Taiwan | Tainan • Nantou • Taichung

22 January 2019



台南 | 南投 | 台中

If you have read Part I, you will find out how much I enjoyed my stay in Kaohsiung and Kenting. They both are very laid back cities and quiet most of the time, probably due to the off-peak season in December. After spending a few days in this part of Taiwan, we moved up north to Tainan, followed by Nantou and Taichung. This is when we started to feel the contrast between cities in Taiwan.

Travel Period: December 18, 2018 - January 3, 2019


    Weather in Tainan, Nantou and Taichung were quite similar when we were there. Basically all the way from Kenting to Nantou, the weather was great for us. It was generally 20+ degree Celcius and only a little chilly at night, which wasn't 'cold' in my opinion.

    Up in the mountain in Qingjing Farm 清境農場 and Aowanda National Park 奧萬大, it was a few degree Celcius colder but nothing unbearable. I actually expected it to be really cold up there but it was not. My heat-tech inner layer and hosiery were in fact too much for that weather. They made me sweat and I had to remove them eventually.

    It was colder in Taichung when I was there. On the first evening we arrived in Taichung, it was drizzling and chilly. At the flower field we went to in Taichung, it was extremely windy thus could be colder. You need a proper jacket here.


    Compared to Kaohsiung, Taichung and Taipei, public transportation in Tainan actually needs a lot more improvement. Train is not common in Tainan, thus the next best public transportation option would be the bus. However, buses in Tainan do not come on time and I was told by a local that she does not use buses in Tainan at all, because they are not reliable.

    I should have done more research about buses in Tainan. We wasted a lot of time waiting for bus in Tainan, which caused us undesirable plan changes. We eventually had to take taxis to get around, which is not the most cost effective. I would advise you to ride an electric scooter in Tainan, but not to drive a car. Traffic in Tainan is hectic and their roads are relatively narrow.

    Nantou & Taichung: Since most of the places of interest are all far apart, it would make more sense for you to drive or hire a driver. As we wanted to have more freedom and flexibility, we opted to rent a car from a rental shop in Taichung - Yuanbin Rental 遠賓租車公司. The best part is, they provide free pick-up and drop-off at the airport and THSR station. They are affordable, and their cars are really new too.


    Day 1 - 3:  Part I - Kaohsiung & Kenting

    Day 4:
    Kenting to Tainan (via Kaohsiung)
    Accommodation: Famous Hotel

    Day 5:
    Sicao Green Tunnel 四草綠色隧道  ➡  Anping Tree House 安平樹屋  ➡  Anping Old Street 安平老街  ➡  Chimei Museum 奇美博物館  ➡  Garden Night Market 花園夜市
    Accommodation: Famous Hotel

    Day 6:
    Yongle Market 永樂市場  ➡  Chihkan Tower 赤崁樓  ➡  Tainan to Taichung  ➡  Car collection   ➡  Taichung to Nantou
    Accommodation: Joint Apartment Hotel

    Day 7:
    Qingjing Farm 清境農場  ➡  Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area 奧萬大 國家森林遊樂區
    Accommodation: Joint Apartment Hotel

    Day 8:
    Houtanjing Sky Bridge 猴探井天空之橋  ➡  Sun Moon Lake 日月潭  ➡  Nantou to Taichung
    Accommodation: Mini Hotels (Taichung Station)

    Day 9:
    Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村  ➡  Gaomei Wetlands 高美濕地
    Accommodation: Mini Hotels (Taichung Station)

    Day 10:
    Zhongshe Flower Market 中社觀光花市  ➡  Car return  ➡  Taichung to Taipei
    Accommodation: Airbnb next to Qizhang MRT


    DAY 4

    Kenting to Tainan (via Kaohsiung)

    From Kaohsiung, we took the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) 高鐵 to Tainan. Keep in mind that Tainan THSR station is not the same as Tainan Station. After reaching Tainan THSR station, in order to take the train (TRA), we needed to walk to the next building, which is called Shalun station 沙崙站 to go to Tainan Station 台南車站.

    Since Tainan station is the central stop, upon reaching, we immediately felt the culture shock. It was so crowded and hectic everywhere! Hurrying transiting crowd, well-dressed youngsters, fashion related shops, busy streets, old buildings, tons of scooters and motorcycles, narrow roads, a lot of eateries, and all kinds of unknown (food?) funny smells coming from every corner.

    From Tainan station, we dragged our luggages and walked 1.8 km to the hotel. A good thing about walking in Tainan (city centre) is that you will not feel bored at all as it is quite happening everywhere.

    Famous Hotel 名世大飯店

    Finally we arrived at the hotel. To our shock, the hotel rooms are like straight out of the 60s, even the smell! Our room was so tiny. All the furnishings (bed, table, chairs, side table lamp, tv, even the kettle) are like from my grandpa's era. Shibby commented that the dim toilet looked like a horror movie scene. We were not impressed at all especially after comparing it with our marvelous stays in those two Kenting hotels.

    I seriously don't remember the hotel I booked looked anything like this on the booking website. Out of disappointment, Shibby suggested to change to a different hotel the next day (yes we booked here for 2 nights). I was tempted to but I didn't think it was necessary as we would be out most of the time, so we agreed to remain staying here.

    He didn't look quite happy upon entering the room. LOL.

    That window is facing a backlane and a temple. We had to keep the curtains closed all the time since we were on the 2nd floor.

    DAY 5

    Sicao Green Tunnel 四草綠色隧道  ➡  Anping Tree House 安平樹屋  ➡  Anping Old Street 安平老街  ➡  Chimei Museum 奇美博物館  ➡  Garden Night Market 花園夜市

    Well, at least we managed to go to bed. Given the price (RM 150/night) which is considerably cheap in Tainan, we shouldn't be expecting much. We were trying to get used to it and hoping that time would pass quickly so we could move on to the next hotel as soon as possible.

    One good thing about this hotel is that, all the hotel staff were really nice and friendly. We had our breakfast in the hotel, which was a buffet style with limited choices - porridge, buns, and a few Chinese vegetable dishes. It was acceptable for us, and Shibby actually quite enjoyed it.

    A lot of artistic old streets in Tainan

    Tainan Pass 台南好玩卡

    After breakfast, we began our sightseeing journey. With the Tainan Pass 台南好玩卡 provided by Taiwan Tourism Bureau, I decided to make good use of the free bus rides that come together with the pass. To make it clearer, this pass gives you:

    • 1-day unlimited Tainan city bus rides 台南市區公車 1日劵
    • 2 Tainan historical sites out of 4 choices 台南古蹟 4 選 2 - Anping Fort 安平古堡, Anping Tree House 安平樹屋, Fort Provintia 赤崁樓, Eternal Golden Castle 億載金城
    • Chimei Museum tickets 奇美博物館雙展套票
    • Ten Drum Culture ticket 十鼓星光票
    • Chimei Happiness Factory ticket 奇美食品幸福工廠門票
    • 2 Tainan souvenirs out of 14 choices

    Tainan Pass 台南好玩卡

    Tainan City Bus & Tourist Shuttle 台南市區公車 & 台灣好行

    Our hotel in fact has a really good location not far from Fort Provintia 赤崁樓, where we waited for Bus 99. The bus would bring us right to our first destination - Sicao Green Tunnel. But guess what, we waited for 1.5 hours until the bus finally came! You wouldn't believe the long line of queue and the amount of tourists waiting under the sun - all got so frustrated and whining about the late bus. Why did they even provide the bus time table when the bus was late for an hour?

    It was already almost noon time and our plan got delayed. I was actually kind of worried about the list of places we needed to go since we did not have much time in Tainan. Judging from the bus performance in Tainan like this, we had to be ready to change plan.

    Sicao Green Tunnel 四草綠色隧道

    To get to Sicao Green Tunnel, we waited for Bus 99 Taijiang Shuttle Bus 台江線. The stop you should get off at is Sicao Eco-culture Area (Dajhong Temple) 四草生態文化園區 (大眾廟). This is also where most people will get off. Upon reaching, you will see a big temple. 

    Dajhong Temple 大眾廟
    Boat ticket counter

    Next to the temple, you will find a counter where you can buy tickets for

    • Green Tunnel raft ride 綠色隧道竹筏 (30 minutes)
    • Taijiang Sightseeing cruise 台江觀光船 (70 minutes)
    These two are different. If you want to see the Green Tunnel, you have to buy your tickets from the left counter. An adult ticket costs 200 NT$.

    When we got there, all the staff were on lunch break. They would only resume operation and start selling tickets at 12:10 pm, that means another wait of half an hour. This time, you will see some kia-su (afraid of losing out) tourists lining up at the counter, even though they were being told off not to queue so soon.

    Some smart ones were sitting in the air-conditioned waiting area. Why smart? Because this is where you will queue and wait to get on the boat! Whoever queues here first will get on first (provided you have your tickets ready). So a good way to do this is, send one of your members to queue for the ticket while the rest of you queue at the waiting area. You will reduce the waiting time!

    While waiting, we decided to walk around (not that smart). But it was just too sunny and warm to stay out too long.

    10 minutes before the counter was open, I made Shibby queue up for the ticket while I queued in the waiting area. In the waiting area, they will play a video showing instructions about safety and life vest.

    The raft will depart when there are enough people. It's best to be one of the first few to get on so you get to choose your preferred seat. All the best seats had been grabbed. Usually people will try to grab the first few front-facing rows, but I personally would choose the back-facing seats where you get to see the same view but feel less stressed about taking pictures. Unfortunately we were the last one to get on for the first round of departure, so I couldn't get any unobstructed views. I saw heads instead of the trees.

    Before getting on the raft, you need to put on your life vest. On the raft, you will be provided small stools to sit on.

    This spot is actually famous for its mangrove forest on either side extending over the water to form a tunnel. It's especially captivating with the reflection of the green leaves. Some people even call it "Little Amazon River", even though I didn't think it was as beautiful as the nickname sounds.

    The canal is about 750 m long and you will see a lot of crabs on either side of the swamp. There will be a navigator and a guide to explain about its nature reserve in Mandarin. If you don't understand Chinese, it may be more difficult for you.

    Watch out for the low tree branches as the raft glides along the mangrove swamp. The navigator was so nice she would tried her best to slow down and tilt the raft so people could take more pictures.

    Anping Tree House 安平樹屋

    After we were done with the raft ride, we waited for the same Bus 99 to go to Anping Tree House. This time it was better, only late for 20 minutes. *sigh

    This was not in our plan originally, but because we didn't know where to stop at (with Bus 99), we spontaneously decided to stop around Anping. And since I had the Tainan Pass which could give me a free ticket to enter Anping Tree House, I thought it was a good idea to explore. I was expecting to spend probably 15 minutes inside, but who knew it was so beautiful inside.

    Anping Tree House is not what you imagine when you hear 'tree house'. It was once the warehouse of the Tait & Company 德記洋行 more than a century ago, which is now a popular landmark in the old city of Tainan. Here you will find giant banyan trees which took over the abandoned building after years of neglect. Having been overgrown with tree roots for the past century, this old warehouse was once thought of as a creepy place, but not anymore. Today, Anping Tree House retains the feeling of an ancient ruin and serves as a delight for urban explorers and photographers alike.

    From the outside, you will not be able to tell how fascinating the sight is behind the building. The area is big enough for you to explore and spend a few hours here. Everything is in Mandarin and English here, good thing for foreigners!

    An adult ticket costs 50 NT$.

    Anping Old Street 安平老街

    Time to hunt for food! From Anping Tree House, we took a walk to the old street where we found a lot of eateries and stalls here. Totally didn't expect this. *yay

    So we randomly tried out food and had lunch in one of the restaurants. I remember asking the owner what their menu options mean (in Mandarin).

    Me: What is 肉燥飯 (rou zao fan)?
    Owner: Uhh.. rice with some minced meat and sauce.
    Me: Oh like 滷肉飯 (lu rou fan)?
    Owner: Yes yes!
    Me: And what is 棺材 (guan cai fan)?
    Owner: ... You mean 棺材 (guan cai ban)?
    Me: *burst into laughter* sorry my Mandarin is bad.

    After checking with a Taiwanese friend, I later found out that 肉燥飯 has the same meaning as 滷肉飯. It's just that people from southern Taiwan call it the former, and the people from northern Taiwan call is the latter.

    And because I'm not used to traditional Chinese, I got confused with the characters 板 and 飯 for a second. Embarrassing. 

    Fried quail eggs with prawns

    Taiwanese minced meat rice 肉燥飯

    We actually wanted to go to Anping Old Fort 安平古堡 because we had a free ticket for one more historical site. But it was sunset soon and I really wanted to visit Chimei Museum, so we decided to head there instead. Now we were faced with the biggest problem - how do we get there? We tried looking for buses online and asking around, but getting there proved to be more complicated than I thought it would be, considering how touristy Tainan is! As the sun was setting soon, we had no alternative but to give in to the idea of taking a cab (usually never my choice when I travel). At this point, I felt completely let down by the public transportation in Tainan, which led to my conclusion that renting a scooter would be the best way to get around Tainan.

    Chimei Museum 奇美博物館

    In the end the taxi cost us 390 NT$ to get to Chimei Museum. Coincidentally, there was a Christmas event happening at the museum. Thanks to our complimentary tickets that came together with the Tainan Pass, we were able to get in for free again!

    The place was full of families and youngsters wearing Christmas hats. There was a huge Christmas tree in the middle with Christmas carols playing in the background. That really put us in the festive mood.

    Inside the museum, I was struck by the elegant ancient Greek style architecture. I really enjoyed the Natural History exhibition which showcased different types of life-sized animals across different periods of time. Unfortunately no pictures and recordings were allowed in the exhibit.

    Shibby was so engrossed in the Historic Weapons exhibit, but I was too tired and uninterested so I sat outside and waited lol.

    In fact this is a very interesting museum I wish I had more energy to explore more. Make sure to check this place out if you have time, but plan your transportation ahead as it's located far from the city center.

    Garden Night Market 花園夜市

    It was getting late and we were starving. From Chimei Museum, we naturally walked towards the exit where a line of taxis were waiting for us.

    This night market is only open during weekends. As Tainan is famous for its food, going to its biggest night market is a no brainer! We were so excited and our expectation of good food was building up during the cab ride already.

    We were welcomed with throngs of people and the smell of street food everywhere! It was indeed difficult to get around and stop for food as there were simply too many people.

    We circled around the place a few times and decided to get Taiwanese sausages (大腸小腸), beef soup, oyster omelette, guavas, and animal shaped egg pancakes (剪刀雞蛋糕) which tasted exactly like kuih bahulu in Malaysia.

    The sausages were recommended on the internet and there was a long queue that night, but we did not find them special to be honest. I liked the guavas though!

    Egg pancakes 雞蛋糕 which tasted like kuih bahulu

    Stinky tofu that we could not finish at all

    The highlight of the evening was probably the stinky tofu, which we had not tried before. To 'complete' our Taiwan trip, we took the courage to put it in our mouths for the first time! I had always been reluctant to get near this 'exotic' dish because of its pungent smell. Like everyone else says, it will actually taste good in your mouth if you can get past the smell. I believed it. After ordering the smallest portion of stinky tofu, we took turns to take a bite and waited for that promised reaction. But that never came.

    I tried but I could not even finish a single piece. I still did not like it. Shamefully we had to abandon the barely touched tofu and leave. At the end of the night, we left the night market feeling unsatisfied.

    Probably we expected too much.

    Loved the DIY black tea with fresh milk 自己來紅茶鮮乳. The fresh milk made it taste so good!

    DAY 6

    Yongle Market 永樂市場  ➡  Chihkan Tower 赤崁樓  ➡  Tainan to Taichung  ➡  Car collection   ➡  Taichung to Nantou

    Finally checking out of the Famous Hotel!

    The night before, I received some local food recommendations from a kind Tainan follower. She gave me a long list of food and desserts that I should try in Tainan, which made me decide to give up the free hotel breakfast.

    My original plan today was to visit the Crystal Church 水晶教堂 before heading to Taichung. But as it's located really far from town and less accessible with public transportation, I decided to cancel my plan of going there and just stay in Tainan to see and explore more (I felt like I had not seen enough as I know Tainan has a lot to offer and it's my sister's and many friends' favourite city in Taiwan).

    YongLe Market 永樂市場

    In the morning after checking out, we walked to Yongle Market and I was pleasantly surprised by the intense local market culture. It was busy with many grocery shops and eateries, full of motorcycles and local people who were there for breakfast and groceries.

    So this is where the local people come for food!

    YongLe Market 永樂市場

    Referring to the list provided by my Taiwanese follower, I came to this shop called 阿松割包 which sells pork buns. I ordered a pork tongue bun 豬舌包, which is their specialty and a standard bun 普通包. Surprisingly, as a first timer for pork tongue, I thought it tasted better than the standard bun. It tasted like a bun with pork and peanut sauce (I don't know what sauce they used), but Shibby wasn't impressed with the taste.

    There was a very long line forming when we were eating. Obviously it's a very famous shop.

    Pork tongue bun 豬舌包 and standard pork bun 普通包

    Next, we moved on to this spring roll shop 金得春捲 which is just opposite the bun shop. It's also highly recommended by my follower. While waiting in line, you can see them making fresh wraps right on the spot. We ordered one and its size is at least double or triple the size of spring rolls in Malaysia! There were so many ingredients packed in one roll! It tasted quite good but I personally didn't fancy the sugar they added in it. I thought it would have tasted better without sugar. Then it occurred to me that people in Tainan indeed like sweet food, which is different from food in Malaysia and Singapore, where most people prefer their food salty.

    As we were walking back, we randomly stopped by a beancurd stall. I ordered a bowl of warm beancurd with ginger, and I really loved the mashed sweet potatoes in it!

    Next, we really wanted to try out this dessert place which came highly recommended. Little did we know we had to walk 1.7 km to get there. The walk wasn't difficult with the help of Google Maps and it was interesting to explore Tainan on foot. Finally we saw the shop signage 太陽牌 from a distance and our pace quickened.

    We immediately ordered their signature dessert - 紅豆牛乳霜 red bean shaved ice with milk. At first, it tasted good and refreshing, but after a few more mouthfuls, we realized it was WAY TOO SWEET for our liking. It's basically a bowl of shaved ice mixed with condensed milk inside, and topped up with red bean and EXTRA serving of condensed milk. It's double the sweetness of normal shaved ice dessert that I usually have in Malaysia.

    Looking around us, we saw many people having the same dessert and we were wondering how they could finish one bowl each themselves, while we were both struggling to finish just one bowl!

    It's now proven to me that people in Tainan love their food sweet. If you like sweet food and dishes, you will love it here.

    Fort Provintia (Chikan Tower) 赤崁樓

    Since we had more time to spare, I was thinking why not we visit this important landmark of Tainan - Chikan Tower 赤崁樓. Since we had one more free ticket for a historical site, and it would be convenient for us to head back to the Famous Hotel from here to collect our luggages, we decided to spend our time here for a while before heading to Taichung.

    This fort was originally built by Dutch, but it was gradually transformed to the Chinese pavilions as we can see today. An adult entrance ticket costs 50 NT$. There should be just enough English words in the displays for you to get a good sense of what the history of this complex is all about. Not everything has an English version, but many boards and such do.

    Chikan Tower 赤崁樓 (not Chicken Tower as Shibby likes to call it)

    Tainan to Taichung

    After collecting our luggages from the hotel, AGAIN we had to walk to Tainan Station 台南車站. Another 1.7 km with our heavy bags. To get on the THSR 高鐵, we first had to take the train to Shalun station 沙崙站.

    As we had pre-booked our THSR rides on Klook, we just had to show our mobile voucher at the Advanced Purchase counter to exchange for our tickets. You will be asked to choose your preferred departure time and seats. Again, you need to display your passport and ticket to the staff in order to go through the gate. Taiwan High Speed Rail departs is very punctual and departs exactly on time, so please do not be late!

    As soon as we got off in Taichung, we could immediately feel the difference in temperature! It was cold and raining, very different from our past week in Taiwan.

    Yuan Bin Car Rental 遠賓租車

    For the next leg of our journey, we had arranged to rent a car from Yuan Bin Car Rental 遠賓租車. What I like about them is that they provide free pick-ups and drop-offs at the Taichung Airport and Taichung THSR station! 

    Before reaching Taichung, we had made arrangements to be picked up at Meeting Point 4. Communication with them was very good and they kept us informed at all times.

    At the office of Yuan Bin Car Rental, we were shown to our car (Toyota New Vios) and the owner was VERY detailed and patient in explaining the terms of our contract. He was also very careful and made sure we were aware of every little scratch and dent on the car even though the car was very new and perfect to my eyes.

    If you plan to rent a car from them, you can contact them through Facebook Messenger, LINE or WeChat. They will require you to provide some basic passport and credit card information to secure your booking. If you are a foreigner, make sure you have your international driving license ready!

    It is highly recommended to drive in Taichung and Nantou as most tourist spots are far and isolated. You can also hire a driver but it would be more expensive and less flexible due to booking constraints (drivers are usually booked only on 4 hours or 8 hours basis per day).

    It's also easier to drive here as roads are spacious, highways are big and there's less traffic compared to Tainan and Taipei.

    Taichung to Nantou

    Now time to go to Nantou 南投 as we would be staying there for the next 2 days. The drive to Nantou took only an hour in heavy rain. Enroute to our hotel, we stopped by McDonald's for dinner. I ordered  a beef salmon burger and Shibby got a pork burger. They were both SO DELICIOUS I wanted to cry. The bun, the patties, the sauce, the crispiness, the texture and every taste of it, made me feel so happy and wonder why we can't have this kind of McDonald's burgers in Malaysia! This was one of the best meals we had in Taiwan so far, lol!

    McDonald's pork burgers!

    Later, we checked in to an apartment hotel called Joint Hotel (Joint 體驗館). It was very new, clean, spacious, and had a washing machine and water dispenser right in front of our door. We were so happy that we didn't have to stay in Famous Hotel anymore haha.

    DAY 7

    Qingjing Farm 清境農場  ➡  Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area 奧萬大 國家森林遊樂區

    Good morning Nantou! After googling for breakfast options, we randomly came across a shop in Nantou city. The vibes I got from here were similar to Tainan, except that Nantou is more laid back and less hectic. There were also less people here.

    The shop we wanted to go for breakfast was sadly closed. So we randomly entered a dumpling shop that was close by, called 傻師傅湯包. Even though we were the only customers at the shop, the food was good and it was satisfying to have hot rice, noodles and dumplings in the morning.

    Nantou city center

    Driving up to Qingjing Farm

    Now it's time to go to Qingjing Farm! It was a beautiful 1.5 hour drive in the countryside of Nantou. I loved the peaceful sceneries which are perfect for self-drive road trips. Our car was good that its windows are well tinted to block the sunlight and keep the car cool. We could comfortably enjoy the view along the way even though it was so sunny and warm outside!

    Well tinted windows!

    Very clean car interior

    Love those layers of mountains!

    Some people choose to stay in Qingjing Farm itself. Some stay in Sun Moon Lake. They are all far apart and it's up to you where do you prefer to be based in. I did not do research well enough and that's why I ended up staying in Nantou city, but it still wasn't a bad choice!

    The drive up to Qingjing farm is 30 km of winding roads so you have to be careful.

    Long winding roads ahead

    Enroute to the farm, I unexpectedly spotted autumn leaves not far from the Old England Manor 老英格蘭莊園. Having passed by already, I begged Shibs to turn back so I could see more and take pictures. See, this is a good thing about self-driving!

    I am not too sure what this place was, probably a Bread and Breakfast or a restaurant. But I was totally mesmerized by these fall colours!

    To be honest, I thought it would be freezing up here in the mountain like everyone else had told me. In reality, I was actually sweating so much from the heat-tech layer and hosiery I was wearing. I had to eventually remove them.

    Qingjing Farm 清境農場

    After parking in the open car park in front of the farm, we queued up to buy tickets which cost us 160 NT$ each.

    I felt like at least half of the tourists here were from Singapore and Malaysia. This is also where I got spotted by a nice Malaysian follower lol. 

    From the top of Green Green Grassland, you get to see a nice panoramic view of the entire place. It's nice to take a stroll and interact with the free roaming sheeps. Usually you will get to buy food and feed the sheep. Sadly no food was available at all when we were there. That made it difficult for us to get close and interact with sheep as they would run away as humans go closer (unless you have food to feed them).


    Christmas' Eve in Qingjing Farm!

    Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area 奧萬大 國家森林遊樂

    We were actually contemplating if going to Aowanda was worth it as it was getting dark soon and the drive would be a long one. But we didn't want to miss the opportunity since we were already here.

    Please be careful when you drive to Aowanda because the roads are very narrow and winding! Some parts are only passable with one car at a time. We were driving along Wan-ta reservoir and the mountain views were beautiful!

    Narrow roads going to Aowanda

    Stopping to enjoy the view along the way

    It was actually closing soon when we got there, but we still paid 300 NT$ in total to drive in. It's 100 NT$ per person, and 100 NT$ per car.

    I expected to see a lot of maple trees and autumn leaves as this park is famous for that. However I was left disappointed because the season was over. We also could not explore much as the sun was already setting. Now that I've experienced it myself, I would really suggest you to allocate a full day to explore this huge national park and visit the famous Aowanda suspension bridge 奧萬大吊橋 (a lot of hiking to get there).

    No maple trees, but still beautiful! 
    *insert a Korean drama soundtrack*

    Back to Nantou city

    Can't believe we made it back to Nantou safely as the drive back from Aowanda was far more dangerous - dark winding narrow roads with no street lights for majority of the way. You really have to concentrate when driving!

    This time I was starving and craving for hotpot, so I went online and did research. We decided on this shop called 五路鍋聖 (南投店). They serve individual hotpots with different soup flavours and ingredients in them. As a first timer, I was rather clueless and ordered two pots, plus a few portions of meat and vegetables. Shibby was even more clueless and had to agree with whatever I decided on as he couldn't read Chinese.

    Holy Moly, when the food came we were shocked. The pots already had so much food inside (which we didn't know) and we still ordered extra! The boss must be thinking that we had not eaten for 2 months haha!

    The more important thing is, the food was awesome! There were so many ingredients in every hotpot, and they even provided unlimited rice, drinks and ice cream with cones! AND it was cheap. One pot starts from only 110 NT$!

    Unlimited rice, drinks and ice cream!

    DAY 8 - Christmas

    Houtanjing Sky Bridge 猴探井天空之橋  ➡  Sun Moon Lake 日月潭  ➡  Nantou to Taichung

    Houtanjing Sky Bridge 猴探井天空之橋 

    Today we checked out from our hotel in Nantou as we would be heading to Taichung later. Originally, I wanted to go to the Bamboo Sky Ladder 竹山天梯, but we later found out that it would need a 1.5 hour hike to get to the bridge itself. Since we did not have that much time, we changed our plan to go to Houtanjing Sky Bridge instead. 

    Beware that there are multiple parking areas in Houtanjing. There is even one right next to the entrance. Please do not be fooled by the people holding signs and directing you to the first carpark. The charge is the same for all carparks at 50 NT$ per entry.

    When we got there, it was quiet and nice with not many tourists. I happily ran towards the middle of the bridge, only to find out that Shibby was standing still at the start of the bridge looking stressed. I almost forgot that he had a severe fear of height - he was paralyzed and cold sweating. I tried to encourage him to 'conquer' his fear but he would not move at all.

    After 15 minutes of trying, I was so happy that he eventually managed to cross the bridge to and fro successfully! Good job that he even took stable shots of me in the middle of the bridge. *claps

    When he blacked out

    View from the bridge

    Sun Moon Lake 日月潭

    We then drove to Sun Moon Lake, the top tourist attraction in Taiwan! The drive was around 1.5 hours. When we got there, it was around 4 pm, which was getting dark soon. That's the disadvantage when you travel in winter - short daytime and seeing less things. 

    It's really hard to find a free parking spot in Sun Moon Lake, as it's a very touristy area. There are many bike shops around and you will find a lot of business owners flagging for your attention as you drive by to offer you free parking if you rent from their shops.

    We agreed to rent from a lady that approached us. She led us through a back alley to park our car. We were charged 200 NT$ for a bicycle for 2 hours (not sure what the market rate is).

    Despite the gloomy weather, it was still so peaceful to cycle along the lake listening to Christmas songs playing on my phone. I could see why people love it here so much now. I couldn't ask for more on this Christmas day.

    Christmas like this

    We had dinner at another random restaurant in the main street of Sun Moon Lake. As everyone says it's a must to try 奇力魚 in Sun Moon Lake, we ordered one to try. It's a small fish that is fried to a crisp such that you can eat the whole fish including its bones.

    It was our most expensive meal in Taiwan. Well, it was no surprise to us as this is a very touristy area.

    Fried 奇力魚

    Later on, we drove back to Taichung and checked in to MINI Hotels, which is right next to Taichung station.

    Literally what the name means - MINI and tiny

    DAY 9

    Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村  ➡  Gaomei Wetlands 高美濕地

    Next to our hotel is an amazing place for breakfast. Shibby found it on Google Maps and since they had good ratings, we decided to check them out. And boy were we glad we did! The shop doesn't have a name but their buns were crazy delicious! 

    We ordered 湯包 (a meat bun with soup inside like a bigger version of xiao long bao), 蛋餅 (egg pancake rolls) and 蔥花蛋 (Chinese omelette). You can help yourself with their hot and cold soy milk, they are very fresh! Everything was so good Mr Shibby had to go for seconds. It feels so nice and comforting to have a nice breakfast in the morning!

    Look this up on Google Maps if you want to try: 信義街無名湯包 (天津苟不理湯包)

    From left to right: 蛋餅, 湯包, 蔥花蛋 and soy milk

    How the breakfast shop looks like

    Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村

    Rainbow village is a distinctively colourful block of houses that resulted from a 90+ year old man's efforts to save them from demolition. Mr Huang Yung-Fu stared painting his home out of boredom and his artwork grew from there. You can learn more about his beautiful and touching story over there. If you are lucky you can manage to meet Mr Huang and catch him in action. It now receives over a million visitors a year and has been become one of the must see places on instagram.

    It was packed when we went there in the early afternoon. Luckily we managed to find some nice corners that were less crowded. 

    For your information, it's not easy to access this place by public transportation. So again, it's wise to rent a car in Taichung.

    Gaomei Wetland 高美濕地

    The sky was getting really really gloomy as we were driving to Gaomei. It's a very touristy area and you will find a lot of people selling their parking spots around here. But being cheapskate myself, we eventually parked illegally outside a kindergarten for free. Do not judge us as many other people were parking there too haha. 

    After checking out the place, we noticed that the famous elevated walkway into the wetland was closed until 4 pm. We had an hour to spend so we walked around looking for snacks and coffee. This is when I introduced Shibby to 地瓜球 (sweet potato balls) and he got addicted to it right away (he was literally calling out for it for the rest of our time in Taiwan)!

    Gradually as we got closer to 4 pm, we started seeing A LOT of people turn up waiting for the gate to open. We saw tourists reaching bus by bus. As the gate opened, it was like releasing a pack of hungry wolves into the wild. Everyone was jostling to be the first onto the bridge. The amount of people was crazy!

    Tourists everywhere. Notice the gloomy sky.

    Don't be fooled by the pictures I took. It was actually freezing and extremely windy! You have to be really careful while walking on the elevated path especially when it's crowded as you might be pushed or blown by the wind into the water.

    The elevated pathway is actually longer than you expect and some people give up halfway also partly due to the cold. Persevere and stay to the end and an amazing sunset awaits. Luckily for us, the sky started to clear as we approached sunset. It was breathtaking!

    Some people went into the water for that reflection shots, but it was too cold for me I would rather not get my feet wet.

    Keep a lookout for the abundant wildlife such as crabs, mudskipper and birds as you walk the bridge.

    Sky started to clear closer to sunset

    Not knowing what to have for dinner, we went to a random Italian restaurant near our hotel. Little did we know that it was the worst choice ever. We ordered a pasta that tasted like a bland soup noodle, and a pizza that tasted like desserts. Guess we should just stick with Taiwanese food then.

    DAY 10

    Zhongshe Flower Market 中社觀光花市  ➡  Car return  ➡  Taichung to Taipei

    This morning we had the same breakfast again because it was too good! The shop ladies recognized us and they were so happy that we returned. While ordering food, they started a friendly conversation by asking us where we are from, how long we stayed in Taiwan, did we like Taiwan or not, etc. They kept complimenting that Shibby speaks good Mandarin (Shibby had been getting a lot of stares in Taiwan probably due to his non-Chinese face) haha. Then the lady kept offering me to take pictures of her buns, lol.

    It's actually the most enjoyable breakfast we had in Taiwan.

    You MUST use this special sauce it's so yummy!!

    Zhongshe Flower Market 中社花市

    I had been wanting to visit a flower field. Before the trip, I tried my luck by doing research on the internet to find flower fields in Taiwan that will have nice blooms at the end of December. I was lucky to be able to find Zhongshe Flower Market in full bloom when I was there. It was also the first day they launched its tulips exhibition, which will last until March 2019.

    There were so many different types of flowers in every colour imaginable! I was completely mesmerized. One thing we were not prepared for, is how windy it was that day. It was extremely difficult to take pictures under such windy conditions! Luckily my photographer was very patient, haha!

    Maybe because of the strong wind blowing at that time, it was weird that there was no fragrant smell of flowers at all.

    I'm happy that the pictures I took here have received a lot of positive responses from people on Instagram. Many of you have told me you would love to visit this flower market. I'm sure you won't be disappointed by this place! Totally instagram-worthy.

    The entrance ticket is 120 NT$ per person. There's a free parking here.

    That's not a real piano though

    Taichung to Taipei

    We were sad to finally have to return our trusty companion for the last 4 days. The return procedure was simple and straight forward. Yuanbin Car Rental had a quick check of the car for petrol level and damages, then the owner was kind to drop us off at Taichung THSR station for our high speed rail to Taipei. Before leaving, the owner repeatedly reminded us to check the car thoroughly in case we left anything behind. To my pleasant surprise, I found my lost earring under the front passenger seat! *cry

    It was really convenient that we booked our THSR ride on Klook beforehand. It was also cheaper than the official rate! Check out their website for all kinds of attractions, activities, transport options, and even sim cards to plan your travels. 

    Taiwan High Speed Rail to Taipei

    The ride to Taipei took only an hour. However the weather wasn't kind to us when we arrived. Here's the beginning of my challenging journey in Taipei.

    Read my next post about Taipei and Beitou!

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