The Wonderful Weirdness of Taiwan

‘Sup Guys and Gals

So this is my first blog from the road on our six week Paris, Taiwan and Indonesia trip. I’d planned on getting this uploaded a bit sooner but we’ve been moving around non stop since the start of the trip.

I’m writing this aboard the train back to Taipei to pick up my passport that I left behind, more on that later. Let me get you caught up on some of the highlights of the trip thus far.

Disneyland Paris

Apparently it doesn’t stop raining in Disneyland Paris in May.

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For the five days we were there it rained for four and a half, we trooped on as best as possible with our rain jackets and disposable ponchos. Having a positive attitude through the constant rain was the most important factor, as it is in most travel situations.

The whole trip was about spending quality time with the family and having fun at Disneyland, it was great fun catching up with everybody and riding all the rollercoasters with my niece and nephews.

With our fill of rain and rollercoasters we said our good bye’s and set off for the next leg of journey, Asia!

The Wonderful Weirdness of Taiwan

The Journey from Paris to Taipei and the first twenty four hours after arriving are now somewhat of a colourful blur. Plane food, red wine, patchy sleep, disney movies, bus tickets, weirdness, dried squid and a sense of being a little overwhelmed at the wonderful weirdness of Taipei.

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We met up with a good friend from the US who is living and working in Taiwan, she managed to get some time off work to travel with us and be our unofficial tour guide and translator.

After a good nights sleep and some braised pork with rice, we hit the streets. Our first stop was the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, a monument to the former dictator. The changing of the guard is a grand affair but I felt sorry for the guards in their thick uniforms in the thirty five degree temperatures and high humidity.

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Probably my favourite experience so far on the trip has come whilst visiting the Longshan temple. It’s regarded to be one of the top sights to visit in Taipei and we got really lucky, turning up in the middle of a prayer ceremony.

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I have to say I know very little about the Taoist religion but being able to sit down quietly in a corner and take in the powerful, peaceful atmosphere of the place was truly something special.

It seemed some people were there for the duration of the ceremony and others were dropping in on their way home from work to say their prayers, light their incense and pay their respects before heading home.

That evening we hit up one of Taiwan’s famous night markets, a neon lit extravaganza of weird food, electronics and fake Lego.

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I’ve never experienced a place with such a variation in street food as Taiwan. Some of it’s been wonderful like the deep fried squid.

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I tried chicken butt on a skewer but i’m not brave enough for the intestine soup or the congealed pigs blood…

A friend of Michelle’s arrived from England the following day and we spent some more time exploring Taipei, including the hike up elephant mountain which yielded great views of Taipei from above.

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We left Taipei for the The Mountain town of Jiufen the following day.

I hid my passport and forgot that I’d hidden it…

This was a bit of a rookie mistake but definitely one I’ll learn from. When we first arrived in Taipei I put my travel money belt with my passport and emergency cash under the mattress in our AirBnB. I forgot all about it until we had nearly arrived In Jiufen, I cursed myself, I couldn’t believed I’d forgotten THE most critical thing to my travels. Fortunately after a few panicked messages it was discovered by the host and taken into his care.

From here on out I’m going to keep all my stuff together and locked inside my daypack unless there’s a locker or safe available. I’m also going to try really had not to be a dufus.

Edit – I just picked up my passport and much to my relief everything was as I left it, even the cash. I got really lucky this time.

It turns out that Taiwan is a really safe place with a low crime rate, at no point on this trip have I got that sketchy feeling that I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jiufen

Jiufen was a world away from the hustle and bustle of Taipei, don’t get me wrong there were plenty of tourists, but life is a little more laid back.

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We stayed the night at a quirky little homestay/Bed and Breakfast and spent our time sampling the local teahouses and taking photos.

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I was showering before bed and heard a scream from outside, apparently a huge millipede had climbed out from between the wall and the bed right next to Michelle as she was reading her book. After a hunt around it was never found but it creeped both of us out, the thought of this thing crawling into our mouths at night…

Toroko Gorge and Hualien

Toroko Gorge is labelled as the number one tourist attraction in Taiwan so we didn’t want to miss it, we planned on staying two nights in the nearby Hualien.

We decided to rent scooters to explore the gorge, it was cheaper than taking an organised tour and we knew we would have more freedom to explore at out our own pace.

I was a little nervous with riding a scooter in Asia, I’ve heard way too many horror stories of people injuring themselves on scooters whilst travelling. I ride my motorbike at home but that’s when I’m wearing all the protective gear and riding on the relative safety of Finnish roads with good drivers.

Once we got away from the centre of Hualien the riding was easy and safe and scooter was definitely the best  way to do the gorge.The roads were great, as was the scenery and we had that feeling that can only come from being aboard your 125cc two wheeled mean machine.

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Toroko Gorge certainly is impressive, there are epic views a plenty, small temples you can visit and hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties. Highly recommended.

So that’s it so far, you’re all up to date. We’re going to spend our final few days in Taichung in the west exploring the surrounding areas before flying to Bali. I’m having a blast in Taiwan but am definitely looking forward to the laid back travel style that we’re hoping for in Indonesia.

Follow me on Instagram to see a bunch more photos from the trip

PIE

PS – I dont recommend eating six greasy dumplings for breakfast


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