Shopping for Bargains in Taipei?

I don’t shop for Gucci, Prada; only “stuff” - an unusual T-shirt, or supposed antique –  and discovered there are no bargains in Taipei although I did my best. It is illegal to sell counterfeit aka knock-off goods in Taiwan just as it is in China, but Taiwan enforces this law and I never saw one “Gucci” purse.

I scoured Wu Fen Pu Wholesale Garment Market after reading reviews touting this place is where to find the most fashionable and cheapest clothes in Taipei. Located near Songshan Train Station and Raohe Night Market, Wu Fen Pu is the largest outdoor clothing market in Taipei. Several streets are filled with open front stores which hang samples from the ceiling; the actual clothing in different sizes is on the floor in clear plastic bags. You can’t try on anything, and sizes are limited. Have you ever noticed how petite (another name for bone-thin) Asian women are? And one seller went ballistic when I dared step into her space for a closer look at a hanging item. Retailers come to purchase clothes displayed for their own stores and unless you have nothing but time, forget about Wu Fen Pu. Read more »

TravelsWithSheila Guide to Atacama Desert, Chile

Now available on Amazon is my latest Fast & Easy Travel Guide to Atacama Desert. Have you ever considering visiting the Atacama Desert in Chile?

Mention Atacama Desert and travelers usually respond, “Huh?” Well, Atacama in Northern Chile spans 41,000 square miles across four South American countries (really) and is the driest place in the world! Can you imagine a destination that receives only four inches of rain every 1,000 years? Arid, yes, but the Atacama also has an ultra-dramatic landscape, red canyons, turquoise thermal lakes, lunar valleys, flamingos, llama and the third largest geyser field in the world.

 

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How to Use the Metro System in Taipei

Metro or Subway or MRT lines in Taipei is very easy to use, whether or not you speak Chinese. There are six, color-coded main lines: Danshui (red), Xindian (green), Muzha (brown), Zhonghe (gold), Bannan (royal blue, and Xiaonanmen (light green). Just like metro lines around the world, all riders have to do is proceed in the direction of the last stop and/or change at transfer junctions. Watch the Beijing video below to see how easy it is since I did not video the Taipei system. However, they are exactly the same. Maps in English and Chinese are posted in every station, in cars and on platforms.

 

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A Fast Tour of Jiufen Heritage Sights, Taiwan

There was a lot more to see in charming Jiufen than just food; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Tourists roamed up and down stairs leading to small alleys and lanes, trying not to knock each other off steps in the process, in and out of shops and then guide Gordon led us to the ShengPing Theater.

ShengPing Theater was originally called the “ShengPing Stage” and built by Emperor Shiaowa in 1934 during the Japanese occupation. Reconstructed in 1961, this cultural landmark is located on Qingbian Road and architectural elements are Baroque-style, popular during the Japanese Occupation. Six seat style seating can be seen on the main floor while wooden chairs set grandstand style can be seen on the upper level.

 

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Tour Charming Jiufen Village in Taiwan

Jiufen is located in hilly northeast Taiwan and like Jinguashi, was once the center of gold mining. This poor village had only nine families in 1890 before the gold rush began which swelled its population to 4,000 families. Jiufen soon became known as Asia’s gold city and called, “Little Shanghai” or “Little Hong Kong.” Eventually gold mining activities declined, and Jiufen faded away until tourists discovered its little streets.

Adorable, packed to the max Old Street runs through town center and is filled with stalls selling chiefly food including Jiufen’s most famous country snack, a yam dish. I couldn’t believe how one narrow little street could be so mobbed with people shopping and buying food from stalls on both sides of the street. Large tour buses and cars let off passengers at one of the two narrow entrances to Old Street and zoom off to park “somewhere.”

 

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Kinkasecki POW Camp in Jinguashi, Taiwan

Marine Steve and I feel that it is imperative to pay respects at POW camps, War Memorials, and Genocide Memorials; to honor Victims whoever they may be. We sadly knew nothing about POW camps in Taiwan until this visit to Jinguashi and are compelled to relay the facts so those who suffered will never be forgotten.

Jinguashi Village on the Northeast coast of Taiwan had the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire and in November 14, 1942, 523 Allied POWs were brought from Singapore after the island surrendered to the Japanese. More than 1,100 British Commonwealth and Allied prisoners ended up slaving in this notorious Japanese camp until March 1945, subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

 

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Dazzling and Unique Pieces of Gold – Gold Museum, Jinguashi

The Museum of Gold (once known as the Gold Refining Building) was a guesthouse when Taiwan was a Japanese colony in 1895, and used by the Taiwan Metal Refining Company for a short time after which refining work was transferred to Shuinandong. The first floor displays are: discovering gold, model of Benshan Tunnels, old mining equipment, mining transport systems and a brief introduction to the WWII Japanese Allied prisoners’ camp which we would visit from here.

The second floor was entirely gold-themed and featured gold jewelry, gold craftwork and a whopping, record breaking 220.3 kilos/485 pounds of pure 999 gold brick that visitors can touch! I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear it is in the Guinness Book of Records…

 

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Tour The Old Japanese Gold Town of Jinguashi, Taiwan

Three villages are set high along a mountain ridge a short ride from Taipei; Shuinandong, Jinguashi and Juifen. Visits to the last two were included on today’s long schedule. (Ahem, numbers four and five.)  Jinguashi has a Gold Ecological Park or Gold Museum with cultural, natural and geological attractions. On the drive up to Jinguashi, we stopped first at “Gold Waterfall” and then another scenic spot to see the different water colors created by chemicals that wash down from the gold tunnels into the sea, and mix into the normal blue color

Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. When someone struck gold along the Keelung River, mining began around the villages of Jiufen and Jinguashi. The Japanese then issued regulations in 1896 stipulating that only Japanese citizens could engage in mining, took away mining rights of local Taiwanese and created the Taiwan Metals Mining Company. The Gold Rush was on until mining activities declined. According to guide Gordon, there is no longer enough mineral to make mining viable.

 

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Tour Yehliu Geoparks Astonishing Rock Formations – Taiwan

It is said that the name “Yehliu” comes from a combination of Yeh (savage) and liu (steal) in Taiwanese along with a long story: people relied on rice suppliers but during transport, some locals would poke a hole in rice sacks so rice dribbled out and could then be picked up by them. Ergo, rice traders often mentioned “the rice was stolen by the savages” – Yehliu. Got it?

TIP: Visitors to Taiwan never have to worry about hunting down an immaculate, free toilet; available at all tourist spots, gas stations and 7-11’s!

Yehliu Geopark is famous for its sea-erosion landscape, and we couldn’t believe how many tour buses were parked in the lot disgorging wall to wall people. The area is divided into three parts and each rock formation has a name. The first area contains my favorites, “three little princesses, and a “fairy shoe” resembling a flip-flop

 

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Astonishing Wanli Rock Formations and Gueihou Fishing Harbor – Taiwan

Today was filled with one excursion after another (at least five) and it was no wonder Marine Steve and I dropped into bed exhausted at night. On the road with guide Gordon by 9:00a, it was a 50 minute ride along the coast with stops at Gueilhou Fishing Harbor and then the astonishing Wanli rock formations.

Did you know that squid are attracted to light? Taiwan’s fishing industry is a $3 billion US industry and about 45% of the catch is exported with skipjack, squid, big-eye tuna, yellow-fin tuna, and tilapia being the major exports. Judging by all the squid fishing boats along the coast, squid is a big seller in Taiwan. Boat after boat strung with high-wattage surface lights are strung across decks; quite a sight. Or, quite a sight for squids. “No, no, Squidward, don’t look at the pretty lights!” I read that fishing lights on squid fleets can even be tracked from space!

 

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