This is a part of our 1½ months trip around the world in the winter of 2011 - visiting Baltimore [USA], Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Kosrae [Micronesia], Guam [USA], Saipan [Northern Marianas, USA], Palau, South Korea and Taiwan. We are Birgitte and Erik with our two children (5 and 7) - Johanne and Anders.

Continued from South Korea

Saturday 19. Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei 101It 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.

view from the top of 101view from the top

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 afterwards.

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.

Xinbeitou trainBeitou

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:
Woman: Drink?
Erik: Yes, do you have Cola?
Woman: rtwxpx, nvbtrspq (something in Chinese), Fanta or Icetea
Erik: Fanta, please
Woman: Icetea?
Erik, No, Fanta, please.
Woman: Icetea?
Erik: Fanta
Woman: Icetea?
Erik: Fanta
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.

HualinRussian vampires
Ocean Park

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.

fast trainTaichung store

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 cd’s.
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 taxi home.

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.

Taipei Zoo

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