Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taroko Gorge

We traveled from Taipei to Hualien by train. The journey was spectacular with the ocean on one side and cliffs and vistas on the other.
We were staying at the Silks Palace in Taroko Gorge and had arranged for them to pick us up at the train station in Hualien. The drive through the gorge to the hotel took our breath away. We just couldn't believe how beautiful the gorge was.

The hotel sat at the confluence of two rivers.
In this photo you can see the different colored waters converge.
Our room overlooked one of the rivers and the sound of the water lulled us to sleep at night.
It was easily the best hotel I'd ever stayed in - it had luxury, service and location...and restaurants were fabulous. The breakfast buffet could take you all day to sample everything. At night you had a choice of a Western buffet - all you could eat provided you had room left over from breakfast - or a ten course Chinese banquet.

There were a selection of hot tubs on the roof that offered a variety of temperatures. From here you could soak in the hot water and soak in the view at the same time.
Across the river from the hotel sat a monastery. 
We were able to go explore it on our first afternoon. 
We could go into the tower and climb up to the top.
The tower gave us great views of the Gorge and the little village beside us - Tienhsiang.
The best ways to enjoy the gorge are hiking and biking. As we passed through the village on our way to our first hike, we were joined by the local friendly dogs. One of them had only three legs, but was keen to come for a walk nevertheless.
The other dog liked to run ahead and show us the way. We thought it really cute when he stopped at the trail head to wait for us. Obviously he's done this before, and he knows where the tourists like to go!
I was glad they were with us as we walked in the dark through the first of many tunnels. Tunnels and bridges were the flavor of the week, and you could see why when you looked at how the river had carved up the landscape.
 There were many warnings about the dangers of hiking in this area.
 But is was so beautiful we felt it worth the risk.

 Water thundered everywhere.
Even on our heads as we walked through one of the tunnels. As if being in a dark tunnel wasn't scary enough - this one had a water fall in it!
And with a different setting on the camera, you can see the stepping stones alongside the river.

It was particularly sweet that there was a supply of raincoats provided to get us through the tunnel.
The tunnels came in all shapes and sizes. The noise in this one was horrible when a truck or a bus would pass
Some came with reassurances that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel - nice touch!
Others were just a hole in the mountainside, and I'd clutch my husband's hand tight as we walked through.
Perhaps being in a tunnel was better than being in a half tunnel - thank goodness for the railings.
This sign was not very comforting!
And we soon learned that in Taroko Gorge not all bridges were created equal.
I like this one - nice sturdy concrete. 

But this one I refused to cross - too high, too long, too narrow, too ropee, too swayee...
 and too broken!
After that I needed a nice cuppa by the river.
 Cycling was great - even the up, up, up hill!
 The view at the end was so worth it.
Taroko Gorge was probably where the word "gorgeous" comes from. It was simply that gorgeous!
We had a beautiful time in each others company, having adventures and reveling in more of the wonders our planet has to offer us.

 Okay - enough wandering for now...back to the garden next time!

Byddi Lee

Friday, March 8, 2013

More about Taipei

If there was ever an invention from Start Trek that I wish really existed it would be teleporting. That way I could live here in California but spend a every second weekend in Ireland with my family, and then take another couple of weekends to further explore Taipei.

As it was, we did plenty in Taipei in the weekend that we did have. That was back in January - how time flies. I've started working now and my weeks are a delicious blur of busy, resulting in me having more than ever to say on my blog but less time to write it!

So... back in January...in Taipei...'Twas a rainy day but that didn't spoil the fun. Our Nephew had the brilliant idea of getting a taxi for the day. For a reasonable sum of money you can hire the taxi to take you around the city and beyond for as long as you want. The Driver will wait for you. If you get one who speaks your language he'll act  as a sort of tour guide and suggest places to go also. We found our guy through a poster in a taxi. The sign was in Chinese but my Nephew acted as interpreter, (and also insisted on paying which is why I don't know for sure how much it cost - they do spoil us!) but it is possible to get English speaking drivers too. You'll know when you see a sign posted in a a taxi in English. I'd imagine the hotel concierge will also be able to help you find one.

The first place we visited was a small sea-side town called Danshui. In hindsight we realized that it was a bit far flung for the taxi tour and we'd have been better to locate our stops closer together, but my Husband's family wanted to show us this delightful spot and we were happy to go. You can also get here on the MRT (the commuter train system in the city).

Or if you feel brave enough, scooters are a very popular mode of transport in Taiwan.
Nestled among the modern buildings, temples showed off ornate carvings and bright colors creating quite the contrast.
I particularly liked how they painted the utility boxes on the street.
Perhaps because the rain dampened the view, the big attraction here was the street food - the rain did nothing to dampen our appetites!
In the picture above, the prawns and crabs in the round dishes are deep fried in batter. Their shells are soft and you eat those as well. It seemed strange to me but I never back dawn from trying new food. It tasted delicious and I'm told they are a good source of calcium.
If you love seafood this street food is pure heaven.
Above, candied strawberries! If you think candy apples are good you have to try these.
These are spiral cut potatoes. Crisps on a stick! (For the US readers, crisps are what you call potato chips.)
I didn't feel compelled to try this one and no-one suggested it - maybe next time?
Where else could you find a drive through handbag store?

From here we drove about thirty minutes to our next stop - Shifen waterfall. There are lots of waterfall in Taiwan, so it would be possible to do a dedicated waterfall tour. This was just a taster.
From here we went to Shifen Village. Oh My goodness I could have spent a weekend here. It was so quaint and you felt like you'd stepped back in time. The village was built on a railway track and people were releasing lanterns from the tracks.
I asked if these would start fires and was told that while the flame is going the latern has lift, so it doesn't land until the fire is out. The physics made sense to me.

We went into a store to buy one. You have to write your wishes on the lantern. They gave us a paint brush and black paint and we set to work. While we were doing this, we heard a loud engine sound and a whoosh. A train had just passed literally inches from the door of the shop. I'd assumed that the tracks were no longer in use what with all the commotion on them but not so! I ran out and managed to get a picture of the train as it disappeared out of the village.
Back on track, quite literally we sent our wishes to the heavens - not least of which was that we'd have many good adventures together in the future.

Next post I'll tell you about the trip to Taroko gorge.

Byddi Lee