To describe Taiwan in a nutshell is like to say it's like China, EXCEPT the people are very kind and have manners, it's pretty clean, people aren't trying to hussle you, there isn't fake water and food that will get you sick...so actually in other words it's nothing like China.
So when I first came to Taiwan I really had no idea what to expect. Which is a good thing because your expectations are not set. However, I remember asking a few Taiwanese guests, from Osaka when I worked at a guesthouse, what I should do when I get to Taiwan. Their common answer was well you should just go eating a lot. I asked if there was anything special scenery wise or cool stuff and they said, "yeah...but you can just eat a lot of stuff..." Well they weren't wrong because Taiwan may just have the best food I've had on my trip. Good food here has a wide variety, it's cheap, and EVERYWHERE! Every street corner you go there are street vendors or restaurants. It's hard to go hungry in this country especially in the big cities.
So I flew into Taipei from Okinawa at the end of September and originally had decided on staying only two weeks. That changed quickly as I discovered how great this country is. My friend Ken, who I met during my college years, and his girlfriend Viv picked me up from the airport. We immediately started off on an adventure going to the Taipei Reservoir. It was the day before a huge on coming typhoon that I barely missed coming into Taiwan, so the weather was extremely windy and rainy. However, the view was still quite nice. I didn't know how much of a mountainous country Taiwan was until we started driving out from the airport and we were just surrounded by mountains everywhere.
So being the great outdoors man that I am I had to of course take advantage of these incredible mountains and go hiking. Lucky for me Ken's mom is an avid hiker and goes hiking several times during the week. So she took outside of Taipei to a mountain near Keelung called Teapot Mountain. The weather was slightly overcast which actually made for an interesting experience as you hiked through the clouds the higher you got. The hike itself took about 3.5 hours going in a big loop. I have to say for a woman over 60 Ken's mother is an absolute champion. She easily made her way through the hike like a person half her age. I guess when you're retired and you like to do outdoor activities then you're gonna be a beast at it.
Climbing the mountain offered an incredible view of the coastline and the rest of the mountain range in the far distance. The views you can get from hiking are absolutely worth it. There are some things that you simply can't see without putting in the work. Yeah you can look at photos, but that's only a part of the whole. To really experience it you have to do it! Oh and I know my photos are fucking amazing but still it's only a small bit of the bigger experience.
So I had a couple days to get adjusted to Taiwan, before heading out on my scooter trip, so I took it upon myself to explore around Taipei.
Taipei I must say has an amazing metro system called the MRT. It's very well organized, cheap, and convenient. Reminds me a lot of Seoul. So easy to use and navigate, which is a blessing coming from the maze that makes up the Japan metro system.
So I had to make a visit to Taipei 101 of course and made stops at several famous landmarks like the CKS memorial and the SYS memorial, dedicated to the founding fathers of Taiwan. Along with the Longshan Temple and a few others. I didn't take photos of them because I felt like they were just absolute tourist traps and there's already plenty of photos of them online anyways. Although the same could be said for the others I took, but don't mind all that...
How good it felt to be back on a scooter! The mountain roads in Taiwan remind me so much of Bali. Except here they are better maintained and well paved...for the most part. So one of main reasons for coming to Taiwan was because Ken told me he and about 17 friends were going on a scooter trip for three days during a holiday weekend. That sounded good to me so I joined in and even better that my friend Lennie who I met in Korea decided to fly into Taiwan and join as well.
The first day started extremely early at like 3:30AM to get ready and meet up the group from the kick off point just outside of Taipei. I didn't help that the weather was rainy which made driving on a scooter pretty shitty. Even with a poncho on you get wet and still feel uncomfortable. We met at the rendezvous point around 4:30AM and then started off from there at 5:30AM.
So with this huge convey of 11 scooters we started off on our adventure!
For almost 5 hours it was raining non-stop which made the driving pretty miserable and we were way off schedule. However, right before noon the rain stopped and it was sunny again. We all stopped, took off our ponchos and were ecstatic because we could actually see the sun!
Our first destination was in the mountains at the top is a lake with old cedar trees that has an eeire look in the evening.
After the visit through the lake we headed to our place for the night. That drive was probably the most exciting and best road I've been on in Taiwan thus far. There were was a bamboo forest on either side of the road that simply put Arashiyama in Kyoto to shame. The road itself was whindy, wide, and most importantly dry, which made for a crazy fun drive down down through the mountains. The thrill of making those turns with deep leans is so much fun that it's addicting. Anyways after we finally got to the place we were staying we ended at 10PM. So basically we drove over 18 hours in one day. Granted we stopped and had to go slow due to weather, but I was so exhausted I almost passed out immediately after we arrived.
The next day we woke up early got breakfast and kicked off our day by heading to the famous Sun Moon Lake to celebrate Taiwan's National Day. Since it was a national holiday the roads were crowded and so was the lake.
After we stopped for lunch and got some incredibly delicious braised pork belly over rice. I obviously got thirds of it. Funny enough right next to the restaurant was a large etched out boulder designating the center of Taiwan.
The one thing that I simply won't forget was how dam cold it was up in the mountains. From being in Taipei which was 29C to the mountains being 9C made me feel incredibly cold. However the views made it all worth it. We drove up through the highest mountain road in Taiwan and at that point it was foggy as hell and colder than Stalin's heart.
The place we stayed in during our second night reminded me of a mountain ski lodge. It was on the top of a hill that overlooked the mountain range. What a stunning view we had in the morning. I found myself staring out the balcony for probably 10 minutes before realizing it was too dam cold.
Our last day we stopped by a small farm with some beautiful flowers and after we went to a hot spring which seemed like the perfect way to end the trip. Simply relaxing in natural hot springs are amazing. I thought Japan had good Onsens but Taiwan takes the cake with their natural outdoor hot springs that aren't pumped through pipes to a facility that you have to pay to enter.
Thanks to everyone on the trip that made it super memorable! Thanks to Ghost, Mr. Africa, Ms. Africa(I Want Rice), Lebron James, Crazy Frog, and Super Dave for the extra photos I used as well.
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Till next time peace out!