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Rea View Searching for warmth and calm

Taiwan 2018

Taiwan | Monday, 8 January 2018 | 188 photos

GramPackers Taiwan On!!

It's true. Taipei has terrible air pollution.
But... that multicultural city also has everything else one could hope for.
A mosaic of alleyways harboring eateries specializing in savory beef noodle soups and cook-it-yourself hot pots.
Night markets with grills sizzling to feed the frenzied crowds with green onion cakes, octopus arms, sweet potato balls and dumplings.
Public transport that connects all destinations, producing an efficient functional city surrounded by natural elements bordering on dreamy.
Artistry inherent in its architecture, parks, graffitti, street sculpture, and fashion.
Agreeable unhurried inhabitants, coexisting respectfully while driving, cycling, riding escalators and subways, waiting in lines.

We arrived in that tropical north during a damp cold snap (13 C).
(Ah, this is where we get to wear those long pants and jackets we've been carrying...) After a few chill brrr days we hightailed it down Taiwan's west coast at 295 kph via the new electric train.
Past the polluted cities and valleys on the island's west side to the clearer, balmy southern tip.

There in Hengchen we found quiet cobblestone streets, helpful smiling locals, and a brewery/museum! Mmmm sampling flights amidst beer history.
Cycled the old city walls, and past shops and inns filled with colouurful, cutesy knickknacks.
A hop on/off bus toured us around the southern cliffs and welcomingly warm beaches - Baisha Bay was our favourite. We passed one of the country's six operable nuclear power plants - we chose not to swim there...

Caught a slower train that took us northeast through the East Rift Valley, flanked with high mountains and bordered by the Pacific Ocean.
Destination: Hualien, yet another place we loved, especially when cycling the lengthy river and seaside pathways, and succumbing to the mesmerizing waves churning the pebbles.
Even cycling the city streets was stress-free, given the numerous bike lanes and accommodating drivers.

Then there was nearby Taroko Gorge!
Lofty peaks overlooking dramatic limestone and marble cliffs sculpted over the years by the rushing waters.
We were surprised to learn that Taiwan is dotted with 286 peaks that soar above 3000 m, with Yushan being East Asia's tallest at 3952 m.

Another scenic train ride moved us further north to the historical mountain village of Juifen, 40 km east of Taipei.
Where we meandered and climbed narrow stone streets lined with specialty food stalls, art galleries and pagoda style tea shops adorned with red lanterns, overlooking the distant East China Sea.
The popular main alley was made claustrophobic with the streams and swarms of fellow tourists - we quickly left it behind for more authentic passageways.
On the heights stretching above, tombs and shrines stood for the ancestors, claiming the best views.

Nearby Jinguashi showcased an old gold mine embedded into its cliffside. The repurposed railbed providing an ideal walkway around the hillside, past more shrines and dragon-roofed temples. A large golden Guang Gong God statue gazed over the valley with us.

Onto yet another train, this one an old locomotive on the narrow gauge Pingshi line, to make a rickety way to more quaint villages in the lush mountainous terrain.
Houtong was a popular stop due to its many feline inhabitants.
And an old bridge in Shifen was an ideal spot to witness the (dangerous?, polluting?) sky lanterns rising in the fading light.
Misty and chilly... were we ever glad for a heated blanket that night!

A short train ride back to vibrant Taipei and another chic hotel room - this one with a programmable toilet. Ahh, heated seat... And several 'refreshing' options for the alternative to the 'bum gun' (hand water hose). Hel_lo! Sure beats a squat toilet.

Overall impression of the Land of Formosa? Go there and enjoy its people and their culture, marvel at its outstanding scenery, and taste the delicacies for yourself.

Visited:

Taipei - Monka Hotel, Shilin Homestay, Lampang Temple, Botanic Gardens, Royal Palace Museum, Confucian gardens, Artists Gallery, Technology Building area, Daan park and area, Taipei 101, Shilin night market, riverside park, Baolin old street district, Xiamen graffiti alley

Hengchen, Kenting, Baisha Bay - Ho Lin Sweet Home, beaches, cliffs, Brewseum, old city wall

Hualien City, Taroko Gorge - Sunlight Waterfront, Green House, Fardo Homestay, cycling, beaches, mountains

Juifen, Jinguashi - He Feng Xiao Zhu Homestay B&B, old theatre, Tea House terrace, old railway, Teapot Mountain trail, Houtong Cat Village, Shifen old street via Pingshi line


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