10 days in Taiwan – January 2016
10 Days in Taiwan
Literally meaning, “Beautiful Island”, a Portuguese historical name for the Island of Taiwan. Republic of Formosa, a short-lived republic in 1895 on the island of Formosa => now known as Taiwan.
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December 19th, 2015 – Taiwan at last
This time my journey took me to the far east: Taiwan. By misunderstanding and miscommunication from the airline company there were certain things that went wrong during my trip. The Airline company stopped me at the Airport of Brussels and I had to return home. While my mom, youngest sister and the people joining us took their flight I was going home by bus to Antwerp City. It was the fault of the booking company, which took other destinations between home and Taiwan. I had a second flight in China, a domestic flight that I wasn’t supposed to take, because I needed a visa for that purpose.
At the Belgian airport I booked another flight immediately. Unfortunately without returning any money. But in the end I enjoyed a discount, were I was the man from the customs of the Hainan Airlines very thankful for.
When the days flew my day of departure came closer and in two weeks my family would be home. I spent the first week at the office to pick up my work again and the second week I asked my company to work from home. I still had some extra days off that I had to take in 2015. And when relatives knew that I was still home alone during Christmas, everyone started to ask me if I came to join them for dinner. I couldn’t refuse, of course.
My Christmas was not that bad and I had the pleasure to do whatever I wanted in a completely empty house.
The day came… January 10th, today I can finally go to Taiwan! At last.
TRANSCENDING – TAIWAN
My friend Hannes lived in Taiwan for three months together with his Taiwanese girlfriend and he has a very interesting view on Taiwan.
Day 1, meetup and relax in Taipei
After all the travelling stuff the aircraft landed on the runway of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. Unfortunately it didn’t stop raining for a full day. But hey! I got my entry into Taiwan and slowly made my way to the car rental to pick up a car that my family already rented for me. All went well and before I knew it I was driving an automatic car in Taiwan, far away from home and not knowing any word of Taiwanese.
Time flew by and my friend and his girlfriend in Taipei were waiting for me. “I firstly have to learn how to drive!”, I said to them while starting the engine. I put it in D and within 30 seconds I stumbled upon a well crowded road to freedom, uh, to Taipei City. Right!
After I left the car in the underground parking lot in the centre of Taipei, I had already met my friend Hannes and it was finally time to put my stuff at the apartment of Hannes & DJ. They both rented an apartment to be able to live together for 3 months. The rest of the day was exploring and taking a step in Taiwan’s biggest cultural city.
I could stay at my friend’s place and didn’t need to book a hotel. A very popular one is the Sherwood Taipei hotel. Spa and wellness centre, fitness facility, simply a 5-star hotel in the middle of Taipei.
Day 2, let the trip begin – Jinshan
Day 1 passed and we were ready to move on to day 2, going north and the hit-list for today was like this: National Palace Museum, Sea Shell Temple, the Laomei Coast and for tonight’s leisure we had an hour long bath in the hot springs at a motel at the Jinshan District.
A similar hotel in the neighbourhood is the Loft Seaside Suites hotel, they have a huge spa facility with a year-round outdoor swimming pool and thermal baths.
富福頂山寺, Dingshan Shell Temple
Located in the hills close to Sanzhi of northern Taiwan, a small temple which is completely made of seashells and coral. It takes a total of two years to build such an amazing temple. There is also a small tunnel which contains many depictions of Buddhist gods on the walls which are said to bless visitors as they pass through.
Because of its unique construction, Dingshan increasingly attracts both believers and casual visitors who undoubtedly wonder in awe about the painstaking effort made to collect and then arrange all the shells contained here.
Day 3, sea-side road trip – Jiaoxi
Taiwan knows how to attract its tourists, by having a highway all around the island near the seashore, miles and miles of different kinds of roads. Not a single one is similar and all have their good and bad things like new asphalt or bad road, but there could be hairpin turns, steep cliffs and dangerous roads as well.
The three of us had a great time at the hot springs motel last night and it was time to continue our trip, up next was the Yehliu Geopark, a beautiful but very touristic rock formation sculptured by the ocean itself. Afterwards we went to the Yong Heng Cultural & Creative Park famous because of its Van Gogh’s painting recreated with 4 million PET bottles.
Day 4, the detour to Hualien
A little detour placed us an hour more towards the south, a well-recommended restaurant called Jiacurry was our lucky destination. Their main specialty was curry, of course and it is located in Hualien City. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture there.
So, after this great lunch the Taroko Canyon was next on the list for today. It was both spectacular and beautiful, but it took us many hours to cross Hehuanshan, a 3,416-metre-high mountain in Central Taiwan. The days were short and the nights long, so darkness came pretty quickly, but it didn’t stop me from driving further until the home of DJ was reached.
Meanwhile we passed a house and woke up a man who said that the mountain road was closed because of snowfall. “You have snow chains, he asked?” “Heck no!”, I said to myself. But the man was right and the road was really closed, so we had a second option and we took it.
Afterwards there were roads covered with sand and water, the car survived but its passengers were scared to get trapped in the black night at an unknown road with steep cliffs just behind the edge of the road. All went good, I had total control over the wheel and I brought Hannes & DJ safely to her home.
Day 5, Day of rest – Taichung
A day of rest was well rewarded for all three of us and we had a place to sleep and to eat. Her parents were home and we were more than welcome to stay and to eat together with them as well.
檳榔西施 , Betel nut beauty
A lot of medical sienctists say that the betel nut is very dangerous, but the people of Taiwan don’t care. They just chew on it like chewing gum, but the side effects are gross. Then there are the Betel nut beauties, these are most likely Taiwanese girls from all ages who sell packed Betel nuts.
Tea fields of Taiwan
Taiwanese tea fields on the flanks of the mountains can most likely disappear in a thick layer of fog in the month of January. Many tourists and native Taiwanese people visit these areas to get a better idea where their tea comes from. A simple rail system with a trolley that has a steep slope transports the tea to easier places for transport to the factory afterwards. A few workers can be seen at a distance, some prepare the leaves from the bushes and put them on the trolleys. At the lower end of the rail another one takes off the tea and collects everything.
Day 6, Time to go south – Kaohsiung
When this day of rest was over, my trip continued without Hannes & DJ and at the end of the previous day I took the 3 hour drive to Kaoshiung to join my sister Suzanna and her husband Howie.
I was really happy to finally meet my sister again, it was 2 years ago since our journey to California in America when I last saw her. On the list for today: the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, previously known as the Buddha Memorial Centre, E-DA Theme Park and shaved ice cream.
Day 7, Temples, Temples, Temples
Confucian Temple, Chihkan Tower on the former site of Fort Provintia, Koxinga Shrine, Tainan Park and Hot Pot to finish a day of culture.
A temple of Confucius or Confucian temple is a temple for the veneration of Confucius and the sages and philosophers of Confucianism in Chinese and other East Asian religions. They were formerly the site of the administration of the imperial exam in China and Vietnam and often housed schools and other studying facilities.
The first Confucian temple in Taiwan to be constructed was the Taiwan Confucian Temple, which was built during the period of Tungning Kingdom in 1665 in Tainan.
Fort Provintia was a Dutch outpost on Formosa at a site now located in the West Central District of Tainan in Taiwan. It was built in 1653 during the Dutch colonisation of Taiwan. The fort was surrendered to Koxinga and later destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century. It was rebuilt as the Chihkan Tower afterwards.
With 15,000 and counting, there is a temple for every god and even one for a dog. Storehouses of history, display rooms for traditional art, marketplaces, recreation centres, and of course, vibrant houses of worship, temples are a quintessential part of Taiwan’s living folk culture.
The basic characteristics of any temple building are a raised platform that forms the base for a wood post-and-beam frame. This frame is held together by interlocking pieces (no nails or glue are used) and supports a curved roof with overhanging eaves. Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian temples share the same architectural features, but Buddhist temples generally have fewer images and less elaborate decorations.
Confucian temples are always walled complexes, and Taoist and folk temples are loud, both in noise level and decoration. Temple decorative arts include Cochin pottery, wood carving, painting and jiănniàn, figurines decorated with coloured shards like 3D mosaics.
Taiwanese Hot Pot
Hot Pot, also known as steamboat, refers to several East Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.
To me this was completely new and I had to follow my friend who had tried this before together with his girlfriend. It tasted good but very Asian, in Belgium they don’t know this kind of food. In fact the Chinese hot pot has a history of more than 1,000 years and none of it came to the people in the more western countries, although it could be many a favour to try this Asian specialty.
Day 8, Urbex, Tea and dead trees
Driving through mountains and nature we stumbled upon an abandoned complex which I tended to explore myself while my friend was waiting for me in the car. I took a lot of pictures from this awesome complex, random placed smaller buildings were also founded on the site. It looked more like a holiday park to me.
The actual destination were the famous tea fields of Taiwan and on top of this a lake with dead trees.
Taiwan’s Lotus Forest
This forest has special characteristics and is very popular among tourists but also for the people of Taiwan. Located at Nantou County, Zhushan Township. People can walk to this site and they’ll also pass fields of tea were people are working hard to get the job done. The hills were the tea is growing can be very steep and so do the roads adjoining them. They also lead to the Lotus Forest.
Day 9 – A Mexican Dinner in Taiwan
Today was a very special day for the family of DJ, at least for DJ’s father and sister. My friend Hannes had the intention to make a Mexican dinner, with Mexican beans, Guacamole and tacos.
In the morning my friend told me that we had to drive to the ‘nearest’ biological market, where we could buy tacos and red beans for tonight’s dinner. The trip took us a few hours and I was satisfied with the fact that we didn’t had to spend a full day at home and do nothing at all. I want to go out and see some stuff rather than staying inside while it is 25 or more degrees outside.
When the dinner was finally ready, we took a chair at the little table and I shot this picture, it was well worth it.
Day 10 – My last day in Taiwan
This was a great, short and special holiday trip through Taiwan, I saw a lot of amazing things and local culture, but it could be more interesting and relaxing if I had more days. Well, it is like it is, of course.
Me, Hannes and DJ are back in Taipei again and we went out to see the crowded city for the last time and had some extra fun.
Have you been to Taiwan? What do you like about it? Share in the comments below…
» Written by Alan who goes under the name of twin-rhino | Published on January 24, 2016