Visiting Taipei, Taichung, Hualien, and Yilan from August 09 to August 18, 2019.
Taiwan had been in the front of my travel queue for a long time. My friends told me stories of amazing night markets, beautiful mountains and the most friendly people they had met. I had to go to Formosa (The Beautiful Island) to see these things for myself.
Most companies in Japan have a week off in August called Obon. During my Obon in 2019 I took a trip to Taiwan.
I spent the first weekend in Taipei. Situated in northern Taiwan, the capital city of Taipei is by far the largest city in Taiwan and is the 40th largest city in the world. By Asian standards the city is not too massive, but still has a lot of depth regarding things to do and see. It is also home to the famous skyscraper Taipei 101.
Taipei is very photogenic
Taiwanese omelette and coffee
In front of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Left: East Gate Right: Presidential building
Near Taipei 101
Left: Taipei 101 Center: My friend Anson Right: Elephant mountain
Din Tai Fung
I took a day trip to Jiufen, an old town in the hills to the east of Taiwan. This city was the inspiration for the famous Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away!
Jiufen has an old street with many shops that cut through the middle of the town. Many hills surrounded the town and I hiked to the top of one of them to enjoy a view of the sea and town. It was 95 degrees and humid that day!
Jiufen old street
View from Keelung Mountain Peak
Later that day I went to Shifen, which is famous for its old street centered around a railroad and the Shifen Waterfall. Many people come to Shifen to fly lanterns.
Many people were flying lanterns in the town. How nice, right?
On the way to Shifen Waterfall I saw many on the lanterns submerged in the river or caught in trees. I suddenly didn't like this tradition as much.
Left: Pork and noodles Right: Sweet potato snacks
Left: Beef noodles Right: Taiwan Beer
Anson was a pool shark
I rented a bicycle and biked across Taipei before I left to Taichung
The main reason I went to Taichung was to meet up with one of my coworkers in Japan who was from western Taiwan. She brought me to Feng Chia night market, one of the largest in Taiwan!
The trains were so cheap and fast in Taiwan I could easily hop over to Taichung for one night the go back to the east coast the next day.
Feng Chia night market
Left: Crepe with pork Center: Pork blood on a stick covered in peanuts.. I wasn't told what it was until after I took a bite! Right: Greasy, fried bun with sausage, glutinous rice and peppers
Train back to Taipei
The next section of my trip brought me to Yilan, a city in the north part of the east coast of Taiwan. Here I rented a scooter to start a 4 day, 800km trip
A long valley stretches down most of the eastern side of Taiwan. On one side there are beautiful blue beaches and the other has striking mountains. Compared to the dense western coast, the east coast of Taiwan was a change of pace. It was sparsely populated and had many places to stop on the side of the road and enjoy the scenery.
Last meal before my excursion
The first stop was Su'ao, a small fishing village
Somewhere on road from Yilan to Hualien
First glimpse of Taroko Gorge
South of Hualien, most of the east coast of Taiwan was one long valley filled with farm fields. On the inland side of the valley were huge mountains and on the other side were small hills followed by the ocean.
Left: Busy pork bun restaurant Right: My hostel
Taroko Gorge can be most accurately described as epic.
The steep valley starts at sea level and rises over 10,000 feet until you reach the tallest road in Taiwan. This distance can be covered in less than one day and that's exactly what I did.
Since this is one of the few roads that crosses the island of Taiwan, it can be busy and crowded, especially with trucks. Many sections of the road are only wide enough for one vehicle so if you attempt this route you must always be very aware of incoming traffic and the conditions of the road. That being said, it started raining and got very cold when I got halfway up the gorge.
Entering Taroko Gorge
I saw a monkey run across the road but he didn't seem interested in me
Partway up the mountain I was getting low on gas and I was planning on refueling at a gas station I saw on Google Maps high up in the valley. I stopped in a coffee shop to warm up when I had 1/6 tank of gas left and struck up a conversation with another rider who was a Taiwanese guy around my age. He told me the gas station I planned to go to was under repair!
Needless to say I panicked a little inside. I was in a very remote place and seemingly wasn't able to get gas. I had planned on making it to the top of the valley then staying the night in a town across the continental divide. Now I didn't know if I even had enough gas to get back down the valley.
After making calls to the police station nearby, asking the shop owner for advice, my new friend and I had no solid options. So, he told me I could go up the mountain with him and we could see what we could find. Luckily, when we got to the gas station, even though it was under repair, the boys hooked me up with some gas! Free of charge.