A Taste of Taiwan in 6 Days
Whirlwind Adventure to Visit Cousins I Never Met
Whirlwind Adventure to Visit Cousins I Never Met
I had a lot of wonderment and excitement over my Taiwan trip.
I had a lot of W questions such as;
Where exactly is Taiwan?
What is it like?
What should I expect?
Where should I go when visiting?
Who will I see?
When is the best time to visit Taiwan?
All these questions and more when I signed up for a Travel Agent FAM (familiarization) trip through www.iworldoftravel.com. FAM trips are for travel industry professionals to acquaint the visitor with various experiences gaining first-hand experiential knowledge to share with others who may also be interested in traveling to Taiwan. It was to be a 6-day tour that was jam-packed with daily activity and some of the best hotels Taiwan has to offer. I had never been to Asia, so this would be my first time getting a taste of Taiwan.
How long will your flight be depending on your departure city?
I happened to be departing from Dallas, Texas, the first week of March 2018. I learned that my flight would be about 13 hours from San Francisco, California, to Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan. So I chose to use a connection flight from Dallas to San Francisco then take EVA Airways directly to Taipei.
EVA Airways has direct non-stop flights from these North American cities; Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver. If you were to fly EVA Airways from Europe to Taiwan, the flight is about 12–13 hours from Amsterdam, London, Paris, Vienna.
I also chose to upgrade my economy seat to economy premium because it gives you more seat and legroom, the seat reclines, and you get a variety of meals/drinks/snacks and an amenity kit and Wi-Fi. It was worth the extra few hundred dollars for such a long flight for me.
Upon arriving at Taoyuan International Airport, I transferred to my hotel, The Howard Plaza, in the pleasant Da’an district of central Taipei. There are about 23 million people in Taiwan, with 2.7 million in the capital of Taipei. There are also 17 million scooters in Taipei, so be prepared to see crowds of scooters everywhere you go in a race against time. There is also public transportation, and the MRT metro is fantastic! Clean, inexpensive, and easy to understand to get around.
I suggest you add 1–2 days before starting a Taiwan country tour to acquaint yourself with the city and adjust to the time zone change or jet lag. The weather was mild at first since Taiwan is in a temperate zone. However, at night it did get a bit chilly at about 50F/10C and so required a light sweater. I was expecting Taipei to be humid, but it was only during the day while walking around that I felt slight humidity. Taipei is in the temperate North of the country, while in the Southern regions, it gets quite humid and hotter.
DAY 1: (Sunday, March 11, 2018) Taipei to Sun Moon Lake
We began a 2-hour bus ride journey on a sunny Sunday. We dubbed our bus “The BumbleBee” because it was black & yellow.
It was a traditional older Chinese touring bus (vs. a modern double-decker type) with scalloped pom-pom fringed curtains — an unforgettable ride.
Our first stop was in Taichung City to see the Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden built around 1858, where one of Taiwan’s wealthiest families of olden days ruled. Unfortunately, in 1999, a powerful earthquake destroyed much of the grounds. It took many years to restore it to its former glory.
After that, we stopped for lunch in the Nantun district in Taichung to eat a traditional Hakka Chinese feast. This was the start of many Chinese dinners in the coming days. The 10 of us sat at a large round table with a lazy-susan table spinner with dish after dish brought for us to eat. It was an incredible amount of food brought to us! Unfortunately, I was too busy trying this new food to take photos, but I managed to snap one of something pork. Then, I swallowed it down with an award-winning Taiwan Beer.
Our next stop was to be Sun Moon Lake which I can’t rave enough about! Words like beautiful! stunning! gorgeous! Come to mind upon first seeing the lake. But it was even better waking up the next morning in the Fleur de Chine Hotel and seeing the sunrise over the low mountains, which created a heavenly gradation of light rolling gently over the hills to the vast expanse of the blue-green water of the Sun Moon Lake.
It is a nature lover’s paradise in terms of the scenery as well as the activity. But, of course, it’s also a majestic place just to come and relax and gaze upon the natural beauty.
We took a 45-minute ferry over to Wen-Wu Temple and the towering Tse-En Pagoda, which is quite a vigorous climb to the top 9-stories. That evening we were treated to a sumptuous buffet in the restaurant. On the top floor is a spectacular outdoor area called the Sky Lounge which we didn’t get to lounge around in, unfortunately. Still, it’s the kind of place for intimate settings, or perhaps even a get-together event for close friends and family. Very excellent, I would rate it 5-stars.
DAY 2: (Monday, March 12, 2018) Sun Moon Lake to Kaohsiung
The next day we boarded our bus to head for the second-largest city in Taiwan, Kaohsiung City in the south. The population is about 2.8 million, just a little bit larger than Taipei. There is even an international airport there that mainly services Asian countries nearby. The air quality is a bit heavy in Kaohsiung, and this is when I started to wear an air mask. You don’t visibly see the smog, but you feel it in your chest or your breathing. Now I see why more people were walking around wearing air masks in Kaohsiung than in Taipei.
On the way, we stopped at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery in the Dashu district. Our guide was a tall, bald Buddhist Monk who was from Austria originally. He gave us a 1-hour tour of the grounds narrating with a lot of laughing and humor along the way. Then we ate a fantastic lunch, this time with lots of vegetarian dishes. We said our goodbyes and thank-you’s as we sped along towards Kaohsiung, with the next pitstop being the Spring & Autumn Pavilion in the Zuoying District of Kaohsiung.
Our guide, Connor, was eager to show us a fantastic sunset in Sizihwan, the city adjacent to the Taiwan Strait. Freighter ships were coming out of the Kaohsiung Harbour. The sunset was awesome!
DAY 3: (Tuesday, March 13, 2018) Kaohsiung to Taitung City
After an extensive breakfast buffet, we had to board the bus to head further south to Kenting National Park. On the way, we made a pit stop at a roadside fruit stand to drink some fresh coconut juice straight out of the coconut. Made a quick 7–11 stop in Fanshang Township at Pingtung to view the Pacific Ocean.
Upon arriving in the Hengchun Peninsula, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, we got a fabulous Pacific Ocean view where it meets the Bashi channel. In these waters, there are only 200 nautical miles between Taiwan and the Philippines. We strolled up the grounds, in the beautiful sunshine, to visit the Eluanbi Lighthouse. There were lots of open-air tourist stands for shopping the local wares. Only one enclosed shop took credit cards, but the rest only would take NT$, and alas, there was no nearby ATM. We were on a crunched schedule anyway and had to go. Our lunch stop was at the La Maison B&B, which also has a restaurant. Owned by a French and Taiwanese couple, the cottage has a lovely beachside cottage feel. The famous movie director, Ang Lee, who is Taiwanese, also made a stop here, and you can see his signed photo autograph on the wall.
Our goal next was to get to Taitung City by dinner time and have some time afterward to visit the outdoor night market for some shopping. So we hustled along the East Coast Scenic View, stopping in Longpan Park for some spectacular windswept views of the Pacific Ocean. That night we stayed at the Sheraton Hotel, Taitung City in Hualien County.
DAY 4: (Wednesday, March 14, 2018) Taitung / Hualein / Tienxiang (Silks Place Taroko)
We rolled along next to Xiaoyeliu Nature Reserve, where unique rock formations abound on the Pacific Oceanside.
The next stop was the well-known “Water Running Upward” place known as Doulan.
Next stop Sanxiantai Nature Reserve with the eight arched bridge and pebble beach
The next stop in Fongbin Township was the Tropic of Cancer Landmark, dividing the meridian between tropic and sub-tropic zones.
We entered the Taroko National Park and stopped to take photos. There were many tourists there doing the same as us, marveling at the beauty and taking pictures.
We then took the high-winding, narrow road to our 5-star hotel, The Silks Place Taroko hotel, the only one in the Tienxiang recreational area of Taroko. We spent our evening with a lovely dinner and show of indigenous musical talent.
DAY 5: (Thursday, March 15, 2018) Tienxang / Taroko Gorge / Taipei
This morning, we got up early enough after a delicious breakfast to make our way back down the mountain to stop and see the Taroko Gorge. The Japanese had conquered this area in the 1930s. First, we hiked to the Swallow Grotto, viewing the Eternal Spring Shrine along the ShakaDang Trail. A big reason was to see the beautiful Hualien Green Marble. Upon leaving the park, we spotted another landmark, the Indian Chief in the Gorge.
Once back down on the highway along the eastern seaboard, we headed to the Su-ao Port Harbor in Southern Yilan County to have an incredible, freshly caught seafood buffet lunch. No, we didn’t eat the Mambo fish eyes, but I heard it’s a delicacy amongst the locals.
Sated, we finally were headed back to Taipei to end our stay at the Howard Plaza Hotel. That evening we had our last buffet dinner feast together as a group. We were exhausted from the heavy pace of the tour. Thrilled, we were also happy to have experienced this much in such a short amount of time.
Su-ao Port HarborDay 6 (Friday, March 16, 2018) Taipei City and Meet the Cousins!
This was to be our last day of touring as a group. First, we had a fabulous lunch at the Din Tai Fung Restaurant to enjoy the Xiao Long Bao and other dumplings. YUMMY!! Highly recommend! Plus, it’s fun to watch a team of dumpling makers create these wonderful little treasures of goodness right in the center of the restaurant. Next, we ventured up the elevator to the Taipei 101 Observatory for an encompassing panoramic 360-degree view of Taipei. Finally, our last time boarding The Bumblebee bus was to take in a quick Taipei City Tour and then visit the National Palace Museum and Martyrs’ Shrine for the change ceremony of Honor Guards.
Our touring had finally come to an end, and we were exhausted but happy no more bus! haha! (The shocks needed fixing or something) We took an extra 2-days to recover at the Howard Plaza Hotel before heading back to San Francisco.
That gave my daughter and me time to finally meet up with our long-lost cousins, whom we had only heard about but never met. Lara Veronin is a well-known PopStar in Taiwan and China. Her older sister, Esther, runs their multimedia empire. Their Dad, Michael Veronin, is my first cousin whom I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. Together, they showed us more sights and their favorite local places in Taipei. We also celebrated Esther’s birthday atop Taipei-101 in an exclusive birthday party, meeting their entire team. It was a happy ending to our whirlwind tour of Taiwan.
Originally published at https://www.travalerie.com.