Taiwan May 2016
In May I was given the opportunity to discover and enjoy seven days in Taiwan and it was honestly something I was not expecting. I started from the bottom of the country and worked my up the country, through the lake and mountain regions and finished in the capital city Taipei.
Our first stop was in Kaohsiung where we visited the Lotus Lake which features the Spring and Autumn Pavilions and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. This area is gorgeous as the streets nearby were lively with people at the local temples, small shops and eateries you could pick up a snack and lots of incense to go around. Unfortunately we did not have the best of luck with weather as this time of year is hot and rainy season in the south of the country, we had the umbrella out for a good two days! We also visited Formosa Boulevard Train Station which is a station that houses the “Dome of Light,” an array of glass work and it is stunning to see, the photo does not do justice.
We then headed to the oldest city in Taiwan – Tainan and it definitely looked old. With the Anping Fort and the Tainan Treehouse, it definitely shows the history of this old town and how it held up being the capital city under the Qing Dynasty. The first thing I noticed in both these big cities was scooters – scooters everywhere! Turns out the preferred method of travel in Taiwan is by scooter! I even thought they had their own lane for a while and then I realised they were just using the bus lane.
The highlights of my trip were visiting Sun Moon Lake and Taroko National Park. These are the scenic points of call in most itineraries to Taiwan and can you blame them? Two days in these gorgeous areas was not enough! The hotel I stayed at in Sun Moon Lake, Fleur De Chine had a view to die for and I honestly fell in love with the Sun Moon Lake region which also happens to be the largest body of water in Taiwan. The Taroko National Park reminded me of a few things, the movie Avatar and Switzerland. With rolling hills and immense cliffs, it was like you were in a movie, it honestly didn’t feel real to see what I saw. These two spots are definitely on the top of the to-do list in Taiwan as it can’t get much better than this kind of scenery!
We finally made it to the big city – Taipei and it took us two hours via a tilt train from the Taroko region. The trains in Taipei are mapped exactly like the Japanese rail system, very spacious and easy to understand. And the weather, well it was a nice thirty-two degrees all round with ninety-nine percent humidity, it was sticky and great!
My recommendations when you are in Taipei:
- If you have the opportunity, dine at the restaurant Din Tai Fung, it is a dumplings restaurant now acclaimed all over the world with a Michelin Star, the food is gorgeous here and is authentic Taiwanese cuisine.
- Definitely make a trip to the Shilin Night Markets! Located just on the outskirts of Taipei, the markets offer local food, shopping and some big brand names and bartering was quite easy to do here, this is where I did all my shopping and it was pretty good I must say. Taxis are so cheap to get here, it will blow your mind!
- Visit Chiang Kai-Shek memorial, this is a monument that features a changing of the guards every hour and it is quite different compared to your Buckingham Palace change of guards. The area around the memorial is a bit like Tiananmen Square, spacious and gorgeous to look at.
Taipei is also well known for its hot springs and geo thermal valleys and they are also definitely worth visiting. You must visit Taipei 101, but one tip of advice I can give you all is to NOT pre-purchase your Taipei 101 tickets! We had ours pre-purchased and due to the weather, when we arrived at the observation deck, we could not see a thing due to the fog – so this was disappointing as we didn’t actually get to see the city from up above and tickets are non-refundable or changeable.
In regards to actually spending money in the country, most things were cheap! Banquets of eight to twelve courses depending on what you ordered would cost anything around $20 to $45 per head, so it was pretty good. The country boasts many cuisines including traditional Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Western. The country, although being a mainly Buddhist and Taoist country, doesn’t have a strict religion and people are able to practice whichever religion they believe. Currency conversion is best when you are in Taiwan as the dollar is better there than it is here and this buys approximately 23TWD for 1AUD.
If you would like any more information on Taiwan or would like to book your next Asian holiday to this unique destination, please let me know!