After a couple of short trips to nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, the first big one for the year arrived. Having had little time to plan for our itinerary, we pieced together some recommendations online and friends' advices before flying off to the land of friendly people! Here's how our 10 days in Taiwan looked like, and I shall attempt to recall the best snippets of the trip. Day 1: 嘉義 (Chiayi) City / 奋起湖 (Fenqihu) Town
We reached Taoyuan Airport at 5 plus in the early morning and took the shuttle bus to the HSR train station for the 7am train towards Chiayi. Within slightly over an hour we are in Chiayi! Since we reached early and didn't want to go up to our Minsu accommodation yet, we deposited our backpacks and wandered the streets for a couple of hours. The most memorable place was definitely the Chiayi Alishan Forest Railway Garage
, which allowed us to explore the tracks and exhibition trains freely. The trains were real old-school and being the engineer-kid myself, I was pretty much excited and fascinated by the mere presence of these old steam locomotives. Steph and I had fun shooting some cool
At Chiayi Railway Garage
photos with the accommodating trains :D Also, with the recommendation of the locals, we tried their famed turkey rice
, and it did not disappoint a bit. It was served in a small bowl with shreds of turkey slices and sauce. We had it with some Taiwan beer and man, it was satisfying.
We headed up to our 53.1 民宿
which is enroute to Alishan National Scenic Area, before taking the public buses to visit 奋起湖 (Fenqihu) Town. This town is located along the old mountain rail line between Chiayi and Alishan and it was apt to visit it for more scenic views of the old train tracks. We had our first 便當
(Taiwanese lunch box) at the train station and it was memorable for the interesting shop front where the lunch box and change of coins were given through a small window box. We roamed around the forest trails amidst tall bamboo trees before taking the last public bus at 5pm back to our homestay. Dinner was particularly memorable as the homestay doggie 'escorted' us to the restaurant, waited as we ate our dinner and followed us back, some 5 mins walk away in the mountain road.
Maybe he wanted the remains of the chicken bones, which we duly obliged and gave him, but it was real heartwarming to have him for company the whole while! Day 2: 阿里山 (Alishan) / 日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake)
Foggy weather prevented us from catching the sunrise, but the location of 53.1 民宿 (Minsu) is strategic enough for one to catch both sunrise and sunset during times of good weather. We had our breakfast with a view before catching the public shuttle to Alishan Recreational Park. We deposited our backpacks with the tourist information centre (1 huge convenience provided by Taiwan almost everywhere) before roaming around in the park. The most enchanting aspect of the 3 hours spent in the woods has to be the freshest of air amidst the huge tall bamboo trees
. It's like 1 breath of air inhaled can last us forever! We soaked in the nature, enjoyed the cool forest breeze and strolled along the clear demarcated path.
Lunch was another 小吃 affair, as we grabbed some 愛玉冰 (jelly), ice cream, grab-and-go lunch from 7-eleven before taking the 2pm small bus to 日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake). The bus passed by some small
towns before eventually reaching in slightly over 3 hours. We knew it once we saw the mystifying water body with the tiny lalu island perched in the middle. After checking in, we kinda rushed to rent an electric bike to catch the sunset in the clear skies.
Thankfully we caught the bright round yellow yoke disappearing over the faraway trees, just as we parked beside the wooden planks by the lakeside! The day ended rather eventfully with Steph picking up a slight knee injury, an eventful dinner at an old family eatery and a nice evening stroll along the rather quiet streets (only at night) around the town centre. Day 3: 日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake)
Woke up early to no avail as mist overpowered the awakening sun. And so, we went back for a short nap before breakfast overlooking bits of the waters and our tour of the tourist spots around the lake. I guess Sun Moon Lake was rather underwhelming largely due to the swarm of tourists in the area. We got away from the crowd and spent most of our time chilling in a nicely decorated tea cafe in Ita Thao
area. We munched
on the local delicacies
which included chicken leg stuffed in rice, fried prawn, braised pork bun, muah chee balls and iced red tea. Lazing our day away with good food was the best part of today! The 2nd part of the day was spent largely on traveling from Sun Moon Lake to Cingjing. We took a public bus that stopped over at Puli where we hanged out at another cafe, before taking another that brought us up to Cingjing, into the mountains. A warm steamboat dinner rounded off a day of bumming around with delicious food and gloomy weather 😊 Day 4: 清境 (Cingjing)
We spent most of today at the Cingjing grassland
with the sheep. They were Steph's best company (besides me of course) for the day as they simply laze around on the vast grassland and munch their day away on the greens, seemingly with no worries about tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow. The weather was perfect, with blazing sunshine and clear skies that stretched our view of the mountains to the furthest distance possible. And it makes for good photos too! We kinda tried to befriend a couple of sheep to take some shots
At Cingjing Grassland
together. Most were simply indifferent, with some leaving traces of their poop as a signal for "no photos, we just wanna eat...". We stayed on for lunch and the 2 shows (2.30pm and 3.45pm) before retiring for the day early. Oh, and how will I forget, the best food for the day: the juiciest and sweetest fruit ever, the 水蜜桃 water peaches
. I concede defeat to them. Try it to believe it. Day 5: 清境 (Cingjing) / 花蓮 (Hualien)
After a hearty chinese breakfast at our minsu (Bunbury Fruit Ranch Bed and Breakfast), we were on the road again, heading on our shared mini bus towards 花蓮 (Hualien). What great weather it was today, as we were treated to the most spectacular of views in the mountains
. The winding roads and amazing sights in the mountains reminded me of the Scotland days in Isle of Skye. We stopped by at the highest point of the highway for incredible panoramic scenes. The road that we were on also brought us through the main 太魯閣 (Taroko) gorge sights
, where our eyes were treated to the majestic waters passing through valleys.
Upon reaching 花蓮 (Hualien), we rented a
scooter, possible with an international license, and checked into our minsu in Ji'an township before exploring the area. Notable mentions include the lovely Liyu lake
some 20 mins ride away, where we enjoyed together with a refreshing papaya milkshake (a popular local drink). We also rode to the rocky beach 七星潭 qi xing tan
and enjoyed the sea breeze and crashing waves from the pacific ocean. One could see the towering cliffs facing the pacific ocean a distance away and it made for lovely beach shots. Many locals could be seen having family time here too! An exquisitely beautiful place to relax the evening away. The day ended with dinner at the Zhiqiang night market
in town, where we finally caught a soft toy (蜡笔小新) with the soft toy machine that are everywhere on the island!
To be continued...
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