Taiwan Travelogue

I flew from Stockholm on Oct 26th and changed planes in Bangkok to arrive in Taipei in late afternoon the 27th. To keep myself awake, I spent the evening in the Shilin night market, trying the very cheap food there, and enjoying the crowds of people. Next day I spent mainly at the National Palace Museum, which hosts a great collection of Chinese artefacts from over ten centuries. The collecting itself started about 1000 years ago during the Sung dynasty! A must-se, but I should have saved it for later, because this was a sunny day, and it would be my only sunny day in Taipei.

Next day I took a train to Hualien on the east coast, and headed directly to Tientshang a small place in the middle of the marvellous Taroko Gorge, also a must-se for anyone who go to Taiwan. I did a shorter walk in the afternoon as I had arrived, and next day I did longer hike to among other places the Lotus Lake. (Which proved to hardly be a pond.) This was a very good day with sun and blue skies. On the way home I tried the hot springs by the river, unusual in the sense that they are not commercialized as most other hot springs in Taiwan.

After my second might in Tientshang, I went back to Hualien, a short but breath-taking bus trip along the Taroko gorge, and jumped on a train to Taitung, further south on the east coast, where I grabbed a cab to the resort Chihpen Hot Springs. That's not really my kind of place as such, although it was fun to try the hot-spring bath (actually just like any other swimming-pool, just hotter water with some minerals in it). But they have is a "Forest Recreation Area", a park which is nice for a strolling around for a few hours. In the afternoon I took a walk upstream along the river and found this place with some marble rocks where I was completely alone! And the water in the river was so amazingly clear-blue! And much nicer to swim in than chlorinated pool water.

Next morning came with heavy rain. I had planned to go to Kenting in the south, but as if the rain was not enough, I picked up he news of a typhoon coming up, so I changed my plans and went directly to Taiwan's fourth largest city, Tainan, on the west coast of the island. (Later I learnt that Kenting got 500 mm of rain from the typhoon.). I arrived in late afternoon, and spent the rest of the day rushing around to look at the many temples in Tainan, but I also enjoyed the city life.It was also in Tainan, I seriously started to consider to buy a camera. I saw one at a department store, but realized that I needed some background knowledge, and slipped into a Internet café, where I reviewed some tests of cameras in my daily newspaper, and also checked out the Swedish prices.

Next day I continued to Chiayi, a mid-sized town further north. I enjoyed a few hours strolling around town, before I caught the narrow-gauge train to Alishan, a mountain resort 2200 metres above sea-level. This train trip was a fantastic experience through a forest that was slowly transforming as were ascending. (Chiayi is in the low-lands.) Alishan itself was more of a tourist trap, though. I got a wake-up call at 4.30 so I could catch the train(!) to see the sunrise from a viewing platform. The train was packed, but what a joke! The sun had been up for quite a while when we came there, it was just that you could not see it, as it was hiding behind Yushan, Taiwan's highest mountain. So "sunrise" referred to the moment when the sun started to become visible behind the mountain top. But the Taiwanese tourists enjoyed every moment of it.

I took the train back the same day to Chiayi and continued north to Touliu, a city of some100.000 souls, where I stayed the night, as a stopover to my next destination: the small mountain village of Tsaoling. Next morning I first went to the small town Chusan where I got on to the Tsaoling bus. Tsaoling is a place took quite some toll in the earthquake in 1999. Amongst other things, an entire mountain side collapsed and dammed the river valley. Business still seems to be a bit dull. I stayed for three nights at a fairly big hotel, and on the first and last nights I was the only guest. On the second night, on the other hand, there was a big group that had arrived in cars. It seemed that they came for dinner, had a karaoke party in the evening, and then drove away in the morning. On the next day, it was the hotel next door that had a similar group for such a brief visit. Myself, I did some decent relaxing hikes in the area. The big adventure was when I suddenly found myself standing in mud up to just above my knees on a recently dried-up lake bed. (The lake that appeared when the collapsing mountain dammed the river.) Fortunately, there was some bamboo at the spot, that I could use to get up.

From Tsaoling, I backtracked to Chusan and Touliu and took the train to Taichung, Taiwan's third largest city. It was here I bought the camera. I stayed for a day, looking at the jade market, some temples and the city life in general. Next morning I headed back to Taipei where I stayed for three nights and a half - my plane did not leave until 21:00. Unfortunately, the weather in Taipei these days were grey, and in some areas there was a drizzle too. Some more details on these last days are documented in the pictures. From Taipei I made excursions to places nearby. I had held big hopes for the Yangmingshan National Park, but up on the mountain, the drizzle was thick and the winds were strong, so I had to return without not having seen much at all. Only gotten wet.