Taiwan, the small island nation south of China, is being proclaimed as Asia’s best kept Secret #Asiasbestkeptsecret in the travel circles currently. Taiwan and its surrounding islands, situated in East Asia at the northwestern edge of the Pacific, possess an endless variety of terrains, forests, agricultural products, and marine ecologies, as well as a diversity of ethnic cultures along with enchanting human customs and practices. My friend and intrepid traveller Payal recently went on a long weekend holiday to Taiwan and have shared their travel experience on things to do in Taiwan on a long weekend getaway, #AsiasHiddenGem
Ever Since I moved to Hong Kong I have grabbed every opportunity to travel and explore the beautiful countries of South East Asia. So when a long weekend loomed on the corner, two of my friends and I planned a quick long weekend getaway to Taiwan. We had four days so we spent two in Taipei city, the capital and two in Taroko National Park at Toroko gorge.
Taipei is a bustling city with tall skyscrapers, well connected public transport and lots of shopping malls. We found it no different from Hong Kong except that although the city has all the markings of a big cosmopolitan with sophisticated and urbane look ; it did not have the crazy pace. On our first night there we went to Taipei 101- the second tallest skyscraper in the world.
We got tickets (NT$600/adult) and went up to the observation deck on 89th floor in the fastest lift in the world. It takes you to the observation deck in just 30 seconds. The deck has a 360°panoramic view of the whole city. There is an outdoor observatory deck on the 91st floor which you can access by climbing two flight of stairs. Fair warning- it was super windy out there but since it was night time it was enjoyable. They even have a theatre room where they play a movie showing the making of the engineering marvel. People usually travel to Taipei to go to the famous night markets. There are many night markets in all districts so you can choose the night market near you or head to the most noted ones.
We went to Shilin night market which is the most famous one. As the name suggest night markets usually start in the evening and are open till very late in the night.
The market was very crowded with locals and tourists alike. The street food was heavenly. In many stalls the queue was very long. We tried a lot of delicacies – spring onions wrapped in pork and grilled, grilled chicken, crispy fried sweet potato balls, candied strawberries on a stick. But the crowd’s favourite is flattened crispy fried chicken and stinky tofu. Apart from the food there are lots of games which you will find in a fair. It reminded me of Ganesh Puja mela of my hometown. After filling our tummies with food and shopping for souvenirs we headed to a massage place where we got a foot massage.Next day we boarded an early morning train to Xicheng station which is the gateway to Taroko national park. We had bought our train tickets one night earlier. Tickets are easily available. It is a 2 hour ride if you take the express train. Mr. Teyra, the owner of our B&B came to pick us up at the station. Mr.Teyra is an indigenous Taroko person so on our way to his B&B he told us the history of his people and the taroko region. He helped us plan our itinerary.
So after we dropped our bags we headed straight to the national park’s headquarter. The headquarter is an information centre about the park with helpful staff who map out the adventurous trails you can take and the bold treks you can do. The place has a souvenir shop and a charming restaurant where you can try delectable Chinese dishes. It also houses a gallery and a theatre room where they play the video of Taroko region. After a yummy meal at the restaurant we went hiking on a short and fun trail.
In the evening we went to dine a restaurant in the town of Xincheng. The town is very small and it has only a couple of eating joints which close by 8 pm. The city of Hualin is some 2 hours away which has more restaurants and guest houses. A lot of tourist visiting Taroko prefer to stay in Hualin. But we were totally charmed by our quaint town- away from the hum & grime of the city breathing the cool and refreshing mountain air and drinking water of the spring. The location of our B&B was stunning; overlooking the rainbow bridge with full view of Liwu river. The next day we booked a half-day tour of the taroko gorge. The gorge is carved by the Liwu river is abundant in marble. We covered part of the tour on foot wearing safety helmets and posing here and there to capture the breath-taking beauty of the mammoth marble gorge. By early evening we were back in our B&B and since we didn’t want to dine in the same place again we ended up eating cup noodles and chips in the town’s 7/11 shop.
The next day we took the train back to Taipei. Taiwan is a friendly place with smiling faces. It is a kid-friendly place so it is good for family holidays and also perfect for holiday with friends.
Where to stay– I recommend that you visit the Taroko gorge to marvel at the splendour. And you should stay at the B&B (name: Crossing the rainbow bridge) of our hospitable host.We stayed in the Zhongzheng district of Taipei which is central Tapei and is very close to Taipei train station.