Saturday, October 29, 2005

Taipei - Shilin - Chiang Kai Chek President Residence

The legendary Chiang Kai Chek, who led China to successfully defend against Japan's invasion during the World War II, spend his last years in Taiwan after he and Kuomintan, the ruling party, lost the entire mainland China to the Communist party after the 4 year Civil War that came right after World War II. Most of you who are familiar with Taipei probably have visited Chiang Kai Chek's Memorial Hall. However, besides the gorgeous memorial hall, there's another landmark that you shouldn't miss - the Shilin President Residence.

Sitting in the upscale neighborhood of Shilin, Taipei, the president residence is the home for Chiang Kai Chek from 1950 till 1975 when Chiang died in the residence. It was originally the Botanical Lab established in 1908. In 1964, US Vice President Richard Nixon, who later became the host of White House in 1969, stayed in the residence on his visit to Taiwan. The residence remained closed to the public until 1996 when Taipei's mayor Chen Sui Bian, who is now the president of Taiwan, decided to seize the property to open to the public.

Botanical Garden
Because it was originally designed as a botanical lab, Shilin President Residence actually looks more like a botanical garden. A perfect time to visit the president residence would be from March to May when roses in the Rose Garden, Madame Chiang's favorite garden, have reached full blossom. Nevertheless any sunny afternoon is perfact time to visit all the vivid gardens. You would be able to find various sculpture masterpiece in the Western Garden. In addition, visit Oriental Garden to enjoy an authentic Chinese style backyard.

Hour and Location
Shilin President Residence (Shilin Guan-Ti in Mandarin) is at 60 Fulin Rd., Shilin District, Taipei. You could reach the residene via red line MRT and get off at either Shilin or Chientan plus a few minutes walk. The opening hours are 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday and 8:00 am - 7:00 pm Weekend or Holiday. There are 4 daily guided tour at 9:30, 10:30, 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm. Please allow 2 hour minimum to visit the whole residence. You may get food and beverages at the Snack Bar. Call (02)2881-2512 for more details.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Taipei - Dansui (3) - Fort San Domingo

The historic town of Dansui, Taipei Taiwan is famouse for its three F's - Food, Fabulous View, and Fort San Domingo.

You won't have a complete tour of Dansui unless you've seen all the three F's. Now you've seen the first two F's teh the previous articles we will introduce the last and the most famous F's in Dansui - Fort San Domingo.

San Domingo? mm.... wait a minute, isn't that sounds a little bit Spanish? That's right. The red brick wall fort was actually built by Spanish in 1629 as they tried to establish a military, political, and trading forefront. However it was in 1644, after the Dutch take-over of Dansui two years prior, that the fort was re-constructed with red brick walls which last till present days. The Dutch's reconstruction to Fort San Domingo is probably why it gets the name Hong-Mou Cheng or Fort of Red-Hair as the locals used to named the Dutch as Red Hair.

British Consulate Residence
Right beside Fort San Domingo is the former British Consulate. In 1860, the British were interested in Dansui sea port and later in 1867 Fort San Domingo became the British Consulate. 20 years later in 1891 the residence for British Consulate is built right beside Fort San Domingo.

The fort was under the management of Great Britan and later to Australia and to United States. Until 1980 Fort San Domingo officially returned back to the local government.

Location and Hour
Fort San Domingo is located at the very end of Dansui Old Street, a 20 minutes walk from Dansui MRT station. It's opened 9am to 4:30pm Tuesday to Sunday. The entrance fee is about 30 TWD or 1 dollar US.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Taipei - Dansui (2) - The Sidewalk and Ferry

Dansui, sitting along the mouth of Dansui River, is a historic seaside village in Taipei county. The name itself literally means freash water.

What brings thousands of visitors daily to this tiny town is not just the food but also the gorgeous view of Dansui River. Virtually anytime during the day you'll find great photo spots.

The Sidewalk
The recently renovated granite sidewalk gave Dansui Town a new facial to her aging image. Now the sidewalk becomes a popular spot for a romantic dating or great weekend afternoon family time.

The Ferry
If you want to enjoy a short floating tour on Dansui River, go to the dock and take the 30 minutes ferry to the other side of the river which cost less than a dollar in US.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Taipei - Dansui (1) - The Food

If You Ask Me What's a Must Do in Taiwan, I'll say EAT!

Yes. Eat. Even though Taiwan is just about the size of New Jersey, the diversity of food makes it a paradise for food lovers.

But where do you find authentic Taiwanese food?
Take the MRT red line till the final stop, Dansui and you will find yourself in a breathy old river side town with rich cultural heritage and delicious food.

Maybe you will be dazed by the hundreds of snack stands. Yet no matter how many seafood or meat kababs you eat, you want to save some rooms for two of the most famouse Xiao-Chi, or little snacks that Dansui has offered to the thousands of visitors, Dansui Yu-Wan (fishball) and A-Ge(Tofu Wrap).

Dansui Yu-Wan (Dansui Fishball)
You probably have try some fishball in restaurants in Chinatown. However, the Dansui Fishball is no ordinary fishball. The outside of the fishball is fish paste from local fish, which is the same for most of the fishballs. Yet the inside of the fish ball, juicy mixture of seafood delight and pork, is what distinguish Dansui Fishball from the other. The wow taste comes when you take a big bite at the core of the fish ball.

A-Ge (Tofu Wrap)
Don't be fooled by its bold outside. When you opens up the brown tofu wrap, you will find some surprise inside the wrap which is why people call it A-Ge instead of just brown tofu. A-Ge comes with special homemade hot and sour sauce which you must eat with the tofu.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Taipei - Beitou Hotspring Town (3) - Hell Valley

If there's a place called Hell, would you go there?

Hell Valley may not be as scary as hell but its non-stopping hot steams and bubbles off the pond still creats a somewhat misty and creepy atmosphere.

How to get there
Hell Valley is located at the end of Chung-Shan Road, about 15 minutes walk from Xinbeitou MRT station. The entrance to Hell Valley is surrounded by hot spring spas. If you are on Chung-Shan Road and cannot find where the entrance is, go to one of the spas and ask them for the entrance to Di-Le-Gu (Hell Valley).

Once you pass the entrance, you should smell very strong sulphurous gas known as Green Sulfur. The trail to Hell Valley is a very easy 5 to 10 minutes walk. On the right hand side of the trail is the steaming creek coming from Hell Valley. The water temperature of the creek is not as boiling as Hell Valley so during the winter time local residents go near the creek for a warm foot bath.

How it is formed
Once you reach a steaming pond, you are at Hell Valley. There are few different versions of how Hell Valley is formed; some say it is a collapsed volcano crater; others say it's formed by underground hot spring coming off surface cracks. Nevertheless, its misty looks makes it a perfect photo spot.

The highly erosive water could be as high as 98 degree celcius so it is recommended not to stick your finger or toe into the water. A walk around the pond should take less than half hour. However if you are not comfortable with the smell, you may just want to take a few picture and stay closer to the entrance.

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