This isn’t my first trip to Taiwan. I visited a few years back for work but I wasn’t feeling too well then, so I didn’t enjoyt it much. However, I know this is a country (or state – depending on your political views) that I’d want to visit again.
Years later, I finally got around to taking a trip here and we spent a combined nine days going “around” the Northern part of the island.
Northern Taiwan Food & Travel in nine days! Here’s a rough summary of our route:
We caught the High Speed Rail (HSR) train to Taichung city (we bought our tickets from Klook) upon landing in Taoyuan airport, Taipei
Picked up our rented car by DragonCar at the HSR Taichung station
From HSR Taichung station, drove to Cingjing, Nantou County (video link)
After Cingjing, drove via the Central Cross-Island Highway, passing by Hehuanshan and Taroko Gorge to get to Hualien city (video link)
From Hualien drove to Jiufen where we dropped off our rented car
Caught a Taxi from Jiufen to Taipei city
Spent the last few days using public transportation to get around Taipei city
If you are in need of other guidance for your Taiwan food & travel options, be sure to check out Klook as well.
It has been four years between my first trip and the second. From my memory, I feel that Taipei hasn’t changed much (I only visited Taipei in my first trip). My impression of Taiwan is still the same as before. I noticed two things:
The people are polite and courteous. In most places we go, they always give a great level of thought and care in delivering their products and services to customers. As a matter of fact, even people on the streets are helpful and will go out of their way to assist you if needed.
There is a good balance between urbanization and preservation of culture. The major cities of Taiwan hasn’t been taken over by rapid over-development. This is quite unlike how some Asian countries are experiencing. When you are here, you will see that nestled within the high rises and buildings, there is still preservation of tradition and culture. In addition, all you need is a short drive/trip out of the city and you get to experience a suburban setting as well as beautiful country sides.
Five Things I Love About Taiwan
Here are my highlights of the five things I love about Taiwan:
1. Food and Convenient Stores Galore
Everywhere I travel, food is always the top priority for me and Taiwan is heaven for foodies like me. Street foods are available everywhere at any time of the day. My absolute favourites – the scallion pancakes and “lu rou fan” or minced pork rice – every county serves their own version of these, so be sure to check them out every place you stop by.
With so many options available, you can easily google to find most places to have already been reviewed for your reference.
If in doubt, just ask the locals or follow where the crowd is OR just walk into any convenient stores (7-Elevens, Family Marts, etc) – you can easily get a quick bite since there are at least 2 in every street or corners – I swear!
2. Taroko National Park
After spending a night in Cingjing, our next destination was Hualien. This required a drive though the famed Taroko National Park.
Warning! We were warned against taking this journey by car on our own as the journey can be quite perilous – 7 to 8 hours of driving on long, winding, narrow and unlighted roads. Weather can also be unpredictable in Taiwan. It was cloudy and rainy; it also got foggy throughout our journey. However, if you believe in your driving skills, then by all means take it! It is worth the drive.
Starting from Cingjing, it would be an uphill drive all the way up to Wuling, which is the highest point in Taiwan.
Along the drive, be sure to stop by the picturesque Cimu bridge and if time permits, take a walk up to the Pagodas (we didn’t because it was raining!).
And pay attention to the spectacular views and be amazed with the beauty of nature shaped by geologically activity formed by multiple tectonic plates that Taiwan sits on.
3. East Coast Drive from Hualien to Yilan
Another result of Taiwan’s geological movements, the East Coast is rugged; with seaside cliffs stretching a great length of the coast.
When in Hualien, be sure to visit some of the beautiful beaches before heading out.
Make sure you have the Qingshui cliff and the Nanfang Ao harbor as pit stops in between the drive to Yilan, the view is worth the stop.
4. Hot Spring Hotels of Yilan
What’s not to love about soaking yourself in therapeutic hot spring waters in cold weather – all in your own private tub!
Yilan is a city known for its geothermal activity and its hot spring waters. We decided to splurge a little and we spent the night in a fancy hot spring hotel in the town of Jiaoxi. One thing you will notice is that unlike other geothermal towns, this one does not smell of sulfur at all. Apparently the hot spring waters here are one of kind – clear, rich in sodium, magnesium and potassium with no sulfur content.
A great way to rest and relax before continuing on your journey.
5. Quirkiness everywhere
If you’re looking for an unusual travel experience, Taiwan has many quirky places to go to – some just downright bizarre for me. As you go around the various places in Taiwan, keep your eye peeled for them – you can find some pretty unusual places to see or experience.
Here are the three places we stopped by during our journey:
Monster Village 溪頭松林町妖怪村
An entire village dedicated to the supernatural, albeit in an anime-ish/animated kinda way. This village is somewhere in between Taichung city and Cingjing.
Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村
A small touristy spot, located in the oddest place possible – a small “village” tucked away in a remote corner of Taichung City. Very instagrammable, this little village’s mural art was created by an ex Kuo Min Tang (KMT) soldier living there, nicknamed Rainbow Grandpa. This was his attempt to save his village from being demolished by the government. His hardwork paid off when some university students discovered his work and petitioned the Taichung mayor to preserve his home.
Send your wishes into the sky in Shifen 十分車站 放天燈
Another must stop place, which is within an hour’s drive from Jiufen, is the Shifen old town. This touristy town runs alongside a railway track which was dotted by many wishing lanterns stores that runs alongside. Pick any store and for a small price, write down your wishes onto a lantern to be sent up into the sky!
Some Final Notes…
Driving in Taiwan
In Taiwan, you drive the North American way i.e. the driver’s seat is in the left and we drive on the right hand side of the road. Be sure to check out the driving license requirements before you decide on this.
Staying in Taiwan
Here is a list of places we stayed throughout our trip in Taiwan.