Back in Taipei

For my last 2 nights before returning to Europe, I decided to contact a family through couchsurfing. Luckily they could accommodate me for the 2 days requested.

What can I say? It was just another wonderful couchsurfing experience which resulted in making new friends!
Carry, her husband, her son (15) and her daughter (13) picked me up at the train station. We first went to her parent’s house, where her brother with family also lives. I had the privilege to enjoy a traditional Taiwanese family dinner with them. 谢谢 THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
It was a pleasure to talk to the kids, who are both (like the entire family!) very open minded, eager to learn English and find out about other cultures.
I did not take any pictures, and if I had, I probably would not publish them here, because I’d consider them to be too private.

Next day, Sunday, I planned to visit 3 sites, all accessible with the same Metro line (subway):
1. Valley of hot sulfur springs
2. Fisherman’s Wharf
3. Take a bus to some nearby mountain resort

Peaceful Banqiao Station early Sunday morning

I got up early and before 8 o’clock I was at the metro station. By the time I got to Hotspring Valley (9 o’clock) the public access places were already terribly crowded.
I took a walk to the “pond” where the hot water was surfacing. Of course one could not access the water itself, it was steaming hot and the sulfur smell was strong.
There were several private Spas around which offered to bathe in the health promising hot sulfur water. Considering the outside temperatures which now, a bit past 10 o’clock seemed to be approaching 30°C, I did not feel the need for a hot sulfur bath.

Next I took the metro to the final stop (Tamsui) and walked towards the harbor. It was now a bit before noon. The main street was already quite crowded, but at the harbour promenade there were not too many people and the merchants were just about to set up their sales stands.
I took a boat (took about 15 minutes) to the end of the wharf. Nice boat ride! As was to be expected, the wharf was full of souvenier shops and restaurants.
I found a nice little café, called “Café Owl” at the end of the pier. The owner explained, that the owl is considered the protector of the Taiwanese indigenous cultures. He was real nice and even though he spoke English, he let me pracice my Chinese by placing my order in Mandarin.

Owls, owls, owls …
… but also some tasty sea tang soup …
… and a cute little doggie named “Momo”

Here some more pictures of Tamsui and the “Fisherman’s Wharf”

Early morning shopping crowd on “Tamsui Old Street”
Leaving Tamsui Harbour
“Lover’s Bridge” …
… and fisher boats in the adjacent harbour
Bye Bye Lover’s Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf

When I got back (nearly 14:00), the harbour promenade had filled with seemingly millions of people. My way back to the Metro Station I cannot call “walking”, it was merely showeling against the stream through the crowds – and every incoming Metro brought more of them.

I got off the metro a couple of stations later, where there were supposed to be busses leaving for some mountain resort.
The nice young lady at the tourist info informed me, that at 15:15 the bus number “S 15” was leaving for the mountains. Knowing that the ride would be close to one hour, I specifically asked her, if there could be any problems getting back in the evening. She seemed to consider this a somewhat silly question and shook her head.
I put myself in line with the other people waiting, not anticipating that all of us would be squeezed into a tiny bus.
Now I know, that the “S” stands for “small” or “xiao” (小) which means the same. For two hours I had to stand up in this bus, winding up the serpentine road, stuck in traffic with thousands of cars heading the same way, blocked by silly parked vehicles on the side of the road.
By the time we got up there it was nearly dark. I took a couple of fotos and went to the bus stop to go back to town,

That is where the real nightmare began. All the thousands of people, who had made it up here by public transportation (or walking) had the same idea. I have never in my life (and probably never will) seen such lines waiting at a bus stop. After about an hour and a half I finally got on a bus, sitting directly underneath the air conditioning. But I am not complaining, at least I had a seat.
The way down took as long as the way up, because all the people who went up with their cars where now on their way down, which resulted in a huge traffic jam.
By about 21:00 I had finally made it to Banqiao Station, to be greeted by a brightly illuminated and overly crowded Christmas market.

What a relaxing evening then in Carry’s house!
Just planting my butt on their sofa, seeing the kids prepare for the coming school day, answering some questions about their English home work …
… to then prepare my own stuff for leaving this beautiful island.

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