I arrived in Taiwan to Taoyuan Airport on the 27th October, and caught a bus to Taipei Main Station where I made plans to meet up with my friend Bond (from a previous trip, who was in Taipei by chance), who had booked me a bed in the same hostel for the night.
We were supposed to meet at the main station, so I was waiting in the middle of the underground station but no sign of Bond for 30 minutes, so I decided to go straight to the hostel in Ximen. Sue enough, he had been waiting on the ground level of the station and after me not showing up he was back at the hostel now too.
The first night in Taipei we met up with Bond’s friend Helen and went to Shilin night market. I was looking for a new cap, having lost mine a few days earlier at the club in Shanghai. I managed to find one for 400NTD (approx. $18).
The next day Helen took us to a natural hot spring in Yangminshan. It was awesome. The hot spring took us 2 hours on a bus and 30 minutes waking to get to. It has a cold temperature waterfall and a hot spring stream alongside each other, which mix in a series of pools, creating pools of all different temperatures to relax in. The photos I took really don’t do it justice, because there’s so much steam around in fogged up the lens, but it is a really cool spot, and perhaps only 20 other people there. After a few hours at the hot spring we got the two hour bus back to Taipei.
On the 29th October, Bond and I were looking for something to do for the day, and we heard there was a gay pride march on in the city. We decided to go check it out, not sure what to expect, and ended up marching in it! Taiwan is surprisingly progressive and likely to become the first Asian country to legalise gay marriage (its currently in parliament), even before Australia.
Bond, Helen and I decided to rent a car for Monday and Tuesday and drive to Alishan. Being the only one with an international license, I was stuck as the only driver, and having never driven on the right side of the road, I now had to drive us out of Taipei!
I was extremely nervous driving on the right side, it was a huge adjustment to have to do everything in the opposite manner, and I had a habit of sitting a little too wide in the lane which kept Bond and Helen scared. After a few hours driving on the highway I felt a bit more comfortable, then we arrived at Alishan and it was another hours drive up the mountain to our hotel.
After arriving at the hotel we went down to a little mountain village to buy train tickets for the Alpine Railway up the mountain. The Alpine Railway departs at around 5am, so we had to wake up at 3.30am and drive to the departure station in the Alishan Scenic Area to catch the 30 minute train to the lookout area for sunrise. The sunrise was nice, but not as colourful as I was expecting. I think it’s a balancing act between a little cloud to scatter the light, and not too much cloud that you can’t see the sun.
After an hour or two in the lookout area, we hiked around Alishan and even along some old railway tracks, before heading back to the car and driving back to the hotel. We were considering going to a tea plantation, but I was way too tired to drive anywhere, and all three of us ended up sleeping in the car for two hours solid.
I felt ok to drive after this nap, and rather than go to a tea plantation we agreed to drive through the mountains to Sun Moon Lake, about 3 hours away. It was an amazing drive, above the clouds for the first hour or two.
The road from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake is actually closed after 4pm because the clouds decrease visibility to the point that it is dangerous. We reached this road at about 3pm, so were cutting it fine and after the first part above the clouds, we were plunged into them where visibility was literally down to 10 metres. I had to drive about 20km/hr and with hazard lights on for most of this part of the trip.
Finally we arrived at Sun Moon Lake, but it was already dark and 6pm so couldn’t see much. So after an hour there we continued back to Taipei, arriving at 10pm, and again, having to navigate through this city.
On 2nd November, my friend Matt who I met in Shanghai arrived in Taipei, the day before Bond was leaving. After a final night out together with Bond, Matt and I decided to go hitchhiking all around Taiwan the next day.