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Published: October 30th 2018
My son Sage (4) and daughter Lavender (3) were born in Taipei, Taiwan, where we still live today. We’ve done a lot of weekend trips around the country with the kids, but recently I took them on a real adventure, an 8-day round island trip with just me and the two of them, as their mother was out of the country working.
I’m just posting a summary of our trip here; if you’d like a more information about how to plan a trip like this, then please see my more detailed article on how to plan a trip around Taiwan with kids
Before we even started this trip, we had a mini disaster in Taipei. Only days after my wife left Taiwan, one of the kids, and then a few days later, the other, went into the hospital with a serious stomach virus. We ended up staying in the hospital for an entire week, but the kids fully recovered, I’m not even kidding, one day before our planned trip.
Hopping on the train from Taipei, we had a 3.5-hour trip to Taitung, a remote and gorgeous county at the southeast corner of Taiwan. I was a
little worried about the length of the ride, as I’d only purchased a single seat to save money (kids under 6 are free, but need to sit on your lap). The train was fully booked, so they shared the seat and I stood the whole way. It went surprisingly well!
Our first stop was Luye, a tiny rural village surrounded by incredible scenery of the East Rift Valley which separates two mountain chains. From the station, we rented a scooter and drove up to the Luye Highland, where we would watch the annual Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival. Our guesthouse overlooked tea and pineapple plantations.
The balloon festival was more incredible than I could have imagined; the enormous balloons are filled with hot air right in front of the crowd of onlookers, so close you can touch them. I think I was even more impressed than my kids, who quickly became tired after our long day.
For our second stop, we rode to Dulan, a small surf town that is gaining in popularity on the Taitung coast. The town is a magnet for surfers, hippies, musicians, and nowadays more and more backpackers, though it
is still very chill and low-key. We spent two days there exploring, going to the beach, and checking out the arts scene at the local restored Sugar Factory.
After Dulan, we were back on the train for a full loop around the southern end of Taiwan and on to Chiayi, which happens to be my wife’s hometown. There we spent the night before catching a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway.
This small gauge, high-mountain railway line was first built by the Japanese when they colonized Taiwan to haul out timber. Later, tourists replaced trees, and riding on the train up to Alishan, the country’s most popular mountain resort, is a really popular activity.
However, part of the line was destroyed by a typhoon in 2009, so it currently only goes halfway to Alishan, and you have to take the bus the rest of the way. Up at Alishan, there are other smaller lines around the scenic area still in operation.
Getting off at Fenqihu, the current terminal station, we stayed in the Fenqihu area for a night because I’m a tea geek and really wanted to stay on a tea farm.
All around Fenqihu and nearby Shizhuo village, there are countless picturesque tea farms, which produce Taiwan’s most famous tea, Alishan High Mountain tea, and some of them have guesthouse accommodations.
The tea farmer actually drove to the train station to pick us up. At the tea farm, he took us on a walk to see the fields and workers picking the tea. The whole scene was shrouded in mist, so it was quite mystical. I had my kids convinced we were in dragon territory, to keep them interested. We also did a short hike in the area, as the tea farms are all connected by incredibly scenic hiking trails.
The next day, we caught the bus up to Alishan. I totally didn’t prepare warm enough clothes (don’t tell mommy), since most of our trip was to hot places during summer, and I really had to conserve space to fit my single bag and two kids on the scooter rides earlier in the trip.
So when we showed up at Alishan, with my two kids car sick from the winding bus ride, light rain, and a serious chill in the air, and wearing nothing but
shorts and T-shirts, our hotel felt sorry for us and lent us sweaters and umbrellas (forgot those too…) Later we bought our own.
It actually drizzled for most of our two days in Alishan, but somehow I feel Alishan was the best part of our whole trip. My kids loved riding on the Alishan Forest Railway lines up there; the rides are really short but scenic, you can open the windows, and the car we rode in was made entirely of wood, which smelled amazing inside!
Walking the trails in the park was fun, and I always love being in the fresh, chilly mountain air. We didn’t wake up for the famous sunrise, the thing that many tourists come to Alishan for, because I’ve seen it several times before, and my kids would not be thrilled to wake up at 3:30am…
Since my daughter was three on this trip, I kind of hope it will be her first memory, in the same way that my son’s earliest memory to date is a similar trip we made to Sun Moon Lake when he was three as well.
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