Saturday, September 29, 2012

19 September 2012 - Taipei Day 3

Took the Taiwan Rail this day. Managed to confirm the train number to take with the help of a few sources, Google Maps and fellow passengers.

Destination was Ruifang Train Station. Note that one's not able to use the EasyCard on the leisurely Pingxi line. That will be covered another day.

Directional signage on the floor. He was to go left.

After exiting the station, there was a sign which says to cross opposite and wait for the bus. The bus stops are not sheltered, but you can identify them by the "flagpole" signs. He had just missed a bus 1062, so he decided to get some breakfast.

Saw some people queuing at the end of the left-side pavement out of the train station. Took a look and wanted to try the pork burger, but they ran out of that. Switched the meat to chicken instead. Either would cost NT35. He was a little disappointed when he felt the burger in hand, it was a little too light. The first bite changed things, bread was light and fluffy, unlike the chewy doughy ones from fast food restaurants. Hungrily finished it up at the bus stop. Also saw an Egg Wrap (NT15) available at the shop, a little like "prata" back home. Didn't order extra to keep the stomach light for the upcoming trek.

Finally arrived at Jinguashi after a winding ride up on bus 1062. It was unfortunate that he had left his umbrella hanging on a hook in the bus. Realised that only when the rain started. He didn't have to fret though, as he had packed a raincoat in the bag pack. Lucky. Saw shops selling foldable umbrellas for NT100 along this stretch, but didn't get any. It would prove a dumb move, as he eventually got one from 7-11 for NT120. One thing he realised was that prices were not exorbitant at the places of attraction he had gone to. Along this street, there was also an old man selling charcoal grilled sausages for NT30 each. He bought one but accidentally dropped his food, but the old man offered to replace it without hesitation. Pleasantly surprised but felt bad about it at the same time.

Walking further down, saw some interesting water tanks(?). He would see more art over at Zhongshan Metro Mall in a few days.

Took a picture of the residential area on the slopes. Overheard a tour guide saying that people living in there expired mining town were the golden-ages. Youth have all gone to the city to find better jobs, so the place would be very quiet without tourism. Walking around in Qitang Old Street later, he would also find that many eateries were not open on weekends, and empty houses in which one could possibly make the perfect home.

 Walked past a Japanese director's ex-residence, but galleries as such would only be opened after 9.30AM.

 A look-back at the railway path before forging on.

 A miner's cart ahead. Tried to move it but the wheels seemed locked. Didn't do anything else to it.

Walked past the Benshan 5th tunnel (NT50 entrance) and Gold Museum, and went on his climb.

Looking back on civilization at some point along the climb.

Looking to the left and spotted what they called the teapot mountain. Can you see it right at the top? It apparently looks like a crouching lion from another angle, but he didn't manage to see it during the trip.

More climbing on the stone stairs to the Shinto Shrine.

Another look-back from a greater height. It feels like the mountains are cradling the town like their baby.

Got past the first gate and took another look back.

Target spotted....


At the entrance, with the second gate in sight.

Looking back at the first gate in the distance.

Finally at the shrine. There was a grass-cutter hard at work to the left of this picture. Greats views but tiring climb, to be envious of him or not? Right at the end of the shrine, there was no barricade at the edge. The wind flapped his raincoat and he felt like he could fly off the edge anytime. He would see some people on proper gliders later in the day, but he wasn't ready to glide with his raincoat.

View from the other barricaded edge. The undulating terrain and winding roads are just mesmerizing.

 Then it was to be a steep climb back down. Gulp.

Visited the Gold Museum next. Read about how the history of Jinguashi, from the angmohs who never found the gold, to the Japanese and Taiwanese management of the gold mines. Saw illustrations and POW photographs which told a bit of the story of life in the mines.

Some works, fighting ants of gold.

220KG gold block. Everyone had a go in pushing/lifting it.

Next, went along Qitang Old Street to Cyuanji Temple. Passed by a school and took a picture of her compounds. On hindsight, the building on the hill was in the vicinity of the destination.

View of the town in the valley at the start of the trail. He would get bitten by many mosquitos from here on.

Many cafes and shops were closed on this weekday. He supposed they only open on weekends. Here's a cosy-looking little one for you.

The connection between the up and down slopes.

More climbing to do. Luckily the stairs had design variations, that made the climb more interesting.

Reached the Cyuanji Temple. Took shelter for a bit, and missed out on taking pictures because of the rain. Afraid of damaging the camera and the mobile. That made him miss a very important picture, one of the imposing Lord Guan.

Got some directions to Shuinandong and Yinyang Sea from the temple care-taker and walk down a winding road, taking care not to be rammed into by cars or huge buses.

Reached a pavilion with a open air carpark and could hardly see the horizon. Wind was blowing inland the guess was that a storm was coming in from the sea. Took a picture of the Yinyang Sea. The discoloration was due to mineral deposits from the mines. Took shelter here for a bit as the rain got heavier.

Another picture of the Yinyang Sea. See the snaking road on the lower left side of the picture? He thinks he was supposed to walk down that road. He did try going down the road from the pavilion, but it was too slippery to descend the smooth path. Decided to return and wait for the internal bus near the Cyuanji Temple.

Looking back at the pavilion he was at earlier.

View of the school compound from higher ground, on the opposite end of where he was earlier.


More views of the town, with beautiful silhouette of mountainous terrain in the background.


Reaching back to food and bus waiting areas.

Had NT30 piping hot fishball soup. There were five, but he had eaten one before remembering to take a photograph. The fish balls had texture more meat than dough, a little unlike what they have in South-east Asia. Enjoyed this one.

The kindly proprietress also allowed him to recharge his mobile phone. This was the display on her shop front.

Recharged to about 60% and the internal bus arrived. It was a mini-bus, and operated at intervals of 1 hour. NT15 for the ride, and it came with a tour guide. It was a tour-on-bus kind of affair, the driver would not let you stop and take pictures. If you so choose to, you'd have to alight, wait for the next bus and pay again. Last bus leaves Jinguashi at 5.30PM.

He got lucky though, the young driver allowed them few seconds/minutes to alight and take photographs before hopping on. First stop, the Gold Waterfall, packed with acidic minerals.


Next stop, the whole bus alighted and the tour guide told the story of the town. Saw some interesting characters along the way. Waiting for a cab, perhaps?

Tried for a close-up picture of the Yinyang Sea. You can clearly see the discoloration in the sea and some parts of the breakwater.

The town's foundation was on stacked rocks. Each molded into a elongated squarish face and stacked. According to the guide, these old foundations survived earthquakes, while the new technology of concrete cracked and collapsed. Pros of such stacked foundations were low risk of flooding, but plant growth and animals like snakes would inhabit the crevices.

Many houses in the past were covered over with cloth, just like this one below. Easy to build and cooler in the summer. However, the occupants had to smear tar on the cloth to impart water-proofing properties to prepare for monsoon seasons. Neighbors would help one another so as to speed up the process. However, as the town got richer, some people rebuilt their homes with better materials, removing the need for such chores.
Changren Tunnel flue pipes, to take poisonous fumes away to the other side of the mountain where there were no residents. Apparently also loaded with poisonous minerals, unsafe to enter. Like the view of the ridges in the background.

Shuinandong Smelter to the left, one of the most important facility during the golden ages. And of course, the ridges are also very impressive.

Intertwining network of the road and drainage system. Ridges in the background again, and you can see the waterfall near the foot of the hills/mountains.

Enough of Jinguashi for the day, decided to go to Jiufen before it got too late. Took a bus from opposite the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park. Saw this sight and snapped it when he reached Jiufen. Doesn't it look like what you would see in a Chinese painting?

Walked past this stall and heard sizzling. Yummy grilled conch for sale, and he got 3 of them for NT100. Large squid for NT100 too, but he decided to save space for other food.

The proprietress snipped up the snails into manageable portions and added some savory sauce. Enjoyed eating this.

Found the dessert shop that his friends raved about and had a cold serving (NT40). Soup was lightly sweetened, had some green and red beans, and multicolored balls (taro, sweet potato and green tea?). Quite refreshing, but a little too much for the regular person. He finished everything anyway. Need to find where the picture went.

Tummy's stopped growling, so he went picture hunting again. Houses, roads, mountains and sea. Felt very at peace.

Trail of the minsu. Prices seem to start from NT1000 per night.

The shopping area where he came from, at the top right of the picture.

 Walking down slope to a plethora of tea houses...

No. It did not end yet. He would retrace his steps back to the food aisle, and buy some braised meat.Was feeling brave and wanted to get some chicken hearts and duck tongues. When it was finally his turn, duck tongue had been sold out, so he swapped it for pork kidney instead. Heart and kidney (NT30 each serving), sounds scary? But they were served hot, and tasted good. He thought that the sauce was a mix of soy sauce and spices (could only make out star anise).

It was still raining when he decided to head back to the hotel. Took a bus from opposite Jiufen (up slope) and alighted at Ruifang Station. It was already late, so he decided to leave Raohe Night Market (Songshan Station) for another day.

Got back to the hotel vicinity and grabbed some more food stuff from the makeshift food stalls. Small pig's blood cake (NT15), Cong you bing with egg (NT35, crispy fried scallion pancake), and Taiwan fruit beer (NT40) and tea egg (NT8) from 7-11. The pig's blood cake is blood mixed with glutinous rice and then covered with a layer of sweet grounded peanut. He had a not-so-easy time finish that.

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