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

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hi my dear readers,

I am in Taipei now, and I an leaving tomorrow back to Hong Kong. I am looking forward to do some more exploring of China, but on the other hand I feel some sadness because of leaving Taiwan, the island with the very friendly people, the butterflies, delicious food, night markets, so many scooters, ugly cities but beautiful landscapes.

The last time I wrote I was in Kenting, in the complete south of Taiwan. I had a relaxing time here, and didn't do much, although I did my laundry by hand wash. And one day I rented a scooter - which I had never driven before. After a speed course in scooter driving I took off to the southernmost point of Taiwan at Eluanbi and walked around this cape for a bit. I continued with the scooter north along the coast and that wasn't easy, because there were very strong winds and the sand was blowing in my face and sometimes the wind almost blew me off the scooter. I survived though and ended up near Jialeshui, where there were strange rock formations and a wild sea. After walking around for a while I continued to Hengchun and saw natural gas fires, caused by gas leaking from the earth below which ignites when it surfaces. After Hengchun I raced to Maobitou and saw some nice coastal scenery there as well. A bit further is Baisha, which has a beautiful beach, but alas, the weather wasn't all that good and the waves were a little too big for me. After Baisha I returned to Kenting.

From Kenting I took the bus the next day to Kaohsiung and changed to a bus, which brought me to Chiayi, from where the Alishan Forest Railway leaves. That railway I took the next day (it had cost me a bit of trouble to secure the ticket, but in the end I got it). This railway goes from Chiayi (pretty much on sea level) to Alishan at an altitude of above 2200 meters. Too bad the train didn't go further then Shitzulu (I swear I didn't make that name up), where all had to change to buses for the last part to Alishan. I was a bit worried if I would find a budget room (being the weekend), but I had a room within minutes.

The next day I did a nice forest walk, through a forest of really old red cypresses, the oldest being about 2000 years old. After this walk I wanted to hitchhike to Sun Moon Lake, but the hotel owner got me a pretty good deal for a van which was going that direction, so I decided to take that minivan. During this beautiful trip past the highest mountain in Taiwan (Mount Yushan, 3997 meters) I talked a lot to the friendly Dicky from Hong Kong, who was on a vacation here with his family. I arrived late in the afternoon in Sun Moon Lake and decided to relax for a while.

Sun Moon Lake is the largest natural lake in Taiwan and lies between the mountains. Because the lake is not all that big I decided to walk all around it the next day. I slept in a little and after that I took off. I sometimes walked on footpaths, but most of the time just on the road. Along the lake were quite a few sights: temples, nature walks, a pagoda and naturally the views across the lake. After the pagoda I realized I was only halfway and I should hurry, because it's dark here at half past five. I walked quite fast, got lost a little on a little used bicycle path and then it was dark. And of course, my flashlight didn't work. Luckily enough it was full moon, so I could still see a little bit. A dog followed me for a while and in the end I had to go through a spooky tunnel to get back to the road. When I was back at the road I felt relieved, because the cars would lighten the road. I arrived back at my hotel at half past six. Maybe I shouldn't have slept in that morning?

The next day I took the bus to Taichung, the third largest city in Taiwan. There's not much to do or see, except the Paochueh Temple, which had a huge gilded Smiling Buddha, always good for some great pictures. The day after I took the high speed train back to Taipei. The fastest recorded speed during the journey was 299 km/h! In Taipei i found a cheap place to stay and here I met the Czech girl Ivana, with whom I walked around town for the rest of the day and the day after. That day after we both went on a hunt for digital gadgets and I ended up with a laptop! Well, to be honest I had already seen it the first time in Taipei and well, I fell in love with it - and a pretty cheap love too, because I paid the equivalent of only 550 euro. So now I am typing this entry on my laptop and will put it on a usb stick to upload it to the internet on different computer.

Today it was the first day I've had so far with (parts of) blue sky in Taipei. So I went to Guandu and visited the oldest temple in Taiwan and went back to Danshui (where I had been before with Ronald but it rained and the Fort San Domingo was closed at that time). Today it was dry and the fort was open. This fort has also Dutch fundaments and was later converted into a British consulate.

So, that's it for now. I have to pack (and repack because of my new toy). :-)

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