Archive for the 'Taiwan 2008' Category

Beitou Springs

Tuesday, last day. We were out of Fenchiu by the 9am bus, heading back towards Chisyi City. Very pleasant couple of hours admiring the scenery and stealing a few extra winks of sleep. After we orientated ourselves with the city and rediscovered the station, we booked the return journey for the fastest train departing at 11:30. An hour to spare for lunch, then onto the train arriving in Taipei late afternoonish. Plenty of time to get a few hours study in for my mid-term on Thursday. It was clear when we arrived in Taipei that time was against us with a 9PM flight ahead, minus the check-in time, minus the 90 minutes we were told it took to get to the airport from the main station during rush hour. But we gambled and hopped on the MRT (subway) for a 30 minute journey to Beitou, where we heard there are some natural hot springs. Rushing, we found a local place (I don’t think it was the main tourist spot), and hopped in, literally. A few minutes chilling out in the hot water and we got talking to a lady and an old chap, both of whom spoke a bit of English. We were trying to find out the quickest and most direct route the airport, which made the old man laugh because we had so little time to get to the airport. However, the lady was kind enough to offer us a lift to the airport which was about 50km away (she lived nearby and had skipped work to go to the springs with her friend). After 20 minutes we hit the road. It was a short stay, but I don’t think I could have remained in the hot water for much longer. The lady and her friend were very jovial on the journey to the airport. I think it was a novel concept to have three gwilos in the back of their car. Finally, having saved a taxi fare, we had Taiwanese dollar to spare for a snack at the airport before boarding the plane for HK. A fantastic four days.

Beitou Hot Springs

Beitou Hot Springs

Jade Mountain and Fenchiu

Awoke to the 4am wake up call ready for our 5:00 sunrise tour to Jade Mountain. We jumped aboard a mini-bus waiting outside the lodge amidst a dozen other Chinese tourists and headed out to Jade Mountain while it was still dark. As the sun started to rise we stopped off at various viewpoints along the roadside until the final stop, which was very aptly timed, to watch the sun peep out from behind the mountain. Stunning. We arrived back at the lodge 7ish and disappeared to bed for a couple more hours (it had to be done). When we re-awoke we said our goodbyes to the jolly receptionist and jumped on another mini-bus bound for Fenchiu, a small village an hours drive or so west. We were dropped outside a church that doubled up as a youth hostel (yes), and a German nun greeted us and showed us our room. Then we explored the main street (a small market), dabbled in some traditional Taiwanese souvenirs and ate lunch. Still the only gwilos in the village. Magical. Late afternoon we wondered down to the start of a trail into a misty rainforest. Tired, we opted for a few quiet beers relaxing on a bench in the middle of this fantastic forest. Surreal, but just what was needed. A quick game of basketball back at the Church, and a traditional Fenchiu ‘lunchbox’ for dinner. Then, after stumbling past “Good Point Coffee/Tea House,” a friendly local named Michael invited us in to join him, his ‘master’ and “master’s best friend,” to sip some Taiwanese liquor (strong) and traditional Oolong tea. Of course we obliged! We retired to our triple-sized wooden floor bed, and that was Monday.

Alishan Mountains

We cheaped out and saved on hostel expenses by taking the overnight train from Taipei to Chisyi City in the more rural south and attempting to get some shut-eye whilst on the move. The train was less than comfortable. We booked late and the only available tickets were standing, but I bagged a seat later on. We arrived in Chisyi at 4:00AM and stumbled, sleep-deprived, into a couple of all-night old school arcades, complete with a basket ball game and veteran style Guitar Heroes. Then at 6, we managed to snipe a good deal with a taxi driver to take us to the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, arriving 2 hours later as opposed to a more expensive 3 hour bus ride. Normally we would have caught the train but a recent typhoon damaged the tracks and it wasn’t running. The views on the taxi ride were stunning as we ascended into the mountains. For the most part however I was asleep (very little sleep was achieved on the train), with the exception of the first hour that we had to sustain conversation with a local chap who shared the lift with us. After being dropped off sleepy-eyed at the entrance to the National Park at around 8, we booked a room at the cheapest lodge we could find and grabbed some much needed breakfast and caffeine before heading off on one of the walking trails. Ended up hiking to 2,663 meters and encountered torrential rainfall on the descent without a coat. Would like to say the views were stunning but the mist was so thick you could barely see over the mountainside. Finally, we opted for an early-night cap to catch up on missed sleep and prepare for a 5:00am sunrise tour the following morning.

Taipei 101

We had a brief planning session on Saturday morning with the aid of some helpful English speaking people at an information desk in Ximen tube station, and visited a local greasy spoon where we ate pig ears (amongst other things) for lunch. Then we caught a bus to the famous Palace Museum, which displays hundreds of valuable items that were taken from Beijing by the Nationalist Party when they were forced into exile. On the bus journey back we jumped off at Shilin, the largest night market in Taipei. There were hundreds of stalls for fairground games, food and cheap goods. It was very crowded, but I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and taking in the sights and smells. After we finished roaming the market we headed over to the other side of town to go to the top of the 101 tower, which I now know is the highest skyscraper in the world. It also boasts the fastest ascending elevator in the world – I was startled when we got into the lift and were at the top of the tower within minutes (1010 metres/min). We were ushered into a viewing gallery at the top where you can see right across the flat cityscape. After a short while, viewing hours ended and we headed back to the main station to purchase train tickets to Chisyi City. It was a bit of a rush as we ran to the nearest McD’s to grab a takeaway before catching the last available train at 11:30, but we just about made it.

Welcome to Taiwan

We arrived in Taipei on Friday evening via a bus from the airport, disorientated by the thousands of mopeds buzzing around and a distinct lack of spoken English. With no plans bar a vague intention to stay in a hostel near Ximen station, we decided to walk to Ximen. After some assistance from some friendly locals who spoke a minimum amount of English, we found Ximen station and wondered the streets looking for a hostel. Finally, aided by a couple of westerners we found and a local lady who was going out of her way to help us, we located a cheap hotel that had a spare room (most of the hostels were fully booked because it was a national holiday). Later, we hit the town and found a cosy little bar a short taxi ride away from the hotel. A good first night in Taiwan.


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