More Trips

Japan7 October 17

Taiwan4 March 17

Japan6 October 16

Europe May 16

Japan5 November 15

Korea2 March 15

Even More Trips

HongJapWan March 2014
Sichuan March 2013
Tokyo3 October 2012
China2 August 2012
Japwan March 2012
China November 2011
Korea September 2011
Taiwan March 2011
London3 June 2010
Japan May 2010
London2 February 2010
London September 2009
SE Asia December 2005

A full lap of Taiwan in March 2017 - Page 2

Day 4 - Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Coat day

The day has finally come, the day where I get to wear my $2 convenience store raincoat. A great day indeed.
I woke up and excitedly ran outside to see if it was raining, it was! But a bit of rain at street level is not going to test my coat, I need sideways freezing rain for that.
So I sprinted to the train, then bounded through puddles onto the bus, headed to Yangmingshan national park, a place I have been before, a place with volcanoes above the clouds, a place where $2 raincoats get to prove their merit.
The bus driver presented challenges, by yelling at me for no good reason. His bus said pay on boarding, so I go to pay, get yelled at, sit down, get yelled at some more. He was yelling at me for trying to pay whilst boarding, and then someone else boarded and the situation was repeated.
This is the man I am trusting to drive me up a mountain pass through volcanic gas.

Once off the bus, it was cold, and a bit rainy, but still, not coat worthy, I bounded up the path, heading deep into the cloud, and once I broke out of the trees it was finally time to take my coat out of its wrapper and celebrate my new found wind and water proofness.
The path itself was slippery, the summit was devoid of other humans, just me and my splendid coat and no one else to appreciate it, and then on the way down it was so slippery from a mixture of rain, moss and volcanic sulphur, that I slipped twice. But I am very happy to report the coat is fine!

Eventually I was back at a road, and I safely removed, folded and stored my coat, ready to be used on another day.

Near the bus stop is this building under construction. Chinese people appreciate the spectacle of a giant windowless orb wedged into the side of a building.

There is my mountain, the main peak is in the middle of the two peaks, on a clear day it forms the character of mountain.

The rivers run red with lava. Actually there is a lava panic on currently, as someone has declared that Taipei is sitting on a giant bubble of lava and it could consume the city anytime now. A bit like the whole yellowstone conspiracy that comes back every couple of years.

Before the final ascent, you can appreciate the fine museum, all to yourself. Or perhaps its the Taiwanese parliament, I cant be sure.

The path up is steps, all the way, no let up!

Such a great view of cloud, I was starting to get damp at this point.

My final goal is around to the left in the cloud, really getting wet now.

And so it was finally time to put on my coat! Feel the awesome.

Behold, the summit. I stood in the wind and rain enjoying my relative dryness.

Challenge accepted. Pose in the rain with my coat on. My camera got wet, all photos have water marks on them now. Actual marks made by water.

I had the whole summit to myself, no one was around to appreciate my coat.

The path down the other way was a sea of bamboo.

Kind of below the cloud, a bit of a view opened up.

It was sometimes hard to tell what was cloud and what was deadly volcanic gas. I breathed in both.

Nearly down now, probably the best photo from today, other than those of me with my coat on.

Bonus volcano. I stood in this exact spot a few years ago.

A bit more gas and I am done.

To celebrate, me and my coat returned to the hotel via a grandma on the corner selling pies and pasties. The pie is 'meat' the pasty is leek and tofu. Both were delciously oily.

Tomorrow is all new

This is my 4th time in Taipei. I think its awesome. However tomorrow I am going to Hualien, on the east coast, a place I have never been to before.
Actually for the next week I will be on the remote Eastern coast staying in cities smaller than anywhere I have stayed whilst on holidays before, locations with a large Taiwanese Aboriginal population. So I imagine it would be quite different to Taipei but also I imagine it might be exactly the same, I have no idea.

Before that, I had to celebrate the fact it isnt raining by going for a huge walk, 35,000 steps today in case you are as boring a person as me and wear a watch specifically to see how many steps you take and how fast your heart is beating.
I dont really know where my walk went, I just followed the bright lights, and there were many bright lights, and even more scooters.
Along the way I noticed a lot of shop cats, I think Hong Kong has some too, but they are much more common in Taiwan. Even flash western clothes stores have a shop cat, as you will see below.
I then went back via the main station to buy my ticket for tomorrow, and proudly strolled up to the window and explained what I wanted in Chinese, I even understood what she said back to me. But then she said, in perfect English, and I quote 'Hope you enjoyed practicing your Chinese with me, needs more practice!'

Oh, and before I forget, this hotel room is excellent, but full of ants! On day one it was just a couple, but now theres lots. They seem interested in the kettle but it looks clean inside and out to me. It reminds me of my old house in Adelaide which had so many ants tunneling up through the foundations that I dont know how the entire house didnt sink into the ground.

If you dont get enough land for a big temple, just go vertical.

Random street crossing, turned out well for hand held moving photography in the dark.

Antiporno, coming soon! I am guessing its Japanese due to the sailor moon girl who has been disembowled and has teddy bears and kittens coming out of her.

Virtual Reality is big in Taiwan. I have seen several places. They look a bit more industrial and violent compared to the one in QV basement in Melbourne.
However you can watch a video of the game you can play, which seemed to be shooting basketballs from a moving car into a basket on a moving truck whilst half naked girls jump off motorbikes to try and block your shot.

More random steet corner.

Blow torch beef is back! Its small cubes now in a box, not as good as the time I saw a whole steak get blow torched and shoved in a paper bag.

These girls are protesting something with song. Their signs depict diamonds, hand bags, lipstick, and the King of Thailand? I cant read the traditional Chinese writing.

Falun Gong posters are very artistic in Taiwan, which is a very lucrative Falun Gong territory.

This temple has LED scrolling screens, as many do, an ATM, as many do, and a new addition, god like warriors that shoot lasers from their eyes.

Shop cat, in the Adidas store.

My dinner was ramen, the thing on the right is an egg. It was good, 'black' ramen whatever that is, noodles were very good texture but the whole thing needed more chashu, and black fungus would work in black ramen.

The large and impressive looking Taipei main station.

Underneath the station I found another huge mall thing. This one is a bit upmarket, so has no people.

There are currently 9 comments - click to add
David on 2017-03-17 said:
Hi mystery person, glad you enjoy it, but you did not leave your name. Thats fine, I will presume you are someone very important who does not wish to be identified.

on 2017-03-16 said:
Now that I've found your blog I'm really enjoying your commentary; photos are great.

David on 2017-03-13 said:
@moshengren thanks for the translation! I am thrilled someone actually reads this besides my mother. Glad you enjoy it

MoShengRen on 2017-03-10 said:
This is exciting! I've read all your travel blogs and thoroughly enjoyed them. This is the first one I get to follow live.

The girls in the photo aren't protesting anything, in fact they are promoting a concert at their high school - Guangfu High. A little Googling reveals Guangfu to be a town in Hualien county.

The concert's on Saturday 1st April 6.30pm and is only 120 dollars.

bobule on 2017-03-08 said:
awesome report. coat photo is next level. volcano needs more lava but still epic. not sure about dinner..

jenny on 2017-03-08 said:
Didn't think Taiwan really had winter but there you go. I take it the side of Taiwan you are going to tomorrow is on the tight hand side when you are looking at the map as there don't seem to be many large cities on that side, or much civilisation at all. Should be interesting then.

David on 2017-03-08 said:
It is not really the rainy season and how can their be a typhoon in winter?
We actually discussed this at length previously.
The rain is never hard, its more like constant mist.
It has actually been cold enough to warrant a coat, which I dont have with me.

Jenny on 2017-03-08 said:
Is it rainy season or an unseasonal typhoon?

Adriana on 2017-03-08 said:
Interesting coat photo. You have your mother's wrinkle.

Day 5 - Thursday, 9 March 2017

Crap photos featuring trains

Now I am in Hualien. On the way I took lots of crap photos of trains, and photos through the window of a moving train.
Taking photos from a moving train never works, you try and position the camera on an acute angle and avoid the reflection of the carriage lighting and find a clean spot in the window. By the time all of that happens you have completely forgotten what inane scenery you wanted to photograph. And yet you keep trying.
The train itself was excellent, it was basically a high speed train going slower than normal cause the tracks dont support the high speed. It had a dining car, and trolleys of snacks and drinks going past, reserved seating etc. Everyone left the blinds up so I could enjoy the view of the fog and cloud as we went through the mountains, and of the Ocean once we got to the East coast.
Everyone except me went fast asleep pretty much instantly, as if they had been gassed, including a baby in front of me who amusingly growled like a grizzly bear instead of snoring.

Now onto the exciting news! The son of the dead half brother of Kim Jong-Un is suspected to be hiding in Taiwan! Maybe I will get killed by nerve gas after all! If I see a girl with a LOL jumper I will run.

And in even more exciting news, the ladies Pan Asian formal gown 9 ball championship is still going, we are into the exciting 4th round, which features fascinating hats and matching pool cues. It is still live on the main TV channel. Who will be crowned MISS FORMAL GOWN 9 BALL PAN ASIAN CHAMPION 2017?

My train wasnt until lunch time, so I had time to walk down to the river that runs through Taipei which is a long linear park.
Nice mountain. I was up it yesterday.
I saw a lot more of this park from the new airport train when I arrived on Sunday, parts of it looked very new, shiny and impressive, this part in the middle of the city, not so much.

However I did manage to time a photo to simultaneously catch a jogger, cyclists, and old folks playing croquet. That takes a lot of skill, you should appreciate this.

Heres my train to Hualien. No, not really, its an old tram that an old man lives next to.

I had a morning tea snack of mochi made by an old lady. I love their flavourless chewy texture.

Heres my train to Hualien. No, not really, its an old steam train out the front of the station. I could not see an old man living next to it.

OK, now for the inside of the station, I previously mentioned I had never been in there before. I am now sure it must have been closed for rennovations when last I was here, cause the upper levels are awesome.
There is a Tokyu Hands.

A Muji.

4 flash looking food courts.

At least 50 restaurants, including Ippudo, Korean, Vietnamese, 3 curry houses. I will be back here to eat at the end of my trip.

As I had already had morning tea I could not eat a full restaurant meal for lunch, as much as I wanted to. The smallest thing I could find was a toasted sandwich, which was actually enormous. Excellent coffee from here also.

Heres my train to Hualien. Yes, really. There were old men on it.

The ocean appeared.

There was a lot of rice near the ocean.

And after 2 hours I was at Hualien station, which is being completely rebuilt. It was very busy inside the temporary station.
Thats a nice looking mountain.

I was concerned Hualien might be a rural village. No, its very busy, heres a random street, nice looking different mountain.

Heres the main street near my hotel. Very busy, goes for about 10 miles.
So now I am confused, only 100k people live here, and yet when I went to Nagano, Shimonoseki etc in Japan that had many more people, the streets were virtually abandoned.

There is a temple next door to my hotel, which is important, in case I need to find an ATM.

My hotel room is enormous, very modern, bed large enough for a family of 6. No seriously its wider than a king size bed. I have never seen such a thing before. I plan to make a trip to all 4 corners of its vastness later this evening.

Huge brand new looking bathroom too.

Third world footpaths

Each time I come to Taiwan, I mention the footpath sitation, now its time for a detailed expose! I do not understand the situation at all, if its not illegally parked cars and scooters, the stores themselves seem to put up barriers.
Tonight I actually saw the parking inspector ticketing cars, parked on the road, whilst completely ignoring the ones making everyone walk head long into traffic in the rain by being parked completely across the footpath.
Footpath is the rest of the world word for sidewalk in case I have any american readers, I dont, the only reader is my mother.
The below pictures will show you 5 of the 1000 times I had to walk out into the road and dodge a bus to go along the main street.

As for Hualien, despite the footpath situation, its an excellent place. Very exciting, bigger than I thought, and lots of places to eat. I get the impression there are a lot of tourists about, although they are all Asian tourists with the exception of some German old folks in matching red coats being lead around by a tour guide. Oh and me, standing around taking photos of the rain.
Many of the shops are for tourists, generally selling pineapple cakes or a variation there of.
There is also a large cultural part of town, which I photographed a small part of below, I am not sure what it used to be, parts of it look like a school, other parts look like a prison, then there are just warehouses.
I did however learn a bit about history. When the Japanese arrived the Chinese lived only on the west coast, and left the east to the aboriginal population. There is a big mountain range up the middle of the island to keep everyone separated.
The Japanese were having none of this, but they kept getting defeated by guys with spears whenever they crossed the mountain.
To solve this issue, they enslaved some of the fitter looking Chinese and made them build roads across the mountains, and dig tunnels. Obviously the natives did not like this, and many a spear was thrown killing the enslaved road workers.
However the roads got built, cause the Japanese military knows how to get things done. And once they were built, they just marched across and killed off the natives.
Japan is always the place that starts trouble. China only started building their islands in the sea when the Tokyo mayor rented a boat and planted a flag on a reef near China.
My history is way more accurate than any other source, I have been to all the places involved. No one else you know has.

Footpath challenge number 1, plant wall.

Footpath challenge number 2, scooter wall. Certainly not the worst of the scooter walls, but the most well lit.

Footpath challenge number 3, truck wall. It is impossible to walk behind it, and the gap in front is too small, had to back track and go around the car.

Footpath challenge number 4, combo challenge! Plant, junk, and a sign stopping me from going around on the road!

Footpath challenge number 5, restaurant. Thats the footpath! It just ends and becomes a restaurant.

Final footpath challenge, Tyre wall! Please note, this is not even a tyre shop. There is just a wall of tyres between shops for no reason at all!

Christmas in March? Hualien petrol station says yes.

This is not a petrol station, I believe its a water station. You cannot drink the tap water in Taiwan. Sometimes I forget and do anyway. I dont know what that means for me.

Much like smaller Japanese cities, smaller Taiwanese cities love a giant chemist / beauty products shop. Always the biggest, nicest store in town. Open until midnight, zero customers.

This is the cultural area with warehouses full of artist studios selling beads and whatever.

Open until 10pm every night. I assume these old folks sit there until then trying to sell their junk, I mean, cultural art.

Its a big area, many buildings, quiet though. All full of the types of stores you would expect to find in a tourist town, lots selling honey related products, good for the healthy.

A bit further along the road is the old train track, now a funky mall with blue lights. Quiet though, people prefer the footpath drama of the main road.

There are also many food streets to enjoy things on sticks.

And a huge line for the dumpling shop, I joined the line, in the rain.

Lining up in the rain was totally worth it, because my $2 dinner was amazingly awesome.

There are currently 3 comments - click to add
Adriana on 2017-03-09 said:
Looks like an interesting place. Footpath situation definitely bizarre. They obviously don't have any regulations about this. Keep up the history lessons, saves me having to do research.

David on 2017-03-09 said:
Rain coat is reserved for mountains. I refuse to wear it around town, no real need, all the streets are covered.

Mother on 2017-03-09 said:
I see you will be getting some use out of your rain coat at this rate.

Day 6 - Friday, 10 March 2017


Today I went to Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwans 2 main tourist attractions. Dont worry I am going to the other one as well later in my trip. I know you were worried.
Taroko Gorge is a deep Gorge that starts at the ocean, has high cliffs, lots of waterfalls and walking trails and millions of tourists. Unless you go on a rainy weekday, which I did.
It actually wasnt too rainy, I put my coat on for a while, but forgot to take a photo to celebrate, it was too hot with it on and I was getting wetter from sweat than I would from rain.
The skills of the bus drivers going along the gorge are not to be sneezed at. In many parts the road is too narrow to pass in each direction, so they go backwards, around corners, and I did not die, and I dont think anyone did today. I did not see any bus wrecks at the bottom of ravines, despite thousands of them crowding the place on weekends.

It costs a grand total of $10 to ride all the buses you want all day including to and from Hualien which is about 45 minutes away, theres no other fee to pay at all. Great for people like me who are very poor and can only afford to holiday in cheap locations.
The bus generally runs about every hour if its on time, and you need it to get between the different attractions, theres no option to walk, some of the road tunnels are over a kilometre long with no pedestrian access.

In the middle of the day there is no bus for about 90 minutes, so you have to carefully time that one if you need to get it, I lead a bunch of French backpackers astray so they would miss it, heres how -
They got off at the same stop as me and I headed up a trail, the bus was coming in an hour. I walked up that trail for 45 minutes, and they followed me. Once at the end I knew I had 15 minutes to get back, so I ran, at full speed. They looked super confused and ran briefly and gave up. Now they are waiting 90 minutes for a bus on the side of the road.

There are more things to see than you can do in a day in the gorge, even though much of it is closed off and has been for many years due to the most recent earthquake destroying a lot of the trails.
They also strongly suggest you wear a helmet, they give them out free at the visitor centre at the 1st stop, I stayed on the bus at that stop therefore I had no helmet. Photo opportunity missed.
Generally, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese will not wear a helmet either, so you can immediately tell which tour groups are from Singapore, they are the ones wearing the helmets following all the rules.

There are a lot of pics, get your scrolling wheel lubed up or placed your finger firmly on the page down button now.

This is my bus to the gorge. I was pleased to see the drivers having to blow into an alcohol testing machine before starting their shifts.

I stayed on the bus to the last station at the top of the tourist part of the gorge. They have a 7-eleven, which is great! I needed supplies.
The road continues well beyond here, to the other side of Taiwan, it takes many hours and there is only one bus per day.

Much of the road is like this, cut into the cliff and covered due to rock slides. Still it gets closed often, due to rock slides. Hence the need for helmets.

My first journey of the day is to a waterfall, through about 5 tunnels. Some were long, curved and so dark I walked with an outstretched arm.
At one point, I heard animals running towards me, it was pitch black, giant rats? They stopped and were messing about with my boots. I just stood still. Thankfully they ran off.
I turned around and there was still enough light to realise they were a pack of little white fluffy dogs, their owner nearly walked straight into me in the darkness.

There will be a lot of pictures of mountains extending into clouds. You cant easily climb any of them, the paths are closed off, and those that are open require special permits and guides.

Nice river.

This sort of thing also happens here.

Time for a swing bridge near a waterfall, good times.

View one from bridge.

View two from bridge, waterfall.

I crawled through a hole in the fence to check out the ventilation shaft of one of the tunnels.

The signs warning about rock fall were particularly severe between these two tunnels. Advising people to run between them. They should probably erect a shelter.

Picture for scale, look at those loaders / diggers. A helmet will be a great defence against those rocks.

Almost back to the bus stop, there are a few hotels at the top of the gorge such as this one. They are all kind of hidden from view. Apparently theres a petrol station somewhere too.

I had enough time before the bus to climb the stairs and see buddha.

And of course, the temple. Which is new. I suspect the old one was destroyed in the earthquake.

Now I am at stop number 2, half way back. It is called the swallows grotto, where swallows make nests that then get farmed to be boiled to make soup. Delicious birds nest soup.
Mainland tour groups were super excited.

The swallows make nests on the cliff face. I dont know how they farm the nests.

There is a cafe here, they sell coffee. Civet coffee. At least thats their claim, civet coffee is processed via the digestive system of monkeys. Delicious.

Its a river at the bottom. The cliffs are very steep and very high. It is really hard to photograph and give a sense of scale.

Some kids from Singapore following the rules with their helmets.

Redundant photo #1.

Redundant photo #2.

Now I am back at the bottom of the gorge. I went straight to the top and worked my way back. This is the area near the information centre. Nice view.

Keep out.

That, on the horizon, is the ocean.

I still had one more hike to walk / run. Which took me under this red bridge. This hike is called the molar (as in tooth) hike.

More view of gorges.

This was the path for much of this hike, very well maintained, no climbing, just ducking. I saw a 7 foot tall Chinese guy, in his national team track suit. He was not enjoying himself.

This path, as you will see, takes you to an aboriginal village. I got passed by a slightly more modern version of these things carrying aboriginal families. They barely go above walking speed.

And here is the end of the trail, the full trail is much longer but blocked off. I think there is a much bigger village further along the path but you currently cannot go there.
I highly recommend Taroko gorge.

Surprise carnival

Not many photos this evening, I actually did 40,000 steps in the gorge earlier today, so I did not have much strength left. I did however manage to stumble onto a huge carnival like area down by the seaside, where carnivals belong.
It wasnt really like the typical Taiwanese night market, it was far too spacious, and there were rides, rides that looked really dangerous, including a push bike attached to a counter weighted pole that you could ride around a loop on. Unfortunately as I set up to take a photo of someone using it they turned the lights off and made everyone go away. Was my camera the reason?

I still dont really understand how Hualien has so much of everything despite having a small population. Maybe its the army and air force bases that are nearby, there are F16's doing circuits at the nearby airport, I might go check them out tomorrow.

Now for a few fairly boring pictures, I took enough earlier. Shut up.

Surprise carnival. They have machine guns that fire pellets, and real bow and arrows. A lot of the places are advertising themselves as aboriginal in some way.

There were many such plastic bomb shelter food seating areas - a good idea, one of the reasons I dont like food trucks is there is never anywhere to sit and eat your food. In Australia the average food truck meal is $30.

I was soaking up the carnival atmosphere. There is no rain, its bone dry, and yet many people still have their umbrellas up. Habit? Fear of sudden downpour? Use as a weapon? It should be illegal.

I was mildly offended by the Indian chief, I mean, Taiwanese aboriginal chief.

In amongst it all they have a heap of old planes, tanks, missiles, guns. This is the F-5 tiger, as seen in Apocolypse Now dropping napalm. No such action today.

A little bit away from the carnival is an aboriginal handicrafts market. If you want a polished rock, go here.

And finally, as always, my dinner. Exactly what I wanted, Japanese curry, in Taiwan. I chose the one with the most vegetables, and got to choose the level of heat, I chose the top level of course, and it was delicious.

There are currently 3 comments - click to add
jenny on 2017-03-10 said:
Definitely not in Japan. It becomes weirder and weirder. Old airforce planes at the carneval!!!

bobule on 2017-03-10 said:
excellent work trolling the french. mountains look epic. buddah is amazing! dinner not so..

Jenny on 2017-03-10 said:
Sitting in a crap motel in Hamilton with very bad internet connection. Been cut off twice so far. Finally got to see all the photos. very interesting place to visit but does it have toilets?

Now there is a page 3, go there now, theres rain and mountains.


Day 1 - Sunday, 5 March 2017
  Late night early morning flight
  Totally full and uncomfortable
  The boring photos continue
  The unprecendented 4th update
Day 2 - Monday, 6 March 2017
  Raining cats
  There are lots of Koreans in Japanese Taiwan
Day 3 - Tuesday, 7 March 2017
  One down
  Major rain no dampener
Day 4 - Wednesday, 8 March 2017
  Coat day
  Tomorrow is all new
Day 5 - Thursday, 9 March 2017
  Crap photos featuring trains
  Third world footpaths
Day 6 - Friday, 10 March 2017
  Surprise carnival
Day 7 - Saturday, 11 March 2017
  Cement factory rubbish dump beach
  Department store rain shelter
Day 8 - Sunday, 12 March 2017
  Dry trip to station
Day 9 - Monday, 13 March 2017
  Far from station
  Footpath observance
Day 10 - Tuesday, 14 March 2017
  Rocky start
  Full of cake
Day 11 - Wednesday, 15 March 2017
  Museum run
  Lost in the swamp at night
Day 12 - Thursday, 16 March 2017
  Animal kingdom
  Bigger and brighter
Day 13 - Friday, 17 March 2017
  Razor wire defeat
  Accidental dream mall
Day 14 - Saturday, 18 March 2017
  So many gift shops
  Steak night
Day 15 - Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Sweating profusely
  Needed more time
Day 16 - Monday, 20 March 2017
  4 down 3 to go
  The old and the new
Day 17 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017
  Fort washing machine
  Chicken tower
Day 18 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017
  The museum cheap electric fans paid for
  Surprise parade
Day 19 - Thursday, 23 March 2017
  Next town over
  The modern north side
Day 20 - Friday, 24 March 2017
  Mountain village metropolis
  A quick run up a small mountain
Day 21 - Saturday, 25 March 2017
  Huge number of steps
  Ritual sacrafice
Day 22 - Sunday, 26 March 2017
  Lake saturation
  Global mormon offensive
Day 23 - Monday, 27 March 2017
  Final destination
  The best beef noodles in Taipei?
Day 24 - Tuesday, 28 March 2017
  Windy teapot
  Best ramen ever
Day 25 - Wednesday, 29 March 2017
  Three mountain rest day.
  The first repeat
Day 26 - Thursday, 30 March 2017
  Ropes and ladders
  Still time for more beef noodle
Day 27 - Friday, 31 March 2017
  Indeed more beef noodle