South Korea and Taiwan.
We are Birgitte and Erik with our two children (5 and 7) - Johanne and
from South Korea
Saturday 19. Taipei, Taiwan
It was raining arriving in Taipei. Taxi was
metered and signs outside saying how much it should cost. From airport
there is a 15% extra charge, so 1100NT$ (40US$) was ok for
the 40 minute ride. Nice hotel we had booked a couple of days before.
Birgitte and the children went in the hot tub, sauna and steam bath
(women in the afternoon, men in the evening).
Taipei 101. The highest building in the world
– almost. It has been
surpassed by the Burj Khalifa (by 300 meters) recently. Designed to
resemble a bamboo stalk. And it is huge. In the basement is a giant
food court. All kinds and prices; a great place to eat. Birgitte and I
had a huge Indian dinner for 250NT$. We spent 1½-2 hours until closing
time at the top level (floor 90 or something like that). The rain had
stopped and the views were of the whole city. Half a kilometer down.
The outdoor level was unfortunately closed, but there was the views,
the café, an exhibition of pictures from the last 50 years and the
giant balancing ‘pendulum’ spanning several floors to counterbalance
earthquakes and high winds. Before being thrown out at 22:00, we had to
pass a couple of levels with Jade and other expensive things to buy. I
love high buildings.
Sunday 20. Taipei
National Palace Museum. All the riches of
China, brought out by Chiang
Kai-shek. It seemed like all of Taiwan was at the museum today – maybe
also all of China. Giant tour groups passed through all the time with
head sets. There were some very beautiful Buddha statues (6th
century), jade and bronze items – and it was old – very old. The
children quickly got bored, so we took them to the children’s museum at
the basement – and took turns
visiting the museum meanwhile.
Beitou Outdoor public bath. Surprised what a small place it actually is
with the hot pools. A small park in the middle of high rises in the
suburb of Taipei, Xinbeitou. Different schedules for letting people in.
We arrived (with the subway) just to the 16:30 time frame. It consists
of 3 pools, the
upper 45+ and the lower of the three is 37-41 degrees. It was only
locals, mostly elderly who seemed to be here every day. A strict code
of conduct was in place. Too much. Anders was sent away from the
warmest pool, when we tried it. There were other things as well. They
are quite Chinese in some aspects, even rude some times. We also saw
the man mentioned in LP that harasses people who is not fully emerged
with their body or sitting on the pool sides – what an idiot. But a
good experience, the water was great and we were all feeling very well
Shilin Nightmarket. Huge. Shops with dog
puppets on display (mom, can
we take a puppet home with us?), street games (shooting galleries,
children’s games, etc.), tons of food of all kinds (candy and sausages
for the children). Clothes, catch shrimps and have it grilled, jewelry.
Taxi home, we thought. He did not know the address, could not read the
map, could not even read the metro station we pointed out (it is in
English, he said). I named the two metro stations near us, and that he
knew, he said. Unfortunately there was also a station named the
combination of the two names. We got off and took the metro home.
Very Thai for dinner. We were looking for
fastfood, since it was
getting late, but fortately we decided for this place. Cool place with
excellent Thai food with a couple of Sinhala beers to go.
Monday 21. March – Taroko gorge
Train to Hualin on the eastcoast – 2½ hours
by train. We left early to
have the afternoon in the Ocean park and then a full day in the Taroko
gorge tomorrow. Arriving at the station there is a (supposedly) good
tourist information where we wanted to inquire if they knew any English
speaking taxi drivers that could take us to the gorge – to avoid going
on a tourbus. On the way there, Mr. Pong approached us, and first we
were reluctant, but he actually spoke OK English and his price was
2500NT$ (90US$) where it would be up to 3000 according to the guidebook
– so we
said OK, changed our plans for Taroko gorge today, and went to our
hotel to check in, and continued right up in the gorge. The Taroko
gorge is marble cliffs for 30 kilometers and the road winds up through
narrow tunnels and ledges to the highland. Pong made stops as long as
we wanted and 3 places we went for walks between 1 and 2 kilometers.
The Lushui-Holiu trail made Anders say that it was a wonderful walk –
and he is always difficult to get to tag along. It included a dark
tunnel, where you have to turn midways before you can see the light of
the exit. The end of the tour is at the village of Tienhsiang where the
Buddhist Hsiangte Temple is scenic situated above the river. This is of
course the most famous sight in Taiwan, so many tour busses were here.
We did not see more than 2-3 on our way, but going back, there was
maybe 20 waiting for a roadwork and 15 more entering the valley (at
17:00! Just before sunset!). Chinese tourist, most of them. They are
allowed to enter Taiwan on group tours. And this is Monday – weekends
draw ten times as many.
I'm not quite sure what to compare it with;
maybe the narrows of Zion
or Sumidero in Mexico.
Tuesday 22. March – Ocean Park
The temperature had plummeted with 10 degrees
to 16 (at the highest).
Clouds were hanging low, though not raining. Mr. Pong picked us up at
9:30 to take us to Ocean Park, 15 kilometers south of Hualin (400NT$).
It is a theme park, centered around water and sea creatures – and a
Tivoli. Entrance about 2500NT$ for the four of us, based on how tall
you are. The Tivoli we had for our selves. A couple of persons started
the tours for us when we wanted, and several of them we tried several
times in a row. The other 60 visitors for the day mainly went to the
shows, dolphin and sea lion (quite good actually). We did not quite
know what to expect since their website was entirely in Chinese, so we
were surprised for the first show, that an English speaking dance troup
made a big show, Indian bollywood, Trampoline, etc. They were 20 and
western looking, pale vampire like - but we could not quite figure out
what they were doing here. After exiting the show, we understood when
two of them spoke Russian together, and I later asked one of the two
persons in the park who spoke English – that they were hired for 1-2
seasons. The same troupe appeared in the noon ‘famours’ parade (Anders
joined their dancing). For lunch there was pizza, and a funny episode
saying a bit about their (lack of) English:
Erik: Yes, do you have Cola?
Woman: rtwxpx, nvbtrspq (something in
Chinese), Fanta or Icetea
Erik: Fanta, please
Erik, No, Fanta, please.
Woman: Ah, Fanta
- picking up the pizza 10 minutes later, we
then got 4 fantas…
There was an interesting feeding of the rays
where a diver went in, and
fed the rays. They have different species like cow nose, eagle, and
sting rays. Their aquarium was actually quite good and well displayed;
many coral fish and beautiful thriving corals of all kinds.
Having a latte, the only other foreign couple
in the park today, asked
where we were from. He was born in Taiwan, but they were living in Los
Angeles and it was the first time he was back. They were going to
Taroko tomorrow, so we recommended our taxi driver, Pong. I met Pong
the next morning at the train station, and they were going with him in
the afternoon. He was very happy we had recommended him. I had asked
him if he would take us over the mountains to Sun Moon Lake (the
mountain road should be great) and he had first said 7000NT$. I asked
if he would go for 6000, but he would not, and I think he even took
back his offer for 7000.
Buffet at the hotel for dinner (649NT$ and
free for children).
Interesting, but not surprising, that the Taiwanese/Chinese would go:
salad, no, olives and western things for salad, no, glazed ham, no, fat
peking duck in sauce, YES, and fill up their plate.
Hot pools with the children – fun, fun.
Wednesday, 23.3 – Hualin - Taichung
Birgitte noticed something: At all our
breakfasts in Taiwan, there had
not been cheese at any of them.
At the train station, there were no tickets
for the 10:35 train, so we
had to wait for the 12:15 express. Said hello to Mr. Pong outside. 2
hours to Taipei with a fast train (about 1200NT$), Shinkansen (HSR -
fast train, 350 km/h) to Taichung (1 hour) and a local train into the
city centre. It is a million citizen city that no one has heard about,
and it was also quite standard and anonymous. Plaza hotel right outside
the train station – very nice and good prize (2400NT$ for the family
room). We had found a good restaurant at tripadvisor and walked 2 km in
the direction watching local shops and life in general. I had found it
on a map on my computer even with Chinese signs, but we should have
known that the taxi drivers cannot read a map – they never can in this
area, it is so frustrating. He had no clue where it was, and just left
us after looking at the map for 3 minutes. We went back to the hotel
with a taxi (ok, since it was just along the same road) and had dinner
(good) at the hotel restaurant.
Thursday 25.3 Taichung – Taipei
Local train to Linnei (about an hour) to see
the purple butterfly
migration happening these two weeks – only this place in the world
together with the one in Mexico. Found a car (taxi) that took us up the
mountain, but not a butterfly in sight. We decided to give up on
further exploration here in the south and return to Taipei. Local train
back to the Taichung HSR station and further one hour to Taipei. Put
our bag in a locker and two stops on the subway to see the Buddha
temple at Longhan stop. It is not the biggest or most beautiful, but
lots of people worshipping and offering food, candy and incense.
Outside in the park there were people (elderly men) playing Go and a
crowd were listening to a man playing guitar to local music and selling
We changed hotel to Hondo since the previous
used was full, and
actually got a family room (which was upgraded to the presidential
suite or similar) for half the price (2400NT$) through Hotels.com.
Taxi (thank you hotel for providing detailed
Chinese description) to
the Capone’s – had a wonderful (last) evening with good food, a bottle
of red wine, and the band playing jazz. Stayed until 22:00 and got a
Taiwan notes: Too many smokers, not very kind
- and diiiiiificult to get around when nobody speaks any english.
Burping (at restaurants), and many adults do not wash their hands after
visiting the toilet. Another trip, we would probably visit Taiwan
first, since it is the most 'difficult' of many Asian countries.
The last day we visited the Zoo, and it is highly recommended. It had
lots of space for the animals - and a couple of Pandas.
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