Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Monday, November 19, 2007

Wow everybody,
Taiwan has been really amazing so far. And pretty much the day I left the Taipei area it stopped raining as well and I am having temperatures of somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees. And (clear) blue skies! The people of this island are just so friendly! I also hitchhiked quite a lot, which turned out to be very easy. Well, below I'll tell the story in a chronological order.
Last time I wrote an entry I wrote that before leaving Taipei, I would visit a few sights around Taipei, and well, that's just what I did. The first day I took the bus to Yeliu, a wonderworld of weird rock formations, a big playground for me. I just love rocks! I walked around here for a few hours and after that I took the bus to Keelung, Taiwan's second port city. I visited a fortress (or what was left of it) in the pouring rain and a temple in a cave, which had really - I mean really - a narrow and small passageway to the shrine. That was the closest I have ever felt of being claustrophobic! A bus brought me back to the city center and I climbed a park on a hill with another temple (it'd stopped raining). I watched the sun set here and after that I went back to Taipei.
The last day in and around Taipei I went to the Pingxi Branch Line, a tourist train. Near one of the villages on this line, Shifen, I saw the Shifen Waterfall, quite impressive after so much rainfall - as you might've guessed, it was raining again. After the Pingxi Branch Line I paid a visit to the touristy village of Jiufen, which was way more touristy then I expected - and didn't like it all that much. So I returned early to Taipei.
Because I had heard earlier that there's no bus anymore between Taipei and Hualien (only trains) and because I really wanted to go to Hualien via the spectacular coastal road between Suao and Hualien. So I took a train to Suao and wanted to hitchhike from there. The first hitch I got was actually from a girl on a scooter, who brought me to the correct bus stop to go into downtown Suao. Once on a good hitchhiking spot three cars stopped for me within 15 minutes and the third one went all the way to Hualien. In the car were a lady (who could speak a little English and owned a karaoke bar) with her two brothers-in-law. The road was indeed quite spectacular. Once we arrived in Hualien they first invited me to lunch which they paid for. After that they brought me to the doorstep of the hotel I wanted to go to, but it had closed down. In the end I ended up in a really nice hotel they brought me to and bargained 25% off the original price for me. I liked the hotel so much I just stayed another day in Hualien and did some major writing and reading.
After Hualien I went to the Taroko Gorge, which most Taiwanese think is the most beautiful spot in Taiwan. Well, I must say that I've seen quite a lot of gorges in my life, but this one turned out to be truly spectacular! Due to loads of landslides in this area a lot of the route is tunnelled now, but the sections which aren't, are so narrow, you can't even see the sky. I stayed one night in Tienhsiang, but because most of the tracks here were closed due to typhoon damage, I walked and climbed a little bit around town and decided I would move on the next day.
So the next day another drive through this beautiful Taroko Gorge and then on to Hualien. Here I took another bus to Sansiantai, which is in English called Platform of the Three Immortals. This is a small rocky island connected to the "mainland" with a beautiful bridge with eight arches. The island itself it not so special, but the bridge makes up for that. Because I would take a while before another bus would come, I decided I would hitchhike again. The first passing car took me to the town of Chenggong and from there I had to wait about 5 minutes before a car stopped. This man spoke no English, but was going to take me further down the road, but in the end he decided to go all the way to Taitung, and he didn't even want to go there in the first place! Amazing!
I woke up early and got the 7.10 bus to Tienchich, in the Central Mountain Range, on the South Cross-island Highway. This route brought me from tropical scenery to almost alpine scenery in a few hours. Quite beautiful and the highest point of this highway is about 2800 meters. Tienchich was the terminal of the bus, and consisted of just a few buildings. From here I had to hitchhike further down the road to Tainan on the west coast of Taiwan. After waiting for 15 minutes the first car took me to a place called Chiahsien, where the driver took me to the bus stop from where I could take a bus in the direction of Tainan. Locals brought me to the right bus and within minutes I was on my way to Yuching, a little bit closer to Tainan. The bus driver showed me the bus station for buses to Tainan and after 15 minutes I was on my way to Tainan, where I arrived at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
The next day was sightseeing day in Tainan itself. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was once a Dutch city for about 40 years (as was the whole of Taiwan). I did the walking tour as was conveniently described in the Lonely Planet. This involved seeing a lot of temples (I do get a bit tired of the temples now), a city gate and some other quite beautiful buildings. After the walking tour I went to the Anping area of Tainan, and this is where the Dutch had their main settlement. I visited the Fort Zeelandia, although almost nothing reminds of the Dutch except for some (parts of) walls. Another interesting site in Anping was the Tree House: old crumbling ruins of storage buildings complete overgrown by a huge banyan tree. Very photogenic!
After Tainan I went to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's largest port and one of the largest in the world. It has a few sights, mainly around a lake called Lotus Lake. This lake was surrounded by a lot of amazing temples. One temple I had to enter via the mouth of a huge dragon, walk through its body and well exit via the... eh... back? Some of these temples have piers into the lake with pagodas built on them. Back in Kaohsiung I walked a long time before reaching the well known - well I knew about it - Tuntex Sky Tower, the highest in Kaohsiung. The tower look it bit like a giant rocket and has 85 storeys and is 348 meter high, meaning I just had to get to the viewing deck on the 74th floor, reached by walking down the stairs from the 75th floor. I was already dark, so I could see a lot of lights, way down.
The next day I took a very early train to Pingdong, then a bus to Donggang and from Donggang a ferry to Little Liuchiu Island, a small island and the only coral island of Taiwan. I walked around the island (ca. 12 kms) in about 4,5 hours, in the meantime stopping a various sights. For instance a few caves and some weird shaped rocks. I also got a little bit sunburnt. Via Donggang and Pingdong I got back to Kaohsiung.
Today I took it slowly and took the bus to the almost southernmost point of Taiwan, to Kenting. This is a beach town. Tomorrow I will explore the area and see how beautiful its is. The temperature has been good the last week or so, with temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius and mostly blue skies.
After Kenting I'll work my way back up to Taipei along the west coast. I hope to sent another entry from Taipei, before I exit this amazing island.
So long for now!
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