This last week, my Dad spent time traveling through the more rural parts of Taiwan. Here are his notes and photos.
January 26 – Drove the Cross Island Highway on our way into the Taipingshan Forest. I was navigator and Dad drives like he is still in San Diego (fast). We made a few wrong turns but nothing big — all signs are in Chinese (we are in Taiwan), duh. I followed the numbers as best I could, but we had to stop at a 7-11 to get directions. I was actually able to half way talk to them after all these years — My Chinese came back to me fast. We stopped at Chiang Kai Shek's tomb and spent about 1 hour touring the grounds — had to give the required bow at the tomb. From there the road became narrow and windy with a cliff on one side. Very scenic drive, but Dad was on a mission and was driving faster than most tourists would — he said we were not tourists, but locals. Our hotel is located at Taipingshan Forest up high and very rustic. Checked in and were told to go up 4 flights of stairs to our room. No bell hops here. Hiked to the dinner hall thinking it would be warm there. Wrong. Very cold with no heat. Had to eat very fast.
January 27 – Had rice and salad for breakfast — most food offered looked nasty. We then went up to the Bong Bong train station… a narrow gage train that took us about 3km to some hiking trails. First trail was 1.6km each way along an old railway track — nice hike. Took about 2 hours to round trip the trail, by then it was noon and we decided to to go on a hike to a waterfall. This one was 3km each way. We started down the trail — and I mean downnnn the trail — very steep with lots of steps. We thought it would flatten out after a while, but the trail got steeper the further we went down . There was no turning Dad around — I tried a couple of times and he just kept walking down. Near the bottom the trail became extremely steep like a ladder. We kept going. We arrived at the waterfall in about 2 hours, and they say that it takes twice as long to get back. By then it was 2pm and the last train back to the hotel was at 5pm. We had 3 hours to to get back up 3km of very steep trail that mostly consisted of steps. I was worried that Dad would have a hard time getting back, but he was a trooper. It took 2.5 hours to return to the station — I was very impressed with Dad. After a 20 minute ride back to the hotel and down about 100 steps to our room we hoped that the heat would be on when we got there (they only turn the heat on at night). It was on. We changed our wet clothes, lounged, and skipped dinner (too tired and too cold to hike the 100 steps to the dining hall). Went to bed early.
January 28 – Got up early and it was freezing outside — I could tell by the icicles hanging off the roof. Rice and salad again for breakfast. Departed Taipingshan Forest at about 8am and headed toward Taian Hot Springs. We returned on the same road (I drove) that we came over on because the road we were going to take was closed due to an earthquake in the past. The road was mostly one way and we had to on our toes at all times as most oncoming traffic does not even slow down. Couple close calls but nothing I could not handle. We headed to the hot spring area. — lots of people and cars everywhere. Found the hotel, nice 6 story building with hot springs all around. Our room also had a hot tub that you fill with spring water. The hotel was called Sunrise Hot Spring Hotel.
January 29 – After breakfast we toured the hot spring area and decided to go in. Only 3 other people were in the pools: two students and their mother. The students spoke English so we chatted with them. At about 3pm we drove to the end of the road to inspect the trail we were going to hike the next day. Found it then went to find a better dinner spot. After walking around an area that had more hot springs and food places we went to a large hotel seeking a menu in English. Well, the menu was in Chinese but we found the food and beverage manager who spoke English. He interpreted the menu for us and we decided to come back and have dinner there. We got first class service and the food was good — topped it off with Taiwan beer. After dinner, the hotel CEO (big boss) wanted to give us a tour of the hot springs. The F&B manager took us on a tour of the top floor where they had private rooms for hot springs and then to the coffee shop for coffee. Then the big boss took us on a tour of the open hot springs area — about 4 levels of pools of different sizes. Very nice. He then gave us gifts of a tea set and rice bowl set and chop sticks. VIP treatment. I felt bad as we were not even staying at the hotel. Must write letter of thanks when I get home.
January 30 – Drove the car to the end of the road where there was a hiking trail to another waterfall. The hike followed a river, then across a suspension bridge, up 300 steps, and then back down to the river. Found a waterfall, but not a big one so we went further up the river in search of a larger one. Did not find one but came across a nice swimming hole and canyon. We went to dinner close to Taipei with CC Woo and his entire extended family. Lots of food and beverage, lots of toasting going on. I think I drank to much beer (not sure). After dinner we headed to Jennifer's sister's house to sleep as they are in Singapore visiting her son. Tomorrow will be a catch up and repack day to get ready for Thursday departure to Borneo.
January 31 – Went to local food market and then to lunch at the American Club. After noon we drive to Jennifer's brother's house near the airport and have dinner prepared by her brother's wife. Good food — Chicken, sea bass, beef, and meatballs (also veggies of course). Got to bed late and up early as we had to be at the airport by 6am.