Monday, December 24, 2007

Taiwan & Hong Kong

Well we're happy we've left China and we've already had great experiences in Hong Kong and Taiwan. We arrived via train in Hong Kong on December 16th and headed to Taiwan on December 18th. Our initial two days in Hong Kong were filled with site seeing, friends and shopping. We met up with the Kates from Australia that we had met on our Yangtze River Cruise and they, with the help of a friend, showed us around to the Women's market, Victoria Peak and the Temple Street Night Market. The street markets are full of energy and great prices. We had lots of fun scanning through t-shirts, shoes and other trinkets. We found a small tripod for our camera that should work perfectly and it was only $2.00 Cdn. From almost the top of Victoria Peak we viewed the nightly city light show. It's pretty awesome that all the buildings come together to light up the skyline and with the addition of all the Christmas lights, it's quite a sight. We think the show will be much better from the harbour so we'll try again from there.

Once we got our hands on an Octopus card, travelling around Hong Kong got a lot easier. Getting to the airport to head to Taiwan was almost too easy. Breakfast from 711, a short subway ride and the airport express train all purchased on our pre-loaded Octopus card, Dexit eat your heart out! We made sure there was enough money on the card for our return trip too. No need for cash here :)

The flight to Taiwan was short and sweet. As was our stay in Taiwan. It seems to us that Taiwan is Asia's little secret, mixing Japan's style with China's culture. Taipei was awesome, a large bustling city with wide streets and sidewalks, easy to get around and lots of similarities to home. We greatly enjoyed our stay but it still didn't beat camping out in Taroko National Park. After a night in Taipei, we left half of our stuff at the hostel, and took a train down Taiwan's east coast to visit the Taroko Gorge. Here we are, heading to one of the natural wonders of the world, and we find out that our camera will no longer turn on! We tried everything we could think of and it just wouldn't turn on so we were forced to buy a disposable camera. Disappointing and quite amusing/frustrating to actually have to decide what was worth taking a picture of. We walked for about an hour and a half from the train station to the park headquarters, ate some lunch, and took the 3:30 bus into the only campsite of the park. The bus ride through the gorge was absolutely breathtaking. Not only was it a windy road, but the cliffs on each side just rose incredibly out of the river through much of the journey. We picked the wooden tent platform with the best view of the nearby waterfall and set up camp. There was also a suspension bridge beside the waterfall which gave us a great view of the river. A perfect spot for a campsite.

While in the park we enjoyed the great trails they have to offer. We first walked the Tunnel of 9 Turns trail that was once the original road. The views were breathtaking and our pictures do it no justice. Looking down into the gorge white marble glistened in the sun making it look like snow and ice. Butterflies seemed to overcrowd the place and Jason's bright orange shirt attracted them, Jason even had one land on his finger. We walked back past our campsite to the Lushui-Holiu trail that climbed midway up a cliff and yielded great views of the gorge and our campsite below. We had fun using our head lamps to navigate a cave. Finally it was time to leave as light rain started to roll in. We had a quick lunch at a park cafe and then walked 2km to Tienhsiang to catch the bus to Hualien. We had planned to continue down the coast to camp the night, but the rain was heavy and the little town of Hualien was quite inviting.

We found a great hostel called Amigos and enjoyed the movie theatre in town. We watched I am Legend with Will Smith and then decided that we had enough time for a double feature, also catching National Treasure 2. Both decent movies. By the morning the rain had finally let up and the sun was peaking through the clouds. We caught the brightly coloured Hualien city bus to Jici beach, about an hour south. To our amazement Jici beach was pretty much closed up for the winter. It was beautiful 24 degree weather and the beach had already been closed for two months. It's crazy that a place like this is still seasonal. We were both wearing shorts and t-shirts sweating in the heat with our packs on, but locals were in long pants and jackets. We can only imagine how hot it gets in peak summer. Next to the beach was a short but steep trail up the bluffs of a small peninsula. We hiked up with our packs and enjoyed a rest and view at the top. The ocean was a beautiful blue and the less populated area was a treat from China. We ate our packed lunch and then waited about an hour for the next city bus to come by to continue down the cost to Shihtiping.

Shihtiping had a beautiful rocky coastline. We set up camp on a covered wooden platform and enjoyed watching the rocks turn orange just before the sun disappeared below the mountains behind us. There were many fishermen on the rocks that jutted out into the ocean and the surf created a soothing roar. Very picturesque and enjoyable. We watched the sun rise in the morning through the clouds and Jason enjoyed scrambling about the rocks while Nicole packed up camp. The highlight of the area was a rock outcropping that required scaling down its small cliff face with the help of a rope. Jason enjoyed it immensely.
We returned to Taipei via bus and train with a tight schedule of things that we wanted to accomplish. First priority was getting our laundry done as we had been wearing dirty clothes for about a week and a half now. It was getting a little gross... After, we walked along "Camera Street" and found a good deal on a similar camera to our own. The next day we visited the Taipei 101 building. Until very recently, it was the tallest building in the world, and it is the only building of its kind in all of Taipei. The views were pretty amazing since there are no other buildings that are even half its height in Taipei.

We spent the afternoon in a scenic, touristy town in the mountains south of Taipei called Wulai. The main town spanned a river and featured a pedestrian street with local stores and sausage vendors leading to Lovers Walk and a beautiful waterfall. There was also a small gauge mini-train to take you to and from the waterfall which we rode on the way back. All fun until it started to rain and we booted it back to the bus. Back in the city, we managed with difficulty to find a place to develop our film from the disposable cameras, ate some dinner, then perused the Shilin Night Market.

And now today, Christmas Eve, it's back to Hong Kong!

HK Before Taiwan Pics | Taipei Pics | Taroko Gorge & East Coast Pics


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