Thursday, July 31, 2014

Touring Beitou Hot Springs and Taipei 101--7/29-Day 3

I am really loving this metro because it is so easy to get around and on some routes you are suddenly in the mountains or beautiful river valleys. This morning I headed to the Xinbeitou metro station to visit the Beitou Hot Springs area.

Today I took a walk through the Beitou Park where the hot springs river runs that feeds the various hotels that offer hot springs spas. My first stop was at the Beitou Hot Springs Museum that use to be a hot springs. Here are some pictures of the museum including the tiled baths.





Next stop was the Plum Garden that was adjacent to the public hot springs. Unfortunately I did not bring my bathing suit so I decided to return the following day to partake in the "waters".

I continued up the wooden walkway that ran along the steaming river and found a spot where others were enjoying the free hot springs waters and I decided to join in to at least soak my feet. I think the water here was between 90 and 100 degrees with a slight sulfer smell.


After that refreshing soak, I continued up to where the steaming lake in the Geothermal Valley Scenic Park was lined with fencing to keep people from dipping into this water because it was well over 120 degrees. You can even see the steam rising behind me.

After that it was a relaxing journey back on the metro to the Taipei 101 station stop where I would take the fastest elevator in the world to the third highest building in the world to the 89th floor observation room. From there the views were spectacular.
Five floors of escalator views of the inside of Taipei 101.

The gold building to the very lower left is the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Building. He was the leader of China who lead to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and also rebuffed the Japanese. A medical doctor by profession, he traveled the world raising funds for their revolt.

This is a view to the east and you can see the shadow of the Taipei 101 building below. This shows how mountainous the area all around Taipei is where you find clusters of buildings amid the greenery.

This is a view south and you can barely see the water far off on the horizon.


Here is a view of the top of the building from the 91st floor observation deck. Just inside they have this big golden globe connected to huge hydralic shock absorbers called a damper. They have a video that shows when they had a big typhoon---150 kms/hr of wind--how this damper system absorbed the wind pressures against the building.

Here is a night light scene just behind my hotel. Lots of advertising lights fill the streets.


Touring Tamsui District Taipei, Taiwan--7/27-28--Day 2

The flight was good and the crew great. I had the exit seat so I could stretch out my legs and had a fish dinner. We got in at 9:30 PM about 1/2 hour late. The immigration line was so long that it took about an hour to clear. I think all the jumbo jets landed at the same time.

After that I got to the ATM machine to get some money, but it said I did not have enough since I had forgotten to transfer funds. Good thing they had free wifi at this airport so I quickly transferred another $500 from our regular check account to my travel ATM account and then got my 5000 Taiwan dollars about the same exchange as in the Thailand bahts.

After that, I followed the signs to the city bus and got there just as it was leaving. Lucky me. By 11:30 PM I got to the Taipei Main Train Station and the Holo Family Hostel was just across the street according to the map. However, I ended up circling the block until a fellow pointed me in the right direction to a 30 story building. The hostel occupies about three floors of this building and the guard escorted me there.

Everything worked out well, as he took me to the 8 bed men's dorm on the 18th floor. I practically crashed as I put on my PJs, blindfold and locked up the rest of my stuff by midnight.

During my stay, I only one other person or I am the only one staying in this dorm room. For ease of travel, and laziness on my part, I stayed here for the week. I then used the subway system for all my touring of Taipei.

On the first morning I had their free Taiwanese breakfast of rice porridge, fried tofu, kim chee, hard boiled eggs, and greens. They forgot to mention the hard boiled egg quarters were not shelled so I had a crunchy first bite. Most of the of the travelers are Chinese or Asians.

Here is the view from the Holo Family Hostel on the 22nd floor looking toward the bus and train stations.

Here are some street scenes that are in the surrounding area.

On the first day, I headed out to Tamsui district by metro which opens up to the ocean as I walked out to the Fisherman's Wharf.

This is among the best subway systems I have used. The signs are in both Chinese and English and I bought an all day ticket for just 150 Taiwan Dollar--TWD. This particular metro route was most interesting because it was mostly elevated except at the beginning in the more congested areas of Taipei. Inside each of the carriages they have a running billboard that shows the station you are heading to in both Chinese and English along with a map. They are installing barricades at all of the stops to lessen the chance that people will fall in front of the trains. The skytrain system in Bangkok is doing the same thing to reduce accidents and suicides by train.

Along the way I passed through the local market where they were selling lots of seafood.



I had expected to see many shops and restaurants at the Fisherman's Wharf, but was disappointed to find that there were few and most were closed, except of cours for Starbucks. This is the first one I visited and I had an iced Americano Venti with milk and sugar. The temperature here is about 95 degrees with high humidity----so much my shirt gets soaked when just walking about for an hour or so.

On the way back I visited the Fort San Domingo that was first established about 400 years ago as a key spot to guard this river into Taipei. It was once even used by the British Consulate and they have restored that type of furnishing for tourists to view. Clustered around this fort are a number of Colleges and private schools.



Lots of great bicycle ways along the river bank throughout Taipei with these viewpoints.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kozy in Ko Samet---7/16-26

I have enjoyed my stay here in Ko Samet, just lazing around and reading a number of adventure novels. It has been mostly cloudy with periodic downpours. At least it is warm and the sun eventually comes out.

Everytime I take my morning swim, I walk past this beautiful vertical rock garden. Even the three monks that pass by collecting offerings from the hotel guests and owners stop to look at the garden since it is so tranquil. If I am still in the water when they pass by, I wave at them and other times when I am in my cottage, I too give them an offering---no rice, just some Baht.

In the beach just further west of us, they have a dock so the passengers that bring visitors here can stay dry as they make their way to the shore and beachfront hotels and guesthouses.

Even the larger ferry boats can use this beach.
This beach is just to the east of our beach and can only be crossed when the tide is not high.
Toward the main village, there are lots of sports activities---kite sailing, jet skiing, banana boating. It is also where most of the tourists stay with its many upscale hotels and restaurants----these restaurants even have concrete floors rather than sand.
Even with the concrete floors, most tourists prefer the sand under the cover of trees or umbrellas. Most of the tourists here seem to be Thais who are escaping Bangkok for short vacations. Many seem to be brought here by tour groups.
I am at the nearby Jeps Bungalows having some coconut curry chicken and rice for lunch, and you can see that it is much less crowded the further you get away from the main area. I am about a 15 minute walk from where all of the tourists congregate.
Here is how the speedboats drop off and pick up the tourists for an exciting water entry on to Ko Samet.
This is another beach area to the west with cabins tucked into the woods with a great sandy beach with good snorkeling around the rocks.
This is the Silver Sands Restaurant and Resort just a five minute walk from my cottage. It has concrete floors in most of its restaurant.
This was the sunniest day at my Pudsa Bungalows beach with a speedboat coming in during low tide as well as lots of fishing boats on the horizon.
This snake came wriggling out of the water which drew a lot of attention before it disappeared in the foliage around my cabin. Nobody could say that it was poisonous though.
The main beach area is behind this Thai mermaid that divides the larger resorts in the distance from the smaller ones that I am staying at.
I was able to get an early ferry boat back to Ban Fe for just 50 Baht. It was smaller and the weather was pretty rough with water spraying over the bow a few times. A couple of the Thais on board got seasick and puked down wind of us---good thing.
Once there I got a mini bus to Pattaya where I stayed for a few days in the Swadsee Pattaya Hotel for just $11.15 per night compared to the $25 per night for a fan/cottage at the Pudsa Bungalows It was a good break from the beachside cottage with clean sheets, hot showers, A/C, swimming pool, TV---again fair and balanced with choices of Fox and Al Jazeera---and WiFi.
For those that do not know, Pattaya is the sex tourist capital of Thailand if not the world. It came to the forefront during the Vietnam War as a place for the GI's to come for some R & R and has grown from there.
I headed to the Walking Street, a place where there are door-to-door go-go bars and beer bars where the women wear numbers and little else. You can sit with them and buy their drinks or take them back to your hotel or out for the evening after you pay a bar fine----supposedly to cover for the loss of revenue by not having patrons buy them drinks. Costs for bar fines range from 300 Baht to 1000 Baht. In addition, the women then charge from 1000 to 3000 for them to be with you for a short time---a few hours, or long time----overnight. The adage---"no money, no honey" is the operative word here. It seems their attitude toward sex and nudity here is quite open if not financially driven. Most of the girls you meet are from Issan---a big farming province in the NE of Thailand, and are not handled by pimps, but either connect them selves to beer bars, go-go bars, or are freelancers. They generally come because one of their friends tells them about the "big" money they can make for "easy" work. Some foreigners or "farangs" as Thais refer to them really fall for these women and there are lots of sad novels about how that turns out. "Private Dancer" is one such book. I also occasionally saw the farangs with their Thai girl friends--wives---with their children. At least these guys are supporting their love children.

One thing I had not mentioned was that when I started my trip, the Thai military had executed a coup that removed the Prime Minister and replaced it with a military junta. Initially there was a 10 PM curfew and no more than 5 people could gather or they would be hauled away. Now in Pattaya, these military guys are the only evidence of the coup and the normal hours of bar closings at between 2 and 4 AM are now the norm. Tourism has suffered initially, but has now returned to the normal summer norm. This is about the 20th coup in as many years. You just have to wonder how things will work out. However, just like in the US, money talks.
Last stop will be Taiwan for about a week just following a horrific typhoon. Hope people there are OK.