Double T: Taiwan and Thailand part 3
Day 6 Hualien
The tickets that we picked up the day before were for a big adventure, far away from Taipei city. Early in the morning, before any trains had started running we walked all the way to Taipei Main Station. Honestly, I loved that early morning walk and the way the incredible stillness made the familiar neighbourhood feel fresh and new to me.
Once we reached Taipei Main Station it wasn’t too long before we boarded our train for Hualien station. Hualien is a county about an hour and a half out of Taipei city by train. It’s the biggest county in Taiwan and is pretty famous for its national parks. Despite some reluctance on my part, we decided that like typical tourists we had to visit Taroko!
At Hualien station we met our guide, Matt from Hualien Outdoors. Matt is friendly and very knowledgeable about the area. Unlike a lot of the other guides, he is a native English speaker and he explained aspects of the fauna and history to in considerable depth. As most of us hadn’t had breakfast Matt drove us to a traditional Taiwanese breakfast before starting the journey to Taroko national park.
The park is another additional 40-50 minutes from Hualien station. On the drive to the park you can see the sea on one side and on the other side, a military base!
In person Taroko gorge is stunning. The marble river beds are just this amazing work of nature. We visited most of the main sights and took some short hiking trails because we, or rather I, am much too unfit for anything too serious. On the plus side, I managed to partially overcome my fear of heights by running over suspension bridges in alternating fits of bravery and panic!
A real highlight was when Matt took us down an otherwise unused part of the walking track to what used to be kept as an onsen area before typhoons and floods semi destroyed it. There was actually a no entry sign to the stair way leading down to the onsen area but we just circumvented our way around it! I felt very daring but also very scared walking down the stairs which had been pulled out by rising waters a few years before. We had a really serene lunch here away from the main tourist areas. Evidently we weren’t the only ones with this idea, as some locals and mountain climbers also had the same idea!
Before heading back to station we dropped by the beach and spent some time mucking around, skipping pebbles and taking photos. We were all also particularly enamoured with Matt’s drone which took some great videos of us derping around.
Although we were all significantly worse for wear after the long day of walking, I had agreed to meet up with our aunts and uncles for dinner that night. We managed to gorge ourselves at a nice hot fry place with heaps of small dishes and Taiwan beer. Being sick I abstained from beer and was content to sip on orange juice.
Needless to say, after an exhausting day I slept like a log.
Day 7 Taipei
Sadly on this day I became even sicker. I barely made it out of bed for some beef noodle soup from Lin Dong Fang. The beef noodle soup was unusual as you can add dimension to the broth is a spicy beef paste. It was however, very tasty and I very much enjoyed the herbal broth. On the other hand, the service was very brusque as is usually expected of such crowded, cheap places.
I decided to go back to our air bnb and rest whilst everyone else went to the National Palace Museum. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the museum, but I was told that the exhibitions consisted mostly of pottery. I believe that they have since built an additional wing to the museum to house more artefacts so there might be even more to see now!
After a nap and some solitary lounging around, I thankfully felt well enough for dinner. Actually getting to the place was a real struggle as my knowledge of street names isn’t all that good. I had to end up calling the restaurant to ask where they were! Thankfully the taxi driver was really patient despite having a hard time with google maps.
Our dining destination and one of the few Japanese restaurants that we went to was Kitcho. I’m not going to be able to go into any real detail about this meal. They explained the fish in Chinese, and my Chinese sadly, does not extend to varieties of fish.
We went for the 3500NTD omakase. The highlights of the meal were definitely the set up. The counter bar and plates feel luxurious and it’s always a great experience to watch the sushi chefs at work. As an extra bonus, all the girls who worked there were super cute!! The most memorable dish was one of the last, a roll with all sorts of fish together!
As for the rest of the meal, I think it was good but not worth the price tag, especially in Taipei where there’s heaps of good Japanese food for very competitive prices. I also hear that you have a much better experience at Kitcho when you’re a regular customer which is sort of annoying when you’re still paying the same amount.
Lin Dong Fang Beef noodle soup
National Palace musuem
Day 8 Taipei
I didn’t take any photos today! Except for this one! To be fair, we didn’t do all that much. We had lunch with my grandmother at Eat Together in ATT 4 Fun. This is one of my favourite buffets because it’s fairly inexpensive and has a wide variety of fairly decent food. A booking is always a must though.
Then I spent the rest of the day shopping away. I definitely added a few extra kg to my suit case just from this day alone!
For dinner we thought we would check out Shilin night market, because it’s the biggest one in Taipei. Maybe it’s because we didn’t really know where to go, but in terms of food our experience at Shilin was fairly lack lustre. Ever since Shilin moved away from where it used to be; in a large car park; it’s become more commercialised and I feel like the food quality has suffered for it. On the other hand there is a lot more shopping to be had! So it’s not a completely bad thing.
Back in my youth I used to visit Taipei once every year. This was the first time that I have been back in a over 4 years so it was full of nostalgia but also surprises with all the new things that had since popped up. Going back after so long made me realise that I really do love Taipei. The hustle and bustle, the delicious food and my family make it a perfect place. It combines heaps of things I love into one little package and feels like my home away from home. I’m glad that I got to show my friends this second city of mine!
My biggest regret was that there simply wasn’t enough time to fit in everything that I wanted to do. I’m sad that I missed out on revisiting some of my favourite restaurants and also at the complete and utter lack of cute cafes that I went too. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back for you one day Taipei!
Stay tuned for the next part of this trip, which will pick up our adventures in Thailand.