Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Taroko Gorge

The most memorable part of the trip was our day trip to Taroko Gorge. I'll let SK's photos show you how majestic Taroko is.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Going the Extra mile

I have always been told how friendly the Taiwanese people are. It became apparent when we got there. We did not meet a single nasty person throughout the trip. All the cab drivers were chatty and friendly.

The middle-aged one who drove us from Alishan to Taichung airport  was in good spirits despite having scalded his thigh badly two days ago. Even though he was in great pain, he remained cheery throughout the journey.

Another betel-nut-chewing driver kept us entertained with his stories during the long drive. He even offered CH some betel nut when we got off the cab, just because CH asked what it tasted like.
Betel nut.
I guess you can tell from the look on his face that it wasn't  tasty.
  Our favourite cab driver has got to be the super-motherly lady who brought us around in Hualien. On the way to Taroko Gorge, she stopped at the famous lemonade store to get us some ice cold lemonade.
 At Taroko Gorge, she insisted on hiking with us so she could show us the hidden attractions along the trail. After the long hike up the rocky terrain, she fished out the bottle of lemonade from her bag to share with us.
On the way back to the city, when she knew we missed out on the famous Hualien pancake, she called up the store immediately. When that store had sold out theirs for the day, she rang another one to save 3 pieces for us. Thanks to her, we managed to taste it!

 As if she hasn't done enough, she took us to the famous watermelon shop too. Indeed, the watermelon was so sweet and juicy!
 When I said we wish to visit streams to observe the flora and fauna, she offered to pick us up at 6am so we could spend few hours in the countryside before leaving on our 12pm flight to Taipei. Well, she arrived at 5.45am equipped with pink rubber boots for me!
 We spent the entire morning wading in the stream, picking fragments of jade and photographing crabs, fishes and shrimps. SK said this was the best part of our trip.
Jade pieces picked from the stream.
Apart from the wonderful cab drivers, the minshu (homestays) and hotel that we stayed in exceeded our expectations. The rooms were clean and beautifully decorated.  At Seasonstar @ Alishan, every dish was nicely plated and garnished with flowers from the garden.

Even when they were busy, the owners or hotel staff would stop and listen patiently to our requests and cheerfully greet us or find solutions to our problems. Even at CityInn Ximending in Taipei city, we were surprised to find the hotel basement furnished with washing machines, dryers, comfy sofa, espresso machines, free snacks and cold drinks to make our stay a comfortable one. 

At the prices we were paying, I was expecting Hotel 81's standard but to our surprise, the rooms were spacious, nicely furnished and decorated (see picture below). Besides the standard toiletories like toothbrush and razor blade, I was surprised they even provide panty liners. These are thoughtful gestures that make the guests feel cherished.
Eating out in Taiwan is also a pleasant experience. Even in the crowded night markets, the busy vendors do not growl or snap at you. More often than not, they try to cajole you into buying their products with their mellifluous sales pitch.

When we were visiting aquariums in Taipei, YK (who was back home) wanted us to take photos of marine fishes in the shops. When I asked the shops for permission, they all agreed without hesitation.

And it was easy to strike up a conversation with the locals who are genuinely friendly and warm. Seeing I was a little pale from motion sickness, one old man offered to give up his seat on the Alishan train.
The ladies at the Alishan temple were more than happy to let us play with their cute puppy. 
When the sole of CH's hiking boots opened up, the friendly cobbler in Hualien rushed to sew it in double quick time. And he cajoled his shy dog to play with us.

From the old couple who gave me a piece of jade fragment they picked at the stream to the friendly street vendors, I want to say thank you for making our trip to Taiwan a most memorable one. We'll be back!

Sunday, 22 September 2013


Low-cost carriers have really changed the way we travel. Cheaper air tickets allow me to travel more than I normally would. After flying to Darwin via Tiger Airways years ago, I am now a big fan of low-cost carriers. Thanks to them, I've traveled to more Asian locations over the last few years. I've never encountered any major delays or cancellations and I'm quite happy with the no-frills service.
Scoot flew us to Taiwan and back without a hitch. Even within Taiwan, we relied on the cheap domestic flights to get from Taichung to Hualien. The commute was merely 30 minutes, instead of several hours if we had traveled by train.
Like many tourists, we found ourselves in Hualien because of the majestic Taroko Gorge. Hualien's current name derives from the phrase "huilan"(eddying water), a reference to the swirling currents of the Hualien River where it meets the sea. The county borders the Pacific Ocean to the east and is hemmed in by the Central Range to the west. With its towering peaks, azure skies, vast seas, scenic valleys, cultural diversity, and friendly people, Hualien is one of the best places to live in Taiwan.
For these reasons, the owners of Dolphin Bay Auberge packed their bags and left the bustling Taipei City for the tranquil life at Hualien. During our stay here, we had the opportunity to experience the peaceful life at their lovely Minshu (homestay).
Stunning views from the room.
Dolphin Bay Homestay.
Comfortable living room.

The owner's three labradors.

We were treated to a delicious dinner at the cafe in the city every evening. The quality of food is excellent and portions are generous.

Once you get to the city, it is very easy to explore it on foot. Besides the main street, there are many little interesting alleys and shops to keep you intrigued.

Taiwanese wanton.

Taiwanese people love dogs.

Popular dessert shop.

Snow ice dessert.

Painted electric box.

The locals come to this shop for the best watermelon.
We spent a pleasant afternoon at Chishingtan (7 stars Beach). The shore is covered with beautiful pebbles in all shapes and colours.