Breakfast was served at 8:30am at the Minsu and we were stunned when we stepped out of our room at 8:30am sharp. All but one table were filled! Everyone was already tucking in and there was this mummy from a big family (Singaporeans :-() who practically swept away all the sandwiches. We were shocked by the speed and ferocity that everyone was attacking their breakfast 😮 I guess that they must all be rushing off, just like us, aiming to catch the 9:15am 臺灣好行 黃金福隆線 (Tour Taiwan Shuttle Bus Service – Golden Fulong Route) to 金瓜石 (Jinguashi). Luckily, the Minsu owners were also very quick in replenishing the food, so we still managed to have a hearty breakfast which consisted of very yummy home-made sandwiches, slightly burnt but still delicious thick corn soup, steamed buns and refreshing iced red tea/hot coffee.
Upon the advice of the Minsu owner, we dashed to the nearby bus stop at the 九份派出所 (Jiufen Police Station), which again, was not a bus stop listed in the 臺灣好行 brochure and website. Slightly worried when we didn’t see any 臺灣好行 signage at the bus stop (and it would be another hour before the next bus arrived during weekdays), hubby went to the convenience store next to the bus stop to confirm that we were at the correct bus stop and also to exchange for coins… We were reassured that it was the correct bus stop, and this Tourist Shuttle Bus actually merged with a local bus, that’s why we would not see any signage.
The good thing about Jiufen is that the roads are so windy, you can spot the bus coming from a distance, so plenty of time to wave your hands frantically at the bus in case it zooms pass 😛 The 臺灣好行 bus has a different design from the regular bus, so you will be able to spot it easily. I think we were too rushed to think properly so we forgot to ask if we could actually use the EasyCard and just plonked in NT15 each.
According to the travel route, we needed to get off at 水湳洞 (Shuinandong) stop and then make our way back up to 黄金瀑布 (Golden Waterfall), When we pressed the alight bell though, the driver gruffly asked where exactly we wanted to go to, and very kindly stopped at the Golden Waterfall, where the bus was not supposed to stop… And he told us that we would need to catch the bus at Shuinandong later, and it was way easier to walk down slope to Shuinandong than the other way round. Thank you uncle for saving us 30min of walking!!! I’m not sure if every bus driver would be so kind to make such a stop, though it was an almost empty bus that morning… Note that 金水浪漫号 (Gold Water Romantic Shuttle Bus) #891 does stop at the Golden Waterfall, but the bus comes only once every hour.
Golden Waterfall didn’t look very golden… but it was still pretty 🙂 Well, the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall looked more golden 😛 Being there early, there weren’t many people, so we could take our time to enjoy the view. From the viewing platform nearby, we could also see the 水湳洞陰陽海 (Yin Yang Sea). We could hardly make out the slight yellowish-brown part in the blue blue sea, but probably because it was really cloudy that morning.
Next was to go visit the 十三層遺址 (Remains of The Thirteen Levels) and the huge and long waste gas pipes… Walking up the long windy road, we also got a better view of the 黑金剛大山 (Chimp Mountain)! The view of 陰陽海 (Yin Yang Sea) was also better up there (but still couldn’t see the colours very clearly). We were also quite surprised to see a cafe up here 😮 If anyone has ever been to 坑口的天空 (Kengkou’s Sky, this is actually a Minsu too), do let us know if it is any good!
As we were about to make our way down the hill at around 10:15am, 金水浪漫号 Bus #895 came! Woohoo! It was a loop service and cost NT15 (can use EasyCard). Luckily it looped the right way for us, so we did pass by 水湳洞 (Shuinandong) in the end and got a full view of 十三層遺址 (Remains of The Thirteen Levels) and a closer look at the 陰陽海 (Yin Yang Sea) 🙂 It looped all the way back to 黄金博物園區 (Gold Ecological Park – free entry), where we spent the next 2 hours or so roaming inside.
First, we had a free guided tour at the 四連棟 (Four Joint Japanese Style Residences). You need to join the ~15 min tour in order to view the interior; and the tour starts with an 8 min video clip of the place. The tour is available every 10 min.
Next was the 金瓜石太子賓館 (Crown Prince Chalet), which you may want to skip if you are not into architecture and is in a rush… because you can only walk around in the garden and look at the chalet interior from a distance. Well, the Crown Prince didn’t get to see it either 😛
There was the 2013 全國金屬工藝大賽成果暨邀請展 (National Metals Craft Competition Exhibition – available from 28-Jun-2013 till 20-Oct-2013) at the 黄金博物館 (Gold Museum) that was very worth visiting. Some of the pieces were really creative and beautiful! It is amazing what people can do with metal 😮 And of course, we couldn’t understand why some other pieces did better than the rest 😛
本山五坑 (Benshan Fifth Tunnel) was worth the NT50! We got to walk in the actual tunnel and I liked it how the explanation would start when the sensor detected us approaching.
The explanation was more like a Chinese-mixed-with-Taiwanese conversation between two imaginary miners, which really livened things up as compared to the usual commentaries. I also thought that it was quite thoughtful of the staff to provide a disposable hat (for hygiene purpose) for us to wear prior to putting on the safety helmet. The tickets also entitled us to a NT5 discount for 坑口豆花 (Soya bean pudding – usual price NT30) located just outside the tunnel entrance. It tasted freshly made, but we have had better ones elsewhere.
Of course, the trip would be incomplete without visiting the 黃金館 (Museum of Gold) to touch that 220 kg pure gold ingot 😀 There was also this machine which we stepped on for it to measure and translate our weight in terms of gold ingot… so the first thought that came into my mind when I saw the size of the ingot was, “Wow I’m worth so much gold!” Immediately came the next thought, “PENGZ… I’m so heavy!!!!” Girls can be difficult to please sometimes :p
Coming out of the Gold Ecological Park, we were approached by a taxi driver who offered to take us to Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station for NT400, and he said that the ride would be 45 min, much faster than the bus, and it was less than double the bus fare (think he said bus fare was NT125). We weren’t too sure if this was a bargain, but we needed to get to 佳德糕餅 (Chia Te Bakery Co) at 105 台北市南京東路5段88號 and the taxi driver agreed to take us there for the same price, so off we went.
I felt giddy in the taxi 😦 Think he was going too fast down the windy roads… and the giddiness got worse at the sight of the super long snaking queue at Chia Te!!! OMG! We really had no idea that this place was that popular. At that very instant, I chose lunch over queuing… haha!
We decided to dine at 蘭陽鵝肉大王 (Lan Yang Goose Meat King), because that was where the snake queue had its u-turn 😛 Didn’t try any goose meat, instead, we order:
- 魯肉飯 (Minced meat rice – NT25): The minced meat had a good mixture of lean meat and fats, and the rice was 粒粒分明, very delicious when eaten with the minced meat and gravy.
- 肉糟干米粉 (Dry vermicelli / beehoon with minced meat – NT40): I adored this! The beehoon is those super thin 新竹米粉 style, very addictive when mixed with the minced meat and gravy… so good!
- 地瓜菜 (Potato leaves – NT50): One of our all-time favourites, we enjoyed this simple dish as well!
After lunch, I felt less dizzy and more ready to queue for the next o n e. p o i n t. f i v e. h o u r s… Hubby tried to self-entertain by taking photos and videos of the queue. Now, it was good that there were two of us. One queued while the other attempt to figure out what was still available for sale (we had specific orders to fulfill). Unfortunately, as it was just 2 days from Mid Autumn Festival, Chia Te has stopped producing 太陽餅 (Sun Biscuits) and Egg Tarts until after Mid Autumn Festival… 😦 There were also conflicting notices pasted outside of the shop, so we couldn’t really tell what flavours of pineapple tarts still had stock.
During the queuing, we witnessed customers carrying cartons and cartons of products from the shop and filling their car boot to the brim 😮 There was also a brief adventure when the traffic police came to give tickets to the scooters that were illegally parked outside the shop… A shout alerted the customers and suddenly, flocks of people came rushing to their scooters and scampering away! There was this poor lady who queued almost to the door already! She had to hurriedly ask the lady behind her to kinda “chope” the place for her. 10 min later, more scooters returned 😛 And the lady managed to rejoin the queue in time 🙂 We also overheard this conversation between a potential customer and the staff. The customer saw the queue and approached the staff to check what time the shop opens in the morning. The staff said “7.30am, but the queue is also like this at 7.30am! Everyday like this!” Gosh!
Chia Te was also very thoughtful… their staff came out to distribute drinking water to everyone in the queue and telling us “辛苦了” (kinda means that they empathized with us that we were having a tough time), and also coming out again to collect the empty cups from everyone.
Finally, finally, we managed to get into the shop! Took about 10 min to select the various pineapple tarts… we never knew pineapple tarts had different flavours! We have only seen 2 types in Singapore before, the one with the pineapple fillings exposed (sitting on top of the pastry), and the one hidden within the pastry, but basically the fillings were just pineapple. Here, other than the original (NT27 per piece), we also saw cranberry, cherry, prune, walnut and egg yolk flavours (NT30+ per piece). Impressive! Though both of us are not fans of pineapple tarts, I decided to buy one for us to share as well. Can’t queue for 1.5 hours and still not know how it taste like, right?? And wow, it was nice (by our standards)! Slightly crispy on the outside, the pineapple and egg yolk fillings complemented each other very well. Not super sweet as well. Makes a lovely snack, even better if you have some tea to go along with it 🙂
Lugging our purchases, we took a bus back to 忠孝復興 (Zhongxiao Fuxing) to pick up our luggage from the first hotel, before taking the train to 捷運中山站 Zhongshan MRT Station to our next hotel, 台北大倉久和大飯店 (The Okura Prestige Taipei).
After a short rest in our very wonderful room, enjoying Nespresso and very high quality tea, we took a 10 min stroll to 寧夏夜市 (Ningxia Night Market). It may be a small night market, but more crowded than the previous two night markets that we visited. We tried the following:
- 老牌豬血湯 (Old Signage Pig’s Blood Soup?): 豬血湯 (Pig’s Blood Soup – NT40)!!!! When I spotted this stall, I immediately dragged hubby towards it. Finally I found it. Missed the Pig’s Blood during the previous 2 overseas trip, I must have it this time! Well, I prefer this to Duck’s Blood, enjoyed the smoother texture, and minus the “fishy” taste. The stall was very generous with the number of pieces of Pig’s Blood, so I have finally satisfied my craving 🙂 I love this night market already… 😛
- We also had the 炒米粉 (Fried Beehoon – NT30). The beehoon was topped with spring onions and bean sprouts, it was quite normal, though we were slightly disappointed that it wasn’t the very thin type that we had in the afternoon.
- 蚵仔煎大王 (Oyster Omelette King): Tried the 蚵仔煎 (Oyster Omelette – NT60) and 麻油腰子湯 (Pig’s Kidney Soup with Sesame Oil – NT100). They were quite generous with the oysters, and the oysters were of decent sizes. The sauce was surprisingly not bad as compared to the rather terrible one that we tried at Shilin Night Market few years ago… so terrible that we actually remembered it after all these years! But it was a tad too starchy; we prefer our omelette to be more crispy.
- We enjoyed the Pig’s Kidney Soup very much! The organ was cleaned properly and was very fresh. The soup was also not overly oily and we almost finished drinking everything!
- 吉布 宜蘭三星蔥肉卷 (Jibu Meat Roll with Yilan’s Spring Onion – NT10): Yilan was supposed to be very well-known for its spring onions. We were simply unable to chew the spring onions… they were too tough! Enough said; skip to next!
- 賴 雞蛋蚵仔煎 (Lai’s Oyster Omelette – NT60): Erm… yes, we had two oyster omelettes this evening 😛 Hubby was looking at it so longingly, we decided to just eat another one so that we wouldn’t regret it… The oyster omelette here was much crispier, but the oysters were so tiny… We couldn’t decide which omelette was better 😛
From Ningxia Night Market, we continued on to 下港吔羊肉爐 (Xia Gang Ye Mutton Hotpot). We loved the place when we visited it years ago. I am not a fan of mutton, because I do not like the very strong and distinct taste… but I could hardly taste that here!
- Our favourite was the 羊肉串 (Mutton Skewer – NT170). We had to wait about 20min for it, but it was worth every minute of it. Crispy with a very slight charred taste on the outside and drizzled with their special sauce, with the tender meat within, the flavour was intense! We also like that it wasn’t very oily.
- 骨髓漡 (Bone Marrow Soup – NT100) was good! There were lots of ginger slices in it, so we could feel the soup warm every part of our body 😛
- 清炒苦瓜 (Stir-fry Bitter Gourd – NT80) was not really bitter, and was refreshingly crunchy!
Super satisfied with our dinner/supper 😀
- We found out from the hotel staff that Taiwanese like to distribute pineapple tarts for Mid-Autumn Festival, so the few well-known brands are always super crowded during this festive period. You may want to consider ordering online (but may need 30 days advance booking for festive periods, and advanced booking may be stopped if there are too many orders). Also note that some items are not available during the festive period.
- I think the pineapple tarts are best eaten fresh though; because I tried another one after I returned to Singapore, and it wasn’t as nice… and the other flavours have a shorter shelf life than the original flavours. So don’t overbuy, or make sure that you distribute to your family and friends ASAP!
- 金水浪漫号 Gold Water Romantic Shuttle Bus : http://www.kl-bus.com.tw/Content/routeContact.aspx?t=1&id=19
- 黄金博物園區 Gold Ecological Park : http://www.gep.ntpc.gov.tw/
- 坑口的天空: http://kengkou.okgo.tw/
- 佳德糕餅 Chia Te Bakery: http://www.chiate88.com.tw/
- 台北大倉久和大飯店 The Okura Prestige Taipei: http://www.okurataipei.com.tw/
- 下港吔羊肉爐 (Xia Gang Ye Mutton Hotpot): http://www.mutton.com.tw