So, the first place after the year in South Korea was Taiwan. After a two-hour flight, followed by a night in downtown Taipei, we decided to rent a scooter to go tour the island. Being a seemingly small place with fine weather, there is no reason not to venture out and try to see what there is. Some travelers decide to do this by bicycle, others by bus or train, and whichever way they choose to go, there is certainly a wide range of places to explore without seeing everything.
The first trip outside of Taipei was to Wulai, a quaint mountain village known for its hot springs. It was pleasant to leave the hot, heavy city traffic clusters and leisurely drive up into the hills and explore the tropical plants that covered them.
It was then out from Wulai, through some winding hills, and then to the East Coast of Taiwan. We drove up and down the mountains, past shrines and green tea plantations, until we got sight of the Pacific Ocean.
A little closer in, it became apparent that this coastal town was full of rice fields.
We drove on to Hualien, passing through some simple little towns. We’d have to stop at the traffic lights, as road laws are more enforced here than in Korea. It gave us a chance to pause and take in the scenery.
From Hualein it was to the Taroko Gorge, a beautiful site full of greenery and rock formations, but also full of tour buses.
We did not spend too long there, just got back onto the East Coast.
Though we hit the Tropic of Cancer, it was quite cloudy and windy at the time, so it did not feel different.
At night, we arrived in the city of Taitung, where we stayed at Cats Homestay. These were the two owners of this establishment, on their break-time.
It was then down to Kenting, towards the southern tip of Taiwan.
Down to the rocky coast in the southern end of the island, it got quite windy, but nonetheless scenic. Kenting was full of pineapple bushes and typical beach-town tourist features, such as reggae-themed bar carts and sandal shops.
The actual southernmost tip of Kenting was jam-packed with tour buses, so we decided to go here instead.
As that was the most south we could go, it was then up the West Coast. The first destination was Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-biggest city.
Hundreds of tourists from mainland China were in Kaohsiung. Some Taiwan locals choose to go up to the tour groups and show them posters about the Chinese government and some things that they censor. It looked like an interesting way of communicating, but I cannot read Chinese, so I don’t particularly understand what they are trying to get across.
Kaohsiung is supposed to be one of the most bike-friendly cities of Asia.
Of course I made friends with one of the locals.
Up north through the west coast, we had one of those experiences of having people tell us something, and then it coming to a reality. This piece of information was that the west coast of Taiwan was more populated than the east, was full of more cities and was more industrial. The air was definitely different, and there were certainly more towns and assorted development. When we started driving inland, the landscape became more flat, and was full of rice fields, fish farms and duck farms.
One place we stopped on the west coast was Lugang, a small town full of temples and old alley ways.
Even some of the modern establishments had hints of an antique feel. Taipei is wonderful at being a modern city with all of the amenities and efficient factors one could ask for, but this town was better to see history.
Some of the sites exhibited fine symmetry that kept up through all the ages.
After a bit of sightseeing, it was back to the hills. This country area had an abundance of strawberry farms, and we drove into the dusk and dark, searching for a hillside hot spring town campground. Though we could not find this campground, we had the opportunity of driving up a hill way above town until the pavement ended. Some nice people at one of the resorts allowed us to set up a tent on a grass field for free. The sulfuric water was heavenly to the skin after being cramped up on a bike all day, but was not pleasant to the nose.
From there it was back to Taipei, which was at first full of rural roads, and then back through the typical scene of suburban to satellite city to urban planning. It was an experience of a map coming to life in reality, a graphic depiction unfolding into truth upon your senses.