In early June, Gregor and I went to Taiwan for a week. This was to visit my ex-flatmate Megan who currently studies Chinese at the university in Taipei. Gregor also wanted to catch up with a former business partner there as he had been to Taiwan on business many times before.
View of Taipei from Megan’s apartment:
I found Taipei quite pleasant, there were some nice streets where there wasn’t too much traffic, speeds were low, and also some green:
Food in Taiwan comes pretty close to paradise. As opposed to most tropical countries, food safety standards are really high, so you can actually eat everything. No worries at all about buffet food, salads, fruit juices.
Or even ice cream, which is very popular, and where they’ve taken their own spin on it. It’s seriously good but quite light, Mango is the best. I had my doubts but we actually comfortably finished off 3 big plates between the four of us.
This is Gregor, Chi Ming, and the 3 plates of ice cream:
We then ventured out of Taipei, for a trip for a few days which Megan had organised.
Our first activity was a day walk In Taroko national park. This was along an old road built by the Japanese to help with conquering & ruling the locals. It’s big hills (mountains in fact, they have 100 mountains of over 3000m altitude there), and incredibly steep. NZ hasn’t anything like it.
This is looking down from the track. At the bottom of the gorge, there’s actually a road running along the river:
We ended our day in the outdoors in thermal hot springs. It’s quite classy really, in a cave, all in marble:
Our next item on our itinerary was one of Taiwan’s biggest tourist attractions: Alishan. It’s a big mountain really high up, usually hidden in cloud but with a chance at sunrise to get a glimpse.
We did get just that, a glimpse of a few minutes. At 6am, on a viewing platforn crowded with a few hundred tourists from various Asian countries. It wasn’t exactly a serene atmosphere of peace and quiet, but it was certainly an experience.
What I really liked was the cloud forest. It’s really misty up there, forest dripping (to be honest, it was bucketing down), and eerie silence (thankfully most other tourists had retreated to somewhere dry):
What’s quite different to NZ is that even in what you’d expect to be wilderness, there are temples. I was quite intrigued by the wood carvings, painted in bright colours:
Just like in European churches, smoke puts a brown patina on them over time though.
Then back to Taipei for some last minute food shopping and excessive eating.
I really enjoyed Taiwan and would recommend it to anyone. It’s a great mix of outdoors activities (the reception area of one of the places we stayed at could have been Queenstown with river rafting, mountaineering, sea kayaking posters on the walls), culture, food, high tech (their trains are absolutely awesome) and a little bit of Asian chaos and craziness ( their driving, oh my god).
There’s only one wee hurdle to overcome: How’s your Chinese…