Climbing a stairway to Qixing, still no sign of the elusive stinky tofu, and who knew beer bottles could be so much fun.

Day 186: Taipei, Taiwan. We woke to a cool but fairly clear day, deciding the time was right for a hike in Yangmingshan.

We walked to the local market to buy some fruit, and along a nearby street we spotted these people making the day’s supply of noodles. Very cool.

We caught the train to Jiantan, which is just north of the old city, then jumped on a bus to Yangmingshan, about 10km further north in the hills.

It was fabulous to see so many people out hiking – from cub scouts, young people in fashion gear and white sports shoes, to lots of elderly people in their 70s and older, all working their way up the mountain.

And it’s a pretty tough hike to the top of Qixing. While the walk is fairly short – around 6km up and down – there’s about 550m of climb, and around 90% of it is steps. We reckon we walked up around four thousand of them on the way up.

We headed up via Qixingshan park to get some great views south over the city, before heading up into the clouds to the top of the mountain.

At the next viewpoint our heads were (literally) in the clouds and we were nearly blown off the summit with strong winds. It was really cold too.

The mountain range at Yangmingshan is formed from extinct volcanoes, though there’s still activity going on, with fumaroles puffing out sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg smell) and lots of steam.

From the end of the walk it’s about 10km back to Yangmingshan. There’s an impressive fleet of shuttle buses that go round in a loop to all the car parks in the mountains, arriving every 10 minutes or so, taking everyone back to their cars or to the bus depot. It’s not costly, is well used and must save hundreds or thousands of car journeys each day.

We arrived back at Jiantan and headed to Shilin nightmarket. The market kicks off about 5pm with lots of street vendors selling all kinds of food. We arrived just after five and had fab steamed pork buns and a crispy spring onion pancake with bacon. By then, the market was really packed and we headed off to catch the MRT back home.

Sadly we still didn’t find any Stinky Tofu, though we did spot some pretty interesting bitter gourds on one stall.

Another stall had a whole roast pig on its counter, and was drawing a pretty long queue of people keen for a bit of crunchy pork.

When we got back to our district, we found another local restaurant with great food, and lots of Saturday night activity. Large groups of people were eating and drinking and the noise levels went up and up as the evening went on.

There were lots of kids in the restaurant too, including one very cute boy (who may have had a bit too much coke to drink), who went to get a plastic bottle carrier from behind the counter, then spent ages putting empty beer bottles into it, then taking them out again. Who knew beer bottles could be so much fun?

Tomorrow we’re moving accommodation, this time into the centre of Taipei. We’re also hoping to visit Elephant Mountain for sunset, get some train tickets for the next part of our journey, and hopefully we’ll find the elusive Stinky Tofu.

More then.

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