First of all, I forgot to mention something that made China very special for us: In China the people love taking pictures. Also they are in some areas not used to Europeans and especially not if they are very tall. So I do not know exactly how many but if I had to guess I would say we are on at least 500 photos… As soon as someone is brave enough to ask for a photo there are coming more!
But we wanted to tell something about Taiwan:
So after our short trip with the ferry we entered Kinmen Island which is already a part of Taiwan and we could book a much cheaper flight to our destination Taipei. We had nothing booked as everything was quite expensive but found a place quick with the help of the tourist information. We would sleep in a traditional house in the oldest street on Kinmen in a very mall village.
The people greeted us very friendly and we were relieved that we could finally speak some English again. We asked them for help with our flight to Taipei and interestingly you can buy all sorts of tickets from a machine in every 7 Eleven. Very handy. It even turned out way cheaper then we expected.
We were the only guests in the place and Shannon and Ray the two people working there had some spare time. So they took us around the island for the two days in a car and explained a lot of the history. There is a lot of military on the island and a lot of the defense worked through tunnels similar to Vietnam, we also took a bus tour but everything was explained in Chinese so unfortunately it was not that interesting. Still you can still feel the tension against the Chinese threat.
Very impressive and sad to see were the consequences of the recent Typhoon that hit Kinmen with full force. 5 Mio. trees had just been torn apart. Not fallen over, really torn apart and you could almost see no trees higher than 5 m any more. If you do not happen to get there for any convenient reason like we did it might not really be worth a visit but as it was it was a nice experience.
After another tour in their car around the island Ray and Shannon dropped us off at the airport and we could take our flight to Taipei. We checked into our nice hotel near Ximen, and since it was Christmas Eve we tried to find a place for a nice dinner, but it was too late so we went, like last year, for our traditional meal at McDonald’s 🙂
Also after being disconnected from the rest of the world for 4 weeks in China we could finally watch the new Star Wars movie. The next day had very nice weather and we could see some parts of Taipei, like the very nice Ximen area and an old Wine factory which is now a big cultural center. We did not have that much time since we were expecting a visitor from Europe. Selma’s friend Kim was joining us for about 2 weeks! After finding her at the Central Station, which is probably the most confusing worldwide, we bought tickets to immediately head south to Tainan.
With the High Speed Train it only takes 2.5 hours and you are almost at the other side of the island. Tainan self is also called the Kyoto of Taiwan, with a lot of temples and old buildings. We made a very long walking tour visiting most of the sights in the city center which took us already almost the whole day but there is so much to see. From Buddhist to Taoist Temples, to old Dutch Castles. After this we had seen enough temples for a bit and decided to rent a car to get to the Guanziling Hot Springs. On the way there we spotted an interesting building and made a small stop there.
Turned out we had found a huge Buddhist Monastery and everybody was sleeping except for one monk who showed us everything. We did even climbed the unfinished prayer spot at the roof which they hope to finish within the next 10 years. Also interesting: They have a room with very professional video equipment because the Master monk is live streaming some prayer live on YouTube in Mandarin. We had to leave just before the noon prayer, but not before taking a Selfie together with the monk.
We continued the drive up to the springs coming through the scenic coffee road. Arriving at the village we were a bit disappointed. Expecting a natural spring you can just book Spa packages in the local hotels. The water gets pumped out of the ground and you sit in a normal bathtub. Since that is not what we wanted and since we spent quite some time at the monastery we headed back.
Without taking a break we headed to the train station to go to Kaohsiung and from there picked a bus to Kenting National Park. We arrived very late, and just walked through the Kenting street. It is quite touristic and a lot of Taiwanese people go there for vacation as well.
It was unfortunately stormy and rainy weather. The next day we wanted to rent some scooters to drive around a bit. We met the owner of a hotel in the nearby Hengshung township. Which is a more convenient and cheaper place to stay. We want there with him and were his only guests and also got some electric scooters.. Then he gave us many recommendations on what to do in Kenting. First stop: Hot Springs! We did not give up that easily and this time we had some nice outdoor pools. The next day we drove through the area and enjoyed the scenic views, but to be honest driving in the strong wind was not that nice and we had to get back to Taipei anyway since we wanted to spent New Years Eve there.
Arriving back in Taipei we went to the National Palace Museum which is really great and afterwards went for dinner in the Shilin District which has a very relaxed atmosphere. For the countdown we of course headed to the Taipei 101 where a lot of people gathered and a big stage was set up. We secured a great view of the tower and waited. Local people were waiting as well, playing board games and eating. After the amazing fireworks everything immediately stopped and everybody started moving home. We met 2 danish guys that are on a project working in Taiwan and went together with them to the fancy Omega Club to celebrate the new year.
The next morning with hangover and not enough sleep we headed out for our next stop: Hualien, at the east side of Taiwan. It is a nice town with a lot of hotels and guesthouse. And the location is magnificent. To the West you have the up to 3500 m high mountains and the Pacific Ocean to the East.
After taking some rest we got on some bikes and did a long trip along the beach. We were rewarded with nice weather and views. The main attraction near Hualien is the Taroko Gorge, a breathtaking Marble Canyon with steep granite walls to the left and right. It is completely for free and you only have to get on the local bus. We decided to sleep in a hostel directly at the entrance to have more time to explore. There are many tracks to do, but some are closed to common landslides due to earthquakes and/or Typhoons. You can almost not explain how impressive this gorge is. Let some of the pictures speak for themselves although it is very hard to capture the atmosphere in a picture. It is definitely worth staying there for several days when you are into hiking and are willing to wait for the permits you need for some of the tougher trails.
Unfortunately Kims vacation time was coming to an end after this and she had to go back to Taipei and fly home. We decided to stay in Hualien for a bit since we were quite exhausted from the 4 weeks China and the tight schedule we had the 2 weeks in Taiwan. We used the time to work on our design and already think ahead for further projects and we might have a great idea there. But lets not get ahead of us and first see how the first idea works out. We really didn’t do much else during that time except for some walks through the city and enjoying the beef noodle soup or the dumplings. At some point we had to make up our mind on what to do, since Chinese New Year was coming closer. Local people recommended us to stay at least in a bigger city and avoid travelling, since everything touristic will be overcrowded and travelling almost impossible and a lot of shops and restaurants will be closed down. We tried to find a place to stay in Taipei but we did not see anything we liked. So instead we decided to leave Taiwan on Chinese New Year and head further to Sabah, Borneo.
As a last sight to visit we chose the Sun Moon Lake near Taichung. Its a very beautiful lake in the mountains with loads of tourists. We walked approx. 12 km around it while everyone else tends to take a bike. We had the best weather again and after that nice day trip spent a few hours in the train back to Taipei. Indeed it is not advisable to travel close to Chinese New Year. Everything was crazy full. In the evening in Taipei everything was closed and you could only get food on some food stalls on the street. Also where we stayed there were no huge fireworks or anything else. It seems to be more like a calm festive day you spend with your family than anything else.
The night we spent at the airport since our flight was already at 6 am and off we were to Malaysia again!