Skywhores’ UNITE!!! MADE IN TAIWAN
Once referred to as Formosa, which means beautiful island, by past Portuguese “tourists,” one can totally understand Taiwan’s old name by taking a drive around the whole island. Being such a small island, if driven straight through the journey could be done in a day. If you’re looking for an educational trip full of history and untold tales, then Taiwan is the place for you.
Let’s start off in Taipei. Basically your average urban city of congestion, it totally surprises us with its varied choices in dining and extensive nightlife. Totally not what people would expect. Let’s admit it, when we think of Taipei, let alone Taiwan, we think of the mass production of anything. Well imagine Hong Kong, with the wide streets of Toronto thrown in for good measure, with minimal spitting.
I quite enjoyed myself in this city, even though I visited in the midst of a typhoon, but that was part of the fun. Normally strong winds would deter me from venturing out, but its not like I had all year. With no regrets I went out only to witness people being bathed by wind and rain and laughing. It was surprising to see grown men (much to my pleasure) walking around with just a bathing suit as they were going to get wet anyways. Why not?
Leaving Taipei, we drive down the eastern seaboard towards Taroko National Park. Words cannot describe the natural beauty seen in these mountains. Grey-coloured water due to the abundance of marble found there and the sheer drops of the cliffs. It’s a shock that more tourists don’t come and witness the raw beauty held in this park.
If visiting, try the Grand Formosa Taroko (five stars) in Shiou Lin Village. Situated near the junction of Liwu River and the central cross-island highway and surrounded by creeks, cliffs, caves and blue skies, this resort is perfect for the private, quiet recluse and for the adventurer. With 225 rooms and the tranquility of nature, you can’t go wrong. If not driving, a flight from Taipei to Hualien City followed by a 40 minute drive makes this high mountain resort accessible.
Driving further south towards Jhipen, make sure you have time for four stops of about an hour each.
Basian Cave (Eight Immortals Cave), is where a temple is placed deep within an enormous cave in the hillside created by the crushing force of high tide. However, the temple’s location is a few hundred feet away from the sea, resulting in an overwhelming sound of the waves rushing in. It actually resembles a big vagina. The acoustics make it so you feel you are on the beach. Great for a rest stop of a few minutes to view the beach from an elevated level.
Next is Shihyusan, the Stone Umbrella. From the sounds of it, I wasn’t expecting much but I was still curious. As you enter the park there isn’t much to see but for perhaps a few families lying in the sun and a taxi driver or two sitting in the shade. Continue down the path and admire the planted foliage. Upon reaching the end of the path you will find a long natural boardwalk made of coral with a huge rock formation in the shape of an umbrella… In my opinion it resembles a mushroom. Mushroom resembling a large penis… Hmmm, do you see a common trend here?
Sansiantai, an island with two oddly shaped hills connected to the mainland by a snake-like bridge. The garden at the base of the bridge alone deserves a walk-through. I picture an incredible wedding ceremony using the bridges as a walkway or a “fierce” runway for a top fashion house.
After a few days (or hours depending on how many stops you have) take a rest at the Jhipen Hot Springs. Of course there are other choices in the area, but what I liked about this resort is that it’s a 10 minute walk to the center of the village, meaning you’re close but can avoid the noise.
The reactions of the locals are priceless if you are not Asian. Pay attention to the faces of the locals as you take a dip. I had quite a few stares, especially “down south,” if you know what I mean. I guess the stereotypes travel worldwide.
All in all, Hualien is the nature-lovers destination. For those who adore outdoor hiking, white water rafting, and camping in a serene mountainous forest dotted with natural hot springs, who could ask for anything more?
If you’re looking for tropical settings then the southern part of Taiwan will not disappoint. The region of Kenting is known locally for its palm trees and sandy beaches unlike the other beaches of Taiwan. This hidden gem is waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to unwind in this small paradise, but I nonetheless experienced the summer heat and the clear blue skies.
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and the third largest port in the world. You would never think so until you take a walk along the docks. Extremely busy with shipping activity, it also attracts navy ships from all over the world. As you know, where there are navy officers there are also… Friendly, colourful people who love fashion and dance
Make sure to visit the Love River, a river lit brightly by the differently coloured lights strung alongside and crossing the bridges. I was lucky enough to actually live there for a few months and I must tell that it wound up being the best experience of my life. Another not to miss activity is the night market, where you can find anything from food to clothes to jewelery.
Leaving Kaoshiung, I had to cut my trip short, missing Taichung and Tainan, and go directly to Taipei to attend the Taipei Chinese Food Festival. YES! I have died and gone to heaven. If you love Chinese food then this festival is for you. It promotes the cuisines offered by five star hotels across Taiwan. But that’s not all, it also boasts a World Culinary Contest with teams from Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, USA, Singapore, and Taiwan. With lots to see and a full stomach, I was quite shocked to notice that I was being followed.
Dressed in a nice black suit and a VIP pass, I wondered if perhaps the “dragon was out of its cave”. No, it was safely strapped. Maybe a stain on my back? No, I was clean and the suit neatly pressed. Finally my partner, asked the throng of high school girls in mandarin if they wanted a picture. Bad move. I was instantly mobbed by several groups of high school girls. After the 20th pose and a film crew, I figured out why I received this treatment. You see, time and time again I am confused for the actor Chris Tucker. Having starred with Jackie Chan, I have quite the following in Asia. I was even flirted with by one of the boy groups… Quite bold I should say… Anyways.
The trip cannot end without information on the nightlife. Due to the tsunami I couldn’t really venture too far. I’ve heard a lot of interesting positive comments about such bars as Funky and Going, but I kept returning to one bar… Fresh. Why you may ask? It was so cute and had everything I needed: Food, great music, ambience, and friendly people. The first floor is named Spice Food and Café, the second is the Main bar, third is the dance floor, and fourth is the Garden lounge. I befriended the owner and even though he barely spoke English, we bonded over music.
After a few drinks, there’s nothing like a walk through a typhoon to cool you down on a humid day.
Loved every minute of it.