apple tart on the following Sunday!! A perfect cafe to enjoy chill time on your weekend.

ToolssToolss – G/F, Fook Tin Building, 38 Wai Chi Street

A new comer in the end of 2014, the owner was previously a fashion editor but got tired of the fashion chasing and go for his dream of owning a coffee shop; he drew an associate of coffee with stationary (sth new hey!). Located in Shek Kip Mei amongst those industrial buildings and car garage, a different atmosphere! The shop is petite but love the wooden bar and stools also their serving cups/tray. However, I do feel the body lacks a little aroma and body. It might have improved since my visit!? Nevertheless, if you are near this neighbourhood, its worth stopping by.

Cafe hayfeverCafe Hay Fever – G/F., 62-64 Flower Market Road

This visit was unexpected, I walked by the shop while I was exploring around the flower market near MTR Prince Edward. And bump into this shop that the front half is a shop, the back half is a coffee shop. Its in a floral shop so you do see loads of greens and floral related items/books lying around in the cafe. The coffee and latte art was indeed really good, I cannot resist such a nicely made latte art on my coffee top. Nice little cafe perfect for stopping by after your weekend floral purchase.

classifiedClassified 

No one will not recognised this developed chain of coffee shop/cafe that does western dinner too. I tend to avoid well known chains if I have got a choice but we was out of choice at the time for wifi and sockets. Coincidentally, we went to this shop and guessed what I found? My favourite carrot cake(!), something I misses of the London scene. Howdy, not the best carrot cake I have tasted but nevertheless, the coffee in this cafe is definitely better than some chain but not as good as other boutique barista coffee shop though. I still enjoyed my hangouts in this chain though.

cocoexpressoCoco Espresso – Stanley Street

I never get around to visit their Queens Road branch and thank god they’ve opened one on Stanley Street! Yay! Closer to my then office, so I made my way there one lunch to pick up some photos after my South Korea trip. This little gem is definitely worth a visit, the atmosphere is modern and pleasant with some tall tables at the back of the shop. There’s some by wall bar table with stool, not the most comfortable sitting ever but you do get that casual hang out feel from this boutique coffee. Make sure you visit this place early around lunch time to get a seat, otherwise the place get filled up; of course, you can always buy one to go like most…

coffeeacademic (2)Coffee Academics – 35-45 Johnston Rd, Wan Chai

On the top of the list to visit while you are in HK, my first visit was after a lunch run to airport and back into HK island just so that I can doss the remaining hours  of my day in this coffee shop before I trek home back to NT side of Hong Kong. The shop have from by window bar table to high communal wooden table; and to more cosy small tables to choose from. I personally choice would be the high communal table, love how everyone brings their laptop and work on it alone. Do we go coffee shop to find some company to prove you’re not the only solo person? howdy, I would say the service lack a little but their barista skills are top notch, love how rich and full body my flat white was.. can’t stop keep getting the top down view of them. Perfect place to work alone with a nice cup. what about noises? when you focus on doing what you’re doing, you won’t get to hear a thing!

coffteaThe Cofftea Shop – Yue On Building, 78-86 Catchick St, Kennedy Town

Knew about this place so long ago, but its so far beyond Sheung Wan for me to visit. Not until one Sunday that I get dragged my bestie to go Kennedy Town to check out the area when Kenndy Town MTR was finally operating. Cofftea is a tiny coffee shop by the corner of the neighbour, not many sitting space and expected people are mainly buy to go. This place was special in terms of the machine that they use, they were still using hand press coffee machine to extract the coffee out. I got curious and asked why or how… the barista replied and goes its all by experience! booo! Nevertheless, using the hand press and still can get a decent shot is still amazing! Howdy, the latte was great, not overly powering of the coffee taste but a smooth pleasant cup I would say. Worth to pop by if you’re in Kennedy Town!

colourbrowncoffeeColour Brown Cafe – Sai Kung

This was definitely out of expected visit in Sai Kung after my walk around and waiting for dinner hours to arrive. There I ordered my latte with a typical HK Peanut butter toast with condensed milk. Nice heart latte art hey! Sitting outdoor enjoying the breeze was something that you should do on your weekend in HK before the humid summer arrives. The atmosphere plus this glass of decent latte, I would say it was definitely a good ending to my Sunday weekend.

commongroundCommon Ground – G/F, 19 Shing Wong Road, Central

Well well…a little of a hike up heel when you want to visit this little gem on in between Sheung Wan and Central. I love this place, not too much on the foods that they provide (why would my english breakfast all chopping up and served individually?!) but for their coffee I will definitely return for it. The ambiance of this coffee shop is neat and cosy, right next to a stair case but it still offers a quiet environment for you to catch up or do your own things in the shop. They have outside stable and stair seating as well. If you walk up you will have reach Caine Road.. Imagine that steep up heel climb? The furniture, loved wooden stuff! and take a looky to their China used, quality!! The staffs were pretty laid back and appears to be from aboard that’s probably brought the whole western environment back in town. Must visit from me!

cuppingrm-2Cupping room – off Queen’s Road

Another boutique turned into a few shops (I do wonder why can’t people create new names rather than a chain?? I hate chains!!!!) Their brunch choices were amazing, equally their coffees aren’t bad considering their barista was the winner in the Barista Championship. Having said that my personal preference kicks in and found that their coffee is slightly more sour and bitter to my usual cupping. Can’t fault much of this place beside the lamps on top of the reflected table, making it super hard to get nice shot down.

elephantgroundElephant Ground – Gough Street

Lost count of how many times I have been to Elephant Ground at lunch just to get my coffee fix. Elephant Ground operates inside a clothing shop, very tiny corner with some bar sittings and outside bar sittings. One Friday lunch I literately just sat by the outdoor bar bit and enjoy my own quiet Friday to unwind for the weekend. It was very pleasant, overlooking what people do in the park below the coffee shop.Their iced and hot coffee are good, their cups were pretty big and loved the half body of the elephant legs! And what’s getting famous is their ice-cream sandwiches!!!!! I only had it twice so far, wish I get to try more when I was around… must go on weekend!

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Lof10-2Lof10 – G/F, 1 U Lam Terrace, Sheung Wan

Saw a lot of IG shots of this coffee shop, they have stools on the shop font and people enjoy outdoor sitting there! Additionally, they have this raw communal table and wooden stools by the entrance makes it extra attractive to enter into this coffee shop (maybe only me!?). I was hungry after leather class and went for a flat white and pineapple roll. Really enjoyed both, love how the presentation of the roll and how it has chopped pineapple inside.  The coffee probably one of the best in town and enjoyed every sip of it. Other bloggers have said the staff stares at them a lot while they were there. I didn’t feel any of that, when you are focus on doing your own things, you will definitely not get affected by other’s sight. Please do go to Lof10 if you are up the hill already, love that quiet atmosphere….

themixingbowlhk-2The Mixing Bowl HK – 5 Shin Hing St, Central, Hong Kong

Another gem but hidden off the side road of Gough Street. Totally quiet and peaceful when you want a quiet environment to work, there’s wifi in the shop… I didn’t know this place until some IGer posted a photo, quickly I popped by at lunch for one. Can’t fault my latte, just felt the services were a bit cold (I think this is a culture of HK…)! as always loved the wooden furniture; its more of a mix before natural and modern interior design. Apparently if you want to seat outside, you will only get a paper cup! Make sure you double check before you place your order. I do recommend this place for weekday quiet time.

IMG_4512-2Brew Bros – 33 Hillier St, Sheung Wan

I bumped into this coffee shop on my way to find Nail Point in central, hidden in a side street off Queen’s Road. Tiny shop with slight dim setting (not my usual preferred style) but the counter and bar area are neat and tidy. Though, once again I have got sucked into this shop due to the wooden sign of the shop front. Placed my order and waited for my coffee by the little side table into the shop. I do occasionally like latte served in glass and on this occasion I cannot fault anymore with the latte art that I get to see, I am a real sucker for pretty latte art! Drank the latte without any sugar, a good sign to tell me that the coffee beans were rich and full body without the bitterness that I dislike on some of the cups that I taste.

Its only recent that they had their 1st year anniversary and hopefully many years to come for Brew Bros. Another worthy place to go for a cup of quality coffee.

And while I visited other places but doesn’t quite have a nice photo to share.. but still worth a visit are;
Rabbithole – Wan Chai
Fuel Coffee – IFC
St Francis Street – Wan Chai
Veygo Coffee – Sheung Wan