Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Taiwan

Day 1:
Arrived in Taipei late, our flight was delayed taking off and had to hold before landing. Transfer to the Sherwood Hotel.



Day 2:
Starbucks for breakfast, and got some cash. Checked out of the hotel and got a taxi (which initially headed the wrong way - to Songlung Rd instead of Songjiang Rod) to the care hire place. Picked up the car (only one driver permitted), drove back towards Taipei centre to get a SIM card at Far East Tone. Unfortunately they need two photo IDs from the same country, which Ross didn't have. We had pulled over while Ross went to the shop, but then the car wouldn't start! So we called Ho Tai Motors and they brought us a new car while I went and got a SIM (with my passport and UK driving licence). Finally got going, set off to Ju Ming Museum. 
  

Enjoyed the exhibition there, and the boys had fun playing with the moveable type. Had lunch there, very healthy - one slice of cheesecake each! 


  




 
Drove on to Jiufen. The roads are incredibly narrow and windy, we ended up parking somewhere and I headed up a thousand steps to try and find the place. After asking several people, I waited at Family Mart and called the guy, who came and met me there. So we stayed at Sunshine B&B, went back out straight away to get something to eat as everything closes at 7.30. Had very tasty fried rice and dumplings, followed by mango ice cream on shaved ice.

 
  




Day 3:




















Taiwanese onion pancake, fruit, Taiwanese boiled egg (boiled in spiced tea) and waffle for breakfast. Drove to the Gold Museum at Jinguashi. 

 
Saw a huge gold ingot, went into the tunnel and saw inside 4 beautiful little Japanese style houses. Also climbed up to where there used to be a Shinto Shrine and saw Teapot Mountain. The Crown Prince's Chalet was nowhere to be seen, possibly destroyed by a typhoon. Taiwanese Beef noodles and pork chop rice for lunch at the gold museum. 


After lunch, visited the Golden Waterfalls - not up to much. Back to Sunshine, headed out for afternoon tea. Finally found a  nice little cafe and sat for a while, drawing and chatting. For dinner we had a bit of everything from Jiufen Old Street - a boar sausage, spicy squid, a giant mushroom, an onion pancake with ham and cheese, and finally mango ice cream with chopped peanuts and sesame in a spring roll wrapper.   



 







Day 4:
Left Jiufen after breakfast and headed for Yilin, which is about a third of the way to Hualien. We chose to head there because I had seen a few reviews online for a crayon factory, Lucky Art, so we decided to go there. Boys had a great time making their own felt tips pens and crayons, and doing a bit of body art. 




We continued our journey, eating pork jerky and seaweed sandwiches for lunch, to Hualien. We had an unscheduled stop along the way while some workmen pulled something across the road on a pulley, which the boys enjoyed! 





Finally got to our hotel Bayview, which is in the township of Qincheng, or Xincheng, Singcheng or however you want to spell it! 



Now frankly, this township really isn't much to look at, and doesn't have a great deal going for it. Even if you include the dried fish museum. Anyway, we checked in then drove to Hualien city for dinner at Salt Lick, a fabulous US style BBQ joint. Delicious. The owner explained to us that you can park your car in any of the numbered spaces on the street - a parking dude will come along on his little moped and put a ticket under your wiper, marking when you arrived. Then you just take it to 7 Eleven when you leave, and pay. It's only about NT$10 an hour, about HK$2.50. 




I should say here that the hotel is really great - the breakfast is varied and plentiful, the staff are helpful and kind, there's free bike hire, free tea and coffee all day, free laundry. This place is obviously a stop off for some serious bikers - while we were doing our washing one wall of the basement opened up, and a whole lift full of men in lycra poured out!



Day 5:
Taroko Gorge. 
Bulowan
Shakadang and Xiaozhuilu trails
Changchun Eternal Spring Shrine 
Leader Village Hotel
dinner in Xincheng, Fresh Abalone House

There's a tunnel in Taroko Gorge that is only open for three hour-long slots each day, so if you want to do any of the things beyond that point, you have to time it carefully! We're planning to go through tomorrow morning, so it'll be an early start for us. 


Day 6:
Long bike ride along the coastal trail to the edge of Hualien. 
Carrefour
Swallow Grotto
dinner at Coco Curry House

Day 7:
Early start to reach the top half of Taroko Gorge while the tunnel was open. The Jinheng tunnel is open, but the one after that (on the way up the gorge) is closed. In fact, once we went through it we realised that a whole stretch of the road, from Jinheng to Tianxiang is closed. The road is open 6.30 - 8, 12-1 and 5-6 each day. We wanted to do a few things in the top half of the gorge but sadly most of it was closed (the Wenshan hot springs, the Baiyan Waterfall trail, Lianhua trail, Lushui trail). Even more frustratingly, the road was closed further up around Ci'en until 4pm (we arrived there at about 9am!). Ross had wanted to drive up that pass which rises to 3,000m. We should have looked here before we left for info about what was open. 

Luckily there was actually quite a lot to do at Tianxiang:

Pudu bridge to Xiangde Temple and Pagoda




The Presbyterian Church


The Plum Garden (Ross says this was just a few trees)
Silks Place Hotel
Tianxiang Service Station - not a petrol station! There was a small exhibition above the 7 Eleven all about the building of the Central Cross-Island Highway which was actually really interesting.



We had dinner at Mu Ming - a feast of veggies, pork, chicken, fish and rice. It's run by Edward and Elsa, and they serve cuisine of the Ami tribe, an aboriginal Taiwanese tribe. There's no menu, so you get what you get and you don't get upset! This place is highly recommended and we had to book (

03-8239336. It's closed on Wednesdays.










Day 8:
Liyu Lake, pedalos, bikes, lunch at random restaurant called Love Bike. Back to the hotel, Dos Tacos for dinner. Major excitement over the arrival of the rubbish truck which plays a little tune. 




    

Day 9: Back to Taipei. It was Ching Ming Festival weekend, and there was basically a traffic jam from Hualien to Taipei! Dropped off the car, then got a taxi to the Maokong Gondola right by the Taipei Zoo. 





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