An Offbeat Road Trip in Taiwan
As we reach this year end, one more country, Taiwan has made it in our bucket list. It was our third road trip overall which we finished encircling this gorgeous island in 10 days.
This huge island adjoining divine edges of Pacific Ocean is located towards east of China. It is one of the most developed states in the world also renowned for its countless hot-spring resorts, hi-tech cities, vibrant night markets, artistic temples and vivid mountains.
Our very first steps landed in Taipei to see around the city for a couple of days prolonging our journey to its central highlands. The look of intense mountainous terrain, subtle lakes and dark black sand coastlines of eastern Taiwan was heart-warming. We had driven about 1500 km on a 394 km island by the end of this trip.
So again, we would love to share what we experienced during our jaunt. A few things that you should to know before planning a trip to Taiwan. Read on.
Usually the month of Apr- Jun and Sep- Nov are the peak seasons of tourism in Taiwan. Also, July-Aug welcome the balloon festival and brings exciting opportunities for paragliding and ballooning adventurers. We planned the trip during end of November due to pleasant weather, it was beginning of winter season. The temperature ranged within mid-twenties, most days remained sunny yet cooler and it only dropped during nights and early mornings.
Taiwan Itinerary for 10 days
Day trip from Taipei: Yangmingshan and North CoastDay trip from Taipei: Yangmingshan and North Coast https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IMG_5109-Yangmingshan-NP-thumb-1.jpg 369 246 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Amazing Lookouts between Taipei and Sun Moon LakeAmazing Lookouts between Taipei and Sun Moon Lake https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IMG_5345-lavender-thumb-1.jpg 369 245 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Taiwan Countryside and Quaint Surrounds of Sun Moon LakeTaiwan Countryside and Quaint Surrounds of Sun Moon Lake https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IMG_5623-Formosan-Aboriginal-Village-thumb-1.jpg 369 246 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Gorgeous Day Drive Spots from Kaohsiung to KentingGorgeous Day Drive Spots from Kaohsiung to Kenting https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IMG_5991-eluanbi-post-1.jpg 860 573 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Kenting To Taitung: Day Tripping on the Black CoastKenting To Taitung: Day Tripping on the Black Coast https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IMG_6116-Day-6-thumb-1.jpg 369 227 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Taitung to Hualien on Incredible Eastern ShoresTaitung to Hualien on Incredible Eastern Shores https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/IMG_7020-day-8-thumb-taiwan-1.jpg 369 246 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
A Guide to Traverse Taroko National Park Self DrivingA Guide to Traverse Taroko National Park Self Driving https://www.planetunfold.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/IMG_7459-taroko-near-baiyang2-thumb-1.jpg 369 246 Sheetal Khatri https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a8c4e10205dce919119e3338d8d5269d?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Know Before You Go!
More information to help you plan a wonderful trip.
It becomes necessary to stock up some layered clothing as Taiwan goes through changing weather in November. The days are sometimes sunny and sometime cloudy with occasional rain showers. The nights and early mornings are cold as winter. So, if you start your day early morning wearing a winter apparel, you will need a change to summer attire by the noon and maybe rainy by evening. To deal with this, we kept a spare bag handy for some shrugs and jackets.
You do need sunblock, hat and pair of shades and most importantly, an umbrella for any surprise rain showers.
Taiwan’s time zone is an interesting factor that really has huge effect on travel opportunities. The island’s location nearly takes a four-hour flight journey from Singapore and yet there is no change in its time zone unlike other places where time is adjusted. Logically, it should be two and a half hours ahead, but it is not for some reason.
They get approximately 10 hours of daylight followed by an early sunset. Based on this fact, opening hours of most shops and attractions are limited due to which travel plans need adjustment accordingly. The less daylight we had, the early we had to wind up our day.
Transport and Terrains
Taiwan is well known for its HSR (High Speed Rail) and metro railway network that covers entire island, which seems very convenient to access major cities and towns. Even though we rented a car to explore most areas of Taiwan, we preferred using public transport to see Taipei. It is very easy to commute via metro and buses using Easy Card or Taipei Fun Pass , available at Taoyuan Airport’s metro station.
The Fun Pass has three categories which offer benefits like free entry to certain attractions, unlimited journeys on metro, buses and shuttles network etc. You can buy the one that suits you.
The Easy Card on the other hand can also be used at grocery stores like 7/11 and at gas stations, the remaining amount after use gets refunded on such cards.
Taxis are extremely cheap here and very easily available. We used Uber few times. Taoyuan airport staff employees are usually at the stand to help tourists with language barrier. They wrote our hotel address in Chinese and gave it to the driver, we really appreciated that help.
Keep Enough Cash
Using credit card wasn’t a problem whenever we ate at our hotel or purchased something from an international brand in cities. But cash came really handy during our days exploring the eastern slice of Taiwan. Especially around touristy spots, at parking and ticketing booths, small bakeries, night markets and local restaurants, they always asked for payment in cash. So, AMEX didn’t work here just like Cambodia 🙁
The 'least bothering' Language Barrier
Although we didn’t know any Chinese word other than ‘Ni Hao’ we never had to go through a lot of language problem. Very little number of people were able to speak English in Taiwan, like hotel staff or people at airport and at tourist spots. We could still communicate using casual hand expressions and saying english keywords, many locals/shopkeepers understood words like ‘restaurant’, ‘food’, ‘price’ ‘money’, ‘water’, simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’, etc.
Some people especially school kids we saw, knew a little english and enjoyed talking with us. Few of them smiled and said ‘hello’.
There was an incident where we needed to know a bus stop location in a tribal village, we asked a store lady who didn’t know English, but she understood what we were asking as soon as she saw my injured leg. The warmth of such people was overwhelming for us.
We strongly feel that Taiwan is one of very few iconic destinations to enjoy the best of authentic Asian cuisines. Taipei is richest amongst all other cities in the area in terms of food diversities. We had already read about ample food choices to try in Taipei before so we included some in our itinerary, so glad that we did.
It won’t be wrong to say that people land in Taipei only for food 😉 We booked our hotel here without breakfast so we can try traditional Taiwanese breakfast which is soy milk with fried dough sticks, do try the sweet cold version at Fuhang Soy milk located at Shaoxing south street.
The best way to try local food is to visit Taipei’s night markets, they open for 6pm to 10 pm and are full of varieties to check on. Oyster omelettes at Shillin night market and shaved ice creams at Ice Monster in the city are worth a try. In the eastern region, Taitung is custard apple territory. We had never seen larger custard apples like this before. We also found the widest variety of dried fish snacks at Wanli district around northern coast of Taipei. We will mention locations of food we tried in our later posts soon.
Location matters when you think about getting the real feel of a destination. For us, we choose our stay options that give us a chance to indulge into its authenticity. When we crossed cities, we opted for central locations from where the city’s essence could be captured. Staying near city center means easy access to markets and eateries, quite a time saver.
The central landscape of Taiwan constitutes several mountains, forests and lakes providing great scope to enjoy nature. Like at Sun Moon Lake, we chose lake-view room which was also close to forested trails. We could see fluffy white clouds hovering over the mountains all night along with the night sky full of stars.
Across the eastern black sand coast, the ideal accommodation would be a sea-view/sea-front hotel.
We recommend Airbnb for stay in Taipei, the rooms listed here were better than hotels with reasonable prices, sometimes with breakfast too. Other than Taipei, we used Agoda to book hotels everywhere else and got some fair deals.
Happy reading folks!