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PISAC & OLLANTAYTAMBO, Sacred Valley, Peru

To many, the lost city of Machu Picchu and the Inca capital of Cusco represent the biggest tourist highlights of Peru.  Arriving in the Urubamba Valley (or Sacred Valley of the Incas) where Machu Picchu, Cusco and several other famous Inca sites are located felt like we were  entering the heartland of the Inca Empire.  We spent our first full day in Cusco exploring the nearby Inca sites in the Urubamba Valley.  From Cusco, we took a regional bus to the town of Pisac. Pisac serves as the gateway of the valley from Cusco. Our primary destination in Pisac was the Inca ruins on the hilltop.  From the bus drop-off, we hired a taxi to take us to the hilltop.  The taxi ride took about 20 minutes.

At the hilltop where the ruins sat, we could truly admire the Inca’s fabulous agricultural terraces.  Set against the mountainous backdrop, the agricultural terraces dominated the steep hillsides. Top of the terraces lie a series of ceremonial platforms, temple and citadel overlooking the valley.

After the visit to Pisac, we hopped onto a minibus to Urubamba, and from Urubamba, we took a collective van up to the village of Ollantaytambo, the starting point of the famous Inca Trail and home of another famous Inca ruins. At the main square of Ollantaytambo, we went to the Hearts Cafe for lunch.  Hearts Cafe was another charity establishment, this time, by an English woman and her NGO Living Heart, which engaged in a number of children and community projects in the Sacred Valley.

After lunch, we climbed the steep steps to the top of the Inca ruins, the Terraces of Pumatallis which offered a spectacular view of the village of Ollantaytambo. In addition to religious purposes, the massive Terraces of Pumatallis also served as a fortress during the resistance against the Spanish conquest.

After Ollantaytambo, we continued our visit of the Sacred Valley. We took a local bus and returned to Urubamba, from where we hired a taxi for the Salinas salt pans and the Inca terraces of Moray.

1Early morning at Ninos Hotel, a charity establishment founded by a Dutch woman in 1996 to help the street children in Cusco.

2Our quadruple room Carolyn, named after one of the street children at Ninos Hotel, was located on the upper level.

3Agricultural terraces dominate the hillside of the mountain where the Inca ruins sat in Pisac.

5There were footpaths connecting to other parts of the ruins and Inca terraces in Pisac.

4Inca ruins in Pisac lie atop the agricultural terraces.

6This gateway at Pisac presented a fine example of the mortar-free stone masonry perfectly fit together with hand tools, a common construction feature in many Inca structures.

7A stone retaining wall at the Inca ruins in Pisac.

8Inca terraces in Pisac.

9We had lunch at Hearts Cafe near the main square of Ollantaytambo.

10The terraces of Pumatallis in Ollantaytambo witnessed some fierce battles against the Spanish during the twilight moments of the Incas.

11 View of the village of Ollantaytambo from the Terraces of Pumatallis

12Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

13The stone works and steep steps at Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

14Magnificent Inca stone work at the terrace of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

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AFTERNOON ON TAQUILE ISLAND, Titicaca, Peru

Once arrived on Taquile, we were greeted at the dock by the father of the home-stay family. We had difficulties understanding each other completely, but we could still communicate with simple facial expressions and hand gestures.  Our host suggested us to take our time to walk uphill to the village centre, while he would go ahead of us to prepare our lunch at a village restaurant.  Since we weren’t totally acclimatized to the 3,800m altitude, we took our time and slowly walked uphill from the dock to the village centre.  The journey took less than half an hour.  We walked along through terraced farmland ascending from the dock to the top of the hill. The view was gorgeous along the way, with terraced farmlands everywhere along the slope of the island.

Soon we reached the plaza at the village centre, where we found our host.  He led us to a local restaurant and ordered each of us a dish of local trout.  After lunch, our host guided us to his home where we would stay the night.  We were introduced to the host’s family.  Then we dropped off our bags and followed our host to the island’s elementary school where some sort of festival activity was going on.  Standing behind rows of local spectators, we watched groups of Taquile students engaged in some kind of acting and  dancing performance.  Despite we couldn’t understand Quechua, we enjoyed the funny acting of the innocent Taquile children that made everyone laughed.

After the performance at Taquile’s school, our host took us to the highest spot on Taquile, where the ruins of an ancient buildings still remained.  After the visit, we wandered around Taquile on our own until the sun was set. We followed the main path into the village.  Along the way, we were greeted by the villagers, most of them with a smiley face.  In late afternoon, we walked pass the main village square once again, where the pink Artisan Centre stood.  Taquile is renowned for their textile art.  In 2005, the UNESCO declared the textile art of Taquile as one of the world’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  The centre was closed for the day.  We would come back the next day to check out the textile art.

In the evening, we dined at our host’s place with three other fellow travelers, two from Belgium and one from France.  In the candle lit dining room, we had a simple meal with soup, egg omelet and rice.  After dinner, the entire host family including the kids performed their traditional music for us.  Away from any electronics and digital devices, the night was simple yet surreal.  Inside the dining room, it was warm and full of music and laughter.  Outside the house, it was freezing cold and extremely quiet on an island in Lake Titicaca at 3,800m above sea level.  Before bed, we took turns going to the toilet hut in the courtyard in front of the house.  The full moon was climbing over our heads as we retired to our bedroom.  Our bedroom was on the upper level accessible only via an external stair.  Wrapped under three to four layers of wool blankets, the four of us had a very soundly sleep until the next morning.

1It was a 20 minute walk from the pier to the main square of Taquile, passing by farming terraces and the boundless Lake Titicaca.  Amantani, another island popular with tourists, stood prominently in the distant.

2The slope of the hills became terraced farmland.

3Taquile is living village and we love the sense of community on the island.

4The host took us a small restaurant in the main square for lunch. He ordered the local trout dish for us. The fresh water fish is slightly pan fired. The meat was sweet and tender. The fish was served with fries, rice and steamed vegetable.

5After lunch, the host guided us to his place where we met his family and left our luggage. He then brought us to the the local school. There was actually some festival performance there.

6Children with traditional costumes were doing dance and act performances.

7We followed our host up to the high part of the island.

8The highest spot of the island stood a series of ruined buildings and our host had no idea when they were actually built.

9School building in Taquile.

10Taquile is a peaceful living village with a great sense of community. Most of the foreign visitors made one-day trip to the island.  After the tourists left with the last boat, the island became peaceful again.

11We love Taquile for its sense of community. Most islanders here would greet us warmly when they walked past us.

12The Artisan Centre at the main square of the island.

13Gateway leading to the main square of the village.

14Photovoltaic panels to supply electricity was becoming more popular when we visited Taquile.

15We passed by the school complex once again before we returned to our host’s place.

16At our host’s place, the four of us stayed at the upper room (the one with the door open). The family prepared new woolen blankets to keep us warm for the night. Accommodation was simple but we had a good night of sleep after all the walking.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


MONASTERIO de SANTA CATALINA, Arequipa, Peru

Like many Spanish colonial cities, the historical core of Arequipa is laid out in a grid pattern.  Occupying two city grids located three blocks north of Plaza de Armas, the enormous complex of Monasterio de Santa Catalina is the biggest tourist attraction in the city.  Founded in 1579, the monastery is a nun convent of the Dominican Second Order.  Dona Maria de Guzman, a rich widow, was the foundress of the monastery.  At its peak, the 20,000 sq.m monastery housed about 450 people (nuns and their servants).  Many upper class families were willing to pay a large sum of dowry in order to send their second daughters to the monastery as nuns.  Nowadays, about 20 nuns still live in a private quarter in the complex.  The majority of the monastery has been turned into an open air museum.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a great example of Spanish colonial architecture with unique local influences.  With vivid colours, tranquil cloisters, and centuries of modifications and additions since the earthquake of 1582, the monastery has become a collection of colonial architecture and religious antiques.  We spent a good couple of hours wandering in the monastery.  The vivid blue, orange, and white walls gave the splendid and solemn architecture some delightful touches that echoed the vibrant colours of native cultures in Peru.

0A floor plan of the monastery in display showing the extensiveness of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

1Cloister of the Orange Trees, one of the main cloisters in the monastery, is decorated with vivid blue walls and religious wall paintings.

2Frescoes depicting religious stories at the cloister.

3Fresco and the vivid blue wall by the cloister.

4Roof drainage and the white washed walls of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

6A small court adjacent to the outdoor laundry area in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

7Steep exterior steps leading up to the rooftop.

8Cluster of laundry basins where nuns washed their clothes.

9Calle Sevilla in the living quarter is flanked by dwelling units for nuns, with the chapel in the background.

10AThe vivid orange walls in the nun’s living quarter coupled with stone bench, large roof tiles, and unique roof gutter.

10bAn atmospheric pastel coloured street corner and plant decorations looked surreal.

11Stone inscription above a window opening in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

12Antique tools in a kitchen where nuns made their own food, including bread.

13In almost every kitchen in the complex, there is a ceiling oculus for smoke ventilation and natural light.

14There are many well preserved antiques in Monasterio de Santa Catalina, including the stone filter on the left and a wooden furniture on the right.

15Portraits of nuns in a bedroom at the living quarter.

16View of the living quarter, internal streets and outdoor fountain from the rooftop in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

17View from the roof top in Monasterio de Santa Catalina towards the scenery of volcanoes and mountains outside the city.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

 


BUMPY ARRIVAL, Lima & Arequipa, Peru

Our 17-day journey didn’t start off as smoothly as we wanted to.  Our Toronto-New York-Lima flight was unfortunately hindered by awful delays.  The flight to New York was an hour late, but then the worst didn’t come until we arrived at New York JFK.  Time ticked way beyond the scheduled time but our LAN Peru plane was nowhere in sight.  That night, no special weather alert was reported but the plane never came.  LAN Peru ended up sending all passengers to an airport hotel to rest.  In the next morning, we finally got on a plane for Lima, 11 hours beyond the scheduled time.

It was past dinner time when we arrived at Lima Airport.  Our taxi sped through the streets of Lima for Miraflores District, where our friend from Chicago was waiting for us at Kokopelli Hostel.  After we met up with our friend, we decided to grab some supper in the neighborhood.  It was a quiet neighbourhood with dim street lights; but there was one street interaction where people clustered around a food cart with a bright lamp. It was one of the most renowned street food carts in Peru, Dona Grimanesa Vargas’s anticuchos skewers.  We joined the locals with great expectation. The beef heart skewers didn’t disappoint us. They were tender and juicy, but it took us over two hours queuing on the street with empty stomach before we could even place our orders. The famous owner, Tia Grimanesa, represented the icon of Lima’s street food for almost four decades; and we recently found out that visitors can now enjoy her anticuchos at her new restaurant.

In the morning, we checked out Kokopell Hostel and headed to Lima Airport again for our morning flight to Arequipa.  At the airport, we met up with our other travel buddy who just arrived from Toronto to join us for the trip.  The four of us boarded a LAN Peru plane for the 1.5 hour flight.  At 10:30 we landed at Arequipa.  Our journey up to the Peruvian highlands officially began.  Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, lies at about 2,300m above sea level.  In the area around Plaza de Armas, there are a number of splendid colonial buildings, churches and plazas from the Spanish era.  Just around the corner from Monasterio de Santa Catalina, the biggest attraction in town, we checked in at our bed and breakfast Torres de Ugarte, a delightful hotel with colourful walls and a relaxing atmosphere.

1We wouldn’t know what seemed like a short delay at Toronto Pearson Airport would end up to be an 11-hour belated arrival at Lima.

P1010820Our 11-hour flight delay was followed by an 2-hour wait on the street at Miraflores, Lima for Dona Grimanesa Vargas’s anticuchos skewers.

2 The renowned beef heart skewers were very delicious.  Though if we knew it would turn out to be a 2-hour wait, we would probably go somewhere else to fill our bellies.

3Dona Grimanesa Vargas (right) has been selling anticuchos on the street for about four decades. Today, she has moved her business into a restaurant.

4The atmosphere was causal and friendly at the Kokopelli Hostel in Miraflores, one of the most popular and safest neighborhoods in Lima according to guidebooks.

10PE01-09Miraflores is a relatively affluent district in Lima, Peru’s biggest city with a population of over 8.4 million.

6From the plane, the surrounding landscape of Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, seemed dry and arid.

7The Rodríguez Ballón International Airport of Arequipa is surrounded by mountains and arid landscape.

8The main arrival building of Arequipa’s Rodríguez Ballón International Airport.

9On our way from the airport to our bed and breakfast Torres de Ugarte in the heart of the historical city centre in Arequipa.

10PE01-18A small lovely courtyard in Torres de Ugarte surrounded by guest rooms.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

 


RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET, Taipei, Taiwan

No visitor comes to Taipei will leave without a visit to one of the city’s famous street markets. We picked Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) at Songshan District. It was not only the wide varieties of food that excited us, but watching how each vendor earnestly prepared the food was also a fascinating experience.

1We entered Raohe Street Night Market through its east gate.

23The famous black pepper buns were prepared with a traditional baking method in a cylindrical charcoal stove.

4Pearl red bean cakes.

5Grilled squid.

6Some stalls were neatly decorated with colourful lights.

7Several stalls were selling sausages prepared in indigenous Taiwanese style.

8Rice with mutton and pork spare ribs are some of the more filling options around.

9Ice-sugar gourds.

10 Tables were set up in the middle of the street.

11Mango dessert is a local favorite.

12Spicy beef noodles, dumblings, and fish ball soup.

13Red lanterns enhanced the atmosphere of the market.

14Meat and vegetable wraps were carefully prepared by this vendor.

15Taiwanese guava.

16Dry goods were also sold in the market.

17Skewers with various spices.

18Ciyou Temple at the entrance of Raohe Street Night Market.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple


40 HOURS IN TAIPEI, Christmas 2014

During Christmas, we made a brief visit to Taipei (台北), the capital city of Taiwan. On Christmas Eve, we purchased a last minute flight ticket and hopped onto a last minute red-eye flight to Taipei for a two-day visit.
001 07:15 Christmas Day – We arrived at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport.

002 002a 08:45 – The airport shuttle bus took us to the Taipei Railway Station at the heart of the city. A huge Christmas tree was in display in the main hall.

003

10:30 – We arrived at the National Palace Museum at the city’s outskirt. Its tremendous collection of Chinese artifacts and artworks is probably peerless in the world, with a majority of the pieces gathered from Beijing’s Forbidden City in the first half of the 20th century. We particularly enjoyed the Chinese paintings. The rotating display of the permanent painting collection currently on show is the works by Qiu Ying, one of the Four Masters of the Ming Dynasty.

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14:45 – We returned by bus to Shilin, the closest metro station from the National Palace Museum. Adjacent to the station stood many small eateries. We picked one and had our first delicious meal of Taiwanese beef noodles and fish ball soup.

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18:00 – We passed by an enormous Christmas Tree in a hotel lobby at Downtown Taipei. Despite Taiwan is not a Christian country, many hotel and restaurant owners decorate their stores to enhance the festive atmosphere of the city.

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20:30 – We began our foodie stroll at Raohe Street, one of the most popular night markets in Taipei. We hopped from one stall to another, and sampled a number of delicious street food including charcoal oven baked black pepper buns, grilled squid, grilled scallops, seafood soup, salted black-skinned peanuts and tofu dessert.

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22:15 – After our visit to Raohe Street Night Market, we walked along the Keelung River. We stopped at the Rainbow Bridge for a while before calling it a day.

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8:50 Boxing Day – We were on our way to Fuhang Soy Drink for breakfast and passed by Taipei’s largest Buddhist temple, Shandao Temple. It was built during the period under Japanese rule.

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9:45 – After 45 minutes of queuing on the street, we finally made it to the counter of Fuhang Soy Drink. This busy eatery is located in a foodcourt, on the second level of a local market. Apparently it is very popular among the locals and tourists. We had two kinds of pancakes with egg and Chinese fried dough, a sticky rice bun, and two bowls of hot soy drinks, one sweet and one salty.

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12:00 Taipei 101 (completed in 2004) is the tallest building in Taiwan. This skyscraper was awarded the LEED Platinum certification and designed to withstand earthquake and fierce wind. An observatory deck on the 89th floor is open for tourists but we chose to give it a pass because of poor weather.

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13:00 We tried our first slush ice, one of the most popular dessert in Taipei.

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13:45 A good friend of ours recommended us to try the beef noodle from Yong-Kang Beef Noodle. The queue was long but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to taste one of the best beef noodle in Taipei.

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15:00 We decided to visit one of Taipei’s temples and we chose Longshan Temple in Wanhua District.  Longshan is the oldest temple in Taipei. The temple is dedicated to a number of deities including Buddhist, Taoist and some historical Chinese figures.  This lively temple is exquisitely decorated in a Fujian style. The dragon columns and eaves are particularly wonderful.

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18:00 Before heading out to the airport, we spent the remaining day in Songshan District. This quiet area has many little local cafes and eateries. We stopped by a hotpot restaurant for a quick supper.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple


A SHRINE IN SHIBUYA, Tokyo

Typhoon Vongfong finally left Tokyo. Life was back to normal in much of the Japanese capital. In the afternoon we were finding our way from Harajuku to Shibuya. In the midst of busy traffic and fashion boutiques of Meiji Dori, a small and traditional Buddhist temple set back from the street caught our sight in between two building blocks. Street noise faded as we walked in the gate toward Chosenji Temple.  We stood in front of the timber building to absorb the peaceful atmosphere of the place. Two cats appeared from the back of the temple, chasing each other, and disappeared into the shrubs adjacent to the property.

From Meiji Dori we walked into the side streets trying to find our way to Yoyogi Stadium. Soon we discovered another urban retreat. A stair caught our attention leading us up to a platform where Kitayainari Shrine stood. It was a blessing that we found this place, a tiny tranquil place finished with well-crafted concrete. Perfectly blended into the surrounding modern architecture, Kitayainari Shrine serves well as a spiritual niche in the dense commercial neighborhood.   We walked around this small complex for longer than we thought we would, enjoying a sense of traditional spirituality in a contemporary architectural setting. Under the warmth of the afternoon sun we saw the structure of Yoyogi Stadium bathed in the orange sunlight just across the street.

1Chosenji is hidden behind the hustling street scene of Meiji Dori in Shibuya.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuilt with concrete, metal, wood and glass, Kitayainari Shrine is a hidden gem that we found when we were exploring a short-cut path to Yoyogi National Stadium.

3The shrine was closed but we enjoyed moment of quietness at the forecourt with occasional cool and refreshing breeze.

4Stone water basin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA large bell with rope suspended under the soffit over the main door of the shrine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt each eaves corner, a metal downsprout collects rain water from the roof down to a traditional cistern in front of the temple.

7 Around the corner, we found a small concrete niche that houses an exterior altar for worship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA pair of animal guardians stand in front of the exterior altar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYoyogi National Stadium stands right behind the Kitayainari Shrine.

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Read other posts on 2014 Tokyo:
1. Tokyo 2014 (Introduction)
2. Yokohama Osanbashi Pier
3. Ginza, Tokyo
4. Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo
5. Omotesando, Tokyo
6. Harajuku & Aoyama, Tokyo
7. Nezu Museum, Tokyo
8. Roppongi Hills, Tokyo
9. The National Art Centre, Tokyo
10. Midtown, Tokyo
11. A Shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo
12. Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo
13. A Night in Yanaka, Tokyo
14. Breakfast at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
15. Moveable Feast, Tokyo
16. Seasonal Fruits, Tokyo
17. Afterthought, Tokyo