Taroko National Park, Hualien City, Taiwan Dec. 29-30, 2015

Taroko National Park, Hualien City, Taiwan Dec. 29-30, 2015

On Tuesday, December 29, after spending one night at a hotel equipped with natural hot spring water, we took a train further south to Hualien. We travelled via shuttle to the Leader Village Taroko, a cabin-style hotel in the mountains.

Because of the winding road, I was feeling rather carsick during the ride up the mountains, but I completely disregarded it once we stepped out of the shuttle. The mountains surrounding us were absolutely breathtaking and I kept turning around to look at the scenery because I could hardly believe I was in such a beautiful, secluded place. I have visited mountains in California before, but they were nothing like this.

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at around 2:30 and we were not allowed to enter our room until 3, so we spend some time exploring the area around the hotel. The mountains were gorgeous, especially with the fog looming over them in the distance. It was so neat to walk down the narrow, moss-covered staircase from the hotel base to the visitor’s center. Though I was sniffling and coughing because of my allergies, I still really enjoyed the walk. The air felt so clean and fresh and it wasn’t as cold as you’d think it would be. According to the informational video we watched, it is possible for it to snow in these mountains, so we were lucky, I suppose! hehehe
After exploring, we were able to walk to our room. The rooms at the hotel are cabin-style, and many don’t have their own private bathroom, so although we had to have one small room with four people, at least we had our own bathroom.

 

 

The beds were four single beds all next to each other, and each bed had wires so it could be heated! This definitely helped at night, because the rooms had no insulation.

 

 

After relaxing for a couple hours and eating a buffet style dinner (with wild boar — it was delicious!), we went to see the nightly show, performed by the aboriginals! Leader Village Taroko is run by the members of the Taiwanese aboriginal Taroko (or Truku) tribe. The show was in Chinese, but Chris translated for me as best as he could. The owner of the hotel discussed the tribe’s culture as well as the meaning behind the songs, dances, and instruments that the children and adults performed.

 

 

 

The show was around an hour and a half long but it was so entertaining and I would definitely want to see it again, if given the chance! It was so fun to watch the children dance especially.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel before exploring around a bit and then eventually going on hikes all day! It was quite a long day but it was so much fun to see everything! Okay, maybe not that fun because hiking is tiring, but we saw beautiful rivers and even waterfalls, so that made it all worth it. I’m not sure if it was a once in a lifetime experience, but it was definitely an experience that was worth the sore feet. Ha!
Chris being cute!!

 

 

There are monkeys native to this area! We didn’t see any even though I wanted to, but now that I think about it, I probably would have been too scared anyway.

We travelled from the hotel to Swallow’s Gorge, a famous hiking area along the river. We had to wear helmets because it is an area where rocks fall often!

So dorky with our helmets on. Mine didn’t fit me right but oh well hahaha

 

The river was so beautiful! The water was icy blue and it was SOOOO loud! What an awesome sight.

 

 

This rock is supposed to look like a man’s profile. Do you see it?

 

 

Chris’s parents, Chris, and I wearing our helmets during the hike!
We moved from this 30 minute hike to the longer one, which was around 2-3 hours round trip. Although this next hike took a while, it was not difficult! The mountain we walked on was flat and not uphill at all, just a path around the side of the mountain overlooking the river. It was so fun to walk at a steady pace with Chris, take pictures and look at everything around us. We saw birds and butterflies, and even monkeys! Just kidding. I wish.

 

These rocks were made of marble! So cool!

 

 

We finally made it to our destination: the waterfall curtain. We donned our plastic ponchos and headed inside a super dark tunnel. We had to take our shoes off and roll up our pants to prevent them from getting wet, too!
Chris was super excited to do this! Me…well, you could say I was a bit afraid.

 

 

Chris told me to smile for a picture while standing under the waterfall! You can’t really tell by these photos, but the water was pouring on me this entire time, and it was super cold.

 

 

At one point, my hood fell off, and the ice cold water ran down my back. Not comfortable, but it was such a once in a lifetime experience that I didn’t care too much.
After this hike, we drove to get some traditional aboriginal food. It was pretty good! Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of it, but here are a few more pictures from the short hike we did following the lunch. At first I didn’t think I would want to come on this last hike, but then I thought that being in Taiwan is so amazing anyway and I should try not to sit out of anything at all!
I’ve said this before, but it’s so fun to have a boyfriend who stops you to take photos of you just because. The best photos I have of this trip are ones that Chris took while I was unbelievably and candidly happy.
There is a similar photo on an Instagram account I follow called iseetaiwan! It was so cool to see this bridge in person, totally randomly.

 

 

 

 

 

I was in the middle of talking while this photo was taken so don’t mind my facial expression, but take a look at this fun bridge!!

 

Aaaaand here come the selfies, of course.

 

 

 

Hiking around Taroko National Park was amazing! I love being in a place where the air feels so clean and I can see the color green everywhere I go. It is honestly so amazing to get to experience things like this, and I hope I can continue to adventure throughout college and beyond. My next post will be a short one about Hualien, where we stayed the next night. Thanks for reading!

xo

B

Ruifang District, Taiwan Dec. 23-24, 2015

Ruifang District, Taiwan Dec. 23-24, 2015

On our third day in Taiwan, we travelled out of the city and into the mountainside to Jiufen, a former gold and copper mining town overlooking the pacific ocean. I stayed a the most beautiful place imaginable, and here are some photos to share!

We got off the bus and entered the foggy air, overlooking hillside temples and beautiful water. Jiufen is very popular among tourists, partially for its beauty but also because it is the town that inspired the scenery for the Miyazaki movie Spirited Away! This was such an awesome experience because both Chris and I love that movie, so it was so so cool to see it come to life. The environment truly felt magical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a long, winding road lined with shops! It is a sort of marketplace in Jiufen, and it was so so fun and interesting to see all the different vendors selling foods, souveniers, trinkets, and more! I bought a couple things for my family, and we mostly enjoyed just looking around and trying not to lose each other, since it was SO crowded. Soon, we arrived at the doorfront of the Windsor B&B, where we stayed for one magical night. Our view was absolutely spectacular! As we were walking toward the hotel, Chris and I kept stopping to take photos of the scenery, but his dad kept saying wait until we see the hotel, the view is better. And he sure was right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We could hardly believe this was real! It was honestly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The fog gave it a very spirited, magical feel, and it was so wonderful to see the pacific ocean from the other side of the world. We spent some time inside before going out to explore a bit more, and then eventually Chris, his dad, and I went out for dinner! Chris’s dad wanted to go to a few different places to eat, which made for a very fun experience to try different things.

We took the back route to a little tea house… you could say I was a bit excited about it! The tunnel was underground and mining-style.

 

I loved looking at the old typewriters in the tea house πŸ™‚

 

 

 

The menu at the tea house… cool, right?

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t actually ring the bell! Haha


The next day, we woke up without an alarm, although it was bright and early on Christmas Eve! It was lovely to walk outside in the cool, misty air toward where we were going to eat breakfast. The food wasn’t too bad, but it was the view that really won me over. It was spectacular to drink warm milk tea while overlooking the ocean and the fog, and the moments spent there are truly unforgettable. We ate sandwiches and fruit before packing up and walking through the marketplace.

The lights were still on outside during this time, so I couldn’t help myself — had to snap a picture of him!

 

We suspect that this tea house inspired the bath house in Spirited Away! I want to re-watch the movie again and reminisce. πŸ™‚

 

View from breakfast

 

Warm milk tea — classic

 

 

 

 

 

These women were making the snack pictured below!

 

Chris’s dad really likes this snack! Corn starch-like jelly with meat and bamboo inside. The filling was pretty good!

 

Super excited to try squid ink sausage– it was delicious!!
I wanted to try this snack from the moment I saw it the day before. It is like a waffle with sweet red bean filling. It was just as delicious as I thought it would be!!

 

 

After the market, we made our way to the bus stop. We had to wait around half an hour, so Chris and I had some fun taking pictures. I love the view of the ocean with the temple rooftops and just had to capture it.

 

 

We planned to go to Houtong, a coal mining town-turned-cat village, on this same day! It ended up being smaller than I thought it would be, and the weather was absolutely so SO hot, but it was so fun to see all of the cats. The residents of the town take care of the cats, leaving out food for them and building little cat houses, and it is a pretty popular tourist destination (at least, according to TripAdvisor!). All of the cats wear colorful collars with bells on them, it was so cute to see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This cat looks so much like my cat, Cicero, back home!! Except this one has a stubby tail hehehe

 

These little paw plaques were along the pathway! I thought they were cute πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

We took a train to Shifen an hour later, where we set off a flying lantern and hiked to a waterfall park!! The atmosphere was so enjoyable, and even though my feet were aching tremendously, the view of the waterfall and the experience was definitely worth it. It is so interesting traveling with Chris’s dad because of how many activities he always wants to do, but I have never been to so many places in so little time, so I am so grateful to be with him and to be having this experience.
Watermelon juice! Sugary, delicious, and cold — perfect for surviving the heat.

 

Thank you, Chris, for always making me pose in different places so you can take snapshots. I do like this one!

 

Painting words on our floating lantern!

 

The finished product! We chose pink to represent joy — there were many colors and each color represents a different thing!

 

love this photo. love this place.
Even though it was one of the longest days of this whole trip, we saw so, so much that it was completely and wholeheartedly worth it. We have been spending so much time in Taipei lately, but soon we will be in Hualien, near the coast, and there will be even more natural scenes to see. Can’t wait to take even more photos!!
Thanks for reading, if you’ve stayed this far! Leave me a comment if you enjoyed.
xo
B
Danshui District, Taiwan Dec. 22, 2015

Danshui District, Taiwan Dec. 22, 2015

On our second day, I woke up very early at approximately 6 am! I was full of energy, which never happens to me in the morning (as Chris and my roommate Lizzy would know, I am typically a zombie before I drink coffee). The first thing I wanted to know was what we were doing today, but Chris, his dad, and I just hung around the hotel room and relaxed until around 8:30, when Chris and I went down for breakfast.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel was delicious! I had enough food to make me comfortably full. I love eating the Chinese fried donuts and the steamed bao. I also had some orange juice and a cup of coffee (with soymilk, my favorite!). After breakfast we went back upstairs to get ready for the day before walking to the Metro.

We took the Metro to Danshui, where we planned to ride bikes near the water. But today it was so warm! It was around 80 degrees and so we just walked around the area, through street markets and near the water.

 

The streets are narrow and crowded, and the buildings are quite tall, somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco, but in a totally different way. The markets are very small and crowded, and the markets in this area sold mostly meat. There were all types of raw meats and seafood, some cooked, as well as a few stands selling snacks.

 

I got my first real Taiwanese bubble tea and it was just as delicious as I thought it would be! Chris got a passionfruit and apple tea, which was quite sweet but also very good. I love boba so much but it is so expensive in the states — around 5 dollars a cup — and in Taiwan it’s only $1!!

After buying drinks we all went to eat lunch at a couple places, and we ate soup at each place. First, we had fish ball soup at this tiny restaurant on the street. The soup was a clear broth and the fish balls were white with filling inside. It was so good! Chris lied to me, though, and told me that the filling was pork when it was actually shark. I felt bad afterward for eating the shark, but at least it wasn’t shark fin. After this place we walked down another street across from an area with a statue of Confucius. It was neat! This next restaurant was at least three levels with each level being very small, and it was very hot inside. We had wonton soup, which I thought was very, very tasty but unfortunately I became so full that Chris’s dad had to help me finish. I was grateful that he wanted to, though.

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we took a walk around the street, rested on a bench, and then went to a boardwalk-like area near the water. The Danshui river is absolutely gorgeous! Chris thinks it’s okay since the water isn’t clear, but from a distance it is breathtaking. There is something so awesome about the juxtaposition of city and jungle, and Danshui is just that. Across the water are trees covering the hills of the land, with skyscrapers gracing the edges. I would have been so comfortable to sit and look at everything for a while, if not for the heat.

We eventually gave up on the bike riding idea since we were all so tired and hot, and we made our way back to the hotel via Metro. We took a two hour nap! It was fantastic!! Then, Chris and I relaxed for another hour or so while his dad left for the city and we eventually left to meet him. But before getting on the Metro again, Chris and I bought snacks at 7/11. 7/11 in Taiwan is much better than in America, and they serve all sorts of delicious snacks for really cheap prices. We bought an onigiri, a triangle-shaped rice ball covered with seaweed and filled with kimchi and pork, as well as a carton of orange-guava juice. IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. I could have eaten ten more. Seriously.

We took the hour long Metro ride to Ximen, where we ate at Chris’s family’s frequently visited restaurant, Mei Wei Xiao Guan ηΎŽε‘³ε°η·¨. The food was delicious, as it always is! We ate with Chris’s dad’s family and it was so fun. After, we visited a night market, but Chris and his family said it was different than the Shilin night market or other ones that are larger. But here, I ate snake soup. It was a little scary at first because I am quite afraid of snakes, so I was making sure I didn’t look at any of the live snakes in the restaurant while we were eating. But the soup was actually not to bad! It was very herb-y and the broth tasted kind of like tea, and the snake was very bony with the flavor of chicken but the texture of fish. Would try again if asked, but probably not voluntarily haha.

 

After the soup we went to a massage place, where Chris, his dad, and I each got a shoulder and foot massage. It was so nice! Chris and his dad were in pain but I thought it felt so good. I wasn’t able to talk to the masseuse very well, but I did tell her that the snack was not bad but that I did not like to look at snakes, and she laughed and smiled!! (蛇 不錯, ζˆ‘δΈηœ‹θ›‡γ€‚οΌ‰

We walked around for a bit, went into a temple (see picture below) and then headed back to the hotel. I am so so tired as I write this so I will sleep now. If you have stuck with me this far, thanks so much for reading! I think I will post about each location where we are staying, so come back in one or two days to read another.

xo

Bailee