February 15, 2006

Around Taiwan in 5 days

So here's the story of how 7 samurais made a whole trip around Taiwan in 5 days...

Map of Taiwan is added for better orientation of our trip. Also click on the photos to see the bigger version of them.

Day 1:
7 of us, Teemu (finnish), Luiz (brazilian), Ilter (turkish), Brian (american), Arif (canadian), Diego (colombian), and yeah, you are right, me, rented a Wolksvagen van for a really good deal, and headed out of Taipei towards east coast of Taiwan. No hotels could be booked for first night, destination was Taroko gorge or Hualien (see the map). The road was through mountains making a lot of zigzags, inside a good company, outside nice view of green hills, music in my ears, soon we were in Ilan.
Stopped for tapanyaki lunch there. Next was the famous No.5 highway which is along the coast, where the mountains meet the ocean, so view would be estonishing if it was not dark already.
Soon we were there, in Taroko, and we couldn't book any hotel rooms. Only one option is left, sleeping in the van! We knew this could happen, so we had some blankets with us. I'll get photos of our sleeping positions later from Luiz, but I can say that somehow 7 of us dound sleeping positions in a van! :)) Outside it was raining and cold. No chance to find camping equipment too. After some drinks and chats, it was time to sleep. So back of the van, floors, seats - everything was used as a bed. The view was the funniest thing! :) Smell of shoes, socks, sweat (nowhere to shower!), car smell gave an effect of narcosis!

Day 2: We woke up from the noise of early Taroko visitor buses. Quick breakfast at 7-11 store, and we started our hinikg tours in beautiful Taroko gorge (I visited this place before myself too, it is accepted as #1 touristic spot in Taiwan). First was the Spring of Eternal Shine.

then followed by the Swallow Grotto and the Tunnel of 9 Turns trails.

Taroko is a place to be explored by a car or a scooter, otherwise getting from one trail to another is both tiring and time-consuming, in my first trip I did walk a lot through car tunnels myself.

Then we went down to the river, crossed the bamboo bridge (under the song from Indiana Jones film, Luiz is the vocalist, videos soon...) and had a look to the Gorge from deep inside, astonishing place! Inspiring...

Then we reached town Tienhsiang. And we found a room in Catholic church hostel. The cheapest accommodation there, but has nice view and all the basic facilities, and most importantly shower rooms, finally!
Next destination was Buiyang waterfall trail. For me it was second visit of this, but to my surprise, due to rockfalls, rains and floods, many things were changed and some parts of the trail was closed.

After some visits to hotels, shops there, we spent the evening resting. Many campers, visitors were in Tienhsiang, it was a week long chinese new year holiday... I bought local aborigine's hat.

Day 3: We headed towards Taitung passing through Hualien. Destination was to reach either Kenting or Kaohsiung. It was a long drive, but it is the best way to see countryside in Taiwan, basicly by driving among daily life of Tawianese people. Many rice plantations filled all lands of east coast, and some sugar cane plantations as well. Here I tasted a sugar cane for the first time. In late afternoon we reached shuiyang beach near Taitung. Lonely planet book says that it is one of the best beaches in Taiwan, but the view was not telling it, defintely not the best one. Maybe not the season, maybe it is best for Taiwan standards...

Well, there comes the bitter moment in our trip, small argument about going to Kenting or Kaohsiung, some people wanted to see Kenting, others wanted to go Kaohsiung that night. Well, we ended up heading to Kaohsiung. I called May whom I met in the conference just before the trip, and she offered me accommodation and tour around her city if I was to visit Kaohsiung. So when we reached the city, I got apart from dudes and met May. She took me to a night market for a dinner, I ordered snake meat and soup, and food made from eel (I think). Snake tastes like chicken, tested!

Then she showed me some nice places around harbour, and famous Lover's River. Night view in Kaohsiung is beautiful, but it gets up to amazing along the river. It is totally different to explore the city on a scooter. Also I ended up buying a new mobile phone in a phone store on the downstairs of May's house. and May has a very nice house!

Day 4: I can't sleep when I am a guest in someone's house. So I was awake when May knocked my door calling for a breakfast. Her mother prepared tasty sandwiches. After that, we went to visit a temple, this time, a beautiful one.

Then we went to a hiking trail on some mountains (I'd call hills) in one end of the city. Place was full of wild monkeys. These creatures were spoilt enough to sit and wait visitors to give them something to chew. If you show them food, they basicly follow you and can jump to your food, really not scared, even sound of plastic bag makes them to chase you! It was a nice trail to the top, and there's a tea house where volunteers serve free tea, just like in stories... I admire that even old people in Taiwan like hiking, and it keeps them in good shape. As usual many hikers enjoying sunny day in a gree forest surrounded by monkeys. On the way I got to know May well, we talked about AIESEC issues and career, etc. After conquering the peak, it was time for tea. Pity that it was foggy so we couldn;t see the city and ocean clearly, even with my binoculars.

After that we headed back to her house, got the bags, and went to meet other guys. Her neighbour, the guy from whom I bought the mobile phone, came after us with his car, and drove us there. I am truly amazed by many examples of how taiwanese people are friendly.
After joining with the rest of our gang, we went to the harbour to take a ferry to the small islet near the city. that one is popular with its beaches and nice seafood restaurants, truly nice weekend escape place. After exploring the beach, caves, and watching sunset, it was time for dinner. A good one! :) especially after sooo much 7-11 instant food for past few days.

And at nite we were back to the harbour.

Then we said goodbye to May. I am very grateful to her for her hospitality, she made my visit of Kaohsiung unforgetable. And I can say that I really liked everything there; weather, river, nature, beach, islet, etc., but not the air! you can feel that you breathe the smoke, polluted.
Then we drove to Taichung and spent nite in Brian's and Aga's (polish) houses.

Day 5:
It was time to explore Taichung! I have been here last time, like this place, and couldn't go for hiking in Dakeng mountains due to typhoon. this time I was determined to go there. So half of us went to hot springs, and me, Brian, Aga and Luiz went for hiking in Dakeng. This was one of the best hikings I have ever made, the trail reminded me the places in Lord Of the rings, with its wooden stairs and ropes and beautiful view.

We hiked till the evening. then it was time to say goodbye to Brian and Aga. And we headed back to Taipei. I felt like I was at home when I came back to Taipei. It seems after 1 year here, I see it as my home. Truly wonderful trip! thanks guys for great trip and fun company!!!

More photos/videos will be followed.

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+++ Check my travel photo sets at aibek_dunaev's Photo Sets on Flickriver


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