A quick getaway to the island country of Taiwan

Photo of A quick getaway to the island country of Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

"Formosa" or "beautiful" is what the Portuguese named the island that they randomly stumbled upon during their seafaring days and I can't agree more with them. When one of my friends went to Taiwan on a work trip, she decided to explore the country and posted some unbelievable pictures of the country. Admittedly, this was the first time I was seeded with the idea of traveling to Taiwan and since then the seed sprouted into a plant and went on to grow into a tree. And hence it did not come as a surprise to me that when I was browsing http://www.skyscanner.com for possible celebratory trip destinations and found reasonable flights to Taipei, I decided to grab the chance at once. I must confess that I had some challenges convincing my husband to join me on the trip, but after slyly getting him to watch food videos based on Taipei night markets, I managed to get him on-board with the plan.

Traveling from India can be challenging at times, and traveling from a city like Bengaluru, which despite being a Tier 1 city still has poor connectivity with the rest of the world, can be even more challenging. So when I stumbled upon these economic and yet non-budget airline tickets to Taipei, I was convinced it was a sign from up above. Of course, tickets weren't the only difficult part of planning a trip from India. Getting a visa is an equally complicated feat. Things fell in place when we realized we could use our US visa to obtain an e-visa to Taiwan and that is when we sealed the deal on our trip to Taiwan. There is something about offbeat places that it has the ability to stir up a commotion in my heart. The first question that people tend to ask me when I take a vacation is where to this time, and this time when they inquired the same, I replied "Taiwan". Quite a few people had a confused expression on their faces and a question like "Why would you?". I have decided to answer this question at length here, although, anyone following me on Instagram would already know why.

So is Taiwan in China? Is Taiwan even a country? I can probably answer the first question but not the second. Taiwan is an island country that is not linked to mainland China in any way. For all administrative purposes, Taiwan is fairly independent and not linked to China. Landing in Taipei and clearing immigration was a fairly straightforward and effortless process. True that I did have a panic attack as I stood in line at the immigration counter and I did spend that time wisely to fret and panic about all the reasons due for which I would get deported. It was interesting to see people with the People's Republic of China passport also standing in the foreigner line at the counter waiting to be stamped into the country, clearing up the confusion on if Taiwan is part of mainland China.

Day 1

The sound of the immigration stamp falling on my passport gave me the goosebumps. It woke me up from the tiredness of a long flight and I stepped into the new country to breathe in Taiwanese air. Taipei is well connected with all sorts of public transport and we decided to take a train into the city. Our hotel was right next to the central station and after enjoying 45 mins of free Wi-Fi on the train, we found ourselves on a very very wide and crowded street of Taipei. Lesson one that we learned by then was that our credit and debit cards were not widely accepted and we had to withdraw cash to progress any further. Walking to our hotel, I started comparing Taipei to Hong Kong for no apparent reason. Taipei is nothing like Hong Kong and not in a bad way. Taipei has a very local and down-to-earth vibe which was different from the multi-national high-end vibe that one gets in Hong Kong. That said, our hotel room was tiny enough to remind me of the lack of space that was common among hotels in Hong Kong.

My husband is generally very whiny about staying in small cramped places. He likes his open spaces and large windows that allow the sunlight to light up the room. I guess the way you grow up defines the things you end up liking or disliking. Living in Dubai as a part of a middle-class Indian family had got me accustomed to tiny living spaces, often with minimal privacy. So I prepared myself to hear all he had to say as we opened the door into our room. The first impression he had about the room was as expected and then he walked into the bathroom and came out all giggly and excited. Turned out that the water closest had warmed seats and was hi-tech enough to have massage options. Who knew that a toilet seat could save me from putting up five days with my not-happy-with-the-hotel-grumpy husband.

Photo of Taipei, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

And just like that, we settled into Taipei. After pouring over the map for a couple of hours and understanding the various must-see places and markets, we stepped out into the city hoping that the city accepts the two strangers who have come from far away lands. Buying the public transport card of a new city is how I induct myself into the local life of a new city. There is a sense of belonging that I feel when I casually swipe the card at the metro station and confidently walk towards the right platform. I guess it also helped that all the signs were in English. Our first stop was to the base of a hill which was the starting point for the Xiangshan trail. The trail itself was not more than a km long and was supposed to help us stretch our legs after the long flight and also help us build an appetite for the night market wanderings that was planned for later. We had reached the starting point of the trail at just the perfect time, and as we ascended what felt like a million stairs, we were able to capture views of the Taipei 101 at all angles and we stood there and watched the sun slowly descend over Taipei and waited till the lights lit up the city. We got our first glimse into the city as we watched Taipei come alive before our eyes. Taipei 101 is a beautiful building and by all means, an engineering feat as much had to be done to ensure it withstands the multiple typhoons and earthquakes that hits Taipei from time to time. Looking at it from the trail lookout, it was hard for me to believe that it was once the tallest building in the world.

Photo of Xiangshan Trail, Alley 342, Lane 150, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

After spending considerable time watching Taipei from up above, and not having the energy to go further on the trail, we decided to descend into the city and explore the city at street level. By then we were getting better at using their metro and we navigated to the nearest night market with ease. The starting point of the Rahoe night market is hard to miss since it is landmarked by one of the biggest temples in Taipei. But having had nothing much to eat after getting off the flight, we decided to skip the temple tour and dive right into the eating expedition. First up, right at the entrance was the long line for freshly oven-baked pork buns. Curious and having had read about it, we decided to join the snaky queue to get our share of pork buns. I guess this is an appropriate time to add the disclaimer that I don't really eat pork or beef or anything that has a strong non-vegetarian flavor. I stood in the line to accompany my husband, a dutiful wife abiding by the laws the priest set down for us, in happiness and sadness, in pork-iness and vegg-iness and so we decided to stand there and wait our turn. Surprisingly, the snaky line slithered quickly towards the counter where an assembly line of chefs was making the stuffing, stuffing the stuffing into the bun and throwing the bun into the oven. Before we knew it, we were paying for the bun and moving onto the next stall. I was told that the bun was nice and would not be termed exceptional but what amazed me was the crazy number of food stalls and the crazy number of people who were out there on a weekday to eat their share of street food. What became clearer as we walked through the throngs of people is that these night markets were not just a tourist attraction but a regular to-go hub for the locals. Among the many must-tries that we had read about, we decided to try out the grilled mushrooms, pork chops, taro balls and we concluded our eating spree with a freshly made souffle. Tummies filled and satisfied with our first day in Taipei, we decided to turn in for the night.

Photo of Raohe Night Market, Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer
Day 2

The next morning was supposed to be an early start for us, but jet-lagged, we ended up waking up later than expected and missed the start of the tour we had booked for the day. Standing in the middle of downtown Taipei, we were contemplating what to do next when the representative from the tour company suggested we take a taxi to the first stop on the tour and catch up with them there. The tour was supposed to take us to the northern parts of Taiwan along the coast before heading to a couple of countryside towns. Given our handicap when it came to understanding or communicating in their language, we struggled to convince any cab driver to take us where we wanted to go. Finally, one cab diver felt bad for the two lost strangers, opened up his Google translate and came to our rescue by solving the communication problem for us and we were on our way to our first stop. While the Portuguese had discovered Taiwan, the merging of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns in the European continent resulted in the establishment of a Spanish colony rather than a Portuguese colony in Taiwan that dominated the northern parts of Taiwan. We had decided to take this tour to the northern coast because it was the easiest way to explore the areas outside Taipei but we instantly regretted it when we saw a large number of people on each tour bus. Disheartened but determined we decided to power our way through the day without giving the number of people much of a thought.

Photo of Taiwan, Northern Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Our first stop was Yehliu Geopark and this was most definitely the highlight of the day. With its unique wind and sea carved rock formations, it looked like the cratered surface of the moon and I was thankful for our decision to have carried on with the tour. The geopark is a narrow stretch of land or more appropriately called a park that protrudes out of the island and into the North China Sea. With an hour to explore the place, we walked around to see the nature-made sculptures when we were woken from our reverie with someone announcing my name over the loudspeakers. Okay, that is not entirely true. The announcement did catch our attention but it wasn't clear who it was meant for as it was something that sounded like my name but not really my name. Only later did we realize that it was the tour operator trying to place us and letting us know where to meet them at the end of the first stop. Not wanting to miss the bus this time around, we decided to show up before time and camp ourselves in front of the tour bus. Not having had a chance to have our breakfast in all that early morning running around, we explored the 7-eleven to restock our food pile. 7-eleven was becoming our new favorite food joint in Taipei. With its always brewing stewed eggs in Taiwanese tea and a variety of fresh ready to eat meals, 7-eleven ensured we were well fed no matter where we were in Taiwan. We started for our next stop dot on the time mentioned in the itinerary and I think our ruthless tour guide did end up leaving behind a couple of folks at the geopark.

Photo of Yehliu Geopark, 港東路 Wanli District, New Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Glad to have gotten on the bus on time, we settled in for our hour-long journey along the shores of Taiwan to the seaside ex-gold mining town of Jiufen. Known mainly for its Old Street, a narrow alleyway that winds up and down through the heart of the Jiufen markets, it is also supposed to have inspired the village that appears in the movie Spirited Away. While in theory, I was imagining myself walking through the narrow roads of the old street and absorbing the local vibe, in reality, we were trying to fight our way through the throngs of people who had inserted themselves into these tiny alleys. There were parts where the local vibe existed, but most parts of the Chinese lantern specked Old Street was commercialized and tourists had created a sort of traffic jam that I believe one can only imagine in countries like India and China. With fewer people I might have enjoyed the place, old towns and streets are a weakness of mine, but with the rain and the people and the stuffiness, I was not entirely amused. Being an old gold mining town, we found ourselves in tunnels and mines that took as through the mountains to nowhere in particular but the fact that it took us away from the crowds was definitely a plus. After walking around the old street for a good two hours, we made our way back to the bus. Leaving behind Jiufen, I looked back and realized that the familiarity I felt towards the town and the old street was its uncanny resemblance to an Indian hill station.

Photo of Jiufen Old Street, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

After staying along the northern shores of Taiwan for the first half of the day, it was time for us to turn inland towards the rural Pingxi district of Taiwan. We were first headed to the Shifen waterfall and then to the Shifen old street. Now famous for its annual Sky Lantern Festival, it was a rather insignificant coal mining town till the 20th century and now it attracted people who thought it was cool to be sending up sky lanterns on a fully functional railway track despite having to jump off the track every time a train passes through. After getting sufficiently wet from the mist around the Shifen waterfall, we walked along the well-defined path around the waterfall to stretch our legs freely without having to bump into people. We enjoyed the peaceful walk around the falls until it was time to walk into the crowded old street of Shifen.

Photo of Shifen Waterfall, 乾坑 Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Well, calling it an old street is a kind of misleading because, in reality, it is a railway track rather than a street, even though there are shops on either side of the track that you would expect on any other street in Taiwan. People with hope were scrambling to get their message written on the right colored lantern to bring them good health, wealth or happiness and then were trying to find the right wind conditions to send it up into the air. Since we did not fall into the hopeful category, we walked along the tracks till we got to the railway station and explored the food stalls selling rice stuffed chicken wings which were the other thing that the area was famous for. Time flew by as we sat on the edge of tracks and enjoyed the rising lanterns as they turned into tiny dots in the sky. Just like Jiufen, fewer people would have made me love the old town a little more, but nevertheless, we enjoyed our time there and we were ready to hit the streets of Taipei again.

Photo of Shifen Old Street 十分老街, Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Being dropped back in the Ximen area of Taipei, we felt a bit disoriented. It was like we were suddenly thrown into the future from the past and as we found ourselves amidst the towering buildings, blinding billboards, and crowded shopping streets, we were grappling to reorient ourselves to the Taipei life. To my husband's disappointment, I spotted the Red House Theatre, an antique structure hidden among all those city lights, initially built to be a market, it was now repurposed into a theatre with boutique artsy shops on its ground floor. While the promise was to take him straight to the Shilin night market, the distraction Ximen posed did not particularly excite my husband. After walking through the very very boutique-y stalls of the Red House, we finally took a metro to the Shilin night market.

Photo of Ximen, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Shilin night market was unlike any night market we had ever seen. It sprawled over such a large area, through all sorts of alleyways and temples, that we were truly lost as to how to approach the night market. Armed with only a limited list of things to try, we decided to roam around for a while before we started binging. Well, we waited till we found the first fried milk stall would be the right way to put it. Crisp on the outside, creamy and yummy on the inside, this was most definitely the best dish I had in Taipei. On second thoughts, it may be a tie between fried milk and taro balls. Unlike fried milk, taro balls were hollow on the inside and elastic and chewy on the outside and it was the perfect snack to munch on as you look around for more things to eat. My husband also had all kinds of sausages which turned out to be another thing Taipei night markets are famous for. Braving the crowd, we continued walking around when we chanced upon a stall that was supposedly mentioned by Michelin in its review of Taipei night markets. A Hui Vermicille is known for its vermicelli soup with beef intestines added as toppings. We did not realize it was beef intestines that were getting added to the soup when we decided to join the line. Thankfully, a kind man who stood in front of us in the line, helped us understand what we were getting into and helped us place the order without the intestines. Under his advisement and ordering skills, we ended up with a plain vermicelli soup which was edible and decent but not mind-blowing. Having had our share of food, all we wanted to do next was get into a cozy bed and binge on the juicy Taiwanese fruits that we kept buying whenever we crossed a fruit stall. I think old age has changed our definition of binge eating, nevertheless, with a bowl full of guava, wax apple, and dragonfruit, we enjoyed the latest collection of movies available on our hotel TV and decided to call it a night.

Photo of Shilin Market (Ming Chuan Hostel), Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer
Day 3

As most vacations tend to be for me, this vacation was no exception in terms of having to wake up earlier than usual. I am yet to figure out why I am unable to maintain such timings when I have to go for work, but when on vacation, I often find myself not requiring much sleep at all. Day 3 had an earlier start as we had to take the first train out to Hualien. Hualien is a beachy town on the east coast of Taiwan and it is famous for being the city closest to the Taroko gorge. Having had our share of big group tours, we opted for a private tour this time around to Taroko. At six in the morning, the only place open in the railway station was a 7-eleven and we got ourselves breakfast-to-go before getting onto our train, Taroko express. The anticipation and excitement of a train journey as you wait on the platform it is uncomparable to a flight journey. The train appeared on time and turned out to be a spotlessly clean high-speed train. After tricking my husband out of the window seat, we settled in for our 2-hour journey to Hualien. While the initial plan was to simply peer out of the window, I ended up dozing for the first half of the journey. At some point, we had hit the coast and since then I was fairly awake. The train journeyed along the coast and then through valleys and over rivers. A slight overcast had added the feeling of coziness and I was beginning to think of just sitting in the train till the end of the line. The slight drizzle, hot coffee, and a brilliant yet changing scenery can always talk me out of hiking, I guess. Reluctantly, we got off at Hualien station and right outside we met our guide for the day. William turned out to be a fun guide who was so informative that I even contemplated writing down the bits and pieces of information that he was telling us along the way. As we drove to our first stop, William decided to enlighten us about the Typhoons of Taiwan.

Typhoons in Taiwan were such a common occurrence that one can possibly even compare it to a season like a monsoon in India. Typically expected between June to October, William was telling us that it can happen at any point in time. Given that Hualien appeared right in the path of most typhoons that are usually coming in from the Pacific Ocean, the city and its suburbs had seen their share of Typhoons and William made sure we got a sense of their impact by comparing certain current locations to old news clippings that showed the water levels and wind strength in the same area during the typhoons. After that somewhat low key beginning to our tour, William was quick to turn around the mood as he cheered us up by informing us that the people in the city were well equipped to deal with such catastrophes. One of the main precautions that they are expected to take is dismounting all signboards from their shopfronts, lest they end up hurting someone when it is flying or floating around town. Turns out there is even a penalty they will have to pay in case their signboard hurts anyone during the typhoons. With such entertaining stories on board, we didn't realize when we got to our first stop.

Photo of Hualien Station, Guolian 1st Road, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Qingshui Cliff, a 21 km stretch along the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 800 meters above the sea level. It is where turquoise blue waters of the ocean meet the land along the black sandy beach before the land turns into towering marble cliffs with patches of green here and there. The sky had cleared up from the morning's overcast and the clear blue skies met the ocean somewhere far away on the horizon. After walking along the cliffside for a while and admiring the ocean, it was time to move on to the main attraction of the tour, Taroko gorge. Known for its marble rocks and formations, I was looking forward to this part of our Taiwan trip for a long long time. Since it was a 45 mins drive, William ensured we were not bored by bringing out his next set of stories about the locals in the region, the Taiwanese aborigines. These indigenous people were mainly found in Hualien county and they were single-handedly responsible for the Christian population in an otherwise Buddhism/Taoism dominated Taiwan. Apparently, they are people of land and nature who mostly stick to traditional professions like farming/rearing even in the 21st century. They are also responsible for keeping the Taiwanese strain of Christianity alive and kicking despite the fact that the missionaries who converted them a long time ago are now gone and the funds that came with them are nowhere to be seen.

William's voice and stories were growing on me as was the scenery around me but I couldn't wait to get out and explore the valley. With a plethora of trails of all different intensities, Taroko gorge attracted locals and tourists equally for a day out with nature. Given the inflow into the area, the government had invested heavily in maintaining the trails and for the rest of the day, we had planned on fully enjoying these facilities. We started our foray into the gorge at the Tunnel of Nine Turns which was a newly opened up area with access to streams of water that cut through the beautiful marble rocks. Despite the spectacular views of the marble rocks and cliffs, this did not give us the outdoorsy feeling we had hoped for and William decided to solve that problem by taking us next to the Baiyang waterfall trail.

Photo of Tunnel of Nine Turns, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Armed with torchlight and a raincoat, we embarked on the trail towards the waterfall. The first km of the trail was through a tunnel that was pitch black and would have been slightly scary if there was no torchlight to show us the path. There was light at the end of the tunnel so to speak but that light was so far away that it hardly provided any comfort in the first few mins of the trail. The tunnel opened up into a valley with the Liwu River flowing through the center and a walking path cut along the sides of the mountains. The trail ran parallel to the river and had quite a few tunnels along the way.

Photo of Baiyang Waterfall, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

He dragged us to a restaurant run by the aborigines and we ended up having their traditional millet wine for lunch. Over wine and some good food, William opened up about the recent slump they were facing in the tourism industry in Taiwan. Clarifying that Taiwan is a democratic nation, he explained that the current ruling party was being supported by the US which has resulted in the Chinese government apparently rejecting tourist visas for Chinese tourists to create the need for a Chinese backed ruling party in the upcoming elections. Given the proximity to China, Taiwan had traditionally seen a huge influx of tourists from mainland China which was dwindling as they were nearing elections due to increasing visa rejections and this explained the empty trails of Taroko gorge. When asked which global superpower William would like Taiwan to ally with, he was unclear on which side to pick given the equal pros and cons on either side, but it was clear that he would like to continue living in a democracy. He had returned to his hometown of Hualien despite having a cushy job in Taipei to discover peace and harmony and to go on trail walks whenever he could. After the elaborate lunch, we headed to the two most photographed places in the gorge: Eternal Spring Shrine and the Swallow Grotto Trail. Sensing that his subjects prefer non-mainstream trails, William decided to rush us through these two spots so that we get plenty of time at our last stop.

Photo of Taroko Gorge, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Shakadang trail, a 4 km trail along the Shakadang river was a much easier trail compared to the waterfall trail. With very minimal variations in elevation, we were determined to cover at least the first two km of the trail before sunset. While this trail was also along the river, it differed from the Baiyang Waterfall trail because of its closeness to the river and the contrasting and stunning color of the river. With crystal clear waters, it was too tempting to jump into this river, unlike the Liwu River, which was more imposing and dangerous than the Shakadang River. Walking along the trail that had been cut along the edge of the cliff, we enjoyed the dropping temperatures and the setting sun just as we much as we enjoyed the serenity of the scenery and the gurgling noises of the flowing stream. Getting back from the trail I was really not ready to leave the gorge but as William's time with us was running out, we had to head back into the city. The journey back to the city was a rather quiet one, with each of us contemplating the day that went by perhaps.

We were dropped off at the Hualien night market since we had an hour to kill before our train back to Taipei. For the lack of better things to do, my husband decided to eat pork chops and I had a beer to celebrate a beautiful day. Turns out, he found the best pork chops in the whole of Taiwan there while I ended up finding only overpriced beer there. We slept through the train ride back and by the time we got back, we were energized for the next round of night market hoping. Unwillingly to stray too far from our hotel, we landed up at the Ningxia night market which was within walking distance from our hotel. Loaded with takeaway food we made our way back to the hotel to give our legs the much-deserved rest.

Photo of Shakadang Trail, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer
Day 4

By day 4, we were quite exhausted with all the early morning waking up and long walks and so we decided to have a relaxed start to the day and roam around the city at our own pace. Since we woke up late, by the time we stepped out, we had crossed the breakfast timeline and we decided to start with an early lunch before we began our city exploration. Having read up a lot about Jin Feng's braised pork rice, we headed there so that my husband could stuff himself with as many pork bellies as he possibly can. The couple who we were sharing the table with was quite amused with our order considering they helped us place the order. With soy sauce braised eggs and pork bellies in my husband's tummy, we stepped out to find me my share of spring onion bread which was becoming by breakfast staple in Taiwan. After picking up a couple of knick-knacks from a nearby bakery, we walked around the city a bit before heading to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Photo of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, NTUT, Section 3, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Yangmingshan National Park lies towards the north of Taipei and has a region called Xiaoyoukeng which is famous for its post-volcanic landscape with fumaroles and hot springs. It is also the base for the Mt Qixing trail which is the highest peak in Taipei. After breathing in a sufficient amount of sulfur from the fumaroles, we decided to climb up to Mt Qixing despite the heavy overcast and early sunset forecasts. The trek that initially started with zero viewpoints since we were amidst thick bamboo growth soon opened up into a zero vegetation area with yellowing sulfur fumes generating holes and soon altitude started increasing exponentially and before we knew it we were gasping for air.

Photo of Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

After the brief encounter with the volcanic landscape, we ascended into an open grassland which was so windy that I was convinced that I would fly away if I didn't hold on to anything. After alternating between these varying landscapes for around two-plus hours we finally reached the peak from which nothing was visible due to the overcast and since we were in the clouds we were getting completely drenched in the mist. The ferocity of the wind was only increasing and it was becoming impossible to stand without hugging onto something. With only an hour to get down to the base to ensure we catch the last bus out to town, we jogged down despite the slippery track and reached a good 15 mins early to the bus stop. An eerie bus stop with just us and another couple with zero visibility since we were still in the clouds. While waiting for the bus, we contemplated how it would have been a good place to commit a perfect murder.

Photo of Qixing Mountain, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer
Day 5

Day 5 was also our last day in Taipei. The first order of business was to re-explore the Ximen district. Having read that it houses graffiti heavy streets, we decided to aimlessly wander through all the alleyways in that area to get a feel for the place. The graffitis didn't fail us. Some of them were so massive in scale that I would not have imagined finding these in the middle of an otherwise modern and spotlessly clean concrete jungle. When our time was up in the city, it was with a heavy heart that we made our way to the airport. For an island country, there was just so much to do and see and we felt incomplete having spent only 5 days there. With a sprawling city life, endless coastlines, volcanic mountains, and crystal clear rivers, Taiwan proved to be the perfect formula for a quick vacation from India. Though we had apprehensions while planning the trip, in retrospection, I would have most definitely enjoyed staying there longer.

Photo of Ximen, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

After close to an hour of walking along the mountainside, we were rewarded by the double waterfall view over a suspended bridge. The whole scene was surreal and our need for an outdoorsy adventure was fulfilled. We were about to turn around when William caught us and told us to explore the water curtain, a cave that has water falling like a curtain at the entrance and inside the cave. The need for a raincoat made sense then and walked through the curtain of water. It was refreshing given the fact we were quite sweaty after all that hiking and we were re-energized to explore more of the gorge. After walking for over two hours, we were ready for our 7-eleven lunch when William decided that a 7-eleven lunch wouldn't do justice to our visit to Hualien county.

Photo of A quick getaway to the island country of Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

Chiang Kai-shek was the commander in chief of China's National Revolutionary Army before he retreated to Taiwan from mainland China following the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947. Since then Chiang Kai-shek imposed martial law in Taiwan and was the president of Taiwan for 25 years straight. Despite running an oppressive regime, he played a key role in Taiwan's economic development and hence managed to get a memorial hall dedicated to him. His son who succeeded him and Lee-Teng hui who succeeded his son lifted some of the previously imposed restrictions and started allowing multiple political parties to co-exist and finally led Taiwan to the democratic nation it is today. The memorial represented the colors of the Taiwan flag and we spend some time in the gardens surrounding the memorial. Having had spent sufficient time in the city and having had enough of the urban sprawl, we decided to take a bus to Yangmingshan National Park.

Photo of A quick getaway to the island country of Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer

By the time the bus got us back to Taipei, it was time for dinner and I wanted to have fried milk one last time before we left Taipei. Despite going into Shilin Night Market only for fried milk, I stuffed myself with taro balls, fried milk and a pint of Taiwan beer to seal the deal. We decided to go wild by standing in any line that appeared in front of us and between the two of us, a lot of food was consumed that night. Due to our frenzy of standing in long lines, we chanced upon a famous castella cake stall from which we got a very jiggly sponge cake to enjoy in bed. For a relaxed day, we were quite tired by eight in the night and decided to keep the remaining city exploration for the next day.

Photo of A quick getaway to the island country of Taiwan by TheCorporateWanderer