Around Taipei in 3 days & YouTube debut ?!

Was this blog supposed to be only about Japan? I’m not really sure. I know that I started it with the intention of showing other people places that are nice, maybe add a few anecdotes, write an informative guide for those who begin their adventure with Japan as well as simply give a glimpse of what a daily life of a regular person like me looks like. Naturally, since I happen to currently reside in Tokyo, most of my updates are about Japan. But! My range of interests is much broader and I think that everyone through their lifetimes should explore as much as they can while they still can. Where is this introduction going? I’m a bit worried that some readers might be disappointed that there has been so little content about Japan these days.

All I can say is: open your mind! Asia is one heck of a land with thousands of different cultures. All so different and fascinating. I would love to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and many others, there’s literally too many to list. In the last 2 months I have visited Taiwan and South Korea again. While videos I took in Korea are being edited into something somewhat cohesive, here I present you a short clip of my Taiwan adventures.

It is my very first video, forgive me my camera shyness (I’m a much better writer than speaker) and a husky voice (as I found out later, I went to Taiwan with raging tonsillitis).

Enjoy 🙂

Some extras for those interested in Taiwan and the spots I visited!

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Minquan West Road

The area around the hotel I was staying in — you can’t see it here, but the very first thing I saw when I stepped outside the hotel was a bajillion of MOPEDS. They were literally everywhere.

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Street art

My first impression of Taiwan? Street art! Everywhere I went I could find not only mopeds but also interesting graffiti, installations, projects etc. I loved it!

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Downtown Taipei — Zhongshan!

Main streets immediately brought Shinjuku to my mind, but I didn’t want to be a typical tourist and wanted to explore those cute narrow streets, often hiding the best spots in town!

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Awesome street art on and around the Zhongshan Station building!

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One of the things that surprised me was the rule forbidding eating or drinking anything on the train. Of course I didn’t plan on bringing a Happy Meal and pigging out on it on the metro, but even chewing a gum is forbidden there and the fine is no joke. No chewing gum or bubble tea even on the train platform!

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Taipei 101

Until 2004, it was the tallest tower in the world. The view was really nice, but I guess it would be much more beautiful if it wasn’t obstructed by clouds of smog. Either way, it’s definitely worth visiting!

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 Ximen

 I really loved it there. It was a town full of life and cute places. It looked a bit like Shibuya, but it had this unique atmopshere I felt only in Taipei. And let’s not forget that the toilet restaurant I wrote about → HERE← is actually located in Ximen.

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Shilin Market

I wish there was a place like this in Tokyo… Delicious food, clothes, shoes, souvenirs, sweets, everything you need basically — and all that at prices so cheap it would be a sin to leave the market with empty hands. I left it with a full belly, full shopping bag and believe it or not — my wallet wasn’t empty either! Must go!

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I traveled by myself so I had this freedom of going wherever I wanted. I tried to explore the market a bit more and you should do it too, if you ever find yourself in Taipei. All the hidden shabby streets I found were simply beautiful, I swear Taipei has the best atmosphere.

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Did I mention I was actually a bit sick during my stay in Taipei? This poster made me feel a bit guilty for not wearing a mask…

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Traditional Taiwanese hairwash!

I had this RuRuPu series guidebook with me –It’s a popular guidebook in Japan, basically they recommend places where you can communicate in Japanese, describe them in detail and mark on the map. I had no idea that something like ‘traditional Taiwanese hairwash’ even existed until I saw pictures of it in the guidebook. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY TRY IT! For 800 NT I got a hair scan (?) — I could see my hair and scalp skin magnified and could see all that damage years of dying my hair did to it. Then I got this glorious hair wash which was the best thing that ever happened to my hair and the skin of my head. It took about 20 minutes and then I got my hair professionally styled. HAIRGASM!

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Plastic surgery ads!

Not only in South Korea. They were everywhere in Taipei too, though I noticed that face and body improvements people in the photos got, were rather minimal compared to the posters I saw on the streets of Seoul.

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Ten Ren’s Tea

The tea here is to die for! I have never seen so many awesome flavours in my life. Let me just add that they were delicious, freshly prepared and cost about 40NT? Sooo good! And this also where I got all the souvenirs for my friends and family I mentioned in my video.

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Beautiful street art in the beautiful Taipei. 

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 Thank you for reading! ♥

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The real-world Spirited Away — Jiufen, Taiwan ♥

Let’s step back in time.

It’s 2009. I’m 19 years old, I’m a 3rd grade high school student. I share an apartment with three university students, I have my own tiny room with a huge balcony. Sometimes at night I just sit on the windowsill and think. I think about my future, my final exams, my studies. I know I will study about Japan, that seems natural to me. How amazing would it be if I could go there one day! That’d be so awesome! I wish I could see all the colourful people in Harajuku, eat sushi everyday, see Mt. Fuji! Will I ever get a chance to go there…? I want to experience the culture, the history. I watched Zatoichi recently, a humorous take on samurai culture in the Edo era. I’m lucky to live close to a DVD store — they have real gems there, I even found Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away! I’ve never watched any Ghibli movies, but I’ve heard that Spirited Away got an Academy Award for the Best Animated Movie. Sounds interesting! But which one should I watch first….

Spirited Away stole my heart. A story of a friendship in a magical world of mysterious gods and creatures. Breath-takingly beautiful animation by Hayao Miyazaki accompanied by Joe Hisaishi’s ephemeral piano. Perfection. It was the very first movie by Ghibli Studio I watched.

5 years later I was there. I was in the magical world Chihiro got lost in.

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Jiufen 九份

 Jiufen is located about 30 minutes drive from Taipei. The bus ride itself was an adventure. Everything was so different from Japan… Rows of buildings in different shapes, with mismatched outbuildings. They all seemed so fragile, they were not perfect or shiny like buildings in Japan, but that’s exactly what added that unique charm to them.

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I may have mentioned before that I was actually a proper tourist and joined a tour this time. Our gaido-san gave us these professional maps that were supposed to help us find our way around Jiufen. I didn’t use it to be honest, but it has some interesting spots marked on it, so feel free to use it if you ever find yourself traveling to Taiwan without any guide book, and the good ole Google brings you to my blog.

 ⇓

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Jiufen welcomes you with thousands of round red paper lanterns, flowers, and buildings that seem to whisper stories of the past.

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Steep stairs, lots of people and unforgettable views.

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  This is how I was greeted when I finally got to the top. Can you imagine a more peaceful view?

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 Climbing 198 steep stairs might not be something you do everyday, but trust me, what you’ll see on the top of the hill will be the best reward you could possibly wish for. If it was necessary, I’d climb twice as many steps. Just look at that elaborate temple. The rich details! The colours! I remember just standing there thinking “It can’t be real”.

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Take a close look at the dragon. Doesn’t it remind you of someone? If you’ve seen Spirited Away (and I highly recommend you do, if you haven’t yet) you’ll remember the heroic Haku. The resemblance can’t be a coincidence!

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Masks, masks, masks! There was a museum full of creepy-cool masks and I saw a few interesting characters there! A strawberry face, an ashtray face, a face with dice stuck all over it. Masks with long tongues, staring down with their bulging eyes. I trust Miyazaki’s genius and I do think he came up with all the ideas by himself, but take a look at the photos… Do you think he might have been inspired by the masks, while creating Spirited Away gods and spirits? 

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Countless narrow streets with food, cute souvenirs, all kinds of accessories and handmade things. It’s a highly popular tourist place so naturally you’ll find some rather tacky stuff like mugs and plastic figurines, you can’t avoid that. But after a  short while you’ll understand why this place was such a big inspiration for Miyazaki.

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As twilight falls, ubiquitous red paper lantern light up, the moon peeks through roofs of shabby stalls and it really feels like mysterious gods and unknown creatures are just around the corner…

….or maybe right behind you?

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Such places like Jiufen have to have some bits of traditional Taiwanese culture too. You’ll see plenty of Taiwanese ink wash calligraphy artists here and for as little as 300 NT you can get your own unique piece of traditional art! My time in Jiufen was very limited and to my regret I left Taiwan without this beautiful customized souvenir. 

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Can you recognize this place? Do you remember the scene where Chihiro’s parents pig out on all that food stall goodness… And they pig out so hard, they actually turn into huge omnivorous porkers? Yes, this is the place. One of my friends commented on one of the pics I shared and I think she hit the nail on the head, so let me just quote her: “If I only got a chance to get to those food stalls, I’d be soon hopping around in a pig’s form too”. Well, my thoughts exactly.

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When the night comes, countless paper lanterns will light up your way and trust me, it will be one of the most fantastic views you’ll ever see.

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Do you have a feeling that you know this place? Yes, this is the most famous spot of Jiufen, mainly due to Miyazaki’s masterpiece. Amei Teahouse is the bath house where Chihiro had to deal with the gluttonous No-Face and had all sorts of magical adventures. I had a great opportunity to have a real Taiwanese feast No-Face would definitely indulge himself (←?) with. Braised eggplant in garlic sauce, stewed Chinese cabbage, seaweed soup, chicken melting in your mouth, sweet potatoes, Taiwanese tea…

Read more about Amei Teahouse →here ←

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 Taiwan is a fantastic place to visit. I loved every second of it and can’t wait to write more and show you more. I fell in love with Taipei at first sight and I’m sure that Taiwan has so much more to offer, but this time I didn’t get a chance to explore that much. Someday I’ll be back, my heart is promising me that. I’ll be back for the amazing views, the delicious food, the atmosphere, the people…

 … and the absolutely brilliant, otherworldly Jiufen.

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Thank you for reading ♥

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