Darren and Janet

Joined May 2017Living in: Adelaide, Australia
  • Day19

    Taipei gates and cleavers

    December 12 in Taiwan

    Another MRT ride and walk around the Zhongzheng District, home of the Chiang Ki-shek Memorial Hall (dedicated to the former President/dictator of Taiwan... opinion depends who you talk to), the National Library, South Gate, East Gate, and the National Cultural and Creative Gift Centre.

    After lunch we wandered to the airport station via the underground maze, and I had a Knife Massage. It wasn't advertised as such that I saw before agreeing (and I'm not sure I'd recommend it) - it looked and felt like I was being attacked by cleavers!

    Short flight to Hong Kong, overnight in the airport hotel, ready for a morning flight home.
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  • Day18

    Taipei bikes and gates

    December 11 in Taiwan

    We set our sights on a series of caches in the Erchong Floodway today, which contains the longest bike track in Taiwan (20km), as well as 68 sports grounds (we saw 2 baseball fields and multiple basketball courts) . We caught the MRT to Sanchong Station in the hope a bike rental place would be open, despite the drizzling rain, to save us a lot of walking in the unimaginatively named New Taipei Metropolitan Park, aka Erchong Floodway.

    As luck would have it, just across the road from the station Fun Bike was open. We rode the park for close to 3 hours, for a total of NTD$112 (AUD$5) and 10 caches. We were the only bikes we saw all day, so not sure if they even covered wages!

    We caught the MRT back to our hotel, grabbing a pork, rice, cabbage and tofu bento box for lunch on the way.

    Our afternoon walk was to the North Gate of the Taipei City Walls. Taipei was a walled city from 1884 to 1895, at which time the Japanese colonial rulers destroyed it when they redesigned the city. In 1945, when Taiwan was handed back to the Chinese, they rebuilt five of the gates. The North Gate is the only one done in the original design.

    We finished the day with an evening walk to the Presidential Palace (you need to book 3 days in advance online to go inside) and 228 Peace Park (in memory of the massacre of Taiwanese citizens after handover), and tea in another shopping strip (spicy pork and spring onion pancake and mango milk).
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  • Day17

    Taipei on foot

    December 10 in Taiwan

    Late start and quiet day, we're both feeling a bit under the weather with head colds, so we took a leisurely walk toward Zhongshan Station, one stop up the red line.

    We first had to negotiate our way through the "Taipei Main Station Maze". The underground system of Taipei Main Station is so big and so complicated, with complex signs and meaningless exit codes, you could lose your way for hours - and that's how the locals describe it! We fell victim early, walked around for 15 minutes, then took an exit... to find ourselves still on the same side of the street as our hotel 😕

    We finally found our way out and meandered to the station via a number of caches, arriving just in time to meet a fellow cacher for lunch - he is a German guy who travels the world caching at every opportunity (he's cached in 33 countries so far). We got in contact with him last night via the app and arranged to meet up... which also counts as a cache since he created an event!

    We caught the train back and had a quiet afternoon before heading out for early tea. It's not quite as easy ordering from a street stall without a local to decipher for us. You'll see the result in the photos (It turned out ok... not what I thought we were getting, but ok!)
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  • Day16

    Taipei 101

    December 9 in Taiwan

    Our last day in Taipei together, so we made an early start (9am is early for Taiwan - nothing usually opens until 11am, but then goes late into the night). We booked online last night to visit Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world (with the second fastest lift in the world... both thanks to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai!).

    Coming early was a good move as we were up very quickly with plenty of room to move around, but the weather wasn't on our side and visibility was rated as poor (non-existent was closer most of the time!). But the star of the show is the Tuned Mass Damper, a 660 ton ball of steel which is suspended over 5 floors between levels 82 to 87. It's designed to absorb and counteract the buildings movement during high winds and moves up to 1m during a typhoon.

    It had started to rain lightly as we walked to a local craft market, but they were still setting up... at 11.30am... so we had a bagel, found a cache, and caught the MRT back to our hotel.

    KT, DC and Chris are flying home tonight so we finalised bag packing (DC had plenty of space which KT was pleased to fill!), and we escorted them to the MRT station to catch the airport train.

    We continued via a couple of caches toward Ningxia Night Market, which was mostly food stalls, and very busy, then wound our way back to the hotel via a decent coffee at Starbucks (which says something about the quality of coffee in Taiwan!)
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  • Day15

    Coast Road to Taipei

    December 8 in Taiwan

    We began the day visiting Liyu Lake, for a paddle boat ride and visiting a Japanese temple, both on the outskirts of Hualien. Then we began the journey to Taipei.

    There's only one road from Hualien to Taipei, and it spectacularly hugs the coast for the first part of the journey, then goes inland through multiple tunnels (the longest being 12.9km), before hitting freeway into the city.

    We broke up the journey with a bento-style lunch box, and we arrived in Taipei at 5pm after a long day driving. After farewelling Steven we checked into our hotel and went for a walk in search of tea.
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  • Day14

    Taroko Gorge(ous)

    December 7 in Taiwan

    This is the first time in Taiwan that we've spent two nights in the same hotel, so it was a pleasure not to pack bags this morning. Our driver suggested switching the next two days around to avoid the weekend crowds, so today we will do a number of short hikes in Taroko Gorge National Park.

    Taroko Gorge, also known as Marble Gorge, is an 18km chasm carved out by the Liwu River. There are multiple walking trails, some along narrow paths high above the river, others in tunnels carved into the rock almost at river level.

    We did a few different walks today and covered about 10km in total. On the Swallow Grotto walk we were required to wear hard hats - hopefully the rock falls were going to be small ones!! I'll let the pictures tell the story....
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  • Day13

    The bridges of Hualien County

    December 6 in Taiwan

    We left Taitung at our regular 9am after a spectacular breakfast at the Sheraton buffet. First stop was the Museum of Prehistory, a very detailed exhibition of Taiwanese history and culture from the beginning of time, which took us close to 2 hours to go through.

    We drove most of the day through the pineapple and tea growing area of the East Rift Valley, a widem flat valley between two distinct mountain ranges. The rivers are almost dry at the moment, so they are doing lots of maintenance work in the river beds. We stopped at a lookout on the Luye Plateau, which overlooks the valley on three directions.

    Lunch was a Taiwanese bento box in the town of Chuhshang, the rice growing capital of Taiwan, followed by a detour for a short hike to see Nanan Falls. This was followed by a much longer walk in Yushan National Park, a 3km return trip to see a waterfall, which included crossing the pictured suspension bridge.

    On the way to Hualien for the night we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer Marker, then Hualien Sugar Mill - a former mill site, but now only a tourist outlet that sells good ice cream!

    We arrived at Hualien well after dark, booked into our hotel and headed straight to the night market for tea. They have moved this one off the streets and given it a permanent home in a park, so the lack of having to avoid scooters made it a rather sanitised affair! (it was more like sideshow alley at the royal show than a traditional Taiwanese market, with mostly games of chance and fried food stalls).
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  • Day12

    From west to east

    December 5 in Taiwan

    Oliver and I went for a quick walk after breakfast, before Steven picked us up at 9am.

    We detoured via the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (in the dragon, out the Tiger!), near the old town wall of Kaohsuing, before heading toward Moon World. It's not a theme park, but is an area of barren hills with a lunar-like landscape in Tianliano District.

    After a much welcome ice cream (it was 32 degrees and humid today), we left the east coast and headed across the mountains to the west coast, including a stop for lunch (beef noodle soup today).

    The west coast is vastly different, with long beaches and sheer cliffs. The cities are much smaller and have a rural feeling, without the crowds of the west coast.

    We arrived in Taitung at 4pm and went for a bike ride around the Forest Reserve, before heading to our hotel (5 star luxury tonight in the Sheraton... it's in the main street and looks very out of place!)

    We headed to the outdoor bar for cocktails, then a quick swim before heading out for a walk around town for some tea and a couple of caches.
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  • Day11

    Caching in Kaohsiung

    December 4 in Taiwan

    Today's lunch special was rice dumplings in Zhongpu - peanut, chestnut and radish flavours for mains, and a sticky black rice variety for dessert.

    Next stop was the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum on the outskirts of Kaohsuing, Taiwan's second biggest city. It had a comprehensive display of Buddha's life and housed one of four Buddha relics in the world (one of his teeth).

    Kaohsuing was one of only two Taiwanese cities planned by the Japanese during their occupation, and is a notably different to other cities we have visited, with a functional grid design with wide boulevards, on the banks of a river. Our first stop was a Love River Cruise (the river's name, not the nature of the cruise!).

    After grabbing a nearby cache, we were dropped at our hotel, which is in the heart of the city. We walked to the Liouhe Night Market (voted the best night market in Taiwan) and ate the usual range of delicacies - fried squid, Taiwanese hot dog, sweet potato balls and a mango beer.

    The walk back to the hotel was via the MRT (Underground) station to view the Dome of Light, the largest glass art installation in the world. It's 30m in diameter and is made of 4,500 glass pieces... and has a resident grand piano player! Not the usual sight in an underground station! Did I mention there is also a cache there... according to the past logs it's notoriously tricky, so we were very happy when Chris made the find 😃
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  • Day11

    Waiting for the crack of dawn

    December 4 in Taiwan

    4.30am wake-up call this morning so we can catch the 5.30am train to Zhushan station, then a short, steep uphill walk to "Ogasawara Mountain Sun-rising Watchtower", the best place in the area to see the sunrise. It's a popular event in these parts, the train was standing room only.

    The train line originally went from Chiayi to Alishan (80km), but was damaged in the 9-21 earthquake in 1999. Repairs were competed in 2005, but it was damaged again in Typhoon Morakot in 2009, and remains unrepaired. The section we are traveling on is now just for tourists, from Alishan Township to the summit.

    We arrived at the lookout at 6am, and did the important stuff first - found the cache up there☺ (it's now our highest altitude found cache, at 2449m).

    After watching the sunrise and squeezing between the bus loads of selfie-stick wielding Chinese tourists to take some photos, we caught the train back to the village for breakfast (local breakfast today, our hotel doesn't have a dining room... or a lobby, comfy bed or lift... but that's another issue!)

    After breakfast we met our driver at 9am for a lovely walk up and down and around the forest - according to Chris' app we walked up the equivalent of 57 flights of stairs!

    We departed for Kaohsiung at 10.30am

    To be continued...
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