Thursday 30 May 2013

Taiwan: Sun Moon Lake

The hostel/minsu we chose (鱼村民宿/Fishing village hostel(?)) was pretty decent. It is much easier to reach there via ferry but we took a bus and spent quite a while to get our bearings. When we reached, the gate was (what seemed to us) locked and nobody was inside. We pushed and we pulled at the gate for about 10 minutes before we realised that it was a sliding gate... and it wasn't locked. Okaaay. So we entered and still, nobody was around. So we called the owner (thank goodness for a local SIM card) and she said they were out for breakfast and we could just leave our bags behind the counter. The room was clean and big enough for us and our bags. The toilet plus shower was really clean too, thumbs up. The owners were friendly and very keen to offer suggestions/help. Breakfast was included and consisted of porridge with side dishes (fried egg, fried vegetables, peanuts, etc). There was coffee and tea and bread(?) as well. I personally really welcomed the porridge after so much deep fried Taiwanese street food.

We purchased the round trip ropeway cable car and entrance fee for the cultural village for NT680 (student price, bring your student pass!). The ride up was fun, some parts of the floor was made of glass so you can look down at the forest below you. It was nice looking down at the tranquility of the lake, but the lake itself is really JUST A LAKE. Why is it called Sun Moon Lake? Because if you look directly down at the lake, you'll see a round lake (sun) and a crescent shaped lake (moon). We didn't see much of the cultural village because after an hour and a half, it started pouring cats and dog. So we hid in the indoor amusement park where we took the viking about five hundred times, the merry-go-round  about three thousand times (so you shouldn't be surprised to hear that I have three thousand photos of the merry-go-round, capturing every angle possible) and the indoor roller coaster about a million times. The rest of the rides were for children, actually the whole indoor amusement park is mainly for kids. Then we decided to brave the rain in our tiny raincoats and headed to the European gardens. But since I didn't want my camera to get drenched, I hid it in my raincoat and took photos through the head opening without proper aim so all the photos were slanted with no sense of photo composition. You can see part of my raincoat in the photos too haha. I guess it would be a nice garden on a nice and sunny day. I was honestly quite disappointed after the first day at Sun Moon Lake, probably due to the weather and lake of sleep.

We cycled around Sun Moon Lake on the second day, and I enjoyed myself a lot more than the previous day. There are quite a number of bridges strategically given names such as 同心桥 (One Heart Bridge) and 永结桥 (Together Forever Bridge) to attract couples. And it worked pretty well since we saw two or three couples taking wedding photographs on our two hours ride. We also went up the mountain behind our hostel to visit a temple and just to have a nice look-see. Then we took the ferry to the main station to catch a bus to our next destination - Cingjing!

Saturday 25 May 2013

Taiwan: Taichung


After being rained on (well the car, not us), we arrived in Taichung from Zhongli. Immediately, we headed for Rainbow Village. I felt absorbed into another world, a world where the residents lived in the wall and they whispered and stared at us curiously as we walked past. "Look at them!" they exclaimed to one another excitedly, eyes huge like saucers. "Keep still!" others hushed. It felt as if we were the ones being scrutinized. I liked how even the corners and floor were painted. We also met the Grandpa who was behind the paintings around the village! He was really friendly and cute, holding up the peace sign when we requested for a photo. Apparently the village was supposed to be demolished but in an effort to save it, he started painting on the walls and soon it became an attraction, people started coming to see it and it was saved hooray. But I heard that part of the village was still torn down (which would explain its size) and in the future, the remaining part might be gone too. Not sure how true this is...

The newly opened Gong Yuan Yan Ke (宫原眼科) left many wondering why we were going there as the name meant spectacles shop/eye clinic in Chinese. Well, it used to be an eye hospital then they refurbished it into a.... chocolate/ice cream/pineapple tarts shop. A random mix I say but whatever floats their boat. Most people come here for the ice cream which are named 'Sunshine after a rainy day' or 'Green pastures'. Ok, I can't remember the exact names but you get the drift. I had tea flavoured ice cream (I'm in Bubbletealand after all) but it tasted alright, nothing really special. It's the toppings I had fun choosing. They have options such as pineapple tarts, cheese cakes, moon cakes, other than your regular toppings. I adored the look of this place, look at the bookshelves! You can hardly tell what is in store for you when you step into the shop.


Banana New Paradise (香蕉新樂園) is a place for you to dine in Old Taiwan 风. I read many blogs about how it felt like you walked into a lost world but personally I thought that there wasn't much to write home about. And I bet the food inside is over priced. The old train head houses old tickets, old train models, a train captain cabin and a toilet. It's worth a look but it's really small and if you take the train around Taiwan, I don't think you'll find this particularly exciting.

Gaomei wetland (高美湿地) is my FAVOURITE place in Taichung. I did my research and found out that this place was highly recommended as a good place to watch the sunset so we went there at around 3+/4pm and reached at 5pm. The water lightly covers your feet as you walk on smooth warm mud, a free mud massage! You look over the horizon and it is an expanse of blue, the wetland looks like it goes on forever and ever before finally merging with the sky. With the gentle wind blowing softly at us, we walked further and further out and nearer and nearer to the setting sun, leaving civilization behind us. Soon, there was only us, the mud, the sky and the retreating sun. It was so tranquil and simply amazing. I could stay there forever, maybe with a beach chair and just stare out into the endlessness.

The only thing is that this place is about an hour away from the city center. We took a cab to a bus stop with bus numbers 168/169 and then crossed the road and took bus number 178 (or 179) at Qing Shui station (清水站). These two buses are not frequent and they follow a schedule. So it's wise to check the schedule before starting your journey so you don't end up waiting for an hour for the bus. Also, note that the last bus leaves Gaomei wetland at 7.15pm. If you're willing to spend on taxi, then it shouldn't be a big problem to get there.

Taiwan is truly a food paradise. We ate so much there I can't remember everything especially because I didn't take photos of everything I ate. Since pictures speak a thousand words, I shall just let your eyes feast on the pictures. I really liked the braised pork with rice 鲁肉饭) and sweet potato fries I had in Taichung. And I've heard many locals telling me that good Taiwanese food is found everywhere except Taipei, so if you have a chance to travel to Taiwan, don't make Taipei your only stop!

Saturday 18 May 2013

Taiwan: Zhongli

Packed my stuff and started my 18 days trip around Taiwan! After 4-5 hours on the plane, we reached Taoyuan airport at 5am.. Only slept for about 1 plus hours on the flight so I was really tired when we landed. We were also starving because almost nothing was open at the airport.Our first destination was Zhongli, a city near Taoyuan. A couple from CouchSurfing offered to host us for a night there before we travel to Taichung.

We bought a one day unlimited pass to travel around Zhongli (NT100), the bus interval is once per hour. Dropped at Ci Hu (慈湖) after quite a long ride. The bus uncle asked if I wanted to feed the fish with him so we went to the lake and threw bread crumbs for the fish. Very fun to see them swim towards you and fight for the bread crumbs. And the ducks were super cute! They would swim towards us and catch a big piece of bread that the bus uncle threw and then bring it back to their nests. The lake was very peaceful and quiet.

Dasi old street (大溪老街) is actually just a street of eateries, the architecture is quite unique though.

Met up with our host and he brought us to Zhong Yuan Night Market (中原夜市). I think it's inevitable to end up eating alot in Taiwan... Tried fried smelly tofu! But according to our host, the fried version is not as smelly as the soup version. And I think it's true because I didn't find the smelly tofu very smelly..

That was the end of the first night in Taiwan! Our hosts were super awesome and they really looked after us. Really lucky to have met them. :)