Taiwan

​20th December
Here we go. 4 weeks, a few countries, planes, trains and automobiles. Like all our trips this one has been a while in the planning, booking and arranging. If everything goes smoothly we should be in Taipei in 18 hrs. Why do planes always leave so early in the morning? Six fifty am isn’t a thing when I am working, so it definitely shouldn’t be a thing when I am on holidays.
Finally we arrived in Taipei, quiet exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. But first we had to find our prearranged driver. The kiosk to buy a sim card closed as we got there so we were relying on airport wifi to let him know we were ready to be collected. But as promised he arrived and took us safely to our home for the next couple of days. Now, we are used to living tiny, but normally that’s on wheels. The place we arrived to is probably no bigger than our camper, in terms of the footprint, it’s just that it has a loft and therefore a permanent bed. I was too tired and grumpy to care so after a quick shower, we hit the sack, full of the anticipation of exploring a new city in a new country.​21st December
Our first full day in Taipei and the weather looks ok. Not great but I have an umbrella and at least it’s not cold. After exploring the accommodation further (which took 37 seconds) we headed out the door on the lookout for breakfast. We quickly found some good options as well as place to buy and load up our MRT cards. After breaky, armed with our trusty Lonely Planet book we headed towards Taipei 101. It wasn’t hard to spot although its top was lost in the clouds. The building had a 6 year stint as the world’s highest building from 2004 to 2010. To me it looks like a massive chocolate fountain and I can’t wait to see how it looks on NYE. I hope the weather is better then and we can see the top.
Inside is a shopping mall, a food court and the entrance to an observation tower. In the middle of the shopping mall we found a Christmas display, erected over a floor that has the names of own’s and cities permanently inlayed into the floor. The surrounding shops include Dior, Louis Vuitton and so on. So I was quite surprised to see the NSW town Moree represented on the floor along with my Dad’s hometown of Dundee. While both are fabulous places, neither conjures images of skyscrapers on boutique shopping.  I wonder who they consulted when deciding on the place names that would be included.
Looking to find as many vantage spots as possible to view the tower from, we headed outside to a café for a coffee before walking out the other side of the city to Sun Yat-sen Memorial. It’s an impressive memorial hall and we were fortunate to see some children performing a show in front of Dr Sun Yat-sen before watching the precision changing of the guards. Back outside we took the time to wander past the synchronising water fountains and view Taipei 101 again, hoping to get a glimpse of the top the landmark (make sure you click on the pics below so you can see the whole tower). Finally we agreed we should try to acquire a sim card and have some “lunch”, both of which we found nearby.
Thanks to our late night, most of the day was over by the time we finished lunch so we took the opportunity to head home for a bevvie and to plan out our evening and tomorrow. But first we had to try to find some tonic water. We had been looking all day without luck so we googled the nearest supermarket and wandered there, only to be disappointed yet again. Despite having seen gin (and many varieties and flavours of it) it seemed impossible to find tonic water. I hope I don’t have to carry home these couple of litres I bought in KL!
Having consulted the guide, we decided to try the Linjiang Street Market for dinner and a wander. The surrounding streets are beautifully Asian, narrow and crowed, with crazy signage and that smell you only smell in Asia. In the markets we had some “happy sweet potato balls” and some fried dumplings before finding a kitchen with an English menu that also sold Tiger beers! Winning twice! A great end to an awesome first day in Taipei. Here’s to more of the same tomorrow.

​22nd December 2019
Finally we caught up a bit on our sleep and had a later start to today but with plans to keep us going well into the evening. But first, breakfast. Maybe. If The Newby can find something. Maybe after Da’an Park and all the cute kids roller skating while the oldies do some elaborate traditional exercises? Nope, wrong turn. I could die if I don’t get coffee. Finally he found a café and we perched high on a stool, watched the world go by and had coffee. Yahoo. Awake now we headed to Longshan Temple, the home of the Taiwanese prostitute and old men playing a game with tiles. The temple had a god of rain so we paid our respects and requested some fall over parts of Australia that are drought stricken and on fire, before heading out to explore the old streets that were bustling Japanese areas of industry and accommodation prior to the KMT taking over Taiwan after WWII. It’s a nice area for a wander and the guide very kindly and deliberately found and gave us an English map. Although our intention was to wander this area The Newby could really only tolerate one more temple before we ditched the plan and headed for coffee at Fong Da. Slightly over rated would be my call.
Charged with more coffee we decided to head for the 228 Peace Park and museum, walking past the office of the president of the ROC (Taiwan). The 228 refers to the 28th February (1947) when all hell broke loose and over the coming days, weeks and months many thousands died as they protested against the government of the day. The site of the museum is the old radio station that broadcast the calls for action and support. Not much of the museum was in English but there was more than enough to get the gist of the series of events and the scale of the death and destruction. Quite sobering and well immortalised with a nice water feature (that housed our 1st-in-Taiwan cache).
Back on the MRT we headed for Dadaocheng Temple to sus out dinner options. Although this gets a good write up in the Lonely Planet, we weren’t impressed and decided to try to find something else. As we headed back towards the train station we came across a cafe called Pythonism that sells coffee and allows patrons to handle snakes as they sip from their cup. We didn’t venture in but it did look very interesting and I think there are reptile folk out there, The Piper included, who would love it. Instead we headed off in search of night markets that we never found and ended up in a kitchen called Steak eating some fabulous food that included amazing chicken and corn soup presented with a sheet of pastry over the bowl, resembling a pie. Not bad, considering we couldn’t seem to find our way out of a wet paper bag today.
Back on the train we headed for the Jazz Square to look at the Christmas lights before finally making our way home via the 7-11 for ice blocks. We should have had the free ice cream on offer at dinner time!

​23rd December 2019
Today is the day we head out of Taipei to explore the rest of this country.
Our first leg was via the high speed rail from the city to Taichung. The distance is about 160kms and the train did it in 60 minutes. The first 2 stations were within the MRT system, so it starts slow but once it got cracking it hit 298km/hr. It is a very comfortable ride, with good seats, excellent leg room, relatively efficient booking and checking in, easy boarding and refreshments if you want them. No need for internal flights. The HSR system covers the entire island so if you want to, you can get from city to city by rail. Once at the other end we grabbed an Uber for ease of managing the luggage and headed for the hotel. A little musty but spacious compare to Henry’s place in Taipei. The bathroom is the size of Henry’s entire house and it’s not the biggest hotel room I’ve stayed in.
After lunch at a nearby kitchen (a soupy noddle dish) we headed for the bus and off to the Rainbow Village. This place was housing for returned servicemen. One of the men who lived there heard that they were being demolished so he went there and decided to save it by turning it into a tourist attraction. The complex of a few rooms, joined by little alleys, was one of the last left and he stated painting the walls with cartoon style pictures in the brightest of colours. When we arrived on local bus 800 we were amongst the throngs from the tourist buses, but apparently they are worse in the morning. We wandered around, had a rainbow icy pole, met the old guy (he’s around 80 years old, depending on which thing you read) and then took the world’s longest and slowest route back to the city. The Newby was after good coffee and he is lucky it was good. Along with a little cake it went down superbly. After that and not trusting the buses (although all the public transport is free while they construct the cities MRT) we decided to walk home. Another 20k step day with more to come.
After a little evening bevvie, we headed out to the Feng Chia night markets that were absolutely jammed with people, bright lights and interesting things to see. We had some great fried rice, one chicken and one beef in a little kitchen before wandering around. The Newby was keen to try toffee strawberries (think toffee apple) and Mr Bolo’s. The toffee strawbs were good (loved them) and Mr Bolos was another experience. Not sure what it even was, we stood off to the side trying to google it. A passing young lady asked if we needed help and then assisted us to understand that Mr Bolos sells sweet buns, about the size of a lunch roll, with a slab (and I mean a slab) of butter and another filling of your choice. The Newby chose chocolate! A slab of butter and who knows how much chocolate, in a sweet bun, warmed up and served slightly crisp. Needless to say I only tried a little bit but Mr Bolo scoffed the rest. He’s going to need 20k steps a day for a month to walk that off.

Christmas Eve
Car hire day!
OMG, having seen the traffic and driving, combined with the right hand drive, I am very nervous. But let’s do this! After we walked to the car hire place, dragging our bags, in the warmth of the day. We need the steps as we are likely to get many less over the next few days. After the usual messing around to get a hire car, complicated slightly by 2 languages, we hit the road. Within minutes we had taken a wrong turn and the iPad navigation was ditched for the Samsung. Take 2. Off we go, with Mr Bolo at the wheel. We have a beautiful Toyota Corolla Altise, with just 900kms on the dial. Brand spanking new. That increased the nerves!
Our first stop today was the earthquake museum, a former school that was devastated at midnight on the 21st September 1999. Thankfully at that time, no children were at school as the buildings collapsed. The information describes how building issues, poor concrete mixes and shoddy steel all contributed to the magnitude of building destruction. Of course, the fact that a fault line ran literally straight through the school didn’t help. This site was incredibly interesting and you could easily spend a couple of hours, especially if you read everything and do their experiments.
For lunch Mr Bolo decided we should have Maccas. I haven’t eaten Maccas in maybe 15 years so it was an experience for me. Not the kind I had in mind on Christmas Eve in a country that makes great food, but you can’t have everything. After lunch we headed to Sun Moon Lake which, while pretty, probably wasn’t worth the effort. We took a wander, I was asked to be in a photo with a Chinese lady (I rudely refused) and we found our 2nd Taiwanese cache. Having watched Mr Bolo drive that far, I decided to give it a go. The combination of driving on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the lane is challenging but some muscle memory kicked in during the trip. At least being the owner of a Peugeot means I didn’t wipe the windscreen when I meant to flick on the indicators.
Mr Bolo decided we should have some nice accommodation for Christmas Eve and Christmas night so we booked into something a bit more expensive. As it turns out, it is also called one thing online and another on all the signage. After a few u-turns in the dark, way up high above the city of Chiayi, we finally arrived. Having unpacked we dashed out for a delicious dinner at a local Chinese restaurant (the only people there), grabbed some groceries and headed home for a long soak in the bath and some catch up tv.

 Merry Christmas 2019
Like previous years we woke somewhere other than our beds in Australia. I guess many people would wonder why you would leave Australia at this time of year. It’s a good question. But then, why not? I love Christmas but it is incredibly commercial now and when your family are widely dispersed it’s just as easy to catch up at another time and take advantage of the opportunity to go exploring. So we woke to a hazy day in Chiayi City, Taiwan (part 1 of the Christmas video). Our Christmas breakfast was toast and jam before we jumped in the car to spend the day exploring. First stop, the suspension bridges at Fanlu . Not a lot of water in the river but a pretty start to Christmas day and part 2 of the Christmas video. Our next stop was one we most were looking forward to, the Tropic of Cancer. We like these sort of places that are intangible but meaningful. We’ve done the Tropic of Capricorn and various other places, like the point from which WA time is determined. This spot was deserted and quite bland. After parking the car we had to find the photo opp spot (and a good spot for part 4 of the Christmas video), that crosses a busy road and is weather beaten and fading. Maybe it’s only us that think this is interesting. Nonetheless, adventures make you hungry so we headed for a local cafe to have a coffee and chicken bagel. I wished the Barista a merry Christmas and after checking the date on her watch, she reciprocated! Not quite the Christmas spirit and cheer others were enjoying when I called them all in Australia 5 minutes earlier.
Full up on turkey, roast potatoes and Chrissy pudd (just joking) we headed for our afternoon adventures seeking both fire and water in Dongshang District. Following the signs we came across the fire and water homogeny, a place where natural gas rises to the surface, ignites and creates and eternal flame. As it turns out, there is also a spring, hence the “homogeny”. It’s a really cool (hot actually) phenomenon and a super spot for part 3 of the Christmas video. We seem to be arriving at places when the masses have left, or maybe the masses are not here, given it’s the middle of winter. Now to find the muddy water and loads of it to soak in. We rolled back down the hill a short distance and into the Kings Garden Villa, paid a day fee and enjoyed various hot tubs, a beauty station for face masks (refer to part 5 of the Christmas video), self massage options and fish that eat your feet. Finally the tension of the year that was, has gone. After more than 2hrs luxurious soaking hours we scrubbed up (see the 6th and final part of the Christmas video) and headed for a famous chicken in a pot dinner. Almost roast turkey but not quite …

​Boxing Day
Ah Boxing Day. Rest, relax, eat leftovers, sleep, repeat. Not so for us, we were up and out of the hotel by 9am ready to get down to the south of Taiwan and into the sunshine. Lacking in beach towels we craftily procured a couple from the hotel so we can stop on the way if the chance arises. Our first stop was a place called the bad lands and moon park. Initially I thought it was a theme park type thing but thankfully it’s not. Although it was a very disappointing site. It is supposed to resemble the moonscape but it was more like a walk through some dry, dusty limestone peaks. It was hot too, so it wasn’t the most comfortable I have been. We did come across a stray dog who walked all the way back with us, running ahead then looping back, playing with a piece of vine, taking a swim and just happy to be near us. I called her Lassie and fear for her longevity. There are many many stray dogs here and lots of them have paw or front limb injuries, some even lacking front legs. It’s no wonder though, as they sit in the middle of the road and curl into a ball on the kerb. We have narrowly missed a few as we’ve driven along.
After collecting a cache in a nearby temple we headed for another cache just a short distance away that lead us to a much better site comprising 2 mud volcanoes, one of which was active at the time we were there. It bubbled and plopped but it didn’t stop Mr Bolo from pointing it with a stick to answer the earth cache questions. Thankfully it didn’t seem to upset it too much. Hungry from our adventures we went in search of some lunch and ended up at a cafe having coffee and chocolate cake. The owner was very attentive and the staff were impressed with my blue eyes (not as blue as many but obviously bluer than most they have seen). We were gifted with 2 crazy bubble tea bottles that look like light globes and come complete with flashing lights! Only in Asia. Back in the car we wolfed down a cylinder of Pringles in an attempt to fill the hole.
Our next stop wasn’t a stop, thanks to some road works preventing us from getting to the supposed waterfall, so we went on to the Chuhou eternal flame, another spot were gas leaks out, is ignited and burns until the rains come and floods the passages that the gas leaks through. This place was a great example of how Taiwan is not a nanny state. The signs say no vendors and no fireworks. There is a security guard on a seat at the site. In the car park there is a vendor selling fireworks! If the security guard lifts his head from his device … yeah, never mind. Eventually we rolled into a grey and overcast Kenting, ready for a G&T and some food. Our hotel was on the main drag so parking looked as though it would be remote from the there. I pulled up and Mr Bolo ran (waddled) in to find out where to park, only to be told our possie was right outside the hotel. Right in the middle of the night markets. Between the fried chicken vendor and the woman selling bracelets. At least the Corolla looked sweet parked there, bless her. I was hopeful she would still be scratch free come morning, but not convinced.

27th December
It’s not often you stay in a hotel room without a window but that was the case last night. Once again the room was tiny, barely big enough for a bed, but we did only sleep in there so it doesn’t really matter. A window helps with a feeling of spaciousness but in lieu of a window we had a loving wall art instead …
Time to hit the road and turn the bottom corner of Taiwan and head north along the east coast. Apparently it is quite spectacular, a haven for surfers and a great cycle route (north to south) in the summer. But first some breakfast, across the road from the hotel, in a little kitchen. There’s nothing complicated about this system. Take your voucher from the hotel, take it the kitchens that honour it, order breakfast and enjoy. Eventually we hit the road and took a drive along the Kenting coast line hoping for awesome weather and maybe even a swim. It’s not hard to imagine how beautiful the coast line is in fine weather but we didn’t get the chance to experience it today. We did get to the southernmost point of the country where we eventually got a picture at the monument. We enjoyed looking south and imaging where we would be if we swam south. What part of Australia would we hit? On our walk back to the car park we came across a couple sporting interesting bike helmets. We think they may be the same couple we encountered last year in Hoi An wearing the fruity shirts …
North bound we found a café across the road from beach and ordered some chicken and rice for lunch that turned out to be a terrible meal. Perhaps the complete lack of anyone else there should have been a clue. We actually didn’t eat even a forkful and headed instead for a 7-11 and grabbed a sandwich from the fridge (and yet more Pringles) before spending the entire rest of the day in the car. Somehow we managed to take a scenic, windy, hilly and very long detour that took as to a Japanese Shrine perched very high up on a mountain overlooking the coast. It was in a village of indigenous Taiwanese people. Apparently the east coast has more indigenous people than the western side of the island and there are different indigenous languages spoken in the towns that dot this side of Taiwan.
Eventually our day ended at another motel, in a new bed, in a new town. This one has no ‘fridge so there is no way to cool down the gin and tonic or the beers for our after dinner drink. But it is next door to a laundromat so we got some washing done before enjoying a really lovely meal in a kitchen across the road. I can’t tell you what most of these eateries were called because they have no or very little English information. I do have a google time line of most of the trip so I can give you addresses if you contact me. But the best thing to do is to ask at your hotel. And the best way to find hotels is via Agoda. We did this each day, often only a couple of hours before checking in, because we never quite knew where we would be, and booked online using the internet. Mr Bolo always ensures we have internet via the data sim he buys and installs in the dongle. After dinner we had a walk around town to try to find a chrome cast. Mr Bolo left a brand new one plugged into the TV at Henry’s place in Taipei. Someone will be very happy when they find that …

​28th December
Breakfast today worked on the same system as yesterday. Voucher, recommendations on different places, chose a place and away you go. Today we chose a corner kitchen and ordered bacon and egg rolls, that were just the ticket, served with some extremely sweet coffee. We haven’t seen many tourists since rounding the southern tip and this morning at breaky was no exception. We were certainly made very welcome, a table was evacuated and cleaned for us and it was a good place to watch the world go by and wake up.
(Singing) On the road again … First stop was cute site where water runs uphill. There is a stream that has been channelled through a park, to the road, along the roadside, under the road and beyond. Along the way it flows uphill. It’s a lovely phenomenon and we enjoyed the stop and the wander around. There are of course geocaches there and we found one despite the million muggles that are there. After all that exercise (almost none) we went in search of a coffee spot, avoiding “Dulan Crap” and choosing instead a place on a side street that served up a lovely treat of waffles with good coffee.
Next stop was the Dulan Stone Wall high up the side of the mountain. The site is a few thousand years old and includes some stony walls and stony coffins, as well as some biting ants and more than a few 3 legged dogs lying in the middle of the road. We didn’t stay long and were back on the road listening to the cricket on iHeart Radio. As in past years we decided to see if we could get a shout out on air and I sent in a text hoping for the best. Not long after and just as we arrived at the Draon Bridge site the radio announcers did a shout out to “Jim and Janie, travelling the east coast of Taiwan, listening in via the web”. Yahoo.
Anyway, back to the Dragon Bridge site. The weather when we got here was dry, a bit cool and a little windy. Despite this there were heaps of people here and it looked like a fun place to explore so we headed off in the direction of the crowds and found the rocky beach covered in colourful pebbles. To the south of the beach is the dragon bridge, 8 arches leading over the water to the island. It reminded me lots of Mutton Bird Island in Coffs Harbour, a lot bigger than it looks. The bridge is fun to cross and the island is interesting to explore. We made it to the eastern end, climbed the stairs and hung out for a while at the lighthouse before heading back through the huge tunnel for a peak to the north. As you enter the tunnel you can still see light behind you then you round a corner where there is no light behind or in front, before you round another corner to find light in front again. A bit spooky and pith black for a short distance.
With daylight rapidly running out again we kept driving north and came across another Tropic of Cancer landmark, opposite to the one on the west coast in more ways than one. This one is a stunning, well-kept monument where people are encouraged to stop, with a kiosk and souvenir shop. Of course that closes long before dark so we missed it. It was really dark by the time we left there and the road to Hualien was windy. An interesting combination when added to driving on the wrong side of the road. Eventually we made it Hualien and checked into a hotel targeting all the beautiful young things before heading out from a really expensive meal in a proper restaurant. It wasn’t what we wanted, preferring the smaller eateries but it was yummy just the same. 

​29th December
On a review from google we headed for breakfast around the corner in downtown Hualien. There was indeed an English menu that assisted us to order another bacon and egg roll that was almost exactly the same as yesterday’s, despite being further up the highway. A little bit of a Taiwanese delicacy. Now we are ready for the highlight of the east coast, Taroko Gorge. The book and other blogs talk it up, so let’s see …
Because Mr Bolo has been driving at the end of the day, I drove us out of town and to our first stop, where we actually didn’t stop. We were looking for a cache that lead us up a skinny road, again and it just didn’t look possible. U turn and here we go, into the gorge. With the rain. You are joking me. A grey winter’s day is bad enough but rain! Along a skinny road, with HUGE buses. And pedestrians wanting to go every which way. And we are driving on the “wrong” side of the road. At first Mr Bolo thought I was entering the park against the traffic but it is a 2 way road, despite looking just wide enough for one vehicle. All road rules appear to go out the window and it felt like an every-man-for-himself game. Don’t you hit my car! There appeared to be some good spots to stop, but zero parking and no signage, so we decided to head to Tianxiang and make a plan.
When we got there it turned out to be a good idea. There is a lovely town (albeit full of tourists) and some excellent sites. Unfortunately the rain continued to fall, so we were burdened by umbrellas and the view was obviously impacted, but the enormity of the gorge and its potential to be full of roaring water was very obvious. From the car park we headed to the Pagoda, temple and statue. There were loads and loads of stairs but each one was worth it as the vista improved and the numbers of tourists decreased. By the top of the climb we were almost on our own and found the massive temple and 10 headed golden god. And very few tourists. I don’t think they could get up to the attractions and back down again in time to be “back on the bus”.
Back at the bottom of the hill we crossed the bridge, headed through the little town and up an equally challenging hill on the other side! All for a geocache (and a fab view of where we just were). The signage about aggressive monkeys was a little off putting, but the rain seemed to be keeping them away. Both places were blissfully thin on the ground as far as loud crowds went. Not so the toilets where many folk paused to take a selfie right outside! Back in the car I let Mr Bolo drive down the hill back to the highway. Along the way we took a short detour to a shrine created in memory of the 200+ men who died building the road. It has a lovely very little eternal spring flowing under a white bridge. It wasn’t accessible, perhaps because it would be a difficult for people to get to and trampling all over it would contradict its importance as a shrine.
Speaking of which, there are some very disrespectful people around. At this very spot two things happened to me that were very rude. Now bear in mind that I look exceedingly different to every other person here. Not only am I the only non-Asian female, I am the only person with blonde hair and blue eyes. I get loads of people looking at me when I travel to Asian countries and loads of people say hello or here in Taiwan, ni hao. Here the locals are very kind and complimentary. Probably because away from Taipei, they see very few non-Asian tourists. The place appears to be full of (mainland) Chinese and Japanese tourists. We could count on one hand the number of other non-Asian tourists we have seen since arriving in Taiwan a week ago. So I am not inconspicuous. By a long way. Today however no one saw me in the rain. Too bad that I wanted to go through the crowd that was going the other way. They consumed the entire path, refused to move and even obstructed the way with umbrellas. Obviously the path in front of their coach was for their use only. Get over it SA. Have a coffee and admire the shrine. Don’t mind if I do. I’ll take this seat here. Comfy. Oh wait, I’ll just stand up to take 1 more picture. WTF happened to my chair? Taken by a person from the next table! Lucky I didn’t just attempt to sit down again. Self entitled, selfie taking, pain the butt tourist. You spoil these places for the rest of us. Calm down SA …
Back on the road we headed out of the gorge and on our way to the easternmost point of the country. Unfortunately we barely stopped the entire way, other than for a sandwich from the 7-11. I picked up one I thought was cream cheese and cranberry sauce on white bread, that turned out to be jam and cream. Not bad but not great either. I also grabbed a yoghurt that was fine, even if it had a few cubes of a solid jelly. The food choices are intriguing, different and generally ok. Finally, in the dark, in pouring rain and down a small lane in a tiny fishing village we arrived at the easternmost point of this island. Seriously! Mr Bolo quickly found the cache and we headed off to our accommodation for the night in Keelung. Despite being right beside the night (food) markets we had quite a bit of trouble finding out what the ingredients in most of the food was. We did have some great dumplings and wandered the markets for ages but in the end we opted for a Mos Burger that was actually very good. If only we had a local with us to assist and if only we had experience of this sheer variety of choice. An upbringing of meat and 3 veg is very limiting.

​30th December
Today is our last day on the road in Taiwan. Let’s hope the weather is better so we see this gorgeous coastline in the sunshine.
But first we need to get the car out of the tiny hotel garage and through the narrow and congested laneway. Wait a minute, that will be even harder than we thought as the car is 10 feet off the ground. Overnight the hotel staff have shuffled the cars and ours ended up being elevated so others could be moved in and out. Way cool. Anyway, once the car was back on ground level Mr Bolo manoeuvred it out into the streets of Keelung and we were bound for the Yehliu geopark to check out the amazing, natural structures left behind as the sea eroded. I would love to tell you this experience was as good as the 8 bridges but unfortunately the sheer volume of tourists completely ruined it. The structures themselves are interesting, as is their formation and geology. Very interesting. But boy oh boy there were squillions of peeps there. As in a queue to join the queue that gets to the queue to see the queens head after you have queued to get into the park in the first place. I have deduced it is because tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and with the Hong Kong fireworks cancelled, everyone is in Taiwan. And why not? It’s a grand place to be. It’s just a shame we all went to the geopark today.
Eventually we got outta there, not delayed by the desire to stay longer but by the jammed car park with one working pay machine! Our next stop was the northernmost point of Taiwan. Unfortunately the rain was still bucketing down so we walked the 2km round trip with umbrellas up but completely alone! Yahoo! The lighthouse, like many other places on Mondays was closed but we grabbed the cache and the obligatory photo, before jumping back in the car to head around the coast and in to Taipei from the west. Did I mention that I was driving for most of today, including into Taipei? I did a good job too! The car survived the 7 days unscathed and we loved driving around in it. We pushed it to almost every corner of the country, drove it uphill and down dale, cruised it around 180° hairpin bends and blasted down freeways. It delivered us safely to a new bed each night and back to the top of the island. Despite my concerns, we rocked driving in Taiwan. There were occasional scary moments but far more smiles and laughs. We made it and loved it and would recommend it and would definitely do it again.

​31st December
Our last day in Taiwan and the last day of 2019 and the decade. Also 20 years since Y2K and the millennium fireworks on Sydney Harbour.
The weather was still overcast and quite cold so we decided Elephant Mountain was probably not a good option. So we headed instead for Xinbiteou to try out the hot springs. It is actually a suburb of Taipei with a hot spring in it, so it is surrounded by accommodation like any other ‘burb, as well as hotels offering accommodation and day use of rooms. After a coffee and a wander to the hot spring we opted for a private room over the public baths. This turned out to be a good choice with 90 minutes in fresh, hot water costing about $90 (AUD). Prices were higher than we had seen advertised thanks to it being New Year’s Eve but it was still worth it. The soak warmed me up after underdressing for the day.
Because our intention was to the see the fireworks, we had slept in and so the day quickly turned to evening and we headed back to Taipei and our accommodation for dinner and drinks and to prepare for the big show. As predicted the weather was cool but not cold and with a couple of layers on we ventured out about 10pm. We decided to head towards the northern side of Taipei 101 where the concert was in progress and projections were being made onto the building. There were loads and loads of people there but absolutely no unruly behaviour. Everyone was just patiently waiting for the fireworks. We found a spot by a ute (no one sitting on the roof like they would be in Australia) and waited there from about 11. Eventually the countdown started on the building before the fireworks exploded all up and down the structure. The show was fabulous and elicited ohs and ahs from the huge crowd. It wasn’t overly long, just 6 minutes but we enjoyed it and the atmosphere of the crowd very much. A great way to see in 2020. Happy New Year. May the year bring you peace, love, friendship and happiness. I wonder where we will be next year and in 2040?


Click here to follow us to the next part of our adventure, a cruise on the high seas. Ok, the South China Sea …

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