Sunshine and Apfelwein

Our first day of travel brought us to an overnight layover in Frankfurt where we were greeted by dazzling sunshine. They say sunshine helps with jet lag, so we met up with an old friend of Gareth’s and set off for a walk along the Main, a wide river bisecting the city.

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Taking a closer look at the river after playing in the playground and sandbox

There are wide pedestrian paths and greenbelts along both sides of the river. Apparently this was the first sunny day after a long, dreary winter, and just like in the Pacific Northwest, the sunshine brought everyone outside. There were picnickers, bikers, runners, and ice cream trucks in every direction.

After checking out the playground, we took a break on a shady bench to enjoy the local specialty, apfelwein.

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Apfelwein, a kind of cider, is made from apples, then mixed with juice from the fruit of the speierling tree

I also learned that it is traditionally served in these textured glasses to improve grip, a holdover from a time before people regularly ate with utensils.

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Hugo had a lemonade

Lest you think we were all bright eyed and happily frolicking along the river after eleven hours on an airplane, here is Gareth carrying a sleeping Hugo back to the hotel:

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He weighs about 40 pounds now, so this is much harder than it used to be

Tomorrow is another travel day before reach our final destination.

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A Year Goes By

Exactly one year ago today, we returned to the US from our PacRim journey.

What has happened in the last year? Too much to chronicle here right now. But it’s time to revive this little piece of the web because tonight I sit here surrounded by packed suitcases, ready for the next chapter of our family travels.

Stay tuned for more to come!

24 Hours in Tainan

Tainan (台南) is a medium-sized city located in the southwest corner of the island, and it is considered the oldest city in Taiwan. Tainan is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, and somehow you can feel the sun searing down in a way that doesn’t happen just a short drive north in Taichung.

Full of charm, Tainan is dotted with temples and small parks, and full of winding, narrow lanes.

We started the morning at the Confucius Temple (台南孔廟 Táinán Kǒngmiào) which was right across the street from our hotel. It has a nice grassy courtyard and (Hugo’s favorite) a fish pond.

There are turtles, too!

There are turtles, too!

Of course, with a toddler, quiet exploring is probably not on the agenda. Racing around and around the narrow passageways is more Hugo’s cup of tea.

Sorry for the blurry shot, I don't think he ever stopped for a second

Sorry for the blurry shot, I don’t think he ever stopped for a second

Tainan is also a place to visit some former Dutch colonial sites, the oldest of these being Fort Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城 rèlánzhē chéng), built in 1624 by the Dutch East India Company.

Cannons in the plaza at Fort Zeelandia

Cannons in the plaza at Fort Zeelandia

After most of the day sightseeing in the hot sun, we grabbed an ice cream and headed to the small street carnival set up just outside of the fort.

Hugo caught on pretty quickly:

Press the button to shoot the ball...

Press the button to shoot the ball…

Lights and bells! You win a prize!

Lights and bells! You win a prize!

Our last stop was Chihkan Tower (赤崁樓 Chì kǎn lóu), built during the 19th century on the grounds of a former Dutch fort which was destroyed in an earthquake.

Full of charm, Tainan is dotted with temples and small parks, and full of winding, narrow lanes.

Chihkan Tower and grounds

Although the tower is not very big, the grounds are beautifully maintained with colorful flowers, a small waterfall, and plenty of koi to feed.

Exploring the gardens at Chihkan Tower

Exploring the gardens at Chihkan Tower

It was a long, hot day, and Hugo collapsed into an exhausted sleep before eating dinner.

Don't worry, there was still time for mango shaved ice

Don’t worry, there was still time for mango shaved ice

Running in Taichung: Zhongzheng Park to Calligraphy Greenway

I made a great 7 mile running route through some of the best places to visit in Taichung, starting at Zhongzheng Park and taking you through the Botanical Gardens, the National Museum of Natural Science, and the whole length of Calligraphy Greenway to the Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts and back.

If you don’t want to run the whole 7 miles, it’s easy to turn around at any point, or just do it as a 4 mile, point-to-point route.

You can find all the details through this link over at worldwiderunners.com!

Wu Wei Cao Tang Tea House

Tucked away behind a wall, the Wu Wei Cao Tang Tea House (無為草堂 wúwéi cǎotáng) sits like a secret garden in the midst of the traffic and mayhem of central Taichung.

A simple calligraphy sign welcomes you to the tea house

A simple calligraphy sign welcomes you to the tea house

What is most striking about visiting Wuwei Caotang the first time is the immediate, spa-like serenity of the location. You are surrounded by greenery and flowing water, with boardwalks and pathways leading around a central pond teeming with colorful koi.

Stopping for a moment to feed the fish

Stopping for a moment to feed the fish

All of the seats are at low tables, and all have a view of the inner pond.

Take off your shoes and have a seat. We're ready to begin!

Take off your shoes and have a seat. We’re ready to begin!

Your server will bring you an array of tiny cups and platters, as well as various snacks to pair with your tea selection. If you are not sure what to order, there are set packages available so you can have a chance to try many different things.

Our tea cups neatly arranged on the serving tray.

Our tea cups neatly arranged on the serving tray.

Your server will also demonstrate how to best brew the tea in the tiny earthenware pot, and how to pour, smell and taste the different types of tea.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

By the time we finish, night has fallen and the lanterns are lit on the walkways surrounding the koi pond. We walk out onto the still-bustling streets of Taichung to make our way home.

Wu Wei Cao Tang Tea House Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 無為草堂 wúwéi cǎotáng
  • Address: No. 106, Section 2, Gongyi Road, Nantun District, Taichung City, 408 (公益路二段106號)
  • Hours: 10:30am – 10:30pm daily
  • Minimum charge: $120 NTD

The Taichung Second Public Market

The Taichung Second Public Market is the kind of place where you can find almost anything you might want: vegetable stalls are next to fabric stores are next to toy stores are next to butcher shops, and on and on until you are dizzy from taking in all of your options.

A view of the main entrance of the Second Market

A view of the main entrance of the Second Market

The Second Market was originally built in 1917, but was rebuilt after being destroyed in a fire in 1936. It has a distinctive hexagonal shape, with spokes radiating out from the center and narrower walkways interconnecting the stalls. At the center of the hexagon is a small temple dedicated to Mazu, goddess of fishermen and sailors.

Approaching the center of the market.

Approaching the center of the market and the Mazu temple.

Originally each “wedge” of the hexagon had different types of goods for sale, but nowadays they’re all mixed together, making for an interesting shopping and dining experience. The myriad food stalls are selling all of your favorite local foods such as pork buns, radish cakes, and various kinds of noodles and wanton soups. If you’re looking to sample lots of different things and not sure what to order, this is a great place to point to someone else’s food and say “I’ll have what he’s having.”

I could eat baozi every day. Side note: It's hard to take a good picture of food.

I could eat baozi every day. Side note: It’s hard to take a good picture of food.

Of course, the fish were a big hit with Hugo. I think he’ll be disappointed at the lack of living creatures in our American supermarkets.

Watching the live shrimp wriggle around.

Watching the live shrimp wriggle around.

Taichung Second Public Market Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 第二市場 dìèr shìchǎng
  • Hours: 7am-4pm daily
  • Map

Taichung Big Jade Market and City Hall Park

In search of some last minute gifts, Hugo and I went to the Taichung Jade Market (台中文心玉市 Táizhōng wénxīn yùshì) to see what we could find.

The Jade Market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and is just around the corner from the City Hall BRT station

The Jade Market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and is just around the corner from the City Hall BRT station

Situated in a warehouse-like building, the Jade Market has row after row of every sort of jade jewelry and trinket you can imagine. In addition to jade, there were glass ornaments, some artwork, and more teapots in more shapes than you ever imagined.

A real turtle shell!

A real turtle shell!

The vendors were less than thrilled to have a small child pawing their wares, so we ended up leaving pretty quickly without buying anything.

Since it was still pretty early in the morning, we wandered over to the Taichung New City Hall building which is surrounded by a vast open square and a newly built park.

The shiny and imposing Taichung City Hall building. You can see it was an overcast and hazy morning.

The shiny and imposing Taichung New City Hall building. You can see it was an overcast and hazy morning.

I have walked by here dozens of times but I’ve never actually gone into the park before. I had thought it was just a small greenbelt between buildings, but was surprised to find some very nicely landscaped gardens and pathways, a small temple, and lots of benches to sit and escape from the hectic traffic of the city.

I imagine there are a lot more people here on days when Google isn't sending out poor air quality notices

I imagine there are a lot more people here on days when Google isn’t sending out poor air quality notices

Then, we stumbled upon the best part of the park:

A huge sandbox!

A huge sandbox! A much more fun place to play than the Jade Market.

I think this made up for taking him to a place where he wasn’t allowed to touch anything.

Taichung Jade Market Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 台中文心玉市 Táizhōng wénxīn yùshì
  • Hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-6pm
  • Map

A Walk Through Taichung Park

Taichung Park (台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán) is the oldest park in Taichung city, built in 1903 during the Japanese occupation.

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

It contains a large man-made lake full of ducks and turtles.

Looking for turtles

Looking for turtles

Situated in the center of the lake is the Lake Heart Pavilion, built in 1908 for Japanese Prince Kanin-no-miya Kotohito.

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

You can cross a foot bridge to go inside the pavilion. It is almost entirely made of wood. Even though the park is in the middle of a busy urban area, from inside the pavilion all you hear is creaking wood and the lapping water of the lake under the floorboards.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but today the day we were  there they were closed.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but the day we were there they were closed.

In 1999, Taichung Park was granted historical landmark status.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

Today the park is popular with families because of the large playground, and people looking for a shady spot to walk their dogs.

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

It is also the site of large celebrations for Lantern Festival, marking the end of Chinese New Year. I imagine the lake and pavilion are beautiful on a cool night in early Spring, lit only by twinkling red lanterns.

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Taichung Park Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán
  • Map

Feng Jia Night Market

The Feng Jia Night Market (逢甲夜市 féngjiǎ yèshì, map) is the biggest one in Taichung, and I can’t believe it has taken us two weeks to get here. Night markets are a big attraction in Taiwan, and are a great place to walk, people-watch, sample foods, and shop for pretty much anything you can imagine.

We arrived around 5:30pm, and as you can see it was already busy.

We arrived around 5:30pm, and as you can see it was already busy.

The night market fills the side streets around Feng Jia University. At every corner there are new shops and stalls to explore. Sometimes the choices were overwhelming. Night markets here are really focused on food. It is kind of the opposite of what we saw at the Sunday market in Chiang Mai where it was mostly things like clothing and art for sale, with the odd food cart thrown in.

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The Porky Box was delicious!

If you catch yourself thinking “I really want to eat an entire roasted squid! If only it were flattened and on a stick so I could eat it while walking through a crowded market,” have I got the place for you!

Squid on display.

Sesame squid!

I was really hoping for a Beijing-style jianbing, but we had to settle for a small egg crepe.

Our crepe on the griddle.

Our crepe on the griddle.

Can you get good jianbing anywhere outside of Beijing? Is it available near my house? Am I going to have to open my own jianbing cart and sell them myself in order to introduce their deliciousness to the Pacific Northwest? Shall I do a kickstarter?

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Roasted ducks hanging in a row.

As the night grew darker, the crowds grew bigger. We left the food area to check out some of the other shops.

Clothing, books, shoes, music...

Clothing, books, shoes, music…

Hugo’s favorite was the toy store.

Hugo's favorite was the toy store!

Unfortunately all the toys were wrapped in plastic, so there wasn’t a chance to give them a try.

There were even carnival-style games!

Our round of balloon darts did not go well.

Our round of balloon darts did not go well. Although I’m not sure what we would have done with a giant stuffed chipmunk anyway. If you can’t read the sign, it says that men have to pop 7 to win, but women only have to pop 6.

We left with tired eyes and full bellies.

Feng Jia Night Market Visitor’s Notes:

  • Chinese name: 逢甲夜市 féngjiǎ yèshì
  • Map
  • The map pinpoints the center of the market, but it extends to all the side streets around. If you’re taking a taxi, I recommend getting out at the intersection of Fuxing Lu and Fengjia Lu
  • Hours: every day after 5pm