Day 2 National Palace Museum, Dansui, Shihlin Night Market (2005-04-17)

We left the hotel around 10 am and took the MRT to Shihlin station (kanji). The MRT is clean, spacious, cheap and very easy to use.  All the stations we've seen have an open top on the lower floor where the tracks are, so people could see the trains and platform from the floor above, which may be why the stations look spacious.  The MRT must be still a new thing to some locals, because in just one morning, two middle-aged Taiwanese women asked us how to use the ticket machines and we were first-time users and tourists ourselves!  The funny thing is I was able to TEACH them how to buy their tickets!

We got out on the quiet side of Shihlin station by chance and didn't have much choice in choosing a place to eat an early lunch.  We finally settled on a small restaurant on the second floor that looks decent enough.  We ordered a set lunch which was supposed to be served on weekends only (but nobody told us).  Since the waitress already took our order by mistake, the owner chef let us have the bargain meal instead of making us pick something else, which I thought was nice of her.

After lunch, we walked back to the station to get the bus transfer information which is always posted under a large map of the surrounding area in every station.  To catch the bus, we walked to the other side of the station and found that it was absolutely bustling with shops, hawkers and people!  If only we had chosen to go left instead of right after we exited the station, we would not have any problem finding a restaurant...oh well, life's like that sometimes.

We easily located the bus stop and hopped onto Bus 304 to go to the National Palace Museum.  The fare is only $0.45 each and the trip took about 20 minutes.  There is always a sign inside the bus that tells you whether you pay getting on the bus or before you get off, in Chinese of course.  But even if you don't speak Chinese, the driver will signal you when to pay.  Bus drivers again don't speak English and the route on the bus stop sign is almost always written in Chinese, but there is often a display inside the bus that tells you what the next stop is in English and Chinese.

We are not big fans of museums and galleries, we rarely include them in our itinerary, but since this particular museum is one of the world's four most important museums, we would give it a try.  The National Palace Museum is also undergoing big renovation and will continue for quite some time.  We could see bulldozers and fenced-off areas here and there inside the museum ground.  Admission to the museum only costs about $3 and there is some amazing art work on display, including one of its most famous pieces--the jade cabbage.   We also visited the Chih-shan Garden (kanji) adjacent to the museum before we took the bus back to the station at 3:30 pm.

We took the train and headed to Dansui (kanji), a small town by the Dansui river, to watch sunset.  Unfortunately the day was very cloudy and we could hardly see the sun.  We managed to have a glimpse of the orange setting sun for literally ten seconds before it was swallowed by thick clouds again. 

Dansui is also well-known for its numerous shops that sell fishballs and "iron eggs (kanji)", eggs that are cooked to death till they turn completely black and hard.  We wanted to try one, but not an entire pack; and those that sell them by the dozen would not sell us just one, so we never tried this delicacy (I have a feeling we didn't miss much).  Since that day was a public holiday (Tomb Sweeping Day, when many people visit their ancestors' graves and pay respect), there were huge crowds in Dausui (these people have no tombs to sweep?).  We battled the crowds and found the two shops, a fishball shop and a shrimp roll shop, which were featured in travel shows and magazines' food columns.  We also ate some snacks from hawkers and were quite full when we left Dansui.

We then boarded the train again and got off at Jiantan station (kanji) to the famous Shihlin Night Market (kanji). The lower section (closest to the station) has a huge indoor hawker center with hundreds of food stalls.  The upper section is made up mostly of thousands and thousands of boutiques and all sorts of shops.  We wandered around there for a while and went to the hawker center.  We bought the most delicious dried beef jerky I ever tasted from a lady near the edge of the hawker center.  Her pork jerky was okay, but the beef kind was absolutely fabulous, I would definitely go back to buy it from her if we visit Taipei again. 

There's no way we could eat a full dinner, so we just picked some light local dishes to try in the hawker center.  We only managed to eat a couple of local dishes and a tofu dessert before we went back to the hotel totally stuffed.

Eateries of interest:
  • Kakao Yu Wan (Tasty fishballs) 232 Chungching Road, Dansui
  • Ah Hueng Sha Jen (Shrimp rolls) 230 Chungching Road, Dansui
  • Ah Po Tie Dan (Grandma iron eggs) 135 Chungching Road, Dansui

To be continued

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