Long had we heard from people who traveled to Taiwan it is an amazing country to visit, and after this visit we concur 100%. On Singapore Airlines we flew into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport which like so many Asian airports is very clean, clinical and efficient and after a short wait, we were through security and met our airport representative who will provide the private vehicle transfer to our hotel, on this occasion a 4-star property called Chateau De Chine in Taipei. This property is excellent, spacious rooms, very polite and obliging staff, fast wi-fi and well located near a series of local café’s and restaurants, we have returned to this property on our stays in Taipei. One of our first positive impressions of Taiwan is the people are very relaxed and friendly towards Australians and showing just a little gesture in trying to speak the local language goes a long way.
One of the first things that surprised us on the 1st day was the quality of infrastructure. Similar to Japan & South Korea, Taiwan is a very advanced country, the roads are in good condition, footpaths in good condition, people are friendly and there is very little poverty on the streets. Taipei is a large city with a population of 2.6 million people and home to what used to be the tallest building in the world Taipei 101. On our first night in Taipei we enjoyed an evening food & city tour, which consisted of visiting a local open-air restaurant, several temples, before enjoying some of the nightly outdoor markets. The markets were bustling and food delicious however, as the hour was getting late it was time to return close to the hotel, and then venture to one of the local bars for a nightcap before falling into bed.
The following morning, we had a series of business meetings scattered at different locations around town and we caught taxis to each location. Unlike many Taxis here, and similar to countries like Singapore, the taxis are very clean, cheap and easy to access. At the completion of the days business it was time to catch the Taiwan High-Speed Rail to the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, a journey of approx 2-1/2 hours. Similar to the Shinkansen in Japan, the Taiwan High-Speed Rail is very clean and very efficient, so if the departure time is e.g. 1.12 pm, the train will depart at 1.12 pm. The cabin was very clean, great service from the onboard staff, very quiet carriage and a very pleasant trip all-round. On arrival at Kaohsiung, we again caught a local cab to the hotel, checked in and then explored the local area for the evening. That evening we decided to dine at a local café and the food was beautiful, cooked right in front of us.
The following morning after enjoying breakfast we decided to spend the day exploring nearby Xiao Liu Qiu Island. It is well worth the effort to enjoy the day at the island, with the best way to access the island by a short ferry ride. On arrival, it became clear to us the best way to explore it is via moped. The cost for the day is approx AUD$15.00 including fuel and it was the perfect way to explore the island as traffic is very limited and there is no opportunity to drive at high speed. Xiao Liu Qiu Island is very picturesque and definitely worth the visit. Some of the beaches are available for swimming or hiring a surfboard if you choose. In the afternoon we enjoyed a seafood dinner by the ocean in a traditional open-air restaurant and the food was delicious, and the cost cheap. For AUD$12.00 we ate and enjoyed a cold beer from the locals, and it was all well enjoyed. In the afternoon we continued to explore the islands coastline and local stores before spending the late afternoon watching the local fisherman catch their quota, then catching the ferry back to Kaohsiung, which under lights is a very pretty city.
The following day was spent exploring the city via foot and public transport by ourselves. Kaohsiung is a busy city and a city located on the ocean, so it is rather picturesque. The streets are well kept, traffic flows, signed are posted in Mandarin & English so it is easy to navigate around, and the local people are so friendly, in particular if you try and speak a little of the local language.
The next day we decided to travel from Kaohsiung to Sun Moon Lake where we stayed for 2 nights. The journey between the two locations took approx 2 hours with a Taiwan High-Speed Rail journey to Taichung City and then a 60-minute bus ride to Sun Moon Lake. The journey on the bus from Taichung City to Sun Moon Lake was breathtaking as you pass the edge of sheer mountains with significant drops, pass over several streams and rivers, drive through local villages and view some of Taiwan’s beautiful topography of sheer peaks that surround the area. The road in each direction is in very good condition as are the scheduled buses that transport people between the two areas. On arrival it was a quick disembarkation, collect luggage and then a 10-minute walk to our hotel, The Sun Moon Lake Hotel.
Sun Moon Lake is a must-visit when you travel within Taiwan. Located approx in the middle of the country and easily accessible by public transport from the North or the South of the country and surrounded by a spectacular mountain range. The early mornings are very special at this time of the year as there is often a soft mist above the water and in the late afternoon a lovely light on the water surrounded by the nearby mountain range. Sun Moon Lake is located 748 meters above sea level and has a surface area of nearly 8KM. We had a series of meetings with tourism authorities for the morning which stretched into the afternoon, so the day was spent working before the evening was spent at a local restaurant sampling the local cuisine, which was delicious and compared by Australian prices, very cheap.
Awaking early the following morning we enjoyed the early morning mist on the water from our balcony, and as the sun rose and gathered some warmth the colours were beautiful and it was a perfect way to enjoy a nice cup of coffee. As it was a day off, we decided to hire a bicycle and explore the shores of the lake. A full lap around the lake is approx 38km round trip and taking our time, it soon became clear we should have left earlier in the day then we did however, the ride was a fantastic opportunity to meet some of the local people, enjoy the local food and explore many of the small villages and temples that are on the edge of the lake. You do need a semi-decent level of fitness to complete the ride as there are several uphill climbs to do.
Tonight we decided to arrange some local transport to take us to a village we had seen on our ride today and find a local restaurant on the waters edge. Whilst seafood is a large component of the local diet, Taiwanese cuisine is very broad and utterly delicious so tonight, we decided to sample some other dishes based on the wait staff’s recommendation. A fun and enjoyable way to interact with the locals, tonight’s dining experience did not disappoint and after enjoying the evening ambiance it was time to return home for a decent night’s sleep.
Today was our last day in Taiwan and it was now time to return to Taipei, so after enjoying breakfast, it was again time to board our bus to Taichung City and then the Taiwan High-Speed Rail for the short journey to Taipei. For our last night in Taiwan, we chose the same property to stay in Taipei and after checking in, enjoying a quick shower and change of clothes we hailed a taxi and headed for our last must- see destination, Taipei 101.
Until 2010 the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101 stands an impressive 101 floors above the ground and was recently home to the world’s fastest elevator traveling at over 60kmph. We had pre-purchased our tickets and were glad we did as there was a significant queue to purchase tickets however, for us today we were ushered straight into the lift. Whilst in one of the world’s fastest elevator, the sensation is just like being in any other and a short 40-second ride later, you arrive at the 89th floor and the indoor observation deck. The view is nothing short of breathtaking and visitors enjoy uninterrupted 360-degree views of Taipei, as you walk around visitors can stop to read and listen to specials exhibits and information displays. After enjoying the indoor observation deck, we walked the two flights of stairs to the outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor. Standing 391 meters above the ground we spent a good hour walking around enjoying the incredible views and the photo opportunities are plentiful! Taipei is one of the grand cities of Asia and you get a great understanding of the size and magnitude of the city standing on the 91st floor of Taipei 101. We took our time and a relaxed stroll through both observations decks before returning to the 89th floor to view the buildings damper. Taipei 101 is built to withstand earthquakes and typhoon winds and has an internal damper visitors can view from the 89th floor. Having never seen a damper before we were fascinated with this marveled at the engineering behind it.
Having explored Taipei 101 at length it was time to return to the hotel and find a small, local restaurant to enjoy one final dinner before enjoying an early night. Well, without going into detail, we found a small, local restaurant, the food was delicious however, this was not an early evening thanks to some of the people we met, and it turned into one of the most memorable nights we have enjoyed in Asia.
The following morning was a relaxed one due to the evening before and at our pre-arranged time, we met our driver who safely returned us to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for our return flight to Australia.
This was our first trip to Taiwan, and we felt very privileged, it was magic! We will return very soon!