Archive for April, 2009

We were ready to leave Taipei and get some green views and less scooters. We got green; scooters stayed with us.

On the day we arrived in Taipei we wandered to the train station to try and score tickets. We traipsed up to the information desk ready to receive no information whatsoever and were quite aghast to find the most helpful and friendly woman ever to grace customer services. She pointed us in the right direction to get tickets and said she would join us if she wasn’t busy. Yeah right sista, see you in hell!
You could have bowled us over with a feather when she appeared behind the ticket clerk to let her know what we wanted. Excellent service and the first time ever I have received actual information from an information desk.

Three hours later on a pretty uneventful train journey and we arrived in Hualien. A very quiet, very untouristy little town where it is said tourists use as a base to tour Taroko Gorge. Well we were doing that and we could not see any other tourist in the near vicinity. Luckily our little hotel, C’est Jeune, spoke English and arrange a taxi dude to take us to the Gorge and let us do our walking whenever we wanted. I wanted to whale watch but alas the whales don’t take guests until late May. Boo!

We strolled to the coastline to see the Pacific Ocean come in after it’s long journey. Bit more effort buddy!

So Taroko Gorge is like The Grand Canyon in reverse. You drive though and cliffs rise up on each side to a dizzying height. It really is quite spectacular. There are a couple of 2km walks along the road which we took and the taxi picked us up at the end. Perfect set up; we saw a lot of tour buses and it was good to skirt around them.

The start of the The Taroko National Park

First stop was the Eternal Shrine which is a little shrine surrounded by cliffs and alongside a waterfall fed by a natural spring. You have to saunter over this bridge to get to it.

The shrine, the waterfall, the mountains.

Next stop was a 2km walk through the Swallow Grotto; named after the little ass-hats that live there and swoop down on top of your head every few seconds. Nice place they got though!

One of the revamped rope bridges the aborigines here would use to get places.

So this swallow grotto walk was along a road cut in to a cliff with the river down below and more cliffs facing you. There were fantastic markings and patterns on the cliffs due to water running through during the ages. I could divulge more scientific nuggets of fact about lithostratigraphy but I won’t.

Those rocks on the river bed were massive.

Our taxi and Mr. Pong await.

Next little 2km walk that the taxi dropped us off at was the cave of nine turns (I didn’t count). More cool scenery.

At times you couldn’t see the sky for the cliffs like in this instance.

It’s hard to get across the immensity of the cliffs without a human comparison.

So after these walks we were getting hungry and after an unsuccessful stop at some god awful tourist trap we soldiered on. The next stop Pong wanted us to see was a nice little Buddhist temple up a little hill. Okay we can do that. Little did we know that divine intervention was driving us up those steps

An ornate bridge on the way

On the way up to the temple; just don’t look at it at an angle and everything will be fine. Move along.

So up we go to the temple and don’t really make it that far because a nice young lady with good English asks us if we want any lunch. yeah, let’s see what you got..”Only vegetarian” she says cheerily which was great news altogether (well for one of us) so we decided to eat there and then and hoped that our taxi driver knows what has happened us.

It was delicious. Best meal in Taiwan. That’s from a meat eater.

So after that lovely little stop our taxi driver droe us back the way we came for there was another little 2km walk along the river bank at the start of the park. Suited us fine.

Oh before that he thought we would like to dice with death and walk along a rope bridge. Mad the railings were low when you got to the middle.

And although I proclaim at the end of the clip “Taroko Gorge” like a triumphant adventurist it really isn’t the Taroko Gorge, there is another couple of thousand square miles of it around us. This part is actually a bit lame, but hey it’s a rope bridge and the closest I get to being Indiana Jones.

Some pics from our last walk.

Strange eerie blue green colour in the water.

And our lovely trip to Taroko Gorge was then done! We stopped off at a beach on the way back…..

….for whatever reason, then we were back in Hualien for the night. It was a struggle in Hualien to find something to do (even to find somewhere to have a drink), so we resorted to unquestionable tactics to grab a bite to eat. Not a word.
It was actually the first place I had been where not anything in any shop or cafe was in English, it was interesting to say the least and good prep for our future trips to mainland China.

So we ended up in Taipei the next day to grab a plane back here. Honkers. Tight, squeezed in, hectic but ever so convenient Honkers. I missed it.

That concludes a condensed review of our trip. Hopefully I can pull some Honkers related material out of my head soon. I have an idea…it involves food…

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Last Friday we finished work for one week of Easter break so early Saturday morning we ran screaming for Hong Kong airport and got the hell outta Dodge for a five day hiatus to Taiwan.
The flight from Honkers to Taipei is only roughly an hour and a half. The amount of daily flights are staggering and I was delighted to get a 2900HKD (290Euro/375USD) return for two with Cathay via Priceline (tickets were 5900HKD on Cathay’s website), so that was a result and a half from the Colster. Priceline will be consulted for future trips. Oh yes.

So Taipei first off. Yeah, hmmm, certainly a pleasant change from Honkers in parts. A bit, um, less exciting I would have to say. We thoroughly enjoyed the wide European-esque streets and low-rise shops and apartments but wandered around a bit confused to where the action was. When we say action we mean restaurants and bars and general buzz-iness. The prior purchase of The Lonely Planet Guide to Taiwan was about as helpful and useful to me as wandering the streets pulling a dead donkey in a cart.
Seriously how do they get away with such rubbish?! Twice we went in search of bars and restaurants they recommended, twice we were faced with shutters and beady eyed dog-sized rats in dingy alleyways. Never again Lonely Planet, never again. Don’t get me started on their quirky, artsy maps they love to include in their guides. Asshats.

What is there to see in Taipei and get on with it, I hear you scream?

Taipei 101

This is a tall building in which you can go up an elevator to the top and peer out on haziness. It was the tallest on this planet until The Burj got built in Dubai recently. It’s got the fastest elevator in the world as you can tell by this video I took.

I would probably not like the girl’s job that stands in there and goes up and down all day telling everyone to swallow to get rid of the ear clogging sensation you get when hurtling with or against gravity very fast. There’s not much at the top other than the view and I hated the fact they make people walk through a vast shopping area to get the elevator back down. Shame on them. I wouldn’t mind but it was all crap you wouldn’t buy in a million years like marble earthworms and necklaces with big green elephant ears.

Taipei 101 is in the middle of nothing at the junction of nowhere and huh?. Although it has a big mall underneath selling jewelery and clothes that you would have to sell your first born to buy. We did dine royally in Subway in the food court in the basement though. Nice. Next.

Various Temples

We got temple-ized out of it when we were in Bangkok so it was with heavy hearts we set out to go to a couple of temples in Taipei and to be honest it wasn’t half bad. First up we went to a confusing temple to Confucius called Confucius Temple strangely enough. I’ve been told many times by Chinese friends that Confucianism is not a religion. Which explained why this temple was empty I suppose. It was nice though, an instant quiet and calmness when you entered.  It was small and pleasant and not too smokey with incense (which we would make up for in later temples).

Confucius would say something here like : “He who flies plane over temple; flies temple over plane”.

Over the street slaloming through the crowds gathering around Chinese Checkers playing old farts and we get to the Baoan temple which is busier and makes you cough more with incense smoke. It’s a bit bigger and has a more “Please help me!” feel to it than the Confucius Temple.

I must say it was also eerily calm and peaceful in there but had to stifle a sarcastic snigger at the offering of a Pocari Sweat to the gods.

Anyhue on to Longshan Temple which has it’s own underground stop so it must be popular. And it is. With tourists, touts and locals all there for drastically different reasons. It’s also got a public square outside it in which numerous dodgy looking people sit around glaring at passers by. Weird. Longshan has a nice little courtyard as you walk in with some waterfalls and then you get in to the temple and are gobbled up by incense. Peaceful though, right?!

Yes, we’re still alive and went to Taiwan and I became a monk.

Hee-hee hee, ahee hee hee. Silly cat. There be Koi in the ponds below my feline friend, open thine eyes!

Struggling for things to do we went to the Royal Palace Museum and blazed through their momentous collection of old stones, pottery and furniture in record time. The amount of guided tours set off alarm bells in my well oiled Spidey Tourist senses. They stood around display cases like retarded sheep, they blocked off escape routes, they listened obediently through headsets to their robotic and thoroughly uninterested tour guides and did their best to stop us but no, not us. No photos allowed inside because they said so. So here’s one from outside.

After hunting for a Veggie place that Lonely Planet bleated about from on high and found it to be as open as North Korea. We traipsed back to the MRT stop to another very friendly Veggie place called Vegetarian Kitchen so if you’re ever at Shilin MRT stop in Taipei, go check it out.

We walked, then to Shilin Night Market, got utterly confused about everything regarding it and went back to our dark but lavish hotel to prepare for our train trip the next morning.


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