Monday, June 29, 2009

Modern Toilet

Continuing our fourth day on a do-it-yourself "come what may" exploration, we made it a point to drop by this queer restaurant I saw over the internet. The name of the place - Modern Toilet! Sounds yucky and disgusting, the restaurant is themed after none other than a toilet! Finding this place is a bit tricky. From Ximen MRT station, we walked towards Sining S. road, and about a couple or so blocks from there, try to glimpse on every alley and if you see a big toilet hanging on a wall, you are on the right track. We walk past the correct alley twice and after 15 minutes of walking back and forth, we were almost ready to give up and then I saw the big toilet. To make it easier, once you are already in Sining S. road from the MRT station, look for First Bank on the left. That's the landmark to the right alley where you'll find the restaurant!

It was almost 12:00PM but the place was still closed, we had to wait for around 5 minutes before they had removed the barrier and let us in. We were the first customer of the restaurant for that day.

The restaurant is located on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building if I am not mistaken. My mom and I were seated on the 2nd floor of the restaurant, near the toilet - the real one! This is how the place looks like, again themed after a toilet and bathroom. Bathtub and sinks are used as tables and diners sit on the decorated toilet seats.

other shots on the second floor


The restaurant not only sells food, but also collectible items, in the end I got myself a little toilet seat and keychains to take home and my mom got magnets and little cute things.

Even the waiting area is toilet-themed! This is where diners wait to be seated if the restaurant is full and in just 30 minutes, the whole place was already packed!

Near the human toilet, I saw this funny looking toilet seat outside. This serves as the faucet and sink to wash your hands.

I don't usually take pictures of toilets but this one looks cool, very colorful and, uhrm.. modern!

We were given a menu where items are written in english and we had to tick our orders, bring it back to the counter and pay for it there. I had a seafood hot pot, served in a toilet seat-shaped bowl while my mom had pork chop cordon bleu. For drinks, we both had orange juice shake. My mom's drink was served in a urinal-shaped glass while I opted to "upgrade" mine and had it served on a real plastic urinal same with those that they use in the hospitals (lower right).

The food was okay, not bad, but nothing spectacular. They are priced just right too so I'd say it was a good experience. I didn't even finish half of my hot pot and my mom tried to finish her meal but she can't either!

As we are about to leave, we were informed that the dessert is part of the meal. Soft ice cream was served in a bathtub-shaped plates (or are they the ones on the floor in the toilet room?).

For a complete and filling meal less than NTD600, plus the experience by itself, I thought we had a great deal and a number of memories to take home! I recommend the place to anyone coming to town and looking for something different but I have to warn diners not to expect too much on the food that they serve, after people come here for the experience right?


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Presidential Office Building and Zhongshan Hall

Our fourth day in Taiwan was well spent within Taipei City. It was a free day for me and my mom and we haven't planned or arranged to go anywhere so we opted for the "come what may" scheme. We woke up later than usual and had breakfast before 9:00AM. Booked for the 9:10AM free shuttle service from the hotel and was dropped off in Taipei City Hall MRT station.

Heading towards the city, cars and people seems denser because it was a Monday morning and somewhere before we got dropped off, we passed by an "edited version" of the Statue of Liberty by Mine All Malt Beer.

A short ride (1 stop, NTD20) away from Taipei City Hall MRT station is the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, a monument to the founding father of the Republic of Taiwan. An MRT station of the same namesake makes the place very accessible to commuters and is a short walk away from its back entrance.

a monument of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in the park


another monument

A few people were visiting the park on that gloomy Monday morning and I was happy to see an old man running around for some reason, and later I understood that he had a kite tucked somewhere and he was trying to have it flown.

Across the main building is a huge landscape of plants and flower and it was a very colorful and beautiful sight!

me, in front of the memorial hall

The plants are well kept and trimmed by gardeners, and they do keep it beautiful all-year-round.

As we head inside the main building of the memorial hall, we saw a bunch of people flocking together. Looking closer, we were lucky to witness the 10:00AM change of guard that morning.



me, in front of the bronze statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen inside the memorial hall

On the left side of the bronze monument is the East Dr. Sun Yat-sen History Exhibition Room containing articles, stories and timeline of his achievements and legacy.


The whole place have other facilities like theater, galleries and a library. We didn't have much time to do everything and we didn't really understand much of what's displayed in front of us so we headed back to the MRT station after buying a few card souvenirs from the gift shop. As we exit the gate, we saw this stone pathway and noticed a barefooted person stepping on it.

On the side, we realized it's like a healthy exercise path and tried a bit of it, but didn't feel good as the stones were hot.

From the memorial hall, we then rode the MRT again on the way to Ximen MRT station (NTD25). We planned to check out some shops and do a bit of shopping here, but we noticed on the map that the Presidential Office Building is just nearby, so we decided to check it out, walked towards it and saw a number of what seemed to be important people riding their individual cars and left successively.

sideview of the Presidential Office Building

Going back to Ximending, we decided to have lunch on a special place I saw over the internet, but since it was still early, we looked for something else to do and saw a number of signs that leads to Zhongshan Hall. My initial thought was it must be something important so we decided to follow the trail, look for the hall, and we ended up to see this small building and the back part of it was still under construction.

Further research later on revealed to me that this building was previously the city hall of Taipei and is now functioning as the official meeting place of government officials.

stone marker in front of the hall

Taipei City by itself have lots of important historical and exiting architecture to see and we didn't even need to be on a guided tour to do this! Much more will be unravelled as we continue our exploration that day but for now, we're off to lunch!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shilin Night Market

It was past 10:30PM when we arrived in Taipei Main Station coming from Hualien but that didn't stop us as we proceed to a night market that starts from 4:00PM and stays open until the wee hours past midnight. Shilin Night Market is accessible by alighting Jiantan MRT station and coming from Taipei Main Station, it is only a 15-minute ride with a fare of NTD20. For non-locals, it is important that you go down in Jiantan MRT station and not to commit the common mistake of tourists that heads further to Shilin MRT station thinking the place is closer from there.

In front of Jiantan MRT station is a food court selling local dishes and beverages. Since we already had a filling wonton soup as our dinner in Hualien, we had to ignore the food stalls even if the food they serve looks luscious.

Inside the market, one will be amazed that a number of stalls line up serving different items and there are plenty of choices. The place may be big but during peak times the place is jam-packed with hungry eaters.

further inside the food court

We walked past the food court and we arrived at the street night market.

There are also a few stores of fruits, beverages and easy-to-carry food items for those who like to eat while scouting for items to buy.

It was almost midnight but there are still people coming in and the place is still packed. Aside from stalls that are literally on the streets, there are also permanent stores on the buildings on the side. For shopaholics, especially to youngsters, the place can be a shopping heaven because there are so much to see and buy that it may drive you crazy!

Aside from the goods sold on the streets, there are also branded items and outlets available nearby but they are priced just the same as those you will find in the shopping malls.

In the end, we didn't really buy a lot of things because most of the items here are not of our style (take note - short shorts!) and most of the things sold here are catered to girls than guys. I was able to buy a few things, but mostly are food items including muah chee (mochi) or glutinous rice cakes to bring back home. We left by around 12:30AM and was able to catch the last train going to Taipei Main Station, transferred to another train, also on its last run, to Taipei City Hall MRT station (NTD30). From there, we hailed a cab going to our hotel and paid NTD240 for the fare. The next morning will be free and easy for us as we hit the beds and sleep soundly before 2:00AM.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Siangde Temple and going back to Taipei

This will be the tail-end of our visit to Taroko National Park and day trip to Hualien, and the last stop Mr. Lu brought us to inside the park is on the trail of Siangde Temple. We had enough trail for the day and we just came from a 2-hour in Baiyang Trail so we just stayed outside and took pictures of the Buddhist temple and the area surrounding it.

Without trees covering the structure, the temple is known to locals as Jiuhuashan (9 lotus) of Taiwan because it looks like 9 lotuses from afar.

The trail to the temple starts by crossing the Pudu bridge, then steps going up to the temple. It will take an hour to reach the place and be back from where you started.

Down on the river bed which seems to be dry at that time, we saw a couple of writings made of stone and found it amusing. This one reads "Pudding I Love (heart) You".

As for the other, I can barely read it anymore.


When Mr. Lu learned that our return train is not a Taroko Express train and is Tze Chiang 1078 that leaves Hualien by 8:00PM and arrives in Taipei by 10:30PM, he offered to try to change the ticket in a nearby train station to a Tze Chiang 1096 that leaves Hualien 30 minutes (7:30PM) earlier but arrives in Taipei by 9:45PM, 45 minutes earlier than our original station. He brought us to Beipu station, took our tickets and tried to have it exchanged, which I have learned he has done for his other passengers successfully as well.

The earlier train however was fully booked so we had to stick to our original booking on the slightly slower train. He then suggested that we just have our dinner in Hualien City before we board the train.

Initially, he wanted to bring us here in an area where street food stalls area. However, he knows that we need him to buy something to eat and we had a hard time looking for a parking space, so he brought us to another place instead.

He brought us to this place that sells wonton soup and promised that they are good specialty food in Hualien but I didn't get its name. As I researched for its when I got back to the hotel, several websites pointed me to the name of the eatery - Fragrant Wonton (Yishang Bienshi), located in 42 Sinyi Street Hualien, Taiwan and may be contacted via + 886 3 8326761.

Further research shop is said to operate for more than 70 years already and that they use the meat found in pig's leg because they have a better consistency and leaner.

The 3 of us (me, my mom and Mr. Lu) each had a bowl of the famous wonton soup (bienshi). It may look small but this is actually huge and I had to force myself to finish it while my mom only made it halfway. I had wonton soups a few times before and I am not exaggerating here when I say this is the best I ever had! Too bad though that the condiments available were only chili paste and vinegar because I'm used to dipping the meat to soy sauce with calamansi (lemon), mixed chili garlic oil but nevertheless, I enjoyed this wonderful delight. At last, we had at least a specialy from Taiwan with the help of a local!

chili paste

So this is how they make the soup - the wonton is made of meat from the pig's leg and wrapped in a hand-made covering, and they boil the soup with the bone of pig's leg while remove the floating fat from time to time. Celery and onion leaks over the soup. I could swear that I am drooling again as I write this post.

Mr. Lu stopped briefly outside a store near the train station and asked us to buy muah chee (mochi) or glutinous rice cakes, another delicacy Hualien is famous for. However, the time then was less than 10 minutes before 8:00PM and since the train leaves as schedule, we declined and asked him to take us to the train station instead.

Our cabbie is very friendly and I highly recommend him to anyone coming here! I paid for his service as we reached the entrance, added a couple hundreds more for tip and I thought that's the end of it but he insisted to come with us to the train station and even asked the guard to allow him to come inside the train station so that he can guide us to the right platform. 5 minutes before the train departed, we were already outside our train car and thanked Mr. Lu for his wonderful service.


inside our train car

my ticket back to Taipei

Most of the time on our journey back was spent taking short naps with a few instances of waking up. We arrived and alighted in Taipei Main Station as scheduled by 10:30PM and I readily took a photos of the train from the back before we leave the platforms.

It was a wonderful experience for me and my mom! Not only did we have a wonderful time in Taroko National Park and Hualien, but the company of Mr. Lu who eagerly explained everything to us and even crack jokes made everything easy flowing and fun.