Saturday, April 19, 2008

Day 8 Sunday - Ding Tai Feng (DTF) @ Yongkang Street > Maokong > Danshui

We took the metro to NTU hospital station and transferred to bus 20 in front of Heping Park. Our preparation work showed that buses 0東 and 20 stops at Xinyi Rd Sec 2 信义路2段 -Yongkang St永康街 Intersection, close to start of Yongkang Street. It was raining heavily so walking from CKS Memorial or Guting Station was not an option. When we reached there, the Ding Tai Feng 鼎太丰Main store was easy to spot from the stop as it was just on the main road with a small crowd gathering even before it was open. Ordered the xiaolongtangbao 小笼汤包 (available only on the 1st hour of weekends 9-10am) since we arranged to come on the weekend to try it out. It came with a bowl of egg soup and impeccable service. Liked it more than the xiaolongbao 小笼包as it was less salty. As I’m not a fan of Dim Sum, I can’t really comment on much on the food there.

After polishing off our second breakfast at DTF @ Yongkang (lots of Jap tourists I dunno why) we set off at around 9.30pm for Maokong. Took bus 22 at the stop we alighted earlier. I basically gave up trying to make sense of the bus routes on the spot from day 2 and simply asked the driver if it goes to any metro station. Yes it does! To Da-an Station. This line is a Light Rail system, single rail and driverless all the way to Taipei Zoo Station. When we arrived around 10am, we were rather bemused by the cutesy pictures of animals decorating the station - pillars, walls and floor. It seems that the Tomb Sweeping Festival 清明节has descended on Taipei Zoo Station one week early and lots of people were seen carrying cartons and bags of fruits and offerings from the Maokong Gondola direction to the metro. I guess people are taking advantage of the free time during weekend. We tried to see where they bought the fruits to no avail. Special bus services at the Station exit were efficiently in place to ferry the people to tomb-sweeping. Some were even discussing if they ought to buy extra tools along. There were loads of people young and old, and a long string of buses carrying pink banners announcing their routes for Qingming. I surmise there must be quite a number of ancestral tombs housed someplace around Maokong, a mountainy area. It certainly looked like an important festival for them!

Surprisingly, the Maokong gondola wasn’t situated right beside the Station by some distance away so we had to walk a little; grumbling ensued because of the rain. When we reached the Maokong Gondola, what did we see? A long line of people snaking all the way out of the building and making a few turns before it stopped. There were even police besides staff to help with the crowd control. Now that I think of it, it is a good thing the station and the gondola are a distance apart or it will be even more chaotic with the Qingming crowd.

The crowd control was excellent compared to YMS. Everyone was calm and orderly and no one was cutting queue. I think the careful arrangements by Maokong Gondola showed up very well here. They even had tents (albeit some slight leaks) set up beforehand for the crowds so it wasn’t that much of a chore queuing in the rainy weather with no cranky crowds trying to cut queue. We looked like the only bunch of senseless people to wear shorts and sandals in the cold weather and hence received a number of stares. However, the stares disappeared later when some other groups of senseless people wearing miniskirts and flipflops. Talk about a different dress culture!

Spotty rain as we went up made the view a blur. The cold+rain+wind made traveling around difficult. took the Maokong Tourbus to the Tea Promotion Centre, the one and only place we visited as it was raining to heavily to visit the tea plantations. Mom would have loved that. It is really easy to forget about cost control when you have easy card handy. The driver gave us a voucher each before we alighted entitling us to another ride for free on the tourbus b’cos we alighted early in the bus loop while paying the same fare. That’s thoughtful of them.

Danshui. Couldn’t find the bus 26 queue and spotted a Singapore Tram-like bus 836 sporting the words Fisherman’s Wharf so I decided to ask if it actually goes there. The driver acknowledged me and so we decided to board the bus which was the last one at 6pm. As the bus was waiting for the last bit of passengers, we saw the Bus 26. Its queue was actually at the same spot but the passengers have queued outside the shelter so we failed to notice it. Was berating myself for taking 836 instead of 26 as the bus have pulled out of the station after all the passengers boarded while ours was still idling. Surprisingly, 836 took a much shorter route and we arrived at the wharf earlier than the bus 26.

Brr!! it was windy and cold at the wharf which killed whatever mood I had for the place. Didn’t even want to walk on the Lover’s Bridge. The boardwalk was nearly deserted except for a few photography enthusiast. There were some couples on the bridge but it was frankly too cold for me who was not feeling quite well that day. We decided to rush down and hide in the Ah Ge shop instead. After polishing our meal of Ah ge, mifen and meatballs, we decided to take the ferry (using easycard) back to Tamshui Old street. Many changes have occurred since my last visits. Most of the shops under the boardwalk have either been split-up into 2 units or have changed hands. Loads of simple carnival games like tossing basketballs or hoops on objects, gun galleries, arcade games and so on in the old streets. It was strangely silent. The fickle crowds have decided not to come anymore?

After a weary walk up and down the quiet streets we decided not to linger and left. Hopefully the rain lets up tomorrow.

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