Selasa, 19 Agustus 2014

190 days after Taiwan.

The trip is 6 months old (almost 7!), so pardon me if there are many missing points here, I have to scroll down the pictures I have to bring back the memory of Taiwan. I got an urge to write this after reading my own writing for Lao, the desire to share and describe the beauty of this small country (although not as small as Singapore) has forced me to start writing again. So, either it's useful or just a plain blabbing, I hope there's a little joy reading this piece.

We got butterflies in our stomach, excited to explore this unknown beauty and to eat their infamous street food. I wouldn't discuss the food, to be exact, because I found it more interesting to see the cities itself than exploring the food. Seeing is something I won't forget, while Taiwanese food are spreading nowadays, which I will find it somewhere else one day (and yes, Singapore has too many Taiwanese food already!).

Yehliu Geopark
We got the tickets!
The feeling of being at a beach during winter was somehow really exciting; because in my brain.. a beach equal to hot and humid. This is something new for my skin and for my understanding in describing beach. It was a strange-and-odd experience, running at the sandy beach, but wearing a thick jacket and winter-y shoes. The wind was so cold with additional sea-water splashing to my body, until I'd almost wet my pants.
Winter beach
People calls this place "Queen's head" for its famous sedimentary rock which looks like a queen's neck. We misinterpreted the scale and we thought it's a huge rock with doubled the size of human or more; don't be mistaken.. the main queen's head is "only" as high as a man. It's fun to look at, though! The formation of sea bays is due to the impact of sea erosion on softer rock layers, while those hard and solid ones may therefore turn into sea capes eventually. There are many of these, and if you look from a higher ground, it looks like one garden of light brownish round thingy, gathering in one areas. Cute, I must say.

Nita with the infamous Queen's head
To get here is a bit tricky, especially for people who don't speak and don't read Chinese. There are several ways to reach Yehliu, such as from Keelung or from National Taiwan University. We chose the Tamsui route, since we were planning to visit Tamsui area (which was cancelled due to the heavy rain and a super windy day, in the end we were roaming around the street market and malls), from there we took an express bus from Tamsui station (near Tamsui MRT) bound to Jinshan, and alight at Yehliu stop.

It sounds so simple and easy, right?

Here is why I say it's tricky.. Buses in Taiwan has notification screen to let you know which bus stop we are at now. BUT, they notify you ONLY when you're passing through the bus stop, NOT BEFORE the bus stop. So, to avoid alighting at the wrong bus stop, you have to count how many stops away your destination is, or you have to know the name of the bus stop before your destination. Which is soooo hard for us, because the bus routes written on the board at bus station is in Chinese wordings :))

In the end, we were panicking when we saw the notification screen in the bus showed "Yehliu", we pressed the bell right away and the bus captain was shouting so loud in Taiwanese accent at us, "YEHLIU????"
We ran crazily to the door and alighted in the middle of nowhere, because the bus is already passed our destination. Thankfully, the bus captain allowed us to alight (although I can till recall his high volume voice), if not, we would've been missed out Yehliu that day. So we walked on the highway-look-a-like road, while praying there will be no high speed vehicles running to us.
Road leading to Yehliu Geopark's entrance point

Wulai scenery
Getting to Wulai is so much simpler than Yehliu. You can just go to Xindian MRT (Xindian line), then approach the bus station in front of the MRT station and take bus no. 849. No need to worry that you'll miss the stop, because Wulai stop is the very last stop, the journey is about 40 mins. So, pick up your best seat and enjoy the ride (seriously, don't sleep, the scenery is quite interesting), this ride will cost you NT$40. Visiting this charming small town is unforgettable; we were right away regretting our decision to visit this town with tight timing. It was so pretty and quiet. Visitors walked around in slow motion, the ambiance was so relaxing, feels like we still have tons of time in life to spend --- there is no need to hurry things up. We didn't have any exact plan up there, perhaps only to see the waterfall and taking the cable car ride. Were greeting by a long strip of shops and snack stalls, we were so easy to be distracted here and there; we couldn't stop ourselves to try some interesting snacks and buy several souvenirs.
Wulai's shopping strip

After the shopping strip, we continued to walk quite far to reach the waterfall, and all we could see was green and river along the walking path. People passed us by, because we walked slowly, trying to swallow all the scenery we saw. Although in the end, we didn't ride the cable car, but we did find the waterfall! Almost enough to pay the long walk we took.

Wulai waterfall
If you are in Taipei, please do visit Wulai. We, ourselves, love this small town so much!

Taroko Gorge - Hehuanshan - Chingjing Farm

Taking night train from Taipei Main station to Hualien probably is the easiest way to get closer to Taroko Gorge. It's the most common way to visit this marble mountainous fella, the train trip is not too long in my opinion, plus it's quite comfortable as well.

We hired a taxi driver to bring us all the way from Hualien to Taichung, via Hehuanshan and Chingjing Farm - it was counted as one day trip. Almost all taxi drivers quoted the same pricing for this kind of trip (I say, "almost"); sometimes they charge more if the road is snowy because they need to install wheel-chain so that the vehicle won't slipped during the journey to Hehuanshan. Please see below to find the contact number of our driver, his name is C J Chen and he speaks good English!

Taroko Gorge is marvelous! We took a walk from the entrance to the end point. Were staring at huge mountainous cliffs all the way, it was marble and marble alone. The government forbid people to take the marble from here, they protect this area and successfully make it as tourist attraction. It's an hoborable act, in my opinion. I can't imagine my country doing the same thing for its natural resources, so sad that all Indonesian government do is to exploit the natural resources and sell it to foreign countries :(

There are a lot of tunnel like this. We have to wear the helmet to protect ourselves from the falling rocks.
Look at the scale of human and the mountain
Can you see an Indian head?
From Taroko Gorge, we went all the way up climbing the Hehuanshan to see the snow at its highest point, Wuling. It was my (and Yos') first time experience seeing snow, so that was another remarkable moment in life. The temperature dropped very fast, but we enjoyed it so much, although I couldn't feel my feet anymore. It was frozen for almost half an hour, I kept moving my legs to make it a bit warmer. My tropical body didn't suit the temperature, I guess.

Wuling itself was just the highest point with a signage that marks its height. Many people were taking picture on its marking; but then what attracted me wasn't that signage, but it was more on the surrounding. The blurry white scenery, unclear view of the shadowy people in dark color, the wheels' markings on the snow, the colors of people clothes that made the snow was even whiter, people's body language to defend themselves from the cold, the trees that were covered with white, and so on. That signage was nothing, compare to what surrounds it. One beautiful minutes I would like to keep in mind, Hehuanshan.

Compare to what Hehuanshan/Wuling offers to us, Chingjing is quite similar in one way, its one whole beauty and monochromatic. While Hehuanshan gives you white, Chingjing gives you autumn look - orange brown. We were expecting green grass look, but of course it was not possible since it was still winter. Orange brown was as pretty as green, in fact, it gave us other wide smile in our faces. It was so beautiful.. with additional white sheep doing their afternoon snacks all around the hilly ground. The cute sheep were freely walking and eating wherever they want, and visitors can touch (or hug) them, although most of the sheep don't really care about human's existence. Beyond Chingjing farm, we can also look at the hills surroundings with perfect views to be captured and put it in postcards. We really wished we had more time to stay and just lay around the grass enjoying those view.

Beitou - (Xinbeitou) - Taipei

All days we spent at Taipei, we stayed at Beitou area. We chose somewhere more suburban, rather than staying at the city area. Our hostel was quite near to Beitou MRT station, and it was a clean place to stay for days. Please see the below, I will provide you with the contact for the hostel, it's a recommended place in Beitou. You can cook, wash your clothes, and even make an event during your stay!

Beitou itself is an interesting area, famous for its hot spring during cold days. The hostel's staff even say "it's a must" to visit the hot spring and try it out. We didn't try, unfortunately. I have my reason: I don't want to be naked in front of other people, although it's female only. A big NO. But if you're okay with the nudity, please do try! :)

There was one interesting building that caught my attention during our walk around Beitou, Beitou public library. When I entered the building, I almost screamed hysterically. It was nicely designed and nicely constructed, it's like a library I usually see in architecture books. Exactly as good as them. The space was very good, the daylight was maximized, and the most important was the feeling when we were inside the building. It felt right.
Beitou Library
Souvenir shop near Beitou hot spring
We were roaming around Taipei mostly at night, that's why we encountered quite a lot of night market, which Taipei is famous of. You can find several night markets near to each other, and still can enjoy it since they have a lot of varieties of stuffs and snacks to sell, from the normal type to the "what-the-hell-is-this" type.

Oh. Don't forget to visit Taipei 101!
One of the highest building on earth. Still amazed by its high speed lift!
One more place we visited, and I think it's worth the be spread out, Taipei Fish market. This place is heaven for seafood/sushi/Japanese food lovers. We were almost lost, because we had to walk quite far from the MRT, but I didn't know why.. we managed to find this place (thanks to Yos!). I was too hungry to pay attention to the route we took, or to read the map. It was our most expensive meal during our trip and so worthed. All fresh fish, colorful sushi with a lot of variety, sashimis, and other-fish-I-don't-know-the-name. Local people fancy this place a lot, although they don't provide seatings.. so we have to stand while eating. It's fun and it's delicious! Must try, please be noted.

I really hope you enjoy my story. Sorry if it's not too helpful, but if you need anything or need to ask something about Taiwan, just leave a comment below; will try to help as much as I can. :)

Happy traveling!

Taxi driver
C J Chen
T: +886 920 669 234

On My Way Taipei Hostel
T: +886 2 2891 0230