Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taiwan top five must do list!

Traveling to Taiwan? Don't miss these spots!
With only two weeks of travel, I know I'm missing landmarks or must see's, but from my experience, I can highly recommend the following for anybody traveling to Taiwan, otherwise known to the locals as "Formosa" meaning "Beautiful Island".  You could say the list is in order of priority for must do's, but any of these are don't misses in my book! 

Typical view inside Taroko Gorge - near Silks Place Hotel
1. Taroko Gorge National Park
This marbled canyon of tropical fauna and steep breathtaking views is still the all time favorite for me of the entire 2 weeks. Try renting a bike from either Silks Place where we stayed one night, or near the gate entrance from the Hualien side at a Giant Bicycle Station. I suggest a bike ride thru the tunnels and S turns early in the morning before the double decker buses take over, or just take a side hike. Staying in the Leader Hotel is more like a quiet serene lodge. You'll be immersed in nature, possibly see monkeys. Had to be dragged out of there, as I wanted to breath it in, sit and watch the low clouds change the landscape every few minutes. See my entry's on our bike ride and stay <here> and <here

View from Wen Wan Resort at Sun Moon Lake
For us Californians, I suppose Tahoe would be a comparison, but it doesn't really compare. Similarities stop at the fact that it's a lake in the middle of beautiful mountains with colorful water. Taking a bicycle ride again, or perhaps rent a scooter for a fun loop around the 33km meandering Moon Lake Road. Stop at the Ci Hen Pagoda. Either arriving there via a tourist boat or via scooter or bike, then hike up the 700 meter path to capture the view from the top - where you can ring the bell. Apparently this is a perfect location to spot the annual appearance of fireflies as well. We were put up in one of the newest and highest end hotels there, and I imagine other accommodations have the same stunning views, at maybe a lesser "gold leaved elevator" price. But I can say, with heartfelt appreciation for the rare luxury, the outstanding service and food and room amenities, perhaps for a special occasion, do consider staying at The Wen Wan if you can swing the $700 room price tag (for a jr. deluxe rm). Small villages host dance recitals and markets and varied dining outside your hotel choice. (blog entry to be posted on our group's adventure there soon).

Kate LaCroix rides on one of many Taitung County bike paths
3. Taitung County "biking heaven"
This city boasts the first, and famous, bike path that the cooperative of Taiwan's Transportation and Tourism departments along with Giant's Cycling Foundation completed. The larger of completed network of bike paths that will eventually circumnavigate the entire island! 2010 is in the middle of a 4 year plan and 4 billion dollar investment to build the infrastructure needed. (Yes, I just said 4 BILLION dollars with a straight face). This landmark, original path built, even has tolls for the tourist or passerby (locals can use for free). You'll ride through terraced rice fields, under trellises, near small villages, in the backyards of local farmers. Bathrooms, parks and cycling stations within only a few kilometers make it an easy level for beginners to enthusiasts to take in the landscape. Our accommodations were first in a canyon that boasts natural healing hotsprings at the Royal Chihpen Hotel. I have to admit I didn't really get to enjoy it in my jet lagged state, with late arrival and early departure. What I did use was the japanese style soaking tub with actual spring water piped into each room's bath, quite lovely! The 2nd location that we actually rode to and from, via bike lanes and paths, was the gorgeous Papago Resort. I was able to enjoy the beautiful pool, and oversized modern, bright and beautiful room there! One of my favorite blog entries during trip with pictures of the paths <here>. 

Starting path ride towards Hualien City,  from Hotel Bay View
4. Hualien - Coastal bike paths and dining
Despite our group's arrival at the same time as Typhoon Megi's rain and wind, we road the bike path from our Hotel Bay View to it's end the other side of Hualien. The path was first paved in marble bricks (rather slippery in the rain, but beautiful), mostly followed the coastline, occasionally moving through an industrial cement plant or factory's property, into small neighborhood villages, parks and then the city itself. Our Hotel Bay View, was new, beautiful, and charming with compact rooms, but views of the roaring Ocean below - and Agean style decor. I do suggest eating at the Moon House restaurant, if you can find it, inland, between Taitung and Hualien in the "Rift Valley".  Ride in the rain with me in blog entry <here>
Author Beverly Garrity,  at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Buildings
5. Taipei - Markets and landmarks
A clean and friendly city that has more history than I could absorb, more markets to explore, and stunning accommodations and dining, that it would take months to visit. A short list of to-do's there would be to visit the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Memorial has gardens, buildings and museum to explore. Soak in a 360 degree view of the city and take a ride up the worlds fastest lift, to the top of what was the World's tallest building at Taipei 101. A night market is a must, I suggest more than one - the busy bustle of locals displaying their wares, local cuisine, open late. Stimulating with creative marketing to people watching and exploring, a must do. A couple entries in my blog from Taipei City <here> and <here>.

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