Many of my friends and family are aware that I just returned from a short trip to Taiwan. Below is my itinerary summary and a few comments/tips if you’re planning a trip of your own! I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend, and decided to make the most of the trip by seeing as much as I could of the island (within reason of course). Taiwan is often referred to as Ilha Formosa (beautiful island), and it truly is.
November 24-25, 2016 – Flight to Taipei
I flew Toronto to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Taipei (about 19 hours total excluding layover). I flew out at 8:20am on November 24, but with the time change and flight delays, arrived after 9pm and took a taxi to my friend’s place, arriving at about 10:00pm Taiwan time. With two delays and 13+ hours of a flight with a crying child all the way, I was glad to be on land.
Roundtrip flight cost: CAD $1120.17 (booked 7 weeks before departure)
November 26, 2016 – Taipei to Alishan National Scenic Area
We caught the first MRT (metro rapid transit) at 6:04am and took several hours (about 5 total) getting to Alishan, also taking the HSR (high speed rail) and a train (by actual rail) to Fenqihu station. From there, we paid a driver to take a small bus up with a few others to Alishan (about 45 more minutes). It was incredibly misty, but very peaceful walking around Alsihan and exploring several of the highlights (Sister Pond, Sacred Tree, Thousand-Year-Old Tree, Shouzhen Temple, etc.). I think Alishan was my favourite place to see in Taiwan.
*All price outlines below are per person unless stated otherwise
Accommodations: Alishan B&B YunMinGi – personal overall rating 5/5 stars
November 27, 2016 – Alishan to Sun Moon Lake
We spent the morning heading back up to Alishan (though it was quite wet, we had a better view of many areas and attraction spots as the low-level mist was now clear). Sopping wet, we caught a bus from Alishan mid-afternoon and took a damp 3-hour ride to get to Sun Moon Lake, then crashed at the hotel and went out for a quick dinner later that night.
Accommodations: Zhen Hu B&B – personal rating 3/5 stars
November 28, 2016 – Sun Moon Lake to Tainan
We spent the morning exploring Sun Moon Lake area, stopping at all three ferry ports - renting bikes and biking along one of the trails, shopping, eating tea eggs, and visiting the temple at one of the ports. The landscapes and scenery were again, like Alishan, heavenly. We left the area mid-afternoon by bus to catch the HSR and I headed solo to Tainan to visit a friend from college. I arrived later than expected at about 5pm and took a taxi from the HSR station to my friend’s house (another 30 minutes). I explored a large department store down the street while I waited for her to get home from work, and bought some clearance clothes (most of mine were damp or needed a wash). We went out to a few of what she called Tainan’s ‘little eats’ restaurants, which were all very good (check out “In the Small Months” restaurant for the noodle/shrimp/rice dish in broth and “Chou’s” for authentic shrimp rolls – both local and tasty!).
November 29, 2016 – Tainan to Taipei
I spent about 21 hours in Tainan and within that time, we visited 7 different restaurants and 7 different attractions (all by car), including several tourist attractions and even the beach. We went to a few more ‘little eats’ restaurants (seriously, try an oyster pancake and almond milk tofu on crushed ice – two of my favs!).
November 30, 2016 – Taipei to Yehliu Geopark/Taipei Area
I was picked up by the tour company from a nearby hotel and we headed by van to Keelung Harbour, which I really enjoyed! I saw the Goddess of the Sea statue (you can go up some really steep stairs inside to get a better view out the windows), a view of the Keelung Harbour, went inside two temples and got to ring the ‘wishing bell’. We then drove to Yehliu Geopark, which was the busiest tourist attraction yet (even on a week day), but the rock formations were interesting and the coastline views were also beautiful.
Yehliu Geopark Half-Day Tour: $41 USD (normal admission ticket for Yehliu Geopark itself is $80 NTD) - personal overall rating 5/5 stars
I was dropped off at Taipei 101 with another tour couple and we went up to the top together. The view was much like that of the CN Tower, but foggier. I ate lunch in the food court, then took the MRT to Memorial Hall – also very popular with tourists and a lot of photographers. I explored the area on foot and walked to the Peace Park, where I was surprised to see so many intersting and artistic exhibits. I found a cute little nature park with a pond right next to Memorial Hall. Later that day, my friend took me to the Shinlin Night Market (one of the largest night markets in Taipei) and we explored rows and rows of food and gift vendors.
December 1, 2016 – Taipei to Takoro Gorge/Hualien City
I was picked up extremely early (5:30am) for my day tour to Taroko Gorge. I was taken to the HSR stations and the driver patiently waited for me to ensure I boarded the train. I met the rest of my group and we all got off at the same station and met our guide – off to explore Hualien City a bit by bus (a verbal history tour). After, we drove to Taroko Gorge and walked around the Swallow Grotto area, with helmets on, and had lunch at the Silks Place hotel there (part of the tour, a shared multi-course meal). Lots of beautiful scenery and temples in the area – we even saw a wild monkey! On the ride back, we stopped at the Marble Museum and at the beach.
Taroko Gorge Full-Day Tour: $147 USD - personal overall rating 4/5 stars
December 2, 2016 – Taipei to Pingxi/Jiufen
Easy pick-up from the nearby hotel was also arranged for this tour, and the group again small. The tour started out in a parking lot close to an old gold mining factory in Pingxi, where we had the opportunity to meet one of the former miners who told us (via translation) all about the mine and working in it. Then we were taken up to one of the old tunnels where he spoke some more about the mining tunnels and tourism in the area. We also saw one of the old rail lines that used to run into the mine from atop a mountain.
After the mine, we stopped by the Golden Waterfalls for a few photos, then drove to Juifen (which was incredibly wet – apparently it rains there over 200 days a year). The town was unique with little red lanterns everywhere. Our guide took us to a lunch place to eat (which was expensive, even with 5 of us to split it); and the shopping market was very busy as well, especially with all the umbrellas. We also stopped at a waterfall in Jiufen. One of the tour highlights was the experience of making and sending up a sky lantern (all recyclable materials so I’m told), which was fun, but would have been more enjoyable if the weather had better-cooperated.
Pingxi and Jiufen Full-Day Tour: $147 USD - personal overall rating 3.5/5 stars
After returning from the tour, I had the pleasure of attending a real Taiwanese family birthday celebration at my friend’s place, which was completely different from what I’m used to in North American culture (and where I discovered I really dislike stinky tofu). Following that, the two of us went out to Raohe Night Market for our final night in Taipei (which was less crowded than Shinlin and I found had more variety in terms of wares/gifts for sale).
December 3, 2016 – Taipei to Toronto
I headed home to Toronto (again via San Francisco) and had my small cuticle scissors confiscated at the Taiwan International Airport – go figure, at the end of my trip too! The way back was about 3 hours shorter on my flight over the pacific, but we experienced some very bad turbulence for about 50 minutes, 1.5 hours in and during lunch service. The timing was quite unfortunate for the flight attendant trying to control the trolley and a few passengers who had drinks spill on them, not to mention the passenger having a panic attack nearby. Never a dull moment.
Summary Expense Totals
Thanks for reading! Trip highlights and pictures can be found under the ‘My Travels’.
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.