I’ve been to Taiwan twice now. Both for very short periods of time. The first was 2 years ago; I spent 24 hours in Taipei on a forced overnight on my way home from Bali. During the one day that I had I went on a whirlwind wander of the city that included a stop at Longshen Temple (the oldest Buddhist temple in Taiwan), a sausage bun from the street and then consequentially almost throwing up during the changing of the guards at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (I made it outside, thankfully!).
My second trip was in October and it was only for 3 days, but it allowed me to see Taipei in a bit more detail and more importantly, enabled me to get beyond the city. We took the rapid rail system (which was pretty decent) from the capital to Haulien in just 3 hours. From here, we visited Taroko National Park – one of the 9 national parks packed into the tiny little island. Taroko Gorge was not what I anticipated (to be honest, I’m not totally sure what I had anticipated) but it was certainly the highlight of my trip. It was spectacular. The weather was overcast and misty and there had been heavy rain right before we arrived. The result was this exotic landscape, lush and green and transformed by breathtaking waterfalls cascading down into the gorge everywhere you looked. What we lost in blue sky, the gorge more than made up for by the magical way it came alive in the rain!
The gorge is made up largely of marble. The riverbed is absolutely littered with the stuff! Giant white boulders, just everywhere – I found the sheer volume of it a bit astounding (it was literally counter tops for days!). The park is also rich with Chinese temples which added to the serene and peaceful atmosphere.
Our exploration included a walk along the gorge’s edge (which was along the highway) and involved many trips through the dark, wet tunnels. The area is prone to rock slides (so much so that helmets are mandatory). And of course, no trip to a gorge is complete without a walk out on a swing bridge!
Our trip allowed us to spend the night in the park which was a pretty special experience. There are not many hotels in the area, so at night you feel truly alone and at one with the gorge. We lucked out and got to stay at The Silk Palace, which is the nicest hotel in the whole park and I must say, it was gorgeous. It had a stunning rooftop swimming pool and hot tub area that was dimly lit and had fire pits burning creating a lovely ambiance. It was a magical way to end the day, soaking in a hot tub, surrounded by nothing but mountains cliffs and open sky.
to my delight, the sun did manage to peak out briefly on the morning before we left,which allowed us to see a different perspective of the park before heading back to the city.
In Taipei we did the quintessential tourist stops – back to Longshen Temple and CKS Memorial (which I must say, is a much better experience when your not fighting nausea). Then we took a trip on the fastest elevator in the world (1010m per minute) to get to the top of Taipei 101 for some sweeping city views before enjoying my favourite meal of the entire trip. Right at the base of Taipei 101 is Dim Tai Fung – a world famous dumpling restaurant that just blew me away. Everything that was brought out to us tasted like the best thing I’d ever eaten! Dessert was a chocolate stuffed dumpling that was to die for. If you are ever in Taipei you have got to go here! Though it was heavily pork based, so it’s not for everyone. It was the perfect ending to an amazing adventure.
So, will I return to Taiwan for a 3rd time? Absolutely! There are still 8 more National Parks for me to see, and hell, lets be honest – I’d go back just for the dumplings alone!
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