*Edit: This post is very long and picture-heavy, and, as such, it has bumped off the front of my blog the previous post that I wrote today. So, if you're reading this directly from my blog and not Google Reader or something like that, you may want to go back and check the archives for the earlier post. There are pictures in that one, too. And now back to your regularly scheduled reading.
October 10th (also called Double Ten day) is National Day in Taiwan, and since it fell on a Monday this year, we got to have a long weekend! So Saturday after tutoring, I caught the bus to Taipei and met Jenny at the Stake Center where we watched General Conference (like I said before, Church broadcasts are a week later here). This time there was no worry in my heart about getting there by myself, and since I didn't have to be at the temple/stake center IMMEDIATELY upon arrival in Taipei, I took my own sweet time meandering down the street. Also, There were police officers lining the entire length of the street, and every once in a while some military cars would drive by. Jenny and I were guessing that President Ma (I think that is who the President of Taiwan is right now?) was around, hence the added security of the area. I got a lot of really strange looks from almost every single police officer that I passed, though (more than is normal around here).
Saturday after Conference, Jenny and I caught a train to Dansui. Unfortunately, I left my camera in the locker at the MRT station, So I don't have any pictures to document our fun times. We each bought an incredibly tall ice cream cone (seriously, a foot high of just ice cream) and just wandered the street(s) of the night market by the shore. There were ferrys in the river, and it was so much fun! I loved Dansui. I would totally go back to Dansui. I purchased for myself some traditional looking shoes and shirts (two shirts; I was only going to buy one at first, but... let's just say that the sales lady was very persuasive. Also, she gave me a discount, and we all know I have a hard time passing up discounts), as well as a little something for my sister for Christmas (you're welcome, Sister. I'm not telling you what it is!). We also stopped by a massage parlor and got ourselves a shoulder massage for just $100 NTD. AMAZING. After a couple of fun-filled hours there, we headed back to Taipei to find our hostel.
The hostel. Well, you get what you pay for, and we didn't pay much. The AC worked, and the owner was friendly, plus you couldn't really ask for a better location. That's about all the good things that I have to say about it.
Sunday morning General Conference started at 9 am, so we got up fairly early and headed back to the Stake Center. This is when Kylie and Sara met up with us.
It was a bit rainy after Conference let out on Sunday. While we were trying to figure out where we were going next, I snapped this picture of the temple.
And the flowers.
Kylie and Sara joined up with Jenny and I on Sunday (and most of Monday), and neither one of them had been to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial yet, so we stopped by. Last time I went, the guards were already gone for the day. This time, though, there were guards, and they looked like statues. If you looked closely enough, you could see them slightly swaying, or maybe even catch them take a breath. I watched this guy for 15 minutes, though, and he didn't blink once. His friend directly across from him did blink (once), but that's only because someone came to wipe his face and his nose for him. Jenny and I were coming up with things that we thought the guards might think about as they're standing stalk still for an hour. It was amusing.
Then there was the changing of the guard, which we stayed to watch, however, I had to watch it through other people's cameras because I am short and not aggressive enough to stay near the front.
Monday we started bright and early. Jenny and I woke up at 5 AM and were at the Taipei Main Station to meet Kylie and Sara by 6. Our first stop was Jiufen, specifically Jilongshan Mountain, which is pretty steep, though only 588m high. We climbed all the way to the peak and back down in about an hour. After climbing the mountain, we walked down Jishan Street which has some really cool shops, though it was super crowded (as you will see further down).
Beautiful Jenny taking in the scenery
Instead of paying someone with relatively little education a bucket-load of money to stand at the edge of a construction site, the Taiwanese have these batter-powered manikins.
That's a cemetery upon the hill.
Jiufen from a distance
The stairs. Oh, the stairs. I lost count after about 400, and we weren't even close to half-way up the mountain yet at that point. I have no idea how many stairs there actually are, but it felt like thousands. My calf muscles still feel quite cramped and sore.
A butterfly that alighted on some wildflowers as I was taking one of many breathers.
And this is what I looked like when I finally reached the top of the mountain. A short few minutes later and I had a very curly halo surrounding my face. I had nearly forgotten how curly my hair actually is.
Sara, feeling blown away in more than one sense of the word
The roads that the buses take to and from Keelung are like this: windy, crazy, and nerve-wracking.
On our way back down the mountain, the cloud started to really roll in. We were walking in a foggy cloud the whole way down, and water was forming on our faces, only to drip down seconds later.
Kylie and Sara
I thought this was a fun looking garden. There are stairs like this all over the village. These ones we did not climb, and while I do wonder what it is they led to, I did not wonder enough to want to climb them.
Some cats we found
Also, look at this hat. Look closely at this hat. Notice that it has the Air Force One emblem on it and that it says "Washington D.C." on the rim. "Cool hat! You get it in America?" "No, actually, I bought it in Taiwan."
The sea of Asians. And Sara. I don't know that I have ever been anywhere THIS crowded before in my life.
We went back to Keelung and split up there. Kylie and Sara returned to Taipei, and Jenny and I caught a bus to Yehliu to check out the awesome geological rock formations.
Taiwan will Touch Your Heart. You see this saying everywhere, and it's true.
The Queen's Head is the most famous rock formation in the park. There was a huge line to take pictures in front of it, but neither one of us cared so much for standing in that line. Plus, the park was beginning to close and dark was closing in.
We stopped in this pavilion of shops just outside the park as we were heading out, and they had all these nasty fish and squids and things to eat.
Also, hermit crabs. They had those, too.
This was a fantastic way to spend the weekend. Really, pictures do not do any of the sights justice. Jenny and I had so much fun together, despite the fact that the hostel I booked for us was less than stellar. Happy Birthday, Taiwan!