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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dragon Boat Festival, Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Shilin Night Market.

The next morning we had planned to go to the Dragon Boat Festival.  This is the reason people had a day off.  Below is the reason for Dragon Boat Festival:  (Stolen from Wikipedia)

The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (Chinese屈原) (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.[5] A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance. Qu Yuan was accused of treason.[5] During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.[5] This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.

Zhongzi is like some kind of sticky rice wrapped in a big huge bamboo leaf.  It can be flavoured in different ways.  Work gave me some kind of sweet version of Zhongzi for the Dragon Boat Festival, but they were not traditional, more like a sweet.  You see Zhongzi everywhere for Dragon Boat Festival here.

There were 2 options of where we could go and watch the Dragon Boat races.  Xindian, or Da Jia park.  At first I was going to go to Xindian because it sounded like a bigger even that they had planned down there, but in the end by the time we woke up with our hangovers it was better to head out to Da Jia Park because it was closer, and if we did not go to the closest one we would of missed the whole thing.

I asked at the tourist office how to get to Da Jia park because we had to get there quickly due to sleeping in with sore heads.  They told us that there was a shuttle bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing.  This sounded ideal because it is on the same MRT line as my home, so we would just go straight there, get on the bus and hey presto turn up.

When we got to Zhongxiao Fuxing I could not see anywhere for a shuttle bus.  Normally there is some kind of sign, or even people waiting for a bus to give you a sign.  I was thinking shit, we are gonna miss the races which would be a bit shitty.  Then we had to get back into the station as quick as we could and head out towards Yuanshan MRT.

Jen had text me by this point to tell me which bus to take from Yuanshan.  She told me which ones to take exactly but when we got there they were not so regular, they only come once every hour, and going back to the point of lieing in bed like drunks waiting to be mothered out of a bad coma, we decided a taxi would be the best option.

When we got there we managed to see the last 2 races which I guess was enough.  It seemed quite interesting but it is not like other festivals I have been to here where you feel more into it, or involved.  You just watch, and then you kinda sneer at the American teams wooooooing.  Then think you have seen enough.

Dragon Boat Races
We were wondering a long the waterfront where all the people were sat watching the races, then some group of young people started shouting hello to us.  Obviously being such polite British guys that we are, we said hello back.  Then they decided they wanted to share there watermelons with us.  Which was grand because we were sweating so badly, I am sure I can talk for Steve as much as for me.  That we needed there watermelons, because I could sense how refreshing it was before I even ate it.  When they asked, the answer was yes, without any hesitation.  They give us such a huge chunk of watermelon each, and it was the most refreshing thing your imagination can think of at that time, I really am not joking.

They were all having a great time, really happy, enthusiastic and excited about everything.  I found out the reason why they were so loud and boisterous because they told us that they won their race. It was really nice of them to give us watermelons and chat to us, but alas we couldn't stand around eating with overly excited teenagers all day.  We had a lot of activities planned to get through.

Dragon Boat contestants, watermelon givers, and excited teenagers.

When we started to walk away, I ended up bumping into Felix from football.  Some might say like in the inbetweeners....(oooh friend, football friend, you have a football friend!!!) ha.  Anyway it was weird to see him there because he sent me a message on facebook telling me he was going there which I read when I got back home later that evening.

We then took the shuttle bus from Da Jia park direct to Zhongxiao Fuxing proving to me that there really was a shuttle bus.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat there then headed to Taipei 101.  It is not the cheapest to eat around there but we were both well hungry.

When we came out of City Hall MRT station, the big 24 hour eslite book shop is around the corner from the station.  I wanted to show Steve this book shop which might sound weird, but its so special.  The fact that is open 24 hours a day is not the only thing that makes it special.  Its the fact that people are just sat all around the shop all day reading whatever book they want.  The shop even have seats and tables out so that people can read as long as they like.  It also has the best toilet in the whole of Taipei, I am not lying to anyone about that.  It has a heated toilet seat, which is not needed it this climate if you ask me, and loads of magic buttons that do wonderful things in the toilet.  I love it.  I highly recommend going to the toilet there if you need it.

Then we walked past Taipei 101 and Steve was totally impressed by the sheer size of it right away, but thats not where were headed just yet.  We took the walk up to Elephant Mountain.  This was so I could show Steve the landscape of the City, and how big 101 is from a Mountain.  I also wanted to show him the bowel effect of Taipei City, and where all the bloody humidity comes from by being trapped inside by mountains.

The view that impressed Steve
It was an absolutely scorching hot day, as usual for this time of year in Taipei I was however hoping that by the time we got to the top it might be a lot cooler.  How wrong I was, it was still bloody boiling and the light was all wrong for taking photos anyway, so we didn't stay up at the top for very long.  As well as bad lighting and it being stupidly hot we wanted to go to the top of 101.

View from Elephant mountain
I did bump into a guy who told me he liked Manchester City on the top of the mountain, which made me think "fucking hell" now it is Manchester City being bummed around the world cos they have mega wonga.

Then we took the walk back down the mountain.  Both of us were totally showered in sweat.  It looked like we had swam up the mountain never mind crawled in my case, Steve is OK with walking up mountains.  We then headed to Taipei 101 to go to the top, with both us being dripping wet in our own perspiration it made people give us some very weird looks.  I didn't mind because I am used to wondering through Taipei 101 looking that way.  Taipei 101, is one of the most lavish shopping malls in Taipei, and it has probably every designer label in there you could imagine.

With the looks of the locals thinking, sweaty, dirty and hairy foreigners we continued to plough on through to the viewing area.  The lift takes you up 89 floors in 29 seconds and you can really hear your ears pop, like you would in a plane or if you were under water.  

I was blown away by how it looked.  As I have never been in the evening it was new for me too.  Steve was also blown away.  It looked truly wonderful.  All the lights of the city shining brightly below you, and the traffic and cars buzzing around giving of a flowing glow.  The colour of the sky as well, added a touch of class to how it looked.  Was great to see it like that, and I think it was a lot more impressive than during the daytime.  I guess it depends on your own personal preference.

The view from the top of Taipei 101
From here we headed out to Shilin night market.  At this point the chaffing really started to kick in.  I could feel it stinging away, telling me.  Mark, more walking is a bad idea.  I just battled against it because I was damn hungry, but boy did it sting.  So I thought I would just man it out.  

Steve managed to try a lot of food in the market that is pretty local here, like stinky tofu, shaved ice, peanut brittle kind of ice cream wrap.  Different kinds of buns, bubble milk tea, various other foods and drinks.  He liked everything he ate in the market.  I don't think I heard him mention one thing he disliked.

Shilin Night Market

When we were all full we, headed of back home because my chaffing was seriously starting to go mental.  The idea of manning it out was failing badly.  

When we got home, we went to the cinema to see the new X - Men movie.  The prequel one.  I don't know if it has been released in the UK yet though, but it is bloody good.  Much better than the latest offerings from the X - men franchise.