I also can't believe that during last year (actually it was only 8 months), I traveled to Taiwan 3 times... I said so because previously "Taiwan" was not in the list of countries that I wanted to visit. Probably due to I didn't care much so I didn't know that Taiwan has so much to offer, especially beautiful nature in the way that I like...And here is my third trip to Taiwan. Now Taiwan has changed from a stranger to become a frequent visit country for me.
This trip, I try to travel by using public transportation and renting a car with a driver which I think is a perfect travel style of Thai people who like to travel in a small group. So I wanted to share my experiences with you guys... I also didn't have much time during this trip like usual. I only spend 4 nights there. Good thing is I fly with Thai Airways this time which has a good flying time. I reach Taiwan before noon so I can travel that afternoon and come back in the evening so I get to travel the entire day.
I reach the airport at 5 a.m. on my departure day. After passing through the immigration, I take my flight ticket and go straight to Thai Airways lounge. That is because I have the K-bank platinum card which can enjoy Thai Airways lounge twice a year (under the condition that we must have Thai Airways international flight ticket). I still feel bad that I forgot to enjoy the lounge when I flew to Iceland with Thai Airways at the beginning of the year.
I'm ready for the journey now.
After the immigration...I go straight to the Thai Airways lounge...If you are holding this credit card, do not forget to check if you can use this lounge. It seems like several other cards also join in this program.
Here is an overall atmosphere which has quite lots of people. The food here is quite great. They offer snack to actual food like eggs and ham. Also, beverages come in a variety of choices. For me, I choose to just have a cup of coffee for my breakfast.
When it's almost time, I go to board at the gate. TG634 is the flight bound for Korea but transfer at Taipei first. It is the Boeing 777-300 which is a big aircraft. It takes about 3 and a half hours to reach Taipei.
For me, when I fly with our national airline, in addition to the great services, I also enjoy the onboard entertainment so much. When I watch a movie, I can choose to either have Thai subtitle or sound, so that I didn't have to concentrate too much. Some movies have lots of conversations, without subtitle, sometimes, I really can't catch up, haha.
Also, most of the onboard food is tasty. Not surprisingly, Thai Airways was awarded "Best Economy Class Onboard Catering".
Here is the menu on the way to Taipei.
After going through the immigration, I try to take the new line of MRT which runs straight from Taoyuan Airport towards Taipei, the fare is 160 TWD each. You can choose to either take the regular train which stops at every stop or fewer stops which takes about 30 minutes and the fare is the same... You can buy the ticket at the entrance towards the station. It is an automatic machine which also has Thai language for VIP tourists like Thai people, hehe.
Of course, the train is super new as it was just opened earlier this year. It has luggage compartment in every car which is quite convenient for travelers who comes with lots of things like us.
I get off at the terminal station at Taipei which can connect to Taipei Main Station and the MRT which runs in downtown Taipei. For the convenience, I go to check in at Mr. Lobster Secret Den Hostel first which is quite close to Airport MRT Station.
This is my second time staying here as the location is convenient and the room is not too small...
My room for the first night is a 4-beds room with a shared bathroom inside. It is suitable for a group of friends or a family.
After unpacking stuff, I go to exchange the train ticket for a round trip to Hualien at Taipei Main Station. I have booked and paid online in advance and now I need to take the booking number and the passport to change for the ticket... You can book the ticket at this website http://www.railway.gov.tw. I book to Hualien for 440 TWD each trip for the speed train which takes about 2 hours. The ticket can be booked 14 days in advance (including traveling day). Getting a ticket in advance helps us not to have to queue longon a travel day.
That evening, despite the drizzle, I still go shopping at Ximending as planned because otherwise I wouldn't get to come as I would go far away from the city from that day on. Thus, I have to go no matter what...From the hostel, I walk along the alley in order to catch a bus on the opposite side of the main road followed the direction given by the Google Map. It takes quite a while to wait for the bus, probably it is the time when people getting off from work and the rain....Once I reach my destination, I search for dinner right away. Then, I found this long queue street food, I look to see the chef frying the flour, oysters, and eggs in a hot pan and I'm sure that I would like it so I walk in...It's like the fried oysters in Thailand, we can eat it with meatball soup and fried vegetable. I see some people also order minced pork and rice too....The taste is quite good for the fried oyster, but I didn't quite like the meatball in the soup, I think the meatball in Thailand is tastier (after 2-3 restaurants I have tried). I think they put too much flour and with less stuffing.
After that, it's time for shopping... Since, this is my forth time visiting this place, I'm quite familiar with it. I can go straight to the shop I want without wasting much time...On the way back, I walk as it's only about a kilometer away.
The next morning, I have a light breakfast with a cup of coffee, rice porridge, and bread with is included in a room price. The breakfast at Mr. Lobster Secret Den Hostel is served from 8-10 a.m. at the living room. Also, you can cook simple food as some cooking facilities are provided...After eating, do not forget to wash dishes as well :)
Today, I have contacted with a Thai person in Taiwan who provides a van rental and a driver service named Khun ball from webpage Family Travel เที่ยวไต้หวัน. Khun Ball will take me traveling to the northern coast of Taiwan which is where Ruifang Sub-District is located.
From Taipei, we drive along the road leading towards Keelung City before taking a turn onto the coast. Today the weather is not so fresh due to the drizzle...Khun Ball stops and finds a view for me to take photos. Then, we continue onto another famous photo taking spot of this area which has elephant shaped rock.
The road towards Ruifang
The weather today is quite dark T T
From the road, we walk through the rocks for about 5 minutes and see the elephant shaped rock. The elephant shape rock is very clear, we can go up to take cool photo up there. Nearby has rocks that look like flower while some people imagine them as the fences of an elephant...what an imagination...Anyhow, both rocks are great spots for photo taking....It's sad that it's drizzling so I really can't take much photos. Here is what I can capture.
The elephant and its fences, hehe
From the elephant rock, Khun Ball takes us walking along the coast to the other side. The weather is getting worse now, the rain gets heavier. I really don't want to stop taking photo as the view is much more beautiful than I have expected. On one side is a high cliff and the other side is a blue sea, especially when the wave hit the coast making the blue even bluer. I believe on a clear day, it would be much more beautiful for sure.
Since the rain shows no sign of stopping, I asked Khun Ball to take us to lunch for killing time. We stop at a resting area and have lunch there. Below is our food and it is 600 TWD which I think is reasonable. The taste is a bit mild, probably we are used to with hot food.
After lunch, the rain is still falling but we have no choice. Khun Ball takes us to the Bitou Cape Viewpoint which has the landscape of a cape stretching into the sea. It locates a white lighthouse and a beautiful nature trail as well.
We park near the Bitou Kindergarten school which locates near the cliff, the starting point of a nature trail..... The road is comfortably paved with rocks but we must walk up and down the hills for quite a distance. I think it's not suitable for the elders and someone who has walking problem. For teenage like me, it is no problem all, hehe, just have to stop and breath for several time only!
Just the view at the starting point is already very beautiful. The cemetery is also here but look different than the one we see in Thailand.
It is the Chinese cemetery.
Along the way, there're several pavilions from time to time where we can take a rest. Those colorful buildings are the Bitou Kindergarten school.
These cliffs are very beautiful.
Although we must walk up and down the hill, I guarantee that the view is definitely worth all the effort we put forward.
At the last pavilion, we can look down to clearly see the view of the coast and houses near the sea. Well, it's looking quite like the view of the Italy coastal city.
From here, we can take the same route back but we choose to continue walking down towards the port of the village and walking back to the parking.
To save some of our energy, Khun Ball have us waited at the bus stop and goes drive the car and picks us up later. After that, we go to another viewpoint near the main road which can see the two-color sea. It is so due to the Than Thong Waterfall flows into this bay. Here is indeed another beautiful corner.
Along the way, we just stop wherever we feel is beautiful.
After that, we keep driving up forward to capture different angle of Than Thong Waterfall. This is a small waterfall flowing from yellow limestone cliff... Since now is rainy season, the water is yellow. I'm not sure whether the water would be clear otherwise. But I know that the yellow comes from the minerals nearby.
From Than Thong Waterfall, we drive upward not so long to find Jiufeng Ancient Town. Since the weather is quite bad, we can't go out to take a walk. Also, my clothes are wet. We decided to ask Khun Ball drive us back to the hostel. On the way back, Khun Ball tries to find additional photo taking spots for us but the rain is too hard now so we have no choice but going back to the hostel. However, I think that we get to experience the coastal view is already worthy. If you guys are traveling in a group of 3 people up, I think you can travel like us as it's flexible and the price is reasonable. The cedar can take about 3-4 people and it is 4,000 THB a day including fuel and toll way fee. It is much more convenient than taking the public transportation. Also, you have someone guiding you and telling you the good spot for photography. Oh, Khun Ball is also a photographer so you can stop worrying of having no good photos back home.. If you are interested, you can add his line: nobernnobell.
Once we reach our hostel, we put down photo taking equipment and go out to find something to eat at Taipei Main Station. Also, we take a look at the platform so that we won't have to find it tomorrow as we have a train to catch tomorrow morning. We have our dinner at the food court on the upstairs of Taipei Main Station which comes in good variety and the price is not so expensive. It surely is another great place for food...Actually, we wanted to eat a nice restaurant to chill and enjoy. But we come here quite late and every restaurant has a long queue so we end up at this food court instead.
And oh, tonight we move to a 3-beds room at Mr Lobster Secret Den Hostel. The third bed is a place for our stuff because it's only two of us in this room. The room size is similar to last night one's. Although it's not too spacious, I think it's very convenient for downtown hostel, especially when bathroom is inside the room. I think it's very worth the price.
The second night with a 3-beds room.
The next morning I wake up early and walk to catch the train towards Hualien which leaves at 6.30 a.m. From the hostel, I choose to take the underground tunnel to the train station. I realize later that this was a mistake. Because all the escalators connecting to the train station are yet in service. We have to drag our luggage up and down the stairs. So if you have to go to the train station in early morning, I recommend you to walk on the road which will be much more convenient. Nonetheless, the escalators in the train station is already in service. The one that is not in service is the connecting to the mall ones.
Good thing that I leave 30 minutes extra so I catch the train on time and get to buy some food at 7 Eleven to eat on the train as well.
The train leaves on time. It goes towards the same direction as yesterday before turning right towards the eastern coast of Taiwan...Taking train gives us different view than taking the car as it seems like the train takes us closer to the nature.
The train is quite spacious, comfortable, and clean. We can take the food to eat onboard. It has a shelf too... At first I was thinking to take a nap and save some energy for later but when I see this view I can't close my eyes but enjoy the view along the way even I didn't take much photos.
We reach Hualien at around 8.30 a.m..... The train station is not so big but is in the process of expanding to accommodate more tourists that has been increased day by day.
Today, I plan to go to Taroko National Park. I booked the rental car and a driver with Round Taiwan Round (rtaiwanr.com). It is an online agency who provide travel trip throughout Taiwan. I ask to meet with a driver named Vincent at the station at 8.30 a.m....After meeting with Vincent, who is our driver and our tour guide, he takes us to Toyota Wish which has been waiting for us at the parking lot. Vincent starts to brief us about the plan for today with fluent English. After a few conversations, we learn that he was an environmental engineer and worked at Taroko before becoming a tour guide here (when we book the driver via Round Taiwan Round, we will get a tour guide with a permit which is different from renting a taxi who might be able to communicate in Chinese only).
This morning, Vincent takes us to Qingshui Cliff first which is one of the eight wonders of Taiwan. It is also the place telling the birth of Taiwan island because it was the the place where the underwater was pushed up to become Taiwan island today. Therefore, the sea in this area is not like other beaches but a deep dale. Consequently, this drastic difference in depth makes the water come up with different color shade of water.
We can see this place from Google Earth which gives us a clearer picture. On the right side of Taroko National Park is where I was talking about earlier which is a deep dale.
Even when the weather is dark, we can still clearly see the beautiful sea water. I think on the bright day, it would have been much more beautiful. Anyhow, I think on the rainy day like this also gives us different view of this place. Let's take a look at that mist on the mountain, it is so breathtaking.
From Qingshui Cliff, let's go into Taroko mountain. We start by stopping by to take a photo at the entrance gate.
After that we go take photos at Shakadang Bridge which is the starting point for the Shakadang Trail... Here, the water in the river is blue mixed with green. It is so beautiful. Many tourists are enjoying the nature trail here.
After this, we go to another highlight of Taroko, the Eternal Spring Shrine. It is the the shrine located in the middle of the mountain with the waterfall flowing by. Too bad that it was under reconstruction when we visited so there were too many pieces of wood blocking the view.
From here, we take a short ride in order to go to Chan Guang Temple which has a very beautiful view. There is a suspension bridge for us to walk to enjoy the view. Since it wasn't in a tour program, there is not so many tourists yet. I recommend you to walk to the middle of the suspension bridge and look down to the river, it is so beautiful.
After taking photos for a while, Vincent takes us to another corner where we can see the shrine, the temple, and the red bridge, all in one frame. The photographer must not miss this spot.
We have our lunch at the Tourist Information Center. It is a set menu food. The taste is alright, though the price is a bit high, it's still acceptable.
After lunch, we go explore Taroko deeper, starting by walking along the hills and gorges. The park offers a free safety hat in case stones are fallen from the cliff....now, we are ready to enjoy this trail...
Well, looking from the photo, it might look very simple but the actual scene is just unbelievably amazing.
From here, driving along the river for a while, we will see the Cihmu Bridge. In addition to this distinctive red bridge, nearby has a frog wearing a crown shaped stone for tourists to play with their imagination as well....If you take a good look, you will find that almost all of rocks in this area is marble and ornamental stone. So you won't be surprised to see several stone factories in Hualien since here is the origin of these ornamental stones.
The next stop is a small waterfall flowing from a high cliff. There's also a suspension bridge for us to walk through the cliff and enjoy a 360 degree view.
Next is another Tourist Information Center where they offer lots of shops for tourists to enjoy snacking time. Also, it locates a 5-stars hotel of Taroko. For me, I walk around to capture the atmosphere.
The last stop for Taroko is the location of native tribe where now it has tuned into a museum showing their way of lives. The distinctive feature of this tribe is where they have tattoo on their faces.... Vincent also gives us quite a scary story where men has to cut off their enemy's head in order to be accepted as a fully grown up adult.
Before going back to the hostel, Vincent stops us at Qixingtan beach where lots of small and big rocks are situated. The beach is not white with the sand like in Thailand. That the sea here is blue, combing with this different feature of the beach, making this atmosphere very beautiful.
Tonight we are staying at B&B which is just a bit away from downtown Hualien called Ocen Journey Cafe B&B. It has 5 rooms which all come in different style. This cute B&B is taken care by a daughter of the house named Momo. Since she was graduated from Canada and had lots of travel experiences, the design and service is just what tourists needed. More importantly, she can well communicate in English.
Before going up to our room, she serves a home-made cake made by her mom. Apart from the taste being very delicious, we feel the warm welcome here :)
Our room is on the second floor, let's go take a look together.
Here is another vacant room on a second floor so I ask for a permission to take photos... I'm sure the guest would love it.
For dinner, Momo volunteers to take us to Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien which is located at a park near the beach. It has lots of shops offering all types of food. Then, there are also game shops and game players. It gives us the feeling like the temple fair in Thailand.
We decided to have a la carte menu tonight. The price is not expensive and the taste is good. That I'm getting lazy so I didn't bring the camera to take photos.
The next morning, Momo prepares an international breakfast for us. The ingredients of each dish are carefully selected. Some vegetables and fruits are grown by the family. Coffee brews professionally, thumbs up.
Vincent picks us up right on time for our eastern coastal tour of Taiwan. At first, we were planning to go up to the peak of Hehuashan Mountain but due to the heavy rain the other day, some part of the route are closed and unsafe. The Round Taiwan Round then adjust our plan for safety reason. Here is another advantage of the travel agency where they would give us recommendation along our trip.
The first program is to enjoy the Hualien view from the hill which locates Farglory Hotel. From this angle, we can see that Hualien city is in the embrace of high mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
After that, we go along the eastern coast by stopping from time to time. For me who come from Phuket, certain stop didn't catch my attention much because I'm not that excited about the sea (but if it's the turquoise sea, it would do the job, haha).
The thing that catches my eyes is the rice field near the sea. Now, certain part of it starts to turn into golden field which is very beautiful....I think another thing that Taiwanese government did so well is to have the artists create sculpture arts at several stops along the coast, most of which are at the viewpoint, making it a small interesting landmark. For instance, there are some cute straw sculptures at the rice field near the sea. It does not look exactly like scarecrow because it's much cuter.
Before lunch, we stop by at the unique shape of rock near the coast. It was caused by the erosion of the sea and the wind making the distinctive landscape called Shitiping. It now becomes a recreational tourist attraction and another stop for photography.
Vincent tells us that this area has lots of B&B and several of them are more expensive than 5-stars hotels. This is due to the atmosphere of this place which is very quiet. It also locates behind the mountains and near the sea, all of which consider a great location.
We have seafood near the port for our lunch. Since there are only two of us, we can't order much so we decided to order simple food like fried rice, fried vegetable, and a fish (salted and baked). The taste is alright but the price is a bit expensive. I'm not sure if it's because of the type of the fish but the price of fried rice and fried vegetables are normal.
Shrimp fried rice is 70 TWD, fried vegetable is 100 TWD, and the fish is 400 TWD (it seems like vegetable at Taiwan is quite expensive).
Highlight of today is the Sansiiantai Bridge which is located on the south of Taiwan in Taitung city. The distinctive feature of this bridge is where it has 8 curves crossing one side of the coast to a small island. The sea in this area is very beautiful. Too bad that this bridge was closed for renovation from the mid of June to the mid of September, so we can only get to take photos from below the bridge.
On the way back is a long ride back to Hualien. Actually, it's not that far and the road is good. Anyway, due to the speed limitation, it takes longer time. Along the way, we stop about 2-3 times at the viewpoint and the Tropic of cancer market or the Northern Tropical. This tower locates on a circle line of the northernmost latitude where the sun would appear on our head directly when it reaches the peak. This event occurs once a year at the Northern solstice where the northern hemisphere leans toward the sun the most. In 2017, this phenomenon occurred on July 6th 2017... This line is at 23°26′13.3″ (or 23.43701°) which is above the equator.
We reach Hualien in the evening so we ask Vincent to take us to B&B to leave our bag before taking us to Dongdamen Night Market again.... Today we get to try several strange menus. Some tastes well while some is not so well. I think this is quite fun.
Night market is spacious and clean.
Watermelon is so big.
This menu is so our taste. The shop is located at the end of the market where a lot of people are queuing.
Shrimp dumpling tastes very delicious.
Taiwanese burger is also alright.
This is the most disappointed one. The corn is not so sweet, sticky, and have a smell of barbecue.... But a lot of people are queuing, probably it's just me....
The second night at the Ocean Journey Cafe B&B goes by quickly.
We eat quite late because we will be taking the train back to Taipei at noon and will spend the afternoon at the National Palace Museum... Therefore, this morning we have more time talking with Momo. Before leaving, she put more snack and fruits for us to eat on the train, what a lovely girl....If you are looking for a place to stay in this city, I highly recommend this place because it's quite quiet and great for relaxation.
From Hualien, we take the train back to Taipei again which is also a speed train and takes two hours like earlier. Once we reach Taipei Main Station, the driver that we have booked online with Round Taiwan Round have been waiting for us at the station. Today, we are riding the Toyota Camry, very comfy. The driver is Jeffery, he is very friendly, talkative, and very informative. He also likes to travel so we have a very good conversation.
Not so long and now we reach the National Palace Museum. We set the time and place for picking up because Jeffery is not sure if he can find the parking lot or not.....After that, I take a photo at the front first for memory a bit.
Then, we buy the entrance ticket which costs 250 TWD per person.
There are several rooms inside the museum which we can tour as we wanted. I think it's quite lucky for us that our guide could find a parking and come back for us. He gives us more information and makes our tour much more fun.
After the museum, we still have sometimes before taking the night flight back to Thailand. The Round Taiwan Round coordinates with the Grand Hotel for us to go in and take a photo. This place is quite a unique place and catches my attention ever since my first two trips to Taipei. I think this is a good opportunity for me to view this Chinese spectacular hotel closely. More importantly, the hotel allows us to visit the secret tunnel inside the hotel too.
The Grand Hotel is a very important place for Taiwan because it is the place to welcome many VIP guests in the world, including our King Rama IX.
The first step in and I can already feel its grandness. The hotel also exhibit photos and things of several VIP guests at many corners which makes it look like a small museum.
And here is the surprise for this trip. We get to visit the secret tunnel for emergency exit. It is 85 meters long and 20 meters of slider for those who can't walk well. Indeed, it is a great world class welcoming place.
After visiting the hotel, Jeffery drops us at Taoyuan Airport. It is really another impressive trip. I admit that I feel more familiar with Taiwan much more, including the trip, food, and people. I start to feel that traveling to Taiwan gives me the same warm feeling as Japan. More importantly, "wanted to come back" feeling happens. So I feel like if we put Taiwan as a person, Taiwan has turned form a stranger to a good friend already.
Another thing I want to share is the fact that the airline has much influence on how I plan Taiwan trip this time, especially on the way back. Several airlines return early so that we must pay another night and can visit no place the next day....However, flying with TG635 which leaves at 8 p.m. allows me to spend a night at Hualien and come back Taipei the next morning and still get to roam around (if we leave from Hualien earlier, we would have the entire day in Taipei). It's also not too late when we reach Thailand and we can still take the subway and don't have to take the taxi, hehe. So if you are looking for a flight to Taiwan, Thai Airways is another great choice, especially when they offer a promotional price. The service and the good flying time is quite worth it.
Let's end this trip with our dinner of Thai Airways on the back way to Thailand.
If you guys also like to take photo, please stop by and chat with me at this page: (https://facebook.com/9MotPhotography)
And see you again next trip :)