Tuesday, January 31, 2017

jiufen and shifen

My favorite day in Taipei was the day we took a rickety old train (it cost us a couple of dollars)  to get to the lantern towns of Shifen and Jiufen.  The towns are famous from movies (none that I have seen!) and taiwanese history and culture!  they were awesome.

we got off the trains and had a to catch a taxi that wound us up mountain roads to get us to the top of a large set of mountains.  The views were stunning.
we started meandering up the side streets and alleys of jiufen and soon a cloud enveloped the entire mountainside.  It was pretty neat.

for part of the morning- you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you!  we ate some super delicious asian fried chicken and bought some souvenirs.

the kids also found several rats running around and were enthralled.  I still remember the first time I saw a giant rat when I was a kid!  it was in disneyworld and it was HUGE.  Kids are both so easy and so difficult to impress.

Something else we have noticed in our travels around asia is that they know how to do popsicles!  everywhere we go has phenomenal popsicles! gelato pops or fruit pops or crazy shaped pops. they are all delicious.
Here are the taxis waiting to take tourists up the mountain to visit Jiufen!
On the same train line- just a few stops away is another lantern town called 'Shifen'.
This place is a very small street that is built around a train track.  

shops line the tracks where you can buy food, souvenirs, and your own lantern to paint and let free!
we did some exploring around the little town and walked the river to check stuff out.
Taiwan is so beautiful.  and so mountainous.

Every hour on the hour- the big trains come into town and you have to jump off the tracks and get out of the way!
we told the kids they were supposed to write their wishes and dreams on our family lantern- and they ended up making christmas lists!!  of course.  Zeb did include some of the kanji he learns in his japanese class.

On one side we did make them write words and messages that describe our family.  They didn't enjoy it- but we forced them anyway.  Isn't that what parenting is all about?!

and then we let our lantern fly!!
It was a pretty fun afternoon!!

After watching our lantern fly away we hiked up the railroad tracks to find the shifen waterfalls.
the falls themselves were only so so but the hike was really beautiful and fun.  besides the fact taht we had no idea where we were going and wandered aimlessly for a bit until we found a highway that we walked along for aways.  It eventually led us to a road that we recognized and we spotted the traintracks that led us back to the station!
like I've said- international travel is lots of wandering and luck.

I love this picture of the lantern with all of the chinese characters for several reasons.  I think kanji are beautiful!  watching people write them is incredible.  It's like art!! and takes FOREVER!!  kent also has gotten to where he can recognize 700-800 of them!!  I can't tell you how insanely helpful that is when we travel!!  he's got quite the knack for languages and patterns.

temples of taipei and houtong

When I found out there was a little town outside of taipei called Houtong- 'the cat town' - I knew we HAD to go.  

The place was pretty small and weird- but worth the stop for sure!!  It was along the train route to lantern town- so it wasn't out of the way- and we only stopped for an hour! and they were so many cute cats!

The little village is literally run by cats.  They are mostly feral- but definitely some domesticated. There couldn't have been more than a hundred or so people who lived here- but there were definitely more than a hundred cats!
I got some adorable cat earrings from underneath this sleeping cat!

There weren't very many tourists here so I can't imagine they actually have much of an economy.

The cat fascination in Asia is pretty great.

the lady that worked at the shop with this real and porcelain cat was SO grumpy.  She was so mad that I was taking pictures.  What else did we come here for?!? of course I am going to take pictures!!

Taipei has one large temple downtown caled "longshan temple'  that is so unique.  It's full of bright colors and ornate carvings- all with the backdrop of a very dirty city!  this old and beautiful temple is smack dab in the middle of  a concrete jungle.

Before moving to Asia- I always found Asian decor a little tacky and strange! but now I can't get enough of the lanterns and dragons!!  I wonder if my tastes will go back to normal after we have been away for a couple of years!!

Besides the occasional rainstorm on our trip- the weather was perfect.  Semi cool temps- low humidity- and pleasant evenings.

We stayed an an airbnb in 'Taipei main station' that was great. The kids thought it was pretty boring because there wasn't a pool or jungle out back!  It was super cheap and in the perfect location, however.    This is a picture of the building it was connected to.  Ours was next door.