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Author: Torben

Do you know someone who visited Taiwan?

Do you know someone who visited Taiwan?

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!

More of China

More of China

Hey everyone,

we will continue with the stories we experienced in China. Since we were done with work for some time it was finally time for at least some sightseeing.

We wanted to meet up with Marjolein a friend of Selma who was coincidentally there for work as well. We had booked a hotel in advance since the train takes about 6-7 hours until Shanghai and another 30 minutes in the subway till the center. So we arrived quite late and had our first surprise: The hotel had given away our room and was full now, because we came after 6 pm. Not really worth arguing a lot but since it was already late we had to find another hotel very quick. Luckily there was still something available where we could stay for the first night and we could finally get some sleep.

The next day we moved to another hotel and could start our exploration. We went specifically to the stationary street so Marjolein and Selma could do some shopping there since they are both stationary freaks. Hours later, with full bags (trust me) we made a big walking tour through the city center ending near the Shanghai Museum for some dumplings. It was really nice to see a familiar face on the other side of the world again. Also thanks Marjolein for taking some of our stuff (and Selma’s new stationary) back to the Netherlands!

Shanghai feels like any other big modern city. English was more common but still some of the hotel stuff did not speak any (or sometimes you get the feeling they are too shy to try). Since we only planned to stay 2 nights we had not enough time to see a lot but on the second day we spent quite a lot of time in the Shanghai Museum, which is really really awesome and for free! The Chinese Culture is very impressive and you can get a very good impression of it by visiting here.

The next day we started our journey to the Yellow Mountains, with a small stop in Hangzhou. Hangzhou is approximately 2 hours away from Shanghai by High Speed Train and supposed to be a very beautiful and cultural place. Home to a very popular big lake and a lot of Chinese poets come from that city. Unfortunately we were very unlucky with the weather and it was raining quite heavily so we could walk along the lake and it was still quite busy but it was not worth visiting all the different places around the lake since you could maybe look 10 m far. So we did hop on the next bus to our desired destination Tungxi, Huangshan in the Anhui province.

Arriving there was again a very refreshing experience. Everyone tried their best to help us and language barriers were ignored. At the bus station a police officer came to us asking where we need to go and explaining all the buses. The bus driver took his time to find out where we were going to stay and explain the way from the bus stop where we were dropped of. So friendly!

The town itself has a very old main road with a lot of traditional Chinese shops with tea, spices and more exotic things where we really do not know what it is used for like i.e. tree fungus that is really beautiful and a slightly more modern area with a lot of different Chinese restaurants. You can even find some small cafes and bars altogether a place where you can stay for a few days but weekends and public holiday should be avoided. We heard that it gets overcrowded with Chinese tourists.

Here it was also the first time in months that it was really cold! We were freezing in the night, but besides that we also had good news: The first sample of our backpack was ready and sent to the hostel where we were staying! We were obviously very excited about that and tried to enjoy the moment of unpacking although we were very critical as well.

For the next day we booked a day trip for the main attraction of the area, The so called “Yellow Mountains”. A mountain range with bizarre granite peaks and freezing temperatures. We had to get up in the middle of the night and arrived there with a lot of Chinese tourists. I can hardly imagine how it will look like during Chinese New Year. Other than it is really impressive and awesome up there, there is not much to tell, rather let the pictures speak for themselves.

After this amazing experience we continued our journey to a quite special place. Probably everyone has at least heard of Ming porcelain. This was produced during the Ming Dynasty in Jingdezhen where we were heading next. This was already a quite “remote” area for tourists since we saw no Europeans, but getting from A to B in China is quite straightforward so that was no problem. When we arrived at our desired hotel though the whole area around it had a blackout so we continued wandering around until we found a nice hostel. The people were doing their best to help us with everything. We needed options to get back to Shenzhen for our last business meeting and they searched for us and left us a note at the next day with all the information. So nice!

Jingdezhen was one of the porcelain centers of China for centuries and lasting many dynasties so on every corner you can find some porcelain. We visited two very nice places. The official open air museum where they rebuild different kilns out of different dynasties and there are also current artists doing there work, very impressive and very expensive! The second place is an artist community where you can find everything from small tea sets to jewelry and bought some gifts for our family.

To get back to Shenzhen we had to take the bus to Nanchang, a quite big transportation hub with a little bit over 1 million people living there. We arrived late and had the first train in the morning so we did not visiting anything there.

Back in Shenzhen we had a hotel close to the factory but close was another 45 minutes by car. We were very impressed by the quality they are producing and basically all big brand are producing something there. We spent the whole day with James, our sales guy, in discussion and they even checked the quality of the sample we had from the other factory. Very exciting to be there and we had a very good feeling as well.

Later that evening when back in the hotel we received a second sample from a different factory and we were quite surprised. They made a very good impression when we visited but the quality of the backpack was…. let’s say.. not that good. So with a small disappointment we left in direction of Xiamen again.

In Xiamen we directly took the bus to the ferry where you can take the ferry to Kinmen, its around 30 minutes by boat from the China Mainland and already part of Taiwan. From there the plan was to take the plane to Taipei where we would meet up with Selmas friend Kim.

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