A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

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Taiwan was a bit of an unknown destination, I knew about Taipei and had read that there were some good national parks but other than that, I wasn't really sure what to expect. They are a manufacturing giant just off the coast of China with 23.5 million people with a relatively small land mass. One of the first interesting things to understand was the fact that they aren't officially classified as their own country (despite having their own government and military). It's a little confusing however it turns out that when China had a civil war last century, the communist party won and the opposing party sought retreat on the island of Taiwan, claiming to be the real 'China'. Over time this claim dissipated with the rest of the world, who now acknowledge mainland China with Taiwan being left in a peculiar situation.

I flew into Taipei and quickly realised there was loads to see and do. It's a bustling large city with a super efficient subway system. Neon signs, tall buildings, endless shopping areas combined with great street food and a traditional culture that seemed to be a fusion of Chinese, Japanese and other Asian influences.

For the first few days, I stayed at JV's Hostel right next to a night market on Tongua St, not far from Taipei 101 and returned to stay at 3SS not far from Taipei Main train station. Both were great - small rooms but had everything you'd need.

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Sights in Taipei

There were some really great highlights including:

- Taipei 101 - Formerly the tallest building in the world (currently 4th), at 509m with 101 floors and pagoda design, it dwarfs every other building in Taipei.
- Elephant Mountain - A walk up Elephant Mountain is an ideal way to get a view back over the city and see it's scale.
- Memorial Hall / Liberty Square / the City Gate - Are architectural show pieces.
- Temples - Longshan Temple, Boan Temple & Xingtian temple are very popular with worshipers and look fantastic.
- Shopping Next to Ximen Station - Is bustling with neon signs, people shopping and eating into the night.
- Presidential Office - You wont be able to get too close but it's an impressive 100 year old baroque-style building.
- 1914 Creative Park - Home to all sorts of creative talents and buildings including an upside down house! The park is used to showcase the talents of theater groups, painters, wood sculptors, writers, movie producers and more.
- Shilin Night Market - Taipei's largest night market with a huge range of culinary options.
- National Palace Museum - Not far from Shilin Night Market, the palace has a huge collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks which is one of the largest collections of its type in the world.
- Maokong Gondola - South east of the city is a very scenic gondola that climbs up for 20 minutes into lush mountains where tea is grown, produced and tasted.

It's a city that you certainly need at least 5-7 days for. The subway is great but like any city, it's always good to walk from place to place and dodge the endless stream of scooters!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Jiufen, Taiwan

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After a slow yet scenic train trip I arrived in Ruifang and then jumped on a local bus to go to the small town of Jiufen. It was a old gold mining town up until the 1950's and has since become a popular tourist town following the release of the movie 'City of Sadness'. The movie was a hit and since it came out in 1989, people from Taipei and abroad have been flocking to the city.

It's a small town with great views over mountains and the ocean with narrow winding streets and traditional building scattered on the mountain side. The 'old street' is full of local eateries where you can sample loads of Taiwanese food from a peanut ice cream wrap to stinky tofu (smells terrible, tastes a little better) and everything in between. It's a great place to wander and sample the food and admire the views.

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I stayed at the Flip Flop hostel which is fantastic. The guy working there takes people on nightly walking tours, giving guests some pretty cool insights into the town including it's history and it's local artists. One day was enough but it would have been great to stay longer to just relax and soak up the culture.

The next day the owner of the guest house told me that typhoon Meranti was due to hit Taipei on Friday, the day I was due to fly out. Taiwan is used to typhoons however Meranti was classified as the worlds largest of the year and was almost guaranteeing the fact that I was not going to catch my flight out of Taiwan. Luckily the typhoon ended up going west towards China and not up towards Taipei however I still felt the edge of the typhoon which had incredibly ferocious winds.

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Hualien & Toroko National Park, Taiwan

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I was really looking forward to the next part of the trip. After jumping on a train in Tapei's central station, I headed east and then south down Taiwan's east coast toward Taroko National Park. The nearest town to access the national park is Hualien. A small yet vibrant town with great food, weather and a really cool night market. I stayed at the very nice Sleeping Boot Backpacker Hostel which is right in the centre of town.

Taroko national park is big and you could send many days exploring the various trails from short hikes to multi-day treks. With limited time, there are basically 3 options: jump on a day tour from Hualien, utilise a hop-on hop-off bus service or rent a scooter and have full freedom flexibility.

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Of course I rented the scooter (after checking my travel insurance). It cost 500 Taiwanese dollars and after signing a the written contract (all in Chinese) off I went for the day. The ride up to the park was around 30 minutes away and one great thing that I had was a map of Taiwan download to my phone with the app 'Here Maps'. With headphones in, it allowed me to have full offline voice navigation which directed me to Taroko National Park. Much easier than having to stop all the time to check a paper map and try to work out what the street signs said. I just enjoyed the ride.

I first went and checked out Quizing Beach which is about 7 kilometres north of Hualien and then went on to Chingshui Cliffs which is where the ocean meets 800 metre mountains. It's these cliffs that form the entry into Taroko National Park. Following a river into the national park, you're suddenly dwarfed by these huge sheer cliffs either side as the road winds through a gorge. Along the way there are trails, rivers, temples and another buildings to check out. It was fantastic. The further you go, the more the road climbs, up to 1,000 metres in altitude and well beyond that.

Some must see highlights of Taroko National Park include:
- Shakadang Trail
- Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shrine
- Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) Trail
- Jiuqudong (Tunnel of Nine Turns) Trail
- Cimu Bridge
- Lushui Trail
- Xiangde Temple Trail

After the last stop, I kept riding and as the road climbs, you have amazing views back towards the ocean. Daylight and rain was the only issue, so I quickly got back on the bike and rode back towards Hualien. I was back in time to go to see the night market again enjoy some more food before dropping the scooter back at around 9:30pm. It was one of those great days, where you find yourself enjoying every minute.

I did plan to spend another day in Hualien but decided to go back to Taipei via a one night stopover in Jiufen, a place that had marked before the start of the trip but didn't think I'd have time to visit.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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