Two days in Taipei – Taiwan

Esse post em Português

This was my third visit to Taipei but the first time I spent some time in Taiwan. Briefly, Taipei is a place with incredible architecture, a very different and interesting culture and a lot of things to do.

In this post:

  • Visa – How to apply.
  • Temperature.
  • Where to stay
  • Travelling around (public transport)
  • Safety
  • Temples – Confucius and Longshan
  • Shilin Night Market
  • Taipei 101 & Damper

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Visa

As Brazilian, I have to apply for an entry visa every time I go to Taiwan. Unfortunately,  there is no online application and it need to be done in the Taipei Representative Office/ Embassy. All process takes a week to be complete.

They have always been quite strict with all the documents. The immigration on the Taipei airport is also very strict. Even with the visa in hands, they asked a lot of questions. In the return also it is necessary to pass through the immigration

Temperature

I visited Taiwan in two different seasons: winter and summer.  The winter is very mild but the summer is very hot. The humidity is very high what makes the air heavy and hard to breathe.  While I was there the temperature reached 40°

So, it’s already expected that under this temperature was a bit harder to walk around. Anyway, I got to see the places I’ve planned and I really enjoyed Taipei.

Where to stay?

I stayed at Hotel Mezi. I chose this hotel for being close to the metro station and for being close to most of my places of interest. And honestly, I was very happy with the choice. The location of the hotel is very quiet and at the same time very central, close to the red station which links some of the most important tourist attractions: Taipei 101, Shilin Night Market and Confucious temple. and two stations of the central station that gives access to all other lines.

The hotel was also quite fun and the rooms were themed. My room was from Alice in Wonderland and one of those super-tech toilets that I spent a long time trying to figure out.

The front desk staff was quite friendly. On the price of the hotel, it was included breakfast with French toast, salad, and juice.

Traveling – Public transport

The metro in Taiwan is great, very organized, fast, easy to travel and clean. The service is great even on Sunday, you will not spend more than 5 minutes wait to the train.  You can check the metro map here

Ticket options

There are some ticket options available:

  • 24h tickets are available for NT$150 (4.17 EUR).
  • 48h tickets are available for  NT$280 (7.80 EUR)
  • 72h tickets are available for  NT$380 (10.58 EUR)

And what’s the thing with these people and kitten?

From the airport to the city – or the other way around. Taiwan High-Speed Rail (HSR) – SAVE MONEY!

The taxi from the Hotel to the airport would cost around  NT$1,500 (41.00 EUR) but there is a High-Speed train option to go to the Airport for NT$116 (3.23 EUR)

The only problem would be getting to the station with the luggage. I made the whole way on foot without the suitcases and it was a fair distance to walk with heavy belongs. So, I took a taxi from the hotel to the closest metro station (the one closest to the North Gate) . The price was NT $ 90 (9.26 reais / 2.50 EUR).

It was a very fast and easy trip to the airport and an economy of 3.27 EUR.

Safety

I’m always very careful about safety.  I always avoid going out when it’s dark – especially in a strange country. But I really wanted to go to the night market and I would have to go alone. I asked around whether the place was safe for a woman to walk alone at night and the response was always extremely positive.

So decided to go, and incredibly I saw many women walking alone in dark and empty areas.  However, even in a safe place is always wise to be alert. Better safe than sorry.

Must go temples

I always imagined temples as a peaceful place, surrounded by green, butterflies and wrapped in mysticism and magic … The reality as always is a little tougher than our imagination. Both temples I visited were surrounded by buildings, people in a hurry, cars, buses, restaurants, and people with  angry closed.

But almost like magic, as I entered the temples, it was as if the whole world had stayed behind.

Taipei Confucious temple

Inside the temple was a lake with turtles, trees and of course the temple itself with a burnt red roof full of gold detail.

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While I was resting and hiding from the heat in the shade, a person came to close the patio doors. The venue was being closed for a performance and the people inside were able to watch and record the event.  The temperature was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t record it without shaking and I couldn’t get to the end.  In any case, I managed to capture much of the performance:

After this, I visited the souvenir shop and bought a wooden sign where I should write a wish and leave it with several other wishes that would go through a prayer at the end of the day. It was hard to choose a wish. My wish was made in Portuguese and it means: I wish to always look the bright side of everything

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And now some pictures of the temple:

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Longshan Temple of Manka

While the temple of Confucius was a quiet place, the temple of Longsham was a place full of people and full of faith. As soon as I entered I was surprised by the amount of people praying between incense and images.

The details of the buildings were unbelievable. A beautiful place that will definitely stay in the memory as a place of faith.

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 Shilin Night Market

Go to the Jiantan station, follow the direction of the night market on the metro signs to put you in the right direction. After passing the subway ratchet, proceed to the first traffic light and cross the street. Despite having some food stalls this is not yet the market. Keep walking on the same street and you will see the entrance to the market where you will see the sign: ‘Shilin Market’

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As a vegetarian I was afraid to eat anything n the market but some food looks very good and different. Bt I play safe, I ended up going on 7-eleven and eating some chips.

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Food you can buy in the Night Market

Besides the options of food some unusual activities happen in the night market, like this for example:

Taipei 101

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Taipei 101 is an unbelievably tall skyscraper with 101 floors and was the tallest building in the world until 2010.

It is possible to go to the top by a super fast elevator that travels at 60.6 km / h. From above it is possible to have a 360 view of the entire city of Taiwan coming up to see where the city ends.

The architecture of the building is quite different and quite modern. Inside is a shopping center with several upscale shops.

 

 

Damper

At the top and center of the building there is a huge ball that weighs 660 tons that works like a pendulum. The purpose of this is to neutralize the effects of wind and earthquakes to avoid compromising the structure of the building.

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Credit: Taipei 101

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Credit: wikimedia

I spent a lot of time looking and wondering how it got there? And that fear when you think it’s on the 101st floor of a building, along with shops, people and an iron ball that weighs 660 tons. Not nice!  To make it even worse, they show you a video showing the moment of an earthquake and how pendulum works – and it happens with several people on the spot. Very scared. Another video at the time of an earthquake.

True or not – I could swear that the building was shaking while I was there…

Way back

The airport

The best boarding gate ever

Buying food at the airport

I bought some food for a friend but unfortunately, I could not pass through the immigration of the Netherlands. I had already been informed in Taiwan while buying the gift, that food with pork did not pass in the Dutch immigration. So I bought a product without this ingredient, but the bag was not sealed and the product label was entirely in Chinese, the product was thrown away.
If they buy something, check that the bag is closed.

See ya next time Taiwan…

 

Game of Thrones Live Concert (Spoiler alert) – Miami, USA

SPOILER ALERT

Be sure that you have watched the show till the very last episode of the last season, otherwise, you will see the most important scenes at the concert (and in this video)!

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Live Concert (Spoiler alert) – Miami, USA”

Nothing is purely work in Vegas

When I got the confirmation that I was going to Vegas I was very excited. By the way, Vegas = fun, right? Although it was a business trip, we only had a meeting on Monday and we would arrive on Thursday. Yuru! We asked for Friday off to enjoy the city for 3 days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

Valid visa on expired passport … Oh, No!

Passaportes

When I applied for my American visa it was approved for 10 years. More than the validity of my Brazilian passport. And what happened was obvious: My passport has expired and the visa is still valid. What to do? Take the two passports! Yes, the visa is still valid and what is not valid is your passport. Take the two, show the visa and at the time of identification show the current passport! I’ve done this a few times and never had a problem!

 

Visa-checked. Boarding pass- checked. Climate … January is Winter in the Northern Hemisphere and then the next concern was: Do I have enough cold clothing? Although the climate is desert the average temperature in winter is 10º. From there, making the suitcase was easy: legging, boots, long-sleeved knitwear, coat, scarf, burrow, and gloves.

History of Vegas

What many know today as a place of fun, casinos and glamor was once a desert and is still roasted by desert. Some apocalyptic and zombie movies show that Las Vegas would once again be a desert if something catastrophic happened to the human race. Let’s hope human never ends!

Vegas is the most populous city in the state of Nevada and approximately 5 hours (if you are thinking of doing a road trip 😃). The first record about Las Vegas was made in 1829 – a time that the area still belonged to Mexico – In fact, much of the territory now known as the United States was attributed to Mexico that was conquered by the Americans in the Mexico / US War. The Territory of Nevada was included to Americans in 1855.

We can attribute much of the Las Vegas name to Mexican Raphael Rivera. Raphael traveled along with the merchant Antonio Armijo. In search of water, Raphael ventured into unexplored lands and eventually discovered an Oasis – a small fertile region in the midst of the desert, thanks to the presence of water – which became known as Las Vegas Springs. Raphael has a park and a street that take its name in Las Vegas.

The time passed and the place happened to be a railway city but due to diverse external factors of the time came the time of the decadence. The game was then released in 1931 with the goal of helping the economy and in fact brought several new businesses to the city. Many of the casinos were dominated by gangs and gangsters. In 1960, with the purchase of several locations by billionaire Howard Hughes, the federal government puts an end to the local mafia.

The rest is history, marriages made by Darth Vader and many people wanting to break the bank and breaking their own pocket.

What happens in Vegas …

The place is worth the fame that has … coming off the plane, we were surprised with the nickel-hunting machines inside the airport.

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We played to see how it worked, but we did not win anything at all ☹. After the game, we took a Uber and went to our Hotel – Wyndham Grand Desert, located at 265 E Harmon Ave http://wyndham-grand-desert.hotel-rn.com/?lbl=ggl-ex. The hotel has rooms  apartment, with bedrooms, suites, living room, bathrooms and fully equipped kitchen (with refrigerator, stove, coffee maker, microwave, etc)… The famous Las Vegas hotels are on the Strip Las Vegas Blvd, everything happens on this street: Most famous Casinos hotels, night clubs, shows, etc. Our hotel was not on the strip (short way people call the street), but it had free shuttle service to the strip all day and night.

We arrived shortly after noon, did check-in, took a bath, went out to eat something, and went out to discover the place.

Five Guys – The Best Hamburger of Life

Seriously, this is one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had! In this hamburger, you pay a fixed price for the type of hamburger (burger, cheeseburger, bacon burger) that you want, and the complements (toppings) are free, there is a list of them.

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Besides being a delight, it’s cheap when compared to other burgers and you can get as much of a peanut as you want. You even have the app to make your order and just go and get it.

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Love – Cirque du Soleil

  • Duration of the event: 1.5h
  • Value of the event: Starts with 79 dollars // 248 reais (29.03.2017)

After eating very well at Five Guys we walked to the highly anticipated Cirque du Soleil show at the Hotel The Mirage.

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The show we watched was LOVE and we ❤  it!

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Arriving in the space where the presentations take place I was surprised by a super decoration !!

Every show has the soundtrack to Beatles songs. The show is beautiful !!!!!! The selection of songs surprises us. You can’t take pictures even in mobile phones without a flash during the show. As I did not know, I took! I took a photo outside (that is allowed)

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and some of the show (this is not allowed), but they caught my attention.

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On the stage,  several scenes happen at the same time, be careful not to miss anything. The songs and scenes are great, I was very emotional.

One tip: we were surprised because we bought the tickets for an unreliable website and arriving there, our seats were not the ones we had chosen. The best website to buy tickets is the official website of Cirque du Soleil – https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/. There are several websites that sell the tickets, even for a promotional price, but better not take the risk and go through what we went through.

Casino The Mirage Volcano – Keep an eye on the time

When the show ended we went to look for the famous Casino The Mirage Volcano. Unfortunately, we were unable to see it erupt due to the time, it erupts from 8 pm to 10 pm. Impossible, since the show ended around 10 pm.

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Iceland – From Rotten Shark to the famous Hot Dog – Best places to eat in Reykjavík

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So, that’s it, our last stop in Iceland: Reykjavík. We were so exhausted after those days that we decided to not do any  The place looks like a model city,  so well conserved, clean, organized very nice wooden houses and very colorful areas and full of life.

While walking I saw many places and a great variety of things to do over there. Many restaurant and stores for vegetarian, yoga places, shops, restaurants etc. Maybe I was a fool with all the stereotype and  I thought that the place would be small and with not much to do – because of the amount of snow they have.

Reykjavík surprised me and I’m glad I visited this amazing city.

A very exotic cuisine

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – Hot Dog

Hot dog price: 420 Kr // 3.10 EUR

Before getting weird let’s start with a food everybody knows: Hot Dog. The food truck is located in middle of the city and it’s called Bæjarins beztu pylsur – that can be translated to The best hot dog in town – and it is actually knowing as the best hot Dog in the world. The hot dog seems to be very simple as you can see on the video.

Tips: You can buy the Sausage and the special sauce in the airport.

Hákarl, the rotten shark – Cafe Loki

Before the video or any comments about the Hákarl let’s learn how it is prepared:

The meat of the Greenland shark is poisonous when fresh, due to a high content of urea and trimethylamine oxide, but may be consumed after being processed.

The traditional method is by gutting and beheading a Greenland or sleeper shark and placing it in a shallow hole dug in gravelly sand, with the now cleaned cavity resting on a small mound of sand. The shark is then covered with sand and gravel, and stones are placed on top of the sand in order to press the shark. In this way the fluids are pressed out of the body. The shark ferments in this fashion for 6–12 weeks depending on the season. Following this curing period, the shark is then cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. During this drying period a brown crust will develop, which is removed prior to cutting the shark into small pieces and serving.

Wikipedia

Yummy, Sounds TERRIBLE! OMG, how people eat that?

We found it at the Café Loki, also located in the city center. The price was 520 KR // 4.30 EUR. The name on the menu is fermented shark, 4 bites – to taste. It also comes with a drink – ‘You might need to clean the taste on your mouth’, the waiter said.

As vegetarian, I could not taste it but Guiherme did. The result you can see on the video:

Tapas Restaurant – Tapas

Also located in the city center, Tapas is a must go place if you want to try all the diverted options that Iceland has to offer. It has set courses that you can find on their website. We had:

Iceland Gourmet Feast, taste the best of Iceland – Guilherme’s option

Price: 7990 KR// 66.10Eur

  • Smoked puffin with blueberry ‘brennivin’ sauce
  • Iceland sea-trout with pepper-salsa
  • Lobster tails baked in garlic
  • Pan-fried line caught blue line with lobster-sauce
  • Grilled Iceland lamb Samfaina
  • Minke Whale with cranberry-sauce
  • White chocolate ‘Skyr’* mousse with passion coulis

Vegetable fiesta / de la huerta – My option (vegetarian)

price 7.690 Kr // 63.62 EUR

  • Begins with an aperitif
  • Pan fried Icelandic button and oyster mushrooms with goats cheese cream and burned leek vinaigrette
  • Soft baked candy beet with feta cheese, quinoa salat and sesam-coriander dressing
  • Cauliflower and romanesco broccoli, cauliflower purée and lime-mint vinaigrette
  • Pickled cherry tomatoes with marinated mozzarella and basil-truffle oil
  • Zucchini roll filled with barley and asparagus on tomato salsa with eggplant purée and sweet red peppers sauce
  • White chocolate “skyr” mousse with passion fruit sauce

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It’s very rare when I left a restaurant full and totally satisfied and it happened at Tapas. Even more surprisingly was that my portions were much bigger and sometimes tastier than Guilherme’s! Not because of the restaurant, but Puffin is so cute that could not taste good!

The plates were very well presented, a pleasant environment and great service.

The best soup ever

We passed a place called Núðluskálin a few time on the first day when we arrived in Reykjavík and it was too late to eat in restaurants. It was a place to eat soup and we underestimated the place. We were always looking for something different to eat but gladly we gave the place an opportunity and we ate there twice. The soup was SO GOOD, seriously! It was so good that when I was back home I was learning on youtube how to do this soup. It also a must go place.

That’s the end of our adventure in Iceland. This trip was amazing, we learned a lot and we are already missing Iceland. A very special place.

See ya in the next adventure.

Andréa

 

Iceland – Inside a natural lava cave

  • Attraction price: 53.11 EUR //6.500 ISK (29th March 2017)
  • Parking: free
  • Website: http://www.thecave.is/
  • Tour: Cave explorer (more tour options on the website)
  • Tour duration: 1,5 hours – guided
  • Photos and videos allowed

Continue reading “Iceland – Inside a natural lava cave”

Iceland – Welcome to Hell: Krafla, Viti and Hverir

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Imaging moments is something I like to do when I’m traveling. I like to imagine the different times of the earth and the place I’m walking in. It’s crazy to think that the very same place I was posing for pictures was covered by lava and fire, destruction and creation. Very likely people were in panic trying to save their lives. We are blessed to live in a time that we can predict this type of situation. I invite you to close your eyes and think about the past of the places you are visiting. It makes everything even more interesting. Continue reading “Iceland – Welcome to Hell: Krafla, Viti and Hverir”

Iceland -Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

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We were so lucky on this trip. In moments when the dry weather did not make any difference, it was raining, and the moments that we needed to spend more time in the open the weather was dry and sunny. When we arrived at the Reynisfjara beach the day was amazing. The sun changed colors and made everything brighter and happier.

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Continue reading “Iceland -Reynisfjara, the black sand beach”

Iceland – Tips to see and take pictures of the Northern Lights

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Attraction value: be lucky and freeze at night waiting for it. (It’s worth it)

Main tips

You can check the aurora forecast on this site Icelandic Met Office. Here is a brief explanation:

  • The white areas of the maps are the clear sky areas. It means that it is a good place to see the aurora. The hard green means High clouds so it will be hard to see it.
  • On the bottom, you have the forecast for the actual day and the next two days and hours.You can choose a different day or hour. The map changes according to your selections.
  • The aurora forecast is found on the right corner of the page. It has a rating of between 0 and 9.
  • Try  not to stay in big cities/towns. The building lights will reflect the sky and fade the northern lights. We saw it in Borgarhöfn (accommodation: Lækjarhus Farm Holidays) and Myvatn Lake (accommodation: Vogafjós Guesthouse). Both accommodations were good for seeing the northern lights.

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Main tips for taking aurora pictures:

Continue reading “Iceland – Tips to see and take pictures of the Northern Lights”