A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MAd4travel

Taiwan - Taipei 2024 Part 2

Route: Hualien - Taipei - London

sunny 25 °C

31 March - 04 April 2024

Third visit to Taipei
Following a train journey from Hualien we were back in Taipei for our third and final stay.
Upon leaving Hualien, we didn’t know how lucky we were. If our itinerary had brought us to the area a few days later, this text would be very different. More explanation is provided later.
The weather forecast had threatened thunderstorms so we were lucky to stay dry during our walk to the apartment. For our last stay our accommodation was in the Datong district, a bit closer to the centre than before. Any exploration of the area was put on hold as more thunderstorms rolled across the city. It did brighten up in the early evening, allowing us to get out to see the Ningxia Night Market, which was just around the corner. The market was alive with activity. People queuing to buy all sorts of food, some off which we didn’t even recognise. Most took their food away to eat but a few were dining at pop-up restaurants. What was going on interested us more than feeling the need to purchase something.

Night Market near where we stayed

Night Market near where we stayed

Night Market queue for burst and crispy squid. The queue is really long

Night Market queue for burst and crispy squid. The queue is really long

The crispy squid stall that has huge queue, must do something different that the other one selling it as no queue there

The crispy squid stall that has huge queue, must do something different that the other one selling it as no queue there

The much sought after crispy squid

The much sought after crispy squid

Squid parts before it burst and become crispy

Squid parts before it burst and become crispy

We arrived just before the rain

We arrived just before the rain

For our first full day we never expected to spend its interiority wandering around one road, but that is what we did. The historic Dihua Street is totally absorbing, so many shops selling so many different things. Herb shops, fruit shops, tea shops, mushroom shops, shops selling fish and animal parts, the list is endless. That’s not to mention the side streets were you can find handcrafted products. Look around you and you see architecture dating back to the 1920’s and before. A total contrast to the modern building that surround the area.

Dihua Street

Dihua Street

Dihua Street walkway, a must visit tourist place in Taipei

Dihua Street walkway, a must visit tourist place in Taipei

what you can see in Dihua street

what you can see in Dihua street

Mushrooms shop, looks like expensive food

Mushrooms shop, looks like expensive food

Our lunch stop on Dihua Street

Our lunch stop on Dihua Street

More varied products on sale, not sure what they are but it is food!

More varied products on sale, not sure what they are but it is food!

Architecture in Dihua Street, some buildings are over 100 years old

Architecture in Dihua Street, some buildings are over 100 years old

Some street art

Some street art

Another speciality shop in Dihua Street, bit disturbing

Another speciality shop in Dihua Street, bit disturbing

Dihua Street

Dihua Street

Dihua street shop

Dihua street shop

Street Art

Street Art

Out of character for us, we did some shopping. This shopping was a pleasure and not the burden we usual associate with it. None more so than our visit to a Tea Shop in Minsheng W Road, its Chinese name translates to “Hop Kee Tea Shop” and business card suggests a name of “Ho-Chi”. We wanted to buy a tea set to properly appreciate the tea we had purchased in Taiwan. This turned out to be just the place. The girls were super helpful and explained everything we needed to know to make a very special purchase. We even had a tea ceremony and tasting thrown into the experience. What a lovely way to spend an hour.

Tea Shop

Tea Shop

Selection of tea pots in the tea shop. Small tea pots, big prices

Selection of tea pots in the tea shop. Small tea pots, big prices

Selection of Taiwanese tea

Selection of Taiwanese tea

Although briefer, there were other memorable shopping experiences during the day. The purchase of a handcrafted bracelet from a street trader, who made it to measure. From a small shop selling unique designed items, inspired by the environment of Taipei. Where we bought some place mats and a purse.

In addition to the shopping, people watching had its own enjoyment. Shop owners displaying their goods, shoppers deciding what to buy and people using the street to get from A to B. It was even a location for wedding photography.

More traditional dress persons

More traditional dress persons

Girls in traditional dress

Girls in traditional dress

Is it a wedding proposal or a theatre scene? We were outside the theatre

Is it a wedding proposal or a theatre scene? We were outside the theatre



We had been waiting for good weather to visit Taiwans tallest building, Taipei 101, and the next day was such a day. A clear blue sky and humid heat greeted us as we left the a/c of the apartment. Fortunately it was only a short walk to the Metro and the comfort of air-conditioning again. This efficient and affordable mode of transport whisked us off to the 101 stop where we emerged right in front of the aforementioned building. As modern buildings go this one is very attractive.

Modern Taipei

Modern Taipei

Taipei 101, its called 101 because of the number of the floors (101)

Taipei 101, its called 101 because of the number of the floors (101)

Inside the complex the first five floors are given over to high end department stores and a food hall. We were only interested in the view from the top so immediately bought our tickets and made or way to the elevator. It took us all of 37 seconds to get from the 5th to the 89th floor, in what was the worlds fastest elevator (only surpassed in 2016). From there the views over Taipei and beyond were amazing.

Taipei from 101

Taipei from 101

Areal view of Taipei

Areal view of Taipei

Aerial of Tiapei

Aerial of Tiapei

At 508m-tall, Taipei 101 was the worlds tallest building until 2009. At that point Dubai’s Burj Khalifa took that record at 828m. Unlike the Burj Khalifa, you can go right to the top of Taipei 101 (the 101st floor). We decided not to pay the extra and were content to be restricted to floors 88, 89 & 91. The 89th floor provided a comfortable, air conditioned and indoor viewing platform. Also providing various props for these wishing to get the best selfie. Floor 91 allowed us to go outside and walk around half the building circumference. High safety rails prevented anyone falling over the edge and a security guard ensured every one behaved. Although it was only us out there during our visit. Floor 88 housed a massive damper, used to stabilise the building during earthquakes!

Selfie on floor 89 of Taipei 101

Selfie on floor 89 of Taipei 101

More selfies

More selfies

The Taipei 101 damper, very important for earthquakes

The Taipei 101 damper, very important for earthquakes

It was around mid-day by the time we had finished at the 101 and our thoughts turned to lunch. Back on the Metro to Taipei’s Main Station, lunch in their top floor food hall, then back to the apartment to get out of the heat. The shade temperature was now in the mid-30’s.
We left it to after dark before going out again, now slightly cooler. A 20 minute walk got us to the Tamsui River and the Riverside Park. Walkers and cyclists were going up and down along the shoreline. Multiple outdoor karaokes offered the chance to sing to passers by. A group dance secession was in full swing in a small plaza under some trees and mobile bars offered refreshments of all kinds.

Wall art on the river side

Wall art on the river side

Dance class on a plaza in the river park

Dance class on a plaza in the river park

River and reflection

River and reflection

Karaoke night on the river side park

Karaoke night on the river side park

Street type arcade, very popular in every city we visited

Street type arcade, very popular in every city we visited

So much going on all around us you don’t know where to look next. This city is even more alive at night than during the day. On the way back to the apartment we called in on our local night market again. Even more busy and longer queues than a couple of nights before.

Night Market second visit

Night Market second visit

Night market food stall, anybody for a bamboo stick?

Night market food stall, anybody for a bamboo stick?

More night market food

More night market food

Very popular dessert but we don't know why

Very popular dessert but we don't know why

Although we were awake soon after 07:00, there was no need to move as we only had one activity planned for the day. However, even if we didn’t have a need to move the earth had other ideas. Around 08:00 the whole building started to shake violently, we hung on to each other and hoped for the best. We immediately recognised the shaking as an earthquake, having encountered them before. But this was the most violent and long lasting we had ever witnessed. We debated whether we should leave building but decided it was safe to stay.
After shocks then continued for the next 2-3 hours gradually getting less severe.
Most modern buildings in Taiwan are designed to withstand an average earthquake, and ours fortunately did a good job. No damage at all could be detected.
News channels around the world were soon reporting on the Taiwan earthquake. The epicentre was a few kilometres of the east coast and close to the town of Hualien, where we had been a few days earlier. At a magnitude of 7.4 it was a powerful one. A building in Hualien partially collapsed, killing one person. There were landslides in the Taroko National Park, were we had been a few days earlier, also killing several people. Part of the main east coast highway, which we had driven a few days earlier, slide into the sea. And Tsunami warnings had been issued for the coasts of Japan and the Philippines.
We later discovered that the earthquake magnitude was between 5.0 and 6.0 in the area of Taipei where were staying. Pretty scary, but we survived it unharmed. Which may not have been the case if it had happened a few days earlier (see below for further details).

Landslide in progress due to earthquake (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Landslide in progress due to earthquake (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Enter the building where our apartment was, and there is the sign to an underground defence shelter, we didn't need to use it

Enter the building where our apartment was, and there is the sign to an underground defence shelter, we didn't need to use it

With everything quietened down, at least in Taipei, we ventured out to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Another very hot day, so we searched out shade as we walked. This also allowed us to discover more interesting things about this amazing city. This time we found ourselves in a road that specialised in hardware shops. We had seen something similar in Vietnam many years ago. But these shops were smarter, more organised and specialising in certain products. So not to directly compete with their neighbour.

Each shop has its own special products on sale, guess which one

Each shop has its own special products on sale, guess which one

Hardware shop

Hardware shop

The exhibits in the Museum of Contemporary Art were weird to say the least. But they kept us entertained for about 2 hours. Entrance to the museum was free todays, in case evacuation was required due to further earthquakes or after shocks. A pleasant lunch in the museum cafe, then it was back to the apartment to collect our luggage.

One of the room in the Museum of contemporary art

One of the room in the Museum of contemporary art

The museum of Contemporary Art

The museum of Contemporary Art

Mid-afternoon we transferred to our airport hotel. Our flight back to the UK was early the next morning so it made sense to be close by. We had the option to use the quick and efficient Metro or the slower but more convenient taxi. Earlier that day the Metro had been disrupted by the earthquake and was still being closely monitored due to the aftershocks. So taxi it was.
Pre dinner cocktails followed by a very nice meal in the hotel restaurant completed our day. An early morning wake up call and a shuttle bus to the airport terminal then completed our stay in Taiwan.
During the planning for this trip we had the usual excitement about visiting a new country and exploring all it had to offer. However, our stay has far exceeded our expectations, we have been blown away by Taiwan. The people, the culture and the environment have all been incredible.
With limited time left to explore this planet we have a short list of countries we would very much like to re-visit, Taiwan has now been added to that list.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Taiwan Earthquake 3rd April 2024
The April 2024 Taiwan earthquake was the most powerful since 1999. Its epicentre was a few kilometres out at sea off the east coast town of Hualien. Worldwide monitoring equipment provided slightly different reading of its magnitude but census was it registered approximately 7.4. Therefore in the powerful category.
Although felt throughout the island the town and district of Hualien was affected the most due to it proximity to the epicentre. The magnitude was still greater than 6.0 in Hualien and neighbouring districts, and more than 5.0 around the capital Taipei to the north. In the west and south of the island the magnitude was less but still felt.
Structural damage to buildings in Hualien and landslides in the neighbouring Taroko National Park, claimed 17 lives and injured more than 1145 people. At the time of writing, 14 April, the 405 people who were still trapped, mostly in tunnels, have been rescued and there remains 2 people still missing.
Reports and pictures from the Taipei Times are very familiar to us as we spent a week in the area. Only leaving for Taipei 3 days before the earthquake. We consider ourselves very lucky, people have died and been injured on the trails we walked and roads we drove.
Taiwan is used to earthquakes, but one of this magnitude really stretches the well organised rescue and medical facilities they have available. The government are constantly looking at ways to safeguard lives during such events and building design guidelines are already in place to mitigate against earthquakes. However, following this latest event immediate reviews are being undertaken to identify some older buildings that need improvement.

Leaning house of Hualien after the Earthquake

Leaning house of Hualien after the Earthquake

Landslide caused by the Earthquake blocking the road that we had travelled down a few days previously (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Landslide caused by the Earthquake blocking the road that we had travelled down a few days previously (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Rock fall after the earthquake in the Taroko NP (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Rock fall after the earthquake in the Taroko NP (courtesy of Taipei Times)

Posted by MAd4travel 13:32 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Taiwan - Taipei 2024 Part 1

Route: London - Taipei - Hong Kong - Taipei - Hualien

semi-overcast 22 °C

26 February - 07 March 2024

First visit to Taipei

Twenty hours after leaving our home in Portslade, England, we found ourselves in the arrival hall of Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei, Taiwan. Here to meet us is Stanley, our taxi driver, for the 45 minute ride to our hotel. The hotel looked fairly ordinary but the room was spacious and comfortable, just what we needed. It also had the biggest bath (at that time), or should I say small swimming pool, we have ever had in a hotel room.

It was gone midnight before we got to bed so there was no surprise when we didn’t wake up until 11:00 the following morning (8 hour of jet lag). First order of the day was to have a late breakfast, then we were ready for a bit of exploration. Being able to use one of our phones in Taiwan was going to make things easier, so we went in search of a local sim card. With the card purchased we were free to explore the local area.
The Huashan 1914 Creative Park was top of the list. Located in the grounds of the old Taipei Winery it is now a park with the old buildings converted into shops, exhibition halls and restaurants. Today being a public holiday (Peace Memorial Day), the whole complex was buzzing with life, which made our experience that much nicer. Next stop was the tourist office, housed in Taipei’s main train station. This gave us a chance to see some of the streets going to and from the station. At one point we must have looked a bit lost, causing a very helpful young lady to offer assistance with directions. Greatly appreciated even if not really needed. We ended the day with a nice restaurant meal back at the park.

The Huashan park

The Huashan park

Taipei railway station

Taipei railway station

The following day we managed to leave the hotel at a more reasonable time. Had breakfast where we eat the previous evening, then made our way to the Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall. The weather was warmer than the previous day and was quite hot in the sun. Our route was a mixture of main roads and side streets, giving us a varied feel to life in Taipei.

Street near the park and our first accommodation

Street near the park and our first accommodation

Street life

Street life

Taipei

Taipei

Set in manicured grounds the Memorial Hall is an impressive building. You enter the complex through one of the equally impressive arched gateways. In front of you are the 89 steps (age of CKS when he died) leading up to a marble dome and a broad walkway. Inside, a massive statue of the man dominates. Whilst open, the statue is guarded by two soldiers. The soldiers do one hour stints and we were lucky enough to be there for the changing of the guard. The changing of the guard is a quite lengthy ceremony and is so choreographed it was like watching a dance routine in slow motion.

Memorial building, with octagonal blue tile roof, number 8 is associated with good fortune

Memorial building, with octagonal blue tile roof, number 8 is associated with good fortune

Chiang Kai-sheck memorial, 2 sets of white stairs, each with 89 steps to represent Chiang's age at the time of his death

Chiang Kai-sheck memorial, 2 sets of white stairs, each with 89 steps to represent Chiang's age at the time of his death

Statue of CKS

Statue of CKS

Guard leaving his post

Guard leaving his post

Change of the guard at Chang Kai-sheck (CKS) memorial hall

Change of the guard at Chang Kai-sheck (CKS) memorial hall

Within the complex, and adjacent to the central square, are two more impressive buildings. These are the concert hall and theatre, both built in a more traditional style.

Looking at the concert hall and theatre in the ground of CKS memorial

Looking at the concert hall and theatre in the ground of CKS memorial

Having spent the afternoon in our hotel room and out of the heat, we were ready for some evening entertainment. As the light began to fade we took the metro to the old town, to see the Lantern Festival for the Chinese New Year. Immediately we emerged from the metro station a dragon lantern, belching smoke, was there to greet us. All around us neon lights and all forms of lantern lit the now dark night sky. We followed the indicated route and for the next hour or so were treated to the most amazing display of lanterns.

Year of the Dragon, everywhere celebrating Chinese New Year, the Dragon is very prominent

Year of the Dragon, everywhere celebrating Chinese New Year, the Dragon is very prominent

Lantern corridor

Lantern corridor

Light show on street building, inside the building its like being in a kaleidoscope

Light show on street building, inside the building its like being in a kaleidoscope

lantern festival

lantern festival

Dinner followed our excursion then it was time to explore the back streets and all of the merchandise on offer. Our wandering was finally curtailed by the onset of rain, meaning it was back to the metro and home to the hotel. A very enjoyable evening excursion.

Taipei night life

Taipei night life

At night, Taipei lights up

At night, Taipei lights up

Night in life in Taipei

Night in life in Taipei

We temporarily left Taiwan the following day for five days in Hong Kong.

Second visit to Taipei

On our return to Taiwan, we had a further two nights and one full day in Taipei before starting a more extensive exploration of the island.
We arrived back into an overcast and damp Taipei. Entering the country was straight forward and as swift as before. With a little bit of directional guidance our taxi driver got us to our hotel just around 17:00. This arrival time allowed us to get a new Sim card for the phone and dine with cocktails at Alleycats.

SIM card contract for my mobile, no idea what I signed but it worked very well.

SIM card contract for my mobile, no idea what I signed but it worked very well.

The following day, two Metro rides and a short walk got us to the impressive Baoan Temple. A path through tranquil gardens led us to the temple gates. The vibrant colours on the intricate carving above the gate together with the smell of incense drew us beyond and into a courtyard. The courtyard was a hive of activity with worshipers lighting incense stick and placing offering to one of the many deities enshrined here. The colours and carvings of the central shrine were even more impressive than the entrance gate, it may even surpass some of Hindu temples we have seen.

Dalongdong Baoan temple entrance

Dalongdong Baoan temple entrance

One the building in Baoan Temple complex

One the building in Baoan Temple complex

Baoan Temple shrine (one of)

Baoan Temple shrine (one of)

Worshiping at this site dates back to 1742 but the temple’s construction didn’t start until 1805. We were able to enter the central shrine to marvel at more carvings and statues. The principal statue being of Baosheng Dadi, the god of medicine and healing. Multiple rooms make up the boundary of the complex, each providing information about the temple and its deities.

Some of ornate artwork of Baoan temple building

Some of ornate artwork of Baoan temple building

Close up of Baoan temple roof detail

Close up of Baoan temple roof detail

Baoan temple guardians

Baoan temple guardians

Some of artwork on the wall

Some of artwork on the wall

The Baoan temple door

The Baoan temple door

Offering package you can buy at the Baoan temple

Offering package you can buy at the Baoan temple

Ceiling Baoan Temple

Ceiling Baoan Temple

Across the road from the Baoan Temple is the Confucius Temple, and our next port of call. Another impressive building, but maybe not so mind-blowing as next door. We toured the complex soaking up the wisdom of the great man and admiring the building’s artistry. Then headed back to the Metro to explore another part of Taipei.

Wanren Gongqiang, wall of supreme knowledge , a Chinese Unicorn is painted in the centre of the wall

Wanren Gongqiang, wall of supreme knowledge , a Chinese Unicorn is painted in the centre of the wall

Confucius temple

Confucius temple

Confucius temple

Confucius temple

Outside Confucius Temple, the usual See no Evil, hear no evil, say no evil, but adding a fourth one: DO no evil

Outside Confucius Temple, the usual See no Evil, hear no evil, say no evil, but adding a fourth one: DO no evil

In no time we found ourselves back in the centre and strolling through the 2-28 Peace Park. A small leafy park with water features dominated by the 2-28 Monument in the middle. The park commemorates the tragic massacre that began on February 28, 1947 and the struggles of the gay community in the 1960s. Plaques in both Chinese and English explain what the park stands for today, which in turn is complemented by the quietness of the surroundings.

The 2-28 Peace Park (for honoring and mourning the victims and families of the February 28 incident in 1947)

The 2-28 Peace Park (for honoring and mourning the victims and families of the February 28 incident in 1947)

2-28 Memorial in the Peace park

2-28 Memorial in the Peace park

National Museum Taipei

National Museum Taipei

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

A quick visit to the National Taiwan Museum to view the cultural displays. A bit of travel admin and an early dinner completed another enjoyable day.

That ended our second visit to Taipei as we would start our road trip around Taiwan the next day. Before returning to the capital for a third time at the end of the trip.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Chang Kai-Shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese politician, revolutionary, and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China and the Generalissimo of the National Revolutionary Army.
During the Chinese civil war, Chiang’s nationalists were defeated by the communists (led by Mao Zedong). Chiang's government and army retreated to the island of Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted critics during a period known as the White Terror. Presiding over a period of social reforms and economic prosperity, Chiang won five elections of six-year terms as President of the Republic of China in which he faced minimal opposition or was elected unopposed. In 1975, three years into his fifth term as president, and one year before the death of Mao, he died.

Face Masks
The wearing of face masks is common in Taiwan. Whether this is the result of the Covid pandemic a few years ago or part of their culture, we don’t know. Probably a bit of both. On public transport you can expect to see around 80% mask wearing. In shops and restaurants this raises to almost 100%, except for some personal engagements with the customer.

Posted by MAd4travel 13:16 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 3(b)

Route: Xincheng - Hualien

semi-overcast 25 °C

27 March - 30 March 2024

Following breakfast there was some laundry to be attended to. Then we headed back into the mountains to do a bit of hiking. As with the Central Mountain Range, accessibility to the Coastal Range is limited due to the terrain. However, a section close to the coast has been designated the Taroko National Park and it is here that locals and tourist can experience the natural wonders on offer.
We chose our villa for its close proximity to the park, this meant that within 20 minutes we were at our first hike. Known as the Swallow Grotto Trail this old bit of roadway follows the route of the Liwu River. It's an easy but dramatic walk next to the steep sided river gorge. Smooth marble rock formed much of the gorge whilst holes in the face allowed surface water to escape in the wet season. Although it was busy with other tourists, this didn’t detract from its splendour.

Swallow Grotto Trail

Swallow Grotto Trail

Inside the Swallow Grotto Trail

Inside the Swallow Grotto Trail

mountain river

mountain river

Marble canyon in Taroko NP

Marble canyon in Taroko NP

Further up the mountain road was our next stop. The Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail follows a stretch of the original mountain road as it cut through the narrowest part of the Taroko Gorge. Plagued by rock falls over the years, causing frequent closures, the trail is now completely covered. A concrete covered walkway now provides easy access to this incredible natural wonder.

Plunging canyon

Plunging canyon

You can really see the marble rock in the canyon below

You can really see the marble rock in the canyon below

Nice stone but we can't remember what it says.

Nice stone but we can't remember what it says.

Waterfall coming out of rock

Waterfall coming out of rock

View over the Tunnel of 9 Turns

View over the Tunnel of 9 Turns

A couple of more stops on our way out of the mountains completed an enjoyable day of spectacular mountain scenery. Whetting our appetite for a future visit in two days time.

Taroko National Park is one of the most popular tourist destination in Tawain and prime photo stop

Taroko National Park is one of the most popular tourist destination in Tawain and prime photo stop

Right on the very edge of the Taroko National Park the mountain cliffs descend steeply straight into the ocean. Transportation around this obstacle has been made possible by several long tunnels through the mountain catering for both road and rail.
This spectacular coastline and it's associated feats of engineering are what we went to see today. The best views of what are known as the Qingshui Cliffs are from various vantage points along a 22km stretch of road between Chongde and Herren. We left early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the worst of the traffic and were rewarded with some amazing views of the cliffs, the mountains behind and the network of tunnels.

Coastal Road on the edge of the Taroko NP

Coastal Road on the edge of the Taroko NP

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

A bit of travel admin filled the middle of the day and was followed by a beach side stroll. No more than a five minute walk from our villa was the ocean. So what better way to end the day than with a walk along the promenade. Although not the most attractive beach stroll, due to the beach Tetrapods (see below), we got the sea air and exercise.

When we looked out the window on our last day in Xincheng it was very overcast with a light drizzle in the air. The clouds out to sea were black and the mountains were barely visible. Our plan was to do a couple more hikes in the Taroko National Park, but the weather was threatening to put pay that. However, the weather forecast for the park looked better, so we stuck to the plan. We were so pleased we did. After about 20 minutes of driving and at an altitude over 500 metres, the sky was clear and the sun was shining.
Our first hike was the Baiyang Waterfall Trail. The trailhead is at the entrance to a long dark tunnel, our flashlight made negotiating that much easier. At the other end of the tunnel you emerge into a different world than the one you left. Not a mountain road in sight, just a fast flowing river cutting its way through a wooded gorge. Bird song filled the air and butterflies cloaked the path side bushes. At this point we had the trail pretty much to ourselves, as it was a bit early for the tour groups.

Entrance to the first tunnel on the Baiyang Trail

Entrance to the first tunnel on the Baiyang Trail

Inside the entrance tunnel of the Baiyang trail

Inside the entrance tunnel of the Baiyang trail

Butterfly on the Baiyang Trail

Butterfly on the Baiyang Trail

A well maintain path and several other tunnels guided us deeper into the forest. As we progressed the scenery became more dramatic, the rivers appeared to flow faster and the mountain slopes steeper. As with many trails in the forest the end of this one is quite abrupt due to landslide damage. Luckily though, at that point a spectacular natural wonder created a grand finale. The last tunnel was part river part path with a lot of water dripping from the ceiling. That dripping turned into a torrent at the end of the tunnel. Past earthquakes had opened cracks in the tunnels roof allowing water to pour in from the aquifers in the mountain rock above.

Tunnel instruction in Taiwanese

Tunnel instruction in Taiwanese

The English translation is quite short, using translation app, it is a bit more detailed

The English translation is quite short, using translation app, it is a bit more detailed

Rock fall warning,

Rock fall warning,

Taiwan Part 3 120 - 1

Taiwan Part 3 120 - 1

Inside the last tunnel

Inside the last tunnel

Baiyang waterfall, the end of the trail

Baiyang waterfall, the end of the trail

Baiyang Trail

Baiyang Trail

At this point we had to turn back and retrace our steps. Admiring the beautiful scenery, now from a different angle.
A short drive back down the mountain road got us to our second hike. Fortunately still at an altitude that retained the nice weather. The Lushui Trail winds into the forest then hugs the cliff edge until it reaches the village of Heliu. Or that is what it should do. A notice at the trailhead informed us that the cliff section was closed due to, you guessed it, a landslide. This didn’t deter us, we would just go as far along the trail as allowed.
The path weaved its way into the forest passing old specimens of the valuable Camphor Tree (see below). As with the previous hike, butterflies were everywhere together with a fair few lizards. Around the kilometre mark red tape stopped us progressing further and we turned back. A short but enjoyable walk all the same.

Camphor tree

Camphor tree

Lizard on Lushui trail

Lizard on Lushui trail

One more short hike completed our day’s activities. We had seen the Changchun Shrine from the road a couple of days before. Today we stopped and walked the trail to get a better look. A tunnelled pathway follows the cliff edge before emerging at small colourful shrine and waterfall.

Changchun Shrine or Eternal Spring Shrine, a memorial to Taroko NP

Changchun Shrine or Eternal Spring Shrine, a memorial to Taroko NP

Trail to the Shrine

Trail to the Shrine

Monastery

Monastery

It hardly seems believable but this was the last day of our Taiwan road trip. We had to return the car in the late afternoon but had time to do something until then. Our choice was a visit to Liyu Lake, not far outside the town Hualien. Nestled at the foot of the Coastal Mountain Range and surrounded by forest its a picturesque spot. From the car park we started our walk in a clockwise direction around the lake. The side closest to the town caters for all the lake activities with hundreds of pedalo lined up for hire. We declined the offer to take one out and continued on our way.

Pedalos on Lake Liyu

Pedalos on Lake Liyu

Today was hot and humid so it was a bit of a relief to feel the breeze across the water and to reach the more shaded east shore. Away from the town it was quieter and the foliage was full of butterflies, I am sure I counted at least 10 different species. Some as big as your hand and others not much bigger than a thumb nail.

Liyu Lake Scenic Recreation area

Liyu Lake Scenic Recreation area

The walk was around 5km and was perfect timing for the rest of the days commitments. We drove back to Hualien, filled the car with petrol, bought our train tickets for the following day, checked in at the hotel and dropped the car off at the rental office. The day was completed with a Taiwanese Hotpot dinner in a near by restaurant.

Taiwanese speciality: Hotpot

Taiwanese speciality: Hotpot

Little did we know at the time, but had we arrived in Hualien a few days later than planned all of the above would not have been possible. Whilst we were back in Taipei a massive earthquake hit Hualien and the surrounding area causing structural damage and loss of life. More of that in the Taipei Blog that will follow.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Beach Tetrapods
The east coast of Taiwan gets some pretty big waves. Hence its attraction for surfers. During the typhoon season these waves can get dangerously big, causing a threat to life and property.
To provide some protection, huge concrete Tetrapods have been placed along the shoreline. Each Tetrapod has three legs for stability, range in height from one to three meters and placed in clusters along the shoreline. The larger coastal towns of Hualien and Taitung have the most.
This action has created controversy amongst locals, who say they bloke access to the sea, spoil the beauty and cause environmental damage.

Tetrapods

Tetrapods

More tetrapods

More tetrapods



Camphor Trees
Camphor has been produced as a forest product for centuries. By the early 19th century most camphor tree reserves had been depleted with the remaining large stands in Japan and Taiwan, with Taiwanese production greatly exceeding Japanese. Camphor was one of the primary resources extracted by Taiwan's colonial powers as well as one of the most lucrative. First the Chinese and then the Japanese established monopolies on Taiwanese camphor. In 1868, a British naval force sailed into Anping harbour and the local British representative demanded the end of the Chinese camphor monopoly. After the local imperial representative refused, the British bombarded the town and took the harbour. The "camphor regulations" negotiated between the two sides subsequently saw a brief end to the camphor monopoly.
Camphor has many medicinal benefits. Best known today for its balms and vapours used to relieve the pain of headaches and migraine.

Camphor tree

Camphor tree

Posted by MAd4travel 12:06 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 3(a)

Route: Guanxi - Mingchi National Recreation Area - Lishan - Xincheng

semi-overcast 25 °C

24 March - 26 March 2024

We had now travelled as far north as we intended, about 50km south of Taipei. Next it was a cross island journey to the east coast once more. Our chosen route was over the central and coastal mountain ranges, to be done in three stages.
First stage was from Guanxi in the west to the Mingchi National Recreation Area, 1200m up in the central mountains.
A short drive through some rural towns got us to the start of the North Cross Island Highway. Don’t be fooled, this road isn’t a highway most people would picture. This is a narrow winding mountain road, at times not more than a single lane.
As we ascended the scenery got more spectacular and the stops to take in the view more frequent. Finding somewhere safe to stop wasn’t easy though, but we managed enough to gets some good photo’s.

View of the central mountains and the road bridge in the distance

View of the central mountains and the road bridge in the distance

A viewpoint stop on the Central Cross-Island Highway

A viewpoint stop on the Central Cross-Island Highway

Start of the drive up into the central mountains

Start of the drive up into the central mountains

New drainage channels in hope to stop future landslides and flooding which happened during a typhoon (2016) and wiped out communities below

New drainage channels in hope to stop future landslides and flooding which happened during a typhoon (2016) and wiped out communities below

Mountain road

Mountain road

The driving wasn’t difficult and even enjoyable at times. The only issue was the other motorist using the route. We have found that the quality of driving in Taiwan is generally poor, but this seemed to have dropped further on these mountain roads. All bends have mirrors to warn you of approaching traffic, which seemed to be ignored by everyone except us. Meaning cars would barrel around a bend in the middle of the road requiring us to either stop or squeeze tightly against the rock face. However, we did make it to our overnight accommodation unscathed.
Overnight accommodation was at Mingchi Resort, but before relaxing in our cabin we checked out Mingchi Lake, just a short walk away. The small lake surrounded by forest was strangely tranquil, just what we needed after the drive. The lake was short on water for this time of the year, a story that is common throughout Taiwan. This didn’t seem to concern the resident wildlife, as there were an abundance of fish, Black Swans, Terrapins, a Goose and Heron. A stroll round the lake was enough for today, we then retired to our cabin.

Mingchi Lake

Mingchi Lake

Lake fish

Lake fish

Piles of terrapins (small turtles)

Piles of terrapins (small turtles)

Goose and ducks on Mingchi Lake

Goose and ducks on Mingchi Lake

Our cabin in Mingchi Forest

Our cabin in Mingchi Forest

After a very pleasant morning walk in the nearby forest. We made a second visit to the lake, this time to visit its Japanese Garden. We got chatting to a Taiwanese couple at the garden, they spoke good english. They were interested in what we were doing in Taiwan and surprised to hear we were driving ourselves.

Mingchi forest walk

Mingchi forest walk

Japanese garden in Mingchi lake

Japanese garden in Mingchi lake

Lake Mingchi the day after, this time a sunny day

Lake Mingchi the day after, this time a sunny day

It was then back on the road again. This time descending down the eastern slope of the Central Mountains before joining a wide river valley. We were now between the Central and Coastal Mountain ranges. We followed the valley for around 20km, passing endless cabbage fields, before starting our ascent once more. All the time immersed in stunning scenery.

Views during our cross island highway drive, the fields are orchards trees cherries or apple

Views during our cross island highway drive, the fields are orchards trees cherries or apple

Taiwan road signs provide loads of informations, for the one who can read them....

Taiwan road signs provide loads of informations, for the one who can read them....

It looks like every farmer has it's own personal irrigation pipe and are strapped to any object along the side of the road.

It looks like every farmer has it's own personal irrigation pipe and are strapped to any object along the side of the road.

Central Mountain View, and for the first time we can see the highest summits (in the background) in the area which are over 3000m

Central Mountain View, and for the first time we can see the highest summits (in the background) in the area which are over 3000m

By mid-afternoon we had completed our second stage, arriving at our accommodation for the night in the small town of Lishan. We received a very warm welcome at the Lishan Guest House and quickly realised there was very little english spoken by the staff. Anne’s phone and the translation app came to the rescue. This caused a bit of excitement as we soon had all the staff wanting to speak into the phone. They were mostly interested to hear the english translation of what they had said.
Everything sorted, we went to our lovely room with a balcony looking out over the town and the mountains beyond. A stroll around Lishan and a nice traditional evening meal, completed the day and stage two of the island crossing.

Our accommodation in Lishan

Our accommodation in Lishan

Lishan at night

Lishan at night

Lishan street by night

Lishan street by night

Typical mountain meal

Typical mountain meal

View from our accommodation balcony in Lishan

View from our accommodation balcony in Lishan

The third and final stage of our cross island journey was mostly downhill towards the east coast. The usual tight narrow roads, all in good condition, were a joy to drive. Especially as the amount of traffic on them was minimal.
We thought the scenery couldn’t get more spectacular from that of the previous two days, but it did. The road cut through tight gorges with steep forest covered slopes on either side, emerging into river valleys every so often.

Narrow road

Narrow road

Tunnel cut through the bare rock

Tunnel cut through the bare rock

Mountain road

Mountain road

View from the road

View from the road

Progress was slow, but that didn’t matter as it allowed more time to appreciate the scenery. Wherever possible we would stop to photograph our surroundings and enjoy them more fully. On these occasions, locals will ask us where we are from and be surprised that we were driving ourselves and not part of a tour group.

Mountain road

Mountain road

Road side mirror, essential and very useful for driving along narrow winding mountain road

Road side mirror, essential and very useful for driving along narrow winding mountain road

Bilu Sacred tree,  Luntar fir tree, native tree of Taiwan

Bilu Sacred tree, Luntar fir tree, native tree of Taiwan

We were aware that there could be hold-ups en-route, due to landslide repairs following the most recent typhoons. At major work area’s, traffic was only allowed through once an hour on the hour. We got our timing right for the first major works but were held up for about 30 minutes at the second. As vehicles began to tail back it became a bit of a social event, with people chatting to the occupants of the closest vehicle. We had a long and interesting chat with a German couple from the Munich area.

The mountain scared by an old landslide

The mountain scared by an old landslide

Landslide repair work

Landslide repair work

Road closure sign explaining location, time, duration of the work

Road closure sign explaining location, time, duration of the work

Traffic waiting for the road to open

Traffic waiting for the road to open

It had been sunny for most of the drive but as we got closer to the east coast the cloud cover increased. Then by the time we reached the coastal strip it was raining. With only a bit of food shopping and the check-in at our accommodation remaining we weren’t too bothered by the weather.
Home for the next four nights was a two story villa with views of the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Just what we needed after changing accommodation so frequently over the past few days.

Our villa (the one on the left)

Our villa (the one on the left)

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Red Bridges
The colour red in Taiwan signifies good fortune. What we have noticed is that many of their bridges are totally or partially painted red. This is not surprising in a country that suffers regularly from typhoons and earthquakes, together with the associated landslides.

Red bridge

Red bridge

Beautiful Drive
During our travels we have had the pleasure of driving some of the most beautiful and scenic roads around the world. I think it is only fare to add the North Cross Island Highway to this list. Starting around Daxi in the west, following highway 7 to Lishan, then highway 8 all the way to the east coast.

Tourist Survey
During our travels around Taiwan I have been undertaking an observational survey of tourist nationalities. My gut feeling results are as follows:
In the major tourist destinations, around 70% are Taiwanese, 20% Other East Asians and 10% European & American.
In the minor tourist destinations, around 80% are Taiwanese, 18% Other East Asians and 2% European & American.
In the none touristy destinations, around 90% are Taiwanese, 9.99% Other East Asians plus Anne & I.
These results haven’t been independently verified so should be used with caution.

Posted by MAd4travel 10:23 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 2(b)

Route: Changhua - Guanxi

sunny 25 °C

21 March - 23 March 2024

Now on the move again and in a northernly direction. Although our destination was Changhua, we would first take a detour to Sun Moon Lake. The day started sunny, which revealed some great scenery for our drive down the mountain.

Mountain scenery

Mountain scenery

Two hours of driving got us to Sun Moon Lake. The road then hugged the edge of the lake as we made our way to the cable car station. From there we boarded a cable car pod and ascended the mountain. Sun Moon Lake sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains, so gaining elevation gives you the best view. Each pod takes up to eight people, but it was just the two of us in ours. This made photography much easier. The cable car journey covers just under 2km and takes about 10 minutes. By the time you arrive at the top you are at an elevation of 875 meters. At the top there is a cultural village dedicated to the local indigenous people, the Thao. However, in reality it is a theme park with rides, etc. This not being our scene we didn’t stay long before taking a pod back down.

Sun Moon Lake Rope Car (that's how it was translated in English for cable car)

Sun Moon Lake Rope Car (that's how it was translated in English for cable car)

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Theme Park above Sun Moon Lake

Theme Park above Sun Moon Lake

Lunch in the lake side canteen was followed by a walk along the boardwalk. Walk and cycle ways stretch around most of the lake’s 37km perimeter, but we only covered a short stretch.

Boardwalk along Sun Moon Lake

Boardwalk along Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Our day was completed by the drive to our overnight location, Changhua.

Around 20 minutes drive west of Changhua is the town of Lukang. Lukang is one of Taiwan’s oldest port towns and has preserved much of its architectural and cultural heritage. This sounded interesting, so we thought it was worth a look.
The old part of the town is now condensed into one narrow street with a few alleyways coming of it. It felt like a different world. Old wooden fronted buildings, some as 300 years old, lined the street. Colourful decoration adorned most of them. Inside was like a time capsule with original architecture preserved and period artefacts displayed everywhere. Many of the original trades are still performed, such as fan making, flour figurines, etc. These original trades now mix with more modern consumable goods, a necessity to allow the area to survive.
We slowly strolled along the street going in and out of shops. More to see the architecture than to buy anything, even though some had very nice pottery and carvings.

Lukang Old Street door which some are up to 300 years old

Lukang Old Street door which some are up to 300 years old

Lukang Old Street

Lukang Old Street

Fan shop in Lukang Old Street

Fan shop in Lukang Old Street

Shop in Lukang Old Street

Shop in Lukang Old Street

We still don't know what type of food this is. Any suggestion?

We still don't know what type of food this is. Any suggestion?

Street amusement that can be seen everywhere

Street amusement that can be seen everywhere

Ornate manhole cover in Lukang

Ornate manhole cover in Lukang

Lukang narrow alleyway of the Old Street

Lukang narrow alleyway of the Old Street

It was a hot day and we soon built up a thirst. An interesting cafe caught our eye so we went in. This was a stroke of luck. Whilst quenching our thirst we got into conversation with a guy, using the phone translation facility, who was lecturer and a master craftsman of Floor Figurines. He was very engaging and interesting and one of the highlights of the day.

Happy Chap who is a renowned for his traditional dough making figurine

Happy Chap who is a renowned for his traditional dough making figurine

Cafe in Old Lukang

Cafe in Old Lukang

A little further down the street was a shop selling scrolls of Chinese writing, an item we had been interested in buying. Most of the one’s we really liked were too big to transport home and cost more than we were willing to pay. However, we did purchase a small one for a reasonable price. What was a bonus though, Anne was able to try her hand at painting Chinese script. And did a pretty good job.

Chinese Script Shop

Chinese Script Shop

That's Anne's writing Chinese style

That's Anne's writing Chinese style

Almost just across the street another cafe caught our interest. They were serving food and we were a bit hungry, so we combined a nose around with a bite to eat. Another amazing building which the owner was keen to show off, so we took advantage and even went upstairs. This was a day to be adventurous with our food. We had already tried some strange tasting soft drinks and a sausage on a stick with a sweet coating. Now it was time to try bubble tea and risotto Taiwan style. Our first two encounters of the day were drinkable and edible but not to our liking. Unfortunately with our latest choice we fared no better.

Inside restaurant in Old Street Lukang

Inside restaurant in Old Street Lukang

Top floor of restaurant

Top floor of restaurant

Bubble tea, weird milky and slimy texture ball. You guessed it, it wasn't our cup of tea <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />)

Bubble tea, weird milky and slimy texture ball. You guessed it, it wasn't our cup of tea :))

Street food, sweet sausage

Street food, sweet sausage

More interesting buildings and quant alleyways followed, before we bumped into a couple of minor celebs. Thats what we guessed they were. The guy was posing on a bench whilst being filmed. Then joined by his side-kick they wanted to engage in conversation with us. They were very pleasant so we obliged, whilst the camera man filmed the four of us.
It's not an exaggeration to say, at times we feel like the only non-Asians in Taiwan. Today we saw no Europeans or Americans and even at the most popular tourist attractions there were hardly any. Consequently, we are a bit of a novelty and people want to engage with is, which is great and a bonus for us.
The final part of the walk was through the artist area. A row of original styled workshops where you can see the artists at work. Workshops creating masks, scrolls, figurines, paintings, etc were all open for viewing and we went into most of them. Even buying a flour figurine from one.

Artist workshop

Artist workshop

Chinese script workshop

Chinese script workshop

artist quarter in Lukang

artist quarter in Lukang

Figurines made of flour dough

Figurines made of flour dough

As with everywhere in Taiwan, there were many temples to see. But this time we didn’t get distracted and spent our time immersed in the architecture, culture and the people.
That was the day done, except for one last encounter. Paying for the parking in the pay booth was going well until we had no more english instructions. To our rescue, and not for the first time, was a very helpful local. She pushed the appropriate buttons for us and we were able to get the car out of the carpark.

On the move again and continuing to head north. A long stretch of freeway got us close to the day’s first stop. Then a short stint on minor roads and we were at the Lions Head Mountain Scenic Area. Set in the foot hills of the Central Mountain Range, Lions Head provides a green oasis away from the busy towns that stretch away towards the west coast. Our visit consisted of a short circular hike through the lush forest.

Lions Head Forest, as usual in Taiwan Forest trails, lots of steps.

Lions Head Forest, as usual in Taiwan Forest trails, lots of steps.

Mail left under a rock in the Lion's Head recreational area. There is nothing around but trees and nature.

Mail left under a rock in the Lion's Head recreational area. There is nothing around but trees and nature.

Our second stop was in the same area, just a 9km drive away. Emei Lake our destination, a reservoir created from the Emei River. It wasn’t the reservoir that we were here to see, but a giant Buddha. Which became visible long before we arrived at the car-park. The 72 meter high bronze Maitreya Buddha Statue sits on a plinth and towers over its surroundings. Construction of the statue started in 2001 and it is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. There is also a massive monastery next to it, but we didn’t go in.

Biggest Maitreya Buddha Statue in Taiwan  (at Emei Lake)The pure bronze statue is 56.7 meters tall with a 15.3-meter-tall base, totalling 72 meters in all.

Biggest Maitreya Buddha Statue in Taiwan (at Emei Lake)The pure bronze statue is 56.7 meters tall with a 15.3-meter-tall base, totalling 72 meters in all.

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

It now wasn’t far to our accommodation in the small rural town of Guanxi. Our guest house was surrounded by rice paddies and with views down in to a river valley. The large house is set in extensive grounds and our room was on the second floor. The first floor was a fascinating shop selling recycled items. Lots of books, all in Chinese, and an incredible array of other items. You could find old camera’s, radio’s, tennis rackets, pictures, toys even some good quality bottles of wine. Every time we walked through we saw something new, or old in this instance. Although the guest house had 6 rooms and 3 cabins we were the only ones staying that night so had a free run of the place.

Rice paddies outside our accommodation

Rice paddies outside our accommodation

Ground floor of our accommodation doubled up as a second hand shop and recycling place. It was empty of any customers but us

Ground floor of our accommodation doubled up as a second hand shop and recycling place. It was empty of any customers but us

One of the item on display were old bottle of French Wine. The owners didn't know what they had in value as they don't drink wine

One of the item on display were old bottle of French Wine. The owners didn't know what they had in value as they don't drink wine

We had now travelled as far north as we intended, about 50km south of Taipei. The following day we would cross the central mountains, bound for the east coast once more.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Robot Road-workers
On the road it wasn’t unusual to encounter road works. The normal coned off area protecting workers and machinery from the traffic. What was different though was the flag waver requesting vehicles to slow done. This was a robot dressed in a high-viz jacket and hard hat.

Toto Wash-let
An encounter we have had on a number of occasions has fascinated us. But on only a couple of occasions have we been able to sample its functions. The Toto Wash-let is a toilet with a difference and electronically controlled. When you sit on the seat it is cushions and heated, a bit weird at first. As soon as your weight bears down on the seat a deodorant mist is spread into the toilet bowl. You are now ready to do your business. Once complete you have several cleaning options, all warm water jets aimed at the bum, you choose which angle is best for you. There were a couple of other buttons, with the function written in Chinese, which we didn’t try. The whole experience was a bit unsettling at first, but became a bit of a novelty when we got used to it.

Sun Moon Lake Pink Cable Car
At the Sun Moon Lake cable car station, there was a long queue of people waiting to board the pods for the ride up the mountain. You can therefore imagine our surprise when we were immediately instructed to go to the front of the queue upon our arrival. We felt like VIP’s and bit embarrassed having passed all these people queuing patiently. Once at the front of the queue it also seemed strange that there were plenty of empty pods that no one was boarding. Perhaps it was only polite to let the VIP’s have the choice of pod first?
We latter realised that everyone in the queue wanted to ride in a pink pod and there were only limited numbers of them. Why they wanted to cram into a pink pod instead of have another colour all to themselves, as we did, seemed to be odd. We never did find out why. The only explanation we could come up with. As it was the cherry blossom period, riding in a pink pod would provide good luck for the year ahead. This is purely a guess without any basis.

The Pink Pod, worth waiting 1/2 hour for ?

The Pink Pod, worth waiting 1/2 hour for ?

Posted by MAd4travel 15:53 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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