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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The story of my mams Pineapple cakes and a day out on the Maokong Gondola.

So I had bought my mam and my nana some pineapple cakes for their birthdays and mothers day gifts.  What I didn't realise is that the post offices here are shut on public holidays, I just assumed they would be open because most things don't really close here often.  So I waited until today to post them.  I trundled along to the post office right here in Xiemen, and walked up the girl behind the desk.  Handed over my package, told they were to go to ying guo.  She asked me what is inside them, and I told her with all my honesty...."pineapple cakes."


What a mistake that turned out to be!  She got out her little book of forbidden items, searched for ying guo (means England by the way) and told me....."no can send!"  This threw my plan into some disarray as I was now with a box of pineapple cakes and a bag of Chinese books.....I was originally off to study Chinese with my friend.  So I came up with a cunning plan, I would go to another post office and tell them it is gifts!  This would work for sure, as a gift can be anything.


The next problem that came up was where exactly was the next post office?  I didn't have a clue, I had been to one a few times with Jen but I couldn't remember where it was for the life of me.  So I gave her a bell to ask her where the other post offices were and she told me "there is one next to Carrefour remember?"  Obviously I couldn't find it even after I remembered which one it was, so I was madly walking down the street thinking bollocks man I should of met Anders ages ago!!!


I didn't really have any clue so I asked a few people if they knew where the nearest post offices are.  Well I clearly decided to ask the right person, not only did he wap out his iphone and look for all the post offices near by, but when he found them he told me to get on the back of his scooter and he was going to take me to the post office.  So off we went, and the scooter is bombing along the road.  It was really nice to take me, and every time someone gives me a lift on their scooter I really love it.  The feeling of bombing around the city on a scooter is much better than being in a car.


Scooter Man, helped me out a lot that day.


So back to the part were we are flying along the road hunting down the post office.  Then when I get their random guy who took me there asked where I had to be next, when I told him he said he would take me back to the specific place I needed.  Then he insisted after I told him I could connect to the blue line from where I was, he basically told me that would take too long.  So he said he would just wait outside of the post office.  If I had any problems inside he also said I had to give him a shout and he would come inside to help me sort it out, if my basic Chinese skills wouldn't do the job.  


When I got inside the post office it seemed that something was going down, it wasn't a robbery or anything like back home but the machine that printed out the receipts was broken.  So this poor guy was standing outside while the woman behind the counter just kept telling me to wait.  On top of this, Anders was waiting for me at Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT to, and I was at a post office in Xiaonanman waiting for 2 old ladies to fix the receipt machine.  By the time the receipt machine was fixed I was already around 1 and a half hours late to meet Anders, also the guy had been stood outside for nearly 30 minutes.  He didn't seem to mind though, when I looked at him out the window in the post office to check to see if he was getting pissed off or annoyed with waiting, he was just milling about smoking.  Was a stroke of luck he offered to take me because if he did not I would of been much later to meet Anders and it means our day would of been delayed more than it already was.


Its amazing how you can be going along on the MRT and it is just City clustered together everywhere and then all of a sudden it is green and you are in the countryside.  There is no gradual build up like back home where they have small towns and then you can tell your getting to the countryside.  It is just City, City, City, then countryside.  I like it though, and its good being able to take the MRT to some where where there is nice scenery and really fresh smelling air.


I arrived at Zhongxiao Fuxing and at first I couldn't see Anders but he was stood down by the front of the MRT, we then took the MRT to Taipei Zoo station so that we could take the Maokong Gondola to the top.  At first we were going to que for the gondola with glass all the way around even where you stand but they told us that the waiting time was 30 minutes so we decided just take the normal gondola.  The views from inside the Gondola are totally stunning, and I love it going up there.  It feels so refreshing and you can really smell the fresh compared to the difference in the city.  Going over the top of all that scenery and how high up you feel, its just totally free feeling and relaxing I think. 


View from inside the Maokong Gondola.


Anders and his new travel partner.
Half way up I asked Anders if he fancied getting off at the Temple Station because the other time I went to the Maokong area I only went to the top.  He agreed that we should have a look at the temple.  So we get off, and start milling around taking pictures of the little pond thing, with the Chinese building in the middle.  We discussed which way we thought the temple must be.  We both knew it would not be far from the gondola station because Taiwanese people like things like this to be really convenient. 


As it turns out we didn't manage to find the temple we were looking for, and I told Anders it really must be the one over the gorge type thing.  So we walked around as it really was not so far.  The walk around was really nice but it was hard work in the heat, and the humidity even going further up mountains, there is still a load of heat, and it feels like your clothes are getting completely stuck to you.  We decided to piss about taking photos around there anyway, as there was still nice things to see even if we didn't manage to find the temple.


Near the temple stop of the gondola.


Anders looking for the temple.




There is still no sign of any temple, not in these bushes!
We can't find no temple, lets just play in the park.
Half way around the mountain we had some sort of semi drama.  The reason for this was an angry stray dog.  (In Taiwan there are quite a few stray dogs but there all quite tame that I have seen and normally just let you walk past, plus Taiwanese people are really quite used to them.)  So this little hard case was really angry, and he seemed like he was trying to tell us, "this is my patch of land boys, don't mess with me!"


Their are dogs down that road...........so you go first!
No dogs will mess with me, i'm harder than Bjorn Borg
Me and Anders were deciding whether or not we should attempt to walk past him or not, Anders kept telling me "i'm not letting my day be dictated by stray dogs" to which I would reply "ok you check if he is going to attack us, you can go first," then all of a sudden some random guy came down the hill and just walked past the dog.  It seemed he was all fart and no shit!  So we started to walk towards it, like it was not there and as we got closer it started getting angry again, like a mean bad ass bastard.  I told Anders I was wondering if he just likes the taste of weiguo rou!!! (foreign meat).  Once we got near the dog we asked the guy if he would bite us.  The guy told us no, but i'm not so certain about that to be honest, because I think if we got close enough he would of bit us.  


I agree with Anders too when he said that Taiwanese people must think we are a bunch of pussies for not wanting to walk past the stray dogs, but where were from we don't really have to deal with the stray dogs so it is something completely new to deal with for me.  Still the Taiwanese must think it is really funny if they see foreigners standing discussing whether to walk past a barking dog or not!


So after our little drama we were back on our merry way of looking for the temple.  When we got so far we realised that the temple must of been behind us, and we may as well head for the next temple that was ahead of us instead of turning back.  It was a really beautiful walk, the scenery up in the mountains is totally amazing, its such a contrast especially when you have only traveled about 1 hour out of Taipei City and then your into such beautiful countryside like this.  














I don't see no temples over the end.....nice scenery though!
When we arrived at the temple, Anders was more excited at getting his photo taken with the stupid looking cat statue!  I couldn't believe it in a way, we had walked so far up this road and mountain and he wants his photo taken with a cat statue and not the temple its self.  The temple looked really impressive from outside, but once you got inside it was like they had not completed it yet, or ran out of money or something because inside seemed really bare.  There was only the bottom floor open to visitors and it only had a couple of Buddhas inside, although there was a handful of people inside praying.


Praying inside the temple.


I took a few shots from outside and it looked really impressive.  The outside was amazing compared to inside totally.  I loved it just a shame there was nothing inside to make it stand out from other more impressive temples here in Taiwan.


Outside the Temple
After that we kept walking along the road to see what we could find, then we realised if we kept walking along this road it would take us all the way to where we were headed and we wouldn't need to walk back to take the gondola again up the mountain.  We just kept walking and walking and all of a sudden there was more people and you could see we were near the top.


Bridge, look just go this way to the top hurrah!
Local rice farmer
Looks Like a caterpillar 
Sign, with christmas lights wrapped around electric wires!


Once we got to the top we had a quick look round, then we decided to walk up further to see how far we could get, well let me tell you now.  We didn't get much further at all because I seen some women playing badminton and I really wanted a go.  I don't know why I find badminton so much fun, maybe its because its easy when there is no rules and it just seems fun trying to keep the shuttlecock up (no snidey comments about shuttlecock)  and asked if I could have a go.  They said yes, because most people here are polite and then I tried to play, I think i'm quite good at badminton but the wind was really blowing into my direction so no amount of force was taking that shuttlecock back to the other side.  Was fun all the same.


Random people at the top of the gondola, I bet they didn't walk there!!!
Playing badminton 
After that we decided to go inside and get some drinks, it seemed like we both felt completely exhausted and we ordered some food.  None of us really had any idea what we ordered which makes me realise more than anything that I still need to try much harder to learn Chinese because it is ok in Taipei to not speak any Chinese, because you can find a lot of people here who can speak English, but outside of Taipei its a no no.  You need some kind of Chinese totally.


The view from the tea place was awesome, really nice looking over Taipei, could see Taipei 101 and the big temple that me and Anders some how managed to not find even though it looked like it would be easier to walk into it than miss it!! We didn't get tea though, we got some beers and cracked them open looking at the cracking view.


It started to get bloody cold though, i'm sure if I ever go back to Newcastle now like I am certainly going to freeze.  Some of the temperatures now that I feel the cold is crazy compared to when I felt cold back home, I know I am going to feel it a lot when I go home for a visit.  So we went inside, and ate our food inside instead of outside.


It seemed the people in the tea restaurant really wanted to speak to the foreign people a lot especially the grandmother.  She seemed to want to practice her English, and we had a long conversation in broken English and broken Chinese which seemed to work for both all of us concerned.  It seemed like they never wanted to let us leave though, and kept asking us new questions and new questions all the time which was nice, and a different atmosphere to Taipei City.  Taipei City is good but everyone has to keep their face, and keep looking cool so a lot of the times it feels like people are scared of making mistakes when you try to speak to them, where as in more remote areas people really enjoy speaking to you which is fun, and means I can try and practice my Chinese more.


So we paid for our food and drinks, which I thought was a little overpriced, however we were in a bit of place were they can charge a little more because they know you have no where else to go.  It was 400 and something between the 2 of us, for 3 beers and 2 dishes of food. 


Then we took the gondola back down to Taipei zoo station, and headed on our merry way home.


When I was sat home pissing about on the internet, I got a message from my friend saying that he wants to come here and visit me, and see some place new he has never been to.  So eventually he liked what he saw and booked up to come here, which was a good ending to an eventful day.  I have just popped in my holiday request at work, so I should get it hopefully because I have told them with enough notice.


Tomorrow I will try and get my tax forms from the old job which I am sure will be a nightmare, if you want to know why read the blog about my old job.  (There could be a new blog about trying to get my tax forms.)


Look were going the right way man, the sign says so!