Qingshui cliff, near Hualien (beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean)
A summary of our first trip to Taiwan, and ideas/tips for the next visit! (especially for independent travellers like us):
14 day itinerary – good for all the “must visit places”, at a nice relaxed pace (stayed overnight Taipei 3N (DongWu Hotel), Hualien 2N(Byeyer Hotel), Taroko Gorge 1N (Leader Village), Sun Moon Lake 2N (SunMoon Lake Karuizawa), Alishan 1N (Lauya Homestay), Taichung 2N (Hotel 53), Taipei 2N City Inn III)).
Places visited in Taipei, grouped by day – (LongShan Temple and surrounding nite markets, Ximengding)/(National Palace Museum, Shilin Night Market)/(Yehliu, Jinguashi, Jiufen, Shifen)/(Chiangkaishek Memorial, Taipe101)/(Tamshui, Bali, XinBeitou, Shida Nite Market)/(Maokong Gondola, morning of departure).
Activities at other places: (SunMoonLake – boat ride, trails, cycling)/(Alishan – take sunrise train, view Sea of Clouds, trails, hot spring)/(Hualien and Taroko – Taroko Gorge trails, East Rift Valley tour, Qixingtan and Qingshui Cliffs)/(Taichung – eat ice-cream at Gong Yuan Eye clinic, watch 3D IMAX The Hobbitt)
Tip: may be good to stay 2 nights at Alishan, to increase change of catching sunrise (in case of very bad weather on first attempt) and take in more of surrounding sights, and also to catch sunset.
Beautiful scenery at Alisan, despite not seeing the sunrise colours (cloudy, with very light intermittent drizzle)
Accommodation: For us, staying at different types of accommodation (standard room, family room, boutique hotel, in city, natural setting (lake, mountain)) is an important part of the travel experience.
Tip: for Taroko Gorge, Leader Village Hotel, book with the dinner since there is no where else to eat nearby (the hotel is basically surrounded by mountains) and you cannot just walk 10 min to another place for food, unlike in the city hotels!
Leader Village Hotel, – beautiful place to stay if you love nature!
Getting around: we took all kinds of transport available (easycard onMRT, public bus (Taichung), taxi (pre-arranged before going for Hualien-Taroko area, through hotel for Yehliu – Shifen, random taxi for getting to Alishan and back to Taichung – see tip below), trains (Taipei-Hualien, Taichung-Taipei)
Tip 1: get Easycard for Taipei (good for MRT, public bus, boat from Tamsui to Bali, Maokong cable car ride) and Taichung (free within 8 km of railway station, but need to use same Easycard to tap in and out)
Tip 2: Give allowance for road blockages!! (e.g. Taroko to Sun Moon Lake via Central Highway – we had no problems with this one this time, but sometimes, road is block due to landslide – it is a beautiful road to travel, get Mr Li from Hualien (Tiffany’s husband) – very good and safe driver, just search trip adviser for contact details) (e.g. Sun Moon Lake to Alishan – our 9 am bus had to turn back after 1 hour on the road as the earlier 8 am bus reported that road was not passable)
Tip 3: 95% of the time take local advise, but not always, about alternative routes (e.g. Sun Moon Lake to Alishan – neither the bus driver who had to turn back, or our home stay contact at Alishan gave us the “best” advise of travelling after the road was blocked, telling us the standard way “get bus to Taichung, then train to Chiayi, then bus to Alishan”. On looking at map later that night in the home stay at Alishan, we figured we should have arranged a cab to take us SML-Alishan via alternative route without heading north-east to Taichung.) In the end, a “random” taxi driver (an elderly gentleman taxi driver approached us at Taichung railway station after we had bought our train tickets, and gave us the alternative of taking his cab for both going to Alishan and return trip to Taichung the next day, including side trips for sight seeing (2 days for 5000 NTD, a pretty good deal; he could give this price apparently, as his cab runs on LPG).
Our driver from Taichung to Alisan and back – he is 62, needs walking stick, and just had a back operation!
MISSES this time …
Taipei101 – did not go all the way up as it was a rainy and misty day, nor eat at Din Tai Fung (just hang around the first few floors)
Tamsui Fisherman Wharf and sunset – choppy seas, even the ferry to the Fisherman Wharf from Tamshui Port and Bali was not operating (but still managed to eat the “famous” fried food at Bali, the foot high ice cream at Tamsui and other street food, and shopping)
Taroko Gorge – two of the famous scenic trails were closed for maintenance (Baiyang waterfall, Tunnel of 9-turns)
Central Highway from Taroko to Sun Moon Lake – misty throughout most of the journey, including at HeHuanSan, Wuling, and Cingjing (the 3200 year old sacred tree along the way was simply awesome!)
Alisan – could not see the sunrise colours and missed out on hanging around our home stay to enjoy the place (our room was the one which had views on 3 sides!) due to late arrival because of the road block.
Travelling on the Eastern Coastal route and visiting Yilan and Kenting.
BUT overall, it was still a GREAT TRIP!!!
Taiwan trip photo essay Part 1 (Taipei-Hualien-Taroko-Central Highway to Sun Moon Lake) | Photo Essay Part 2 (Sun Moon Lake-Alisan-Taichung-Taipei)