Taiwan – things you can do in a day

I’m gonna have a good day

A good day, a good day

Let me hear you say

Tara nimtim

Tara nimtim

Good morning sunshine!

Reporting from sunny Thailand, but still owe you the second part of Taiwan’s adventures. So let the games begin…

This post will cover 3 day trips I made from Taipei (point A). First one to Danshui (point B) – 50km there and back by metro, second (and with David’s company) to Jiufen (point C) – 80km (both ways) by bus and finally the last one to Tainan (point D) – 600km (both ways) by bullet train. Since as said I made all the trips starting from Taipei the below map doesn’t show my real route but will help you to locate all the destinations.

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DANSHUI

Once important fishing village and harbor, thanks to its geographical location at the place where Danshui River meets the Taiwan Strait, Danshui is nowadays mainly a popular weekend destination. It can easily be reached by metro from Taipei, the ride takes about one hour.

The town is best discovered by foot. It’s small and all the main attractions are concentrated in the same zone so you will only need a few hours to explore it.
I started the walk on Gongming street full of renovated colonial architecture, little shops and food stalls and continued all the way to Longshan and Fuyou temples to finally end at Fort San Domingo and Alethia University. I walked back on the riverside promenade and finished the trip with an A-gi – fried tofu filled with bean-thread noodles, a local delicacy!

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JIUFEN

Nestled against the mountains and hemmed in by the sea lies the small village of Jiufen. It was once a mining town but when the sources dried up was all forgotten. Jiufen had to wait to be rediscovered until 1989 when the iconic Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien released his famous movie ‘City of Sadness’ filmed in the town. Immediately afterwards urban Taiwanese began to flood the village attracted by the way of life that was somehow lost in their rush to modernization.

To get to Jiufen you can take a public bus from Taipei. The ride takes around 2 hours which gives you just enough time to read your guide and get some information about the town. And that’s exactly how we learned about Jilongshan scenic mountain, supposedly the best view point of the area. I know David hoped I wouldn’t have read about it but, sorry… too late! 😉

Jilongshan is actually only 588m high but since it rises up fast and steep the 40 minute hike to get on top is quite demanding. Don’t give up on it though, the views are absolutely rewarding…

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After the hike (and a proper rest :)) we got back to the town for some lunch on the famous Jishan Street, the only place in town that gets really crowded (yes you guessed it, that’s where the tour groups come) but also the one that offers the most food options. Afterwards just continued our now leisurely walk through typical for Jiufen narrow lanes, passed by plenty of decorative old teahouses, Japanese-style homes and of course a few temples. All in all, a great day trip I would say.

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TAINAN

Tainan is the oldest city in the country, and the fourth largest. It was here where Taiwan’s modern history began and it is here where much of its traditional culture continues to thrive. To get there I took a fast train from Taipei, around 2 hours each way. It’s true it’s a bit expensive (70EUR both ways) but if you want to visit Tainan on a day trip that’s your only option.

Almost all the sights in Tainan are concentrated in two areas: Anping district and the city centre. Both areas are compact enough to get around on foot, but you will need a transport from one to another (public bus network connects them perfectly).

Anping

I started sightseeing in Anping, which is the oldest part of the city. It was here where the Dutch build their first fort and also here where, 38 years later, they were battled by general Koxinga. There are a few sights around this area: Fort Zeelandia, Fort Museum, Tree House, Kaitai Tianhou Temple and more. What I think is the best thing to do though is just to walk through the traditional narrow streets of the district where you can spot a daily life of the friendly locals.

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Oh, and don’t forget to visit Yanping Street and try coffin bread (toast bread coffin filled with seafood and vegetable) in one of the many food stalls.

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City center

When you get to the city center you will understand why Tainan is often called a city of temples… there’s thousands of them around!! If you don’t know where to start just follow the ‘Temple Walk’ recommended by Lonely Planet (that’s what I did). The walk takes you to Confucius Temple, Great South Gate, Wufei Temple, Fahua Temple, Koxinga’s Shrine, Lady Linshui’s Temple, Dongyue Temple, City God Temple, Altar of Heaven, Official God of War Temple, Chihkan Towers and Matsu Temple. Yes, I know, it sounds like a lot of temples… 🙂 but to be honest I really enjoyed the walk, each temple is slightly different and on the way you can also just enjoy the city and its life.

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And my dear friends this is where Taiwan adventure ends…. after coming back from Tainan just had enough time to enjoy my last meal on the Night Market (David took me to a great teppanyaki place at Jingmei Night Market, loved it!) and next morning headed direction to Thailand.

To end the story as always some facts and +/-

Facts:

– 970 km done by train, 200 by car, 80 by bus and of course a lot on foot
– just one hotel this time (in Hualien)
– 10 days spent in Taiwan
– budget: 350EUR
– one of the most densely populated country in the world
– one of the techs-leader of the globe
– complicated political situation, constant threat from China
– only 23 (the number constantly changes) countries recognize Taiwan as a separate from China
– Taiwanese and Chinese are not the same language
– at least 1 strong earthquake per year (Hualien area) and various typhoons hit the country
– constitution allows for its citizens a freedom of religion (most decide for buddhism and taoism)
– thousands of temples all around the island (surprisingly very lively ones)
– most of the population is of ethnic Chinese descent, but the small population of indigenous people is actually more similar to Indonesian, Malay and other Pacific tribes rather than Chinese
– all the people get two names: Chinese and western one
– Taiwan is home to ‘betel nut beauties’ – beautiful (supposedly) young women selling betel nut along the main roads and highways to (mainly) truck drivers, to make better has sales tend to dress quite provocatively
– recently world famous bubble tea has its origins in Taiwan and dates back to 1988

TOP 5

1. Meeting with Angeline and David, their friends and family
(once again guys a very big thank you, I had an amazing time!!!)
2. Taroko Gorge and East Coast Trip
3. Food
4. Taipei
5. Tainan

NEGATIVE 5

1. Higher prices than in most of the Asian countries
2. Closing of Mukumugi Valley
3. Chinese tour groups (somehow you always need to plan your day thinking how to avoid them ;))
4. Expensive flight tickets to get to the island
5. Didn’t have enough time to try all the food I wanted to try 😉

Love,
Maja & Andrej

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