My original plan for the day was to go to Shilin Official Residence in the morning, eat lunch somewhere, then go to National Palace Museum in the afternoon. I had been to the museum in 2010, and absolutely loved the place except the never ending and extremely noisy tourist groups in the museum. The business contact I had in Taipei told me, to avoid the tourist groups, I need to go in late, like 4:00 pm, when they stop letting big tourist groups in (which didn't seem to be true, details later). But my plan changed completely after I started chatting with this taxi driver outside my hotel in the morning.
It was around 7:40 am. I just finished my breakfast, and was standing outside of the hotel checking the traffic. There was a taxi there. I thought maybe someone booked the taxi to go to the airport. The driver came out of the car and started chatting with me. Turned out he does day tour for 3,500 NTD to go to nearby places. But he was willing to drop it to 2,800 for me since I was alone, had no one to share the cost with. I wasn't interested initially, thinking it is too much money. But when I looked at the brochure he had, it was beautiful, I became interested and decided to go with him. The day turned out so good that I eventually paid him 3,000 NTD (~$100).
Our first stop of the day was Yehliu Geopark, an amazing park that only cost 80 NTD (less than $3) to enter.
1. Yehliu Geopark. Common Carp Rock and Candle Rock are on the left.
2. Yehliu Geopark.
3. Yehliu Geopark.
4. Yehliu Geopark.
5. Honeycombed Rock.
6. Yehliu Geopark.
7. Yehliu Geopark.
8. Common Carp Rock and Candle Rock.
9. Common Carp Rock and Candle Rock.
10. Yehliu Geopark.
11. Yehliu Geopark.
12. Walking towards the section where Queen's Head Rock is located.
13. An overview of the section where Queen's Head Rock is located.
14. Bean Curd Rock.
15. Yehliu Geopark. I wish I walked on this path further. It was so sunny and baking hot, and I forgot my umbrella (for shade) in the car, so I only walked on this path a little bit before turning back.
16. Yehliu Geopark.
17. The security guy's hat is very unique :)
18. Gorilla Rock.
19. Pineapple Bun.
20. Fairy’s Shoe and Pearl Rock.
21. Yehliu Geopark.
22. Yehliu Geopark.
23. The Queen's Head, the most famous rock in the park. People waited in line to take pictures of the rock from the perfect angle. I didn't want to wait in the baking sun, so I took the picture from the 'wrong' angle.
24. A reproduction of the Queen's Head for people to take picture with.
The second stop of the day was Nan Ya Qi Shi, a free road side attraction near Jiufen.
25. Nan Ya Qi Shi.
26. Nan Ya Qi Shi.
27. Nan Ya Qi Shi.
28. Road to the Gorilla Mountain (in the picture). You need quite a bit of imagination to see the Gorilla :)
29. A quick stop to see a roadside waterfall.
Next stop was the Museum of Gold (free, near Jiufen). It is called a museum, but it is actually a park, with old mining facilities transformed into tourist destination. It was huge inside. I only went to see the most important thing in the park, which is a 220kg, 999 pure gold giant for visitors to see and feel.
30. The giant gold piece.
Normally the driver would take the guests to Jiufen Old Street to eat lunch, where there were lots of choices. But since I had been there in 2010, I told him I didn't want to go there again. I wanted to see things I hadn't seen. So he combined two different day trips, skipped the places I had been, and took me only to the places I hadn't seen. That is why the day was so packed. The down side was that I had to eat lunch at the Museum of Gold, where food choices were limited and I was in a hurry, so I bought the miner's lunchbox set (290 NTD) where you could take the lunch box home as a nice souvenir. The food was just ok.
Next stop was Shifen Waterfall. A waterfall located on a private land where you had to pay 100 NTD to see it. It was nice, except there were so many tourist groups, crowding the tiny entrance, made it hard to enter and leave.
31. Shifen Waterfall.
The last stop of the day was Shifen Old Street. My driver, Mr. Xu, asked me if I want to release a sky lantern. I had never done that before, so I thought it was fun to try. A single colored lantern cost 150 NTD ($5). A multi-colored lantern cost 200 NTD, with each other represent different things of course :) I bought the multi-colored one. Not that I cared about the meanings of the colors (it is all made up for tourist money), I just thought it was pretty.
32. After writing good wishes for family and friends in ink with brush, the lantern was lit and released.
33. It went up so fast.
34. The streets were lined with sky lantern shops, and the rail road track was still in use. From time to time, you hear whistle, which is to tell people to get off the track because a train is coming.
35. In case you care, this is the meaning for different colors.
After the sky lantern, I asked Mr. Xu to drop me off at the National Palace Museum.
36. My driver for the day, Mr. Xu, a really nice guy. I used his car to go to the airport 2 days later. Highly recommend his service, although he doesn't speak English, and was planning to retire after 3 years.
I arrived at the National Palace Museum around 4:30pm. I thought it was late enough to avoid the tourist groups. No, they were still there. So I went to the 4th floor restaurant to eat an early dinner first.
37. The always delicious Guan Tang Bao.
38. And Beef Noodle.
39. View from the restaurant.
After dinner, it was almost 6 pm. The museum was still crowded with tourist groups. Only after 6:30 pm, the museum's normal closing hour, it seemed quiet down a bit. (On Friday and Saturday, museum closes at 9 pm) The famous painting, Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河圖), was still not on display. It wasn't on display in my 2010 visit either. Wish I can see it :(
P.S. $1 was about 30 NTD in July, 2014.