7 Days in Taiwan

7 Days in Taiwan

7 Days in Taiwan

Day One – Fly into Kaohsiung

Day Two – Shared taxi to Kenting

Day Three – Kenting

Day Four – Bus to Kaohsiung, then train to Hualien

Day Five – Hualien

Day Six – Train to Taipei

Day Seven – Taipei back to Beijing

Day One – Kaohsiung

We arrived early into the Kaohsiung International Airport and from there we took the subway (KMRT) to our hostel in the city. Since we couldn’t check into our hostel yet, we ventured out to see what Kaohsiung was all about. With no luck renting a motorbike, we opted for the Kaohsiung city bikes and rode around in search for food.

Afterwards we made our way down to the harbor to see the famous rubber duck designed by Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, that has now made Kaohsiung his new home. You can tell the city is quite proud of this, because rubber duck memorabilia is for sale in nearly every shop, stand, and place of business in the entire city.

Once we could check into our hotel, we took a nap and awoke hungry. So we went back out in search for food. I’m not sure if we were having a stretch of bad luck, or the day we arrived was a holiday, but it seemed like every restaurant was closed. The options that were open either didn’t have english menus or just didn’t seem that appealing. Anyways, we settled for a small, street-side restaurant and ordered dumplings, chicken and noodles.

Later, we walked down to the Night Market. After a quick breeze through, we then headed back to the hostel to get ready for an early morning.

Giant rubber duck in Kaohsiung Harbon

Giant rubber duck in Kaohsiung Harbor

Day Two – Kenting

We woke early for the shared taxi to Kenting. We arrived at our hostel on the  Kenting Strip around noon and grabbed some lunch.  From there we rented a motor bike and rode up and down Highway 26 along the coastline, riding through the various small fishing villages dotted along the way.

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park

At night, the Kenting Strip turns into a night market with tons of food stalls ranging from seafood, desserts, fruits, alcohol, and plenty of souvenir knick-knacks. Devin opted for deep fried fish with roe inside. Not a fan of eating fish eggs, I made the better selection of enjoying some banana roti. A favorite delicacy I enjoyed during our time in Malaysian Borneo, the banana roti was very yum!

Enjoying fried fish at the Night Market

Enjoying fried fish at the Night Market

Day Three – Kenting

After breakfast, we hopped back on our motorbike and decided to head away from town on Gongyuan Rd (which later turns into Shexing Rd.) towards Sheding Natural Park. This was a pleasant peaceful ride through lush forest, perfect for nature lovers. This road connects back onto Highway 26 and back onto the coast.

Sheding Natural Park

Sheding Natural Park

If you keep heading southeast on Highway 26, you will come along several high cliffs called Longpan overlooking the South China Sea. You will need to take caution because there are some extremely strong winds up there, but the views are incredible!  The large gusts of wind also add to the whole drama of the experience.

Longpan Cliffs

Longpan Cliffs

Next up, we decided to head to the Hengchun Old Town (just take Highway 26 North, it’s about 15 minute ride from town). Which at first glance doesn’t look old at all.  We actually had to stop and ask a local where it was. Literally standing in front of it, he points behind us and says, “there.” Basically the Old Town is made of an ancient brick gate, which marks the entrance. Further in you have narrow streets lined with small shops, restaurants and various vendors. I felt the town had some charm to it, and supposedly it’s a great place to go have dinner at night.  However, unless you have the time to fill, I would say this is an attraction you could skip.

Hengchun Old Town

Hengchun Old Town

Since we had been scooting all day around Kenting, we decided it was time to relax by the ocean. Devin bought goggles and a snorkel and beer, lots of beer.  We made our way down to the Little Bay beach (East of town on Highway 26), and found a nice umbrella with several little chairs underneath. The umbrella renter comes running over to negotiate a price. He wanted 300 NTD, saying, “all day price.” Since it was already 3:00 pm, I suggested 150 NTD to which he said, “okay.” I’m not sure if that is a good price or not, but the sun was blazing and all I wanted to do was read my book and drink my beers. (note: Bar Beer from 7Eleven or Family Mart is a great inexpensive choice, with The Beer as a runner up option).  Devin snorkeled around the reef, however he said there wasn’t much to see. Perhaps there are better beaches for snorkeling?

Sunsetting in Little Bay

Sunsetting in Little Bay

After a nap and some dinner, we made our way back to the Night Market. Both of us finding the same stalls from the night before. With our bellies full, we headed back to our hostel for some sleep.

Banana Roti at the Night Market

Banana Roti at the Night Market

 
Day Four – Hualien

Early bus to Kaohsiung train station, followed by a long train ride to Hualien, and we finally make it to our hostel.  We find a motor bike rental, and get our new wheels.

Since we arrived fairly late in the day, around 4:00 pm, we just decided to head into downtown for dinner. Hualien’s downtown is very vibrant and is full of energy (and people). Off of the main road you will find many tiny streets jammed full with shops, cafes, and bars (location: take Zhongshan Rd south until it intersects Zhongzheng Rd or Zhonghua Rd). I wish we had more time, because I imagine you could spend hours wondering around down there.

Hualien City, outside the train station

Hualien City, outside the train station

 
Day Five – Hualien

We woke early, grabbed some breakfast and heading out to see the beauty of the 19 km-long canyon, Taroko Gorge (take Highway 193 North to Highway 8 West – follow signs to Taroko Gorge). It’s a nice 30 minute drive with the coast on one side and massive mountains on the other. Once you enter the entrance gate, its a breathtaking ride through the winding road that follows the gorge.  We took our time, stopping off about every few kilometer to get our snapshots and breath in the fresh air. We drove out all the way until the road stopped following the gorge, which was still a nice ride.  However, since we had a lot to pack in the day, we decided to turn back around and say our good-byes to Taroko. I have to say, Taroko is sooooo worth the hype!

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

After we got our gorge fix, we wandered back into town and decided to ride down the scenic Highway 11 coast. We started heading south first along the coastline crossing over the Hualian Bridge.  After crossing over, the traffic dwindled down and it was surprisingly quiet.  All I could hear was the wind in my ears and the crashing of the waves. The only bad thing is riding south it is difficult to even see the coastline unless you pull off the road and run across the highway and peek over the high cliffs.  But since there wasn’t much traffic, making frequent stops wasn’t a huge hassle.

Once we got past where the road splits from the coastline, we were quickly educated on how unreliable the Taiwanese scooter’s gas gages are. It went from 3/4’s full to empty in one tick. Since we predicted our chances of finding a gas station up ahead slim, we made the decision to head back north up Highway 11 to fill up the tank. Luckily we found a gas station after crossing back over the Hualian Bridge, because at this point we were riding on fumes.

Filled up and ready to go, we ventured north following the coastline (which will put you onto Highway 193).  We stopped off at various scenic spots to overlook the massive and captivating waves that crash against the shore. We rode until almost sunset making our way to Cisingtan Scenic Area.  Truly a beautiful place to just relax and watch the majestic waves roll in and out on the beach. I wish I had found Cisingtan earlier, because it would have made the perfect spot to laze around for a few hours, while drinking some Bar Beers and writing a few postcards.  Oh well, we were there long enough to catch a glimpse of a rainbow peaking out from the clouds.

As it was getting close to 5 pm and we had to return our wheels, we rode back towards our hostel and prepared to say good-bye’s to Hualien. Hualien, I think I love you..

Scenic Highway 11

Scenic Highway 11

Hualien

Cisingtan Scenic Area

The waves at Csingtan

The waves at Cisingtan

 
Day 6 – Taipei

Back to the train station for the last leg of our trip, Taipei. It was a quick 2 hour journey until we arrived at Taipei station. Unfortunately, so had Typhoon Fitow.  Fitow brought rain and gusty winds, making it difficult to explore the city.  So we basically used the day to catch up on some much need R&R.

Day 7 – Taipei (The End)

On our final morning, Fitow had moved on and Taipei  was clearing up. Guilty that we hadn’t gotten to explore much of Taipei, we set out for some breakfast and a quick glance of this beautiful city. The morning was lively and the street vendors were in business. We decided on some dan bing  which literally means, egg bread. It’s more like a pancake than bread and it was so delicious. Topped off with some bacon and cheese…ahhhh….

Dan Bing

Dan Bing

So long Taipei, hopefully we will meet again under better circumstances. Next stop, Beijing!

Chops’ Tips: TOKYO

DSCN6880

View of Tokyo Skytree

We only had the pleasure of visiting Japan for 4 days over New Years, and as fleeting as our time was, I have to say, I’m in loooooooove! Since living in China, I’ve gotten a little jaded by all the pollution, loogie ridden sidewalks, and the daily regime of riding my bike in and out of crazy traffic like I’m in a game of Frogger. So it was nice to escape to a place where there are blue skies for days, people who adhere to traffic laws, and cutting in line could get you a swift kick in the face (see photo below)

Subway Sign

Subway Sign

Tokyo DO’s:

1.) As I overhead a girl in a bathroom say, “I have a love affair with Japanese toilets.”

Enjoy the allure of the Japanese toilet with all its bells and whistles

2.) Meander through the narrow streets, parks and temples of Old Tokyo

3.) Eat sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market

4.) Catch a view of the never ending city up in the Tokyo Skytree

5.) Spot the array of fashion subcultures over in Harajuku

6.) Catch a sumo wrestling tournament (which btw are only held during odd months)

7.) Hop a fast train and get out of the city to a neighboring town

 

Tokyo TIPS:

1.) Make sure your socks match –  a lot of places, including the two hostels we stayed with, required you to remove your shoes once entering.

2.) The streets don’t have names – Its quite confusing at first but how it’s designed is major streets have names and the rest are defined by numbered blocks. Within the blocks, houses and buildings are assigned numbers but not necessarily in numerical order. They are assigned numbers based on when the building was built. So building 3 might be beside building 8 (happy hunting!). Typically street addresses are posted on telephone poles, which you can look for at the end of the street. In case you get lost, there are usually detailed street maps by subway exits.

3.) Make sure you don’t go broke – I am sure we just ran into some bad luck, but the night before we departed we were low on cash and not sure we would have enough to get back through the subway and onto the Narita Express. We tried every ATM in all the convenience stores but they only serviced Japanese debit cards. Luckily we had enough but it would have been a real bummer had we not!

4.) Get your subway on!  For 1000 yen (roughly $12 USD) you can get an unlimited subway pass good for one day on all Tokyo Metro Lines. This is nice if you have planned a day of sightseeing all over the city.

Konnichiwa friends!!

View from Tokyo Skytree  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSCN6898  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  IMG_4111 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chops’ Tips: JAPANESE CUISINE

What foods to try?

                                                                   Okonomiyaki 

Japanese Pancake

Okonomiyaki

This is a Japanese style pancake made from sliced cabbage, and a flour/egg based pancake mix. Some additional ingredients you can add are mushrooms, pork, onions, squid, shrimp, scallops, etc. Its served to you raw and it’s up to you to cook it – which is part of the fun!

Follow these steps:

1. Rub oil over the griddle

2. Mix all the ingredients together and pour onto the griddle

3. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip and cook on the other side

4. Its served with Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, nori-seaweed or fish flakes

Monjayaki 

This dish is very similar to Okonomiyaki except that consistency of the finished product is not solid. You eat it straight off the grill using a special tiny spatulas. This is another D.I.Y. meal.

Monjayaki

Monjayaki

Follow these steps:

1. Stir the ingredients in the bowl

2. Pour a small amount of batter onto the griddle and create a hole in the middle so that is looks like a donut

3. Pour some more batter into the middle of the hole and stir lightly

4. Pour the remaining batter over top and stir again. Let it cook for a few more minutes, then eat straight from the griddle!!

Mochi Ice Cream

This is a Japanese dessert made from mochi (pounded sticky rice) and filled with ice cream. They are quite tasty and can be found in various flavors. I was able to find them in the convenience store’s freezer section.Yummers!

Mochi Ice Cream

Mochi Ice Cream