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taiwan

Day 14-16: Cingjing

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Day 14-16: Cingjing

After almost 2 weeks of travelling around Taiwan, we arrived in Cingjing where we stayed at Misty Villa, and this is where met our first fellow Singaporean travellers!

It was rather strange hearing the familiar local Singapore accent - and given the popularity of this hill/farm town, we were surrounded by Singapore families with kids glued to their iPhones and tablets - something we had not seen in a while. It was amusing to see the stark difference between kids we'd seen around Taiwan and those from home.

Being up in the hills, the weather was cooler - a welcome relief from the warmer temperatures in the other cities we had visited so far. The highlight of Cingjing is the animal farms - hence the popularity among families.

We went to Green Green Grassland where we chased sheep, and caught the Mongolian equestrian show, which was quite impressive to say the least! Those men and women were agile and strong, swinging themselves on and off horses that were galloping really fast around the arena!

We liked the troop so much we got adopted by them!

There was also an old English style manor that served English tea (scones, teacakes) that was quaint, but a little out of place in the middle of Taiwan, if you ask me!

Here is the Misty Villa Tripadvisor review. Misty Villa is located at: No.9 Rong Guan Lane, Ren-ai Township, Nantou, Taiwan

TEL: +886-49- 2803208

 

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Day 11-14: Penghu

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Day 11-14: Penghu

Penghu County

Also known as the Pescadores Islands, Penghu is an archipelago of 64 islands and islets off mainland Taiwan, covering an area of 141 square kilometersThe name Pescadores, comes from the Portuguese name Ilhas dos Pescadores ("Fishermen Islands").

Our flight over from Tainan was on a propeller plane, which was an experience in itself. The Uni Air flight was noisy but quick - we got into Magong, the largest city in Penghu, in 30 minutes.

Being an archipelago, each island is fairly remote and has a peaceful and calm vibe to it. We were lucky that the International Fireworks Festival was on during the days of our stay and coincided with Adan's birthday as well! That made for a super celebration for which we had not planned.

We booked a driver for a round island tour of Penghu, and tried out some of the local delights. One of the interesting sights on Penghu included the Crab Museum - honestly I had no idea the number of crab species that existed. 

Qimei and Wang'An

We took a day trip to some of the islands off the main island, namely Qimei/Cimei (pronounced Chi-May, and meaning "Seven Beauties") - the smallest township of Penghu; and Wang'An, the second smallest township. This is where our trip became extremely memorable, but for the wrong reasons!

Due to the typhoon that had passed through a few days earlier, the waves were extremely choppy - this was honestly the strongest waves we had ever experienced. As we sat in the ferry for over 3 hours, the waves hurled us up and down so hard that we literally were tossed up and off our seats, over and over. 

Summer and Anais were of course terrified and terribly sick. At one point, Summer gripped my arm and said, "Mama, why did we sign up for this? I'll go with you to tell the boat captain to go back to Taiwan, PLEASE!!!"

Of course, that was not an option and I held back my own nausea as best I could while keeping bags handy for the girls; Dany was holding on to Adan who was silent (an unusual state for him), and also feeling ragged.

Once we docked (FINALLY), we stumbled out of the ferry, and boarded a bus for an island tour. Unfortunately, the girls and I were too ill to leave the bus to view the various places, including the Twin Hearts Stone Weir. 

We had to board another boat to Wang'An, and thankfully there was very little protest despite the ordeal earlier that morning. Wang'an is a charming little town with beautiful architecture. Their traditional stone houses, seen in the main photo of this post and below, were really intriguing.  

Did Bill Gates get his Microsoft Windows logo from this window? Or is this a revamped house using the Windows logo as inspiration?

Did Bill Gates get his Microsoft Windows logo from this window? Or is this a revamped house using the Windows logo as inspiration?

We spent the remainder of the afternoon soaking in the sun and sea at Aimen ("Love gate") beach on Wang'an, before heading back to Penghu. Little do many know, but this beautiful beach was once a hill of garbage some time ago due to illegal gravel mining. According to website Round Taiwan Round:

"an elder village chief came to change all these. He picked up garbage with his own hands, moved nearby shell sands to the beach basket after basket, and erected silt fences with simple devices such as wood sticks and broken nets. Thanks to his efforts, after several years the beach finally recovered its former beauty. Serene and charming, Aimen Beach has a past that is almost forgotten."

Thanks to that village elder, we got to spend a lovely afternoon on that beautiful beach.

We'd highly recommend Penghu if you're in Taiwan, not in a rush, and want to enjoy some old fashioned peace and relaxation. 

 

 

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Day 8-11: Tainan

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Day 8-11: Tainan

Quaint Tainan was such a gem...

We spent a few days in Tainan, the southwestern former capital city of Taiwan (with over 200 years of history as the capital of Taiwan under Koxinga and later Qing dynasty rule) - initially just as our stepping stone to fly to the Penghu islands the west coast of Taiwan.

There are a few options to get to Penghu: ferry or propeller plane, and you can leave from Kaohsiung or Tainan. Due to the flight timings available - and after reading that Tainan is the oldest town in Taiwan - we decided to take a drive up to Tainan.

Cultural wonder

Tainan is steeped in unique and traditional culture and has retained traditional Taoist rites and other local community traditions that cover everything from child birth to funerals. Tainan also claims more Buddhist and Taoist temples than any other city in Taiwan, as well as many unique-to-Taiwan Matsu Goddess temples. It is also one of Taiwan's snack capitals!! 

With very little expectations prior to arriving in Tainan, we fell in love with the quaint old streets, ornate temples, the Anping Fort and the amazing...

...Fire and Water Spring

One of my favourite memories of Tainan is the Fire and Water Spring in Guanziling. This is a treat for anyone who loves the magical, mystical forces of nature in small doses. A natural spring where water and fire coexist in the same source, this spring has been this way for 300 years, thanks to the methane found in the water (don't drink it, of course). 

For more information on this location, visit the Tainan tourism site here

We also had a memorable driver on this leg of our journey - approaching his mid 70s, he would talk to an invisible friend while on the road...and occasionally jolt upright as if he'd fallen asleep...of course, we gave thanks at the many temples that we made it there in one piece!

Onwards to Penghu!

 

 

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Day 6-8: Kaohshiung

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Day 6-8: Kaohshiung

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We took a 5 hour train ride to Kaohsiung from Hualien, keeping the kids busy with travel logging and plenty of snacks, including a boxed lunch that we had to rush off the train to buy along the platform of a train station somewhere in Taitung county, about an hour after setting off. We were told to do this by our Hualien driver - and it was well worth it! 

 

Kaohsiung for us was arty farty, with a dash of cool. 

We checked into our hotel: Jia's Inn Liouhe which is decorated with sculptures and modern art pieces that set it apart from the more traditional B&Bs that we'd been staying at in the first week of our trip. 

 

Pier-2 Art Centre

The Pier-2 Art Centre was our absolute favorite spot, as you can see from these photos...

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Day 3-6: Hualien

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Day 3-6: Hualien

Oh Hualien...such an awesome place! From Taroko, to the sea, we were enamoured with the place. Unfortunately, I still need to find the photos from our dismembered hard drive, but keep your eyes peeled for updates on that!

We took a 1 hour train ride from Yilan to Hualien, and were picked up at the station by the Pretty Sun B&B staff (again, Tripadvisor link for English reviews and information can be found here and a link to the B&B at my favorite booking portal Booking.com).

 

Taroko Gorge 

Taroko Gorge is simply stunning and to be honest, we wished we had more time to do a proper hike there - we're making up for the lack of hiking with our upcoming (Dec 2016) New Zealand trip though. 

As mentioned before, our photos from the Hualien leg of the trip have been stashed away on a hard drive that we still can't locate, so I'll have to make do with other people's photos for the moment, sadly. I'll update this page as soon as we find out photos!

Ching Shui Cliffs

After tramping around Taroko Gorge, we took a car ride to Ching Shui Cliffs which was a magnificent coastline flanked by white limestone cliffs.

East Rift Valley, Rui Sui & Golden Clams  

Rui Sui (Ruei Suei) Hot Springs - full of iron oxide!

Rui Sui (Ruei Suei) Hot Springs - full of iron oxide!

The following day, we took a drive along the East Rift Valley to Ruei Shuei Hot Springs. These springs were brownish in color and the smell of rust was quite obvious - that's because of the iron content in the waters in these springs. We got all muddied up in the mud bath before getting into the springs which meant we were quite the sight. Luckily we seem to have arrived in low season, as we were pretty much the only ones there, so that meant we could have a ball, making noise and just being completely crazy, with the kids running all over the place slapping mud on each other.

 

After a few hours of hot spring fun, we headed off to find some food, and were brought to Li Chuan Golden Clam farm where we tucked into a heaping plate of clams followed by yummy, tender braised pork knuckles at Man Mei Pig Knuckles  .

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Day 1-3: Yummy Yilan

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Day 1-3: Yummy Yilan

Being the rebels we are (ahem), we decided to end our tour with Taipei instead of starting there. After a redeye flight, this might not have been a good idea, but anyhoo, we got out of the plane and into a waiting car. Our charming driver Mr Lan (Tel: +886 953 222209 - speaks Mandarin and Taiwanese onl) who has a Facebook Page would drive us northeast to a charming Minsu (B&B), Feng Chun Villa in Yilan Province. Here's the Tripadvisor link, as the website itself is mostly in Chinese and you can book it on Booking.com, one of our favourite booking websites!

Before we could get there, however, we had to take a cultural detour as the B&B wasn't ready for us yet (we arrived around 8am, and check in was at noon). So, we stopped for some home made guotie (pot stickers) and a cultural show at the Yilan National Centre for Traditional Arts. We got to try traditional candies as well as watch an interesting street drama - no idea what was going on in that play, but the kids had fun!

Finally, we arrived at Feng Chun Villa - the folks there pride themselves in their large spacious rooms, as well as their awesome cuisine. Special menus are prepared with care taken to make the dishes soooooo healthy and delicious. The kids ate everything! 

Dolphin & Whale Cruise

We booked a dolphin & whale watching cruise through the Feng Chun Villa staff Howard Li and drove via Jiaoxi Hot Springs, where we tried their Chilli Ice Cream - an intiruguing combination of hot and cold. We didn't have time to take many pictures, so here's Sara In Oz's blog on her experience with that.

After a quick foot dip in the hot springs, we set off for the cruise but unfortunately no whales were to be seen...photos of the boat trip will be coming soon!

After a relaxing few days, we went to the scallion farm on our way to the train station, where we got to be farmers for a morning, trudging through mud to learn how they farm and harvest the scallions. We topped this off by learning to cook scallion pancakes the traditional way. Yummy!

Getting around in Yilan was pretty easy. Most of the Minsus (B&Bs) have drivers or can arrange a 3rd party driver for families. The drivers all have their usual routes to show the sights of the town, and if you have your own ideas, you can always make them known and the drivers can suggest the best routes to incorporate them.

As for trains, the TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) has a very easy to use website on which you can book your train trips in English, if you don't read Chinese. We mostly took the Tze-Chiang Express trains (they have 3 main train types) which were a little teeny bit more expensive but comfortable and still very affordable by most developed city standards.

TIP: get place names written down beforehand in Traditional Chinese characters, if you don't speak Mandarin or Mingnanhua (Hokkien/Fujian dialect)!

 

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