Hualien, Taroko, Cing Jing, Hehuangshan and Taipei 2014 CNY Getaway!

Hualien, Taroko, Cing Jing, Hehuangshan  and Taipei  2014 CNY Getaway!

We didn’t go anywhere for 2013 CNY as Wei Juan and Jung Ing were too busy with their work schedule. We just had a quiet and peaceful CNY at home. So this year we really wanted to go somewhere to unwind ourselves.  Xin was unable to join us as she had to go back to her in-laws for CNY. However we have one new member Jung Ing  with us this year.

We decided to go to Taiwan even though we knew that the cost will be much higher than normal as the Chinese there are also celebrating CNY. However, we wanted to experience CNY in another country where the people  also celebrate CNY.

For your information, Taiwan is not in my priority list of countries to visit as I have heard from many of my friends who have traveled there and complained about food there and also too much time being spent in the bus!

Day 1(29 Jan 2014)

Arrived at Taoyuan International Airport  at 6.20 am from Johor Bahru via KLIA by MAS.  Everyone was feeling tired as the flight was not comfortable. The leg room of this aircraft (Boeing 737-800) is very small. It is even smaller than AirAsia!

Upon arrival, Mr Tan, our hired driver cum tour guide was there to meet us. Immediately he took us to ShengKeng (深坑 ), a small town nearby the airport)  for breakfast. DSC_0010

A small and quiet town in the morning

A small and quiet town in the morning

Buying our breakfast

Buying our breakfast

We just had some sandwiches and soya bean milk. The weather was cold as it was winter that time.

After breakfast, the first itinerary was to visit the Lanyang Museum in Toucheng, Yilan. From far,this museum looks as though it is tilting and slanting. Too bad it was closed on Wednesday! We just took some photos outside.

Like a sinking building!

Like a sinking building!

A shot in front of the building

One  shot in front of the building

Mother and son!

Mother and son!

We then passed through the longest tunnel in Taiwan, which is 12.9 km long and took 12 years to build! We visited Jin Che (金车) Orchid farm which sells  a lot orchids plants to the public.

Cactus in the orchid farm

Cactus in the orchid farm

Beautiful orchid!

Beautiful orchid!

On the way, we stopped at the National  Arts Centre. But there isn’t much to see. Maybe we don’t appreciate ancient history.

National Arts Centre

National Arts Centre

Special onion candy. Taste good and delicious!

Special onion candy. Taste good and delicious!

The making of onion candy

The making of onion candy

WJ's dream car. When will the  dream come true?

WJ’s dream car. When will the dream come true?

After that, we had our seafood  lunch at Nan Ning Ao ( 南 宁澳). In the restaurant, I observed that the Taiwanese eat a lot. A young couple ordered 6 dishes. 3 persons  in another table ordered 7 dishes! Whereas 5 of us plus the driver only ordered 4 dishes! I asked Mr Tan about this and he said may be it was Chinese New Year that they tend to eat more. At Nan Ning Ao, a visit to the Mazhu temple nearby is a must. Of course we did not miss it.

Airial view of the harbour from the Mazhu temple

Airial view of the harbour from the Mazhu temple

After lunch, we were on our way to Hualien. On the way, we stopped way at Qing Shui Tuan Ya (清水断崖) to take some panoramic view of the cliff.. The road to Hualien is very winding and narrow too. We also stopped at Qi Xin Tan (七星潭) to see the sunset. Well, that day was cloudy, so didn’t get to see it.

Father and sons.

Father and sons.

Happy and loving couple!

Happy and loving couple!

With our hired driver, Mr Tan.

With our hired driver, Mr Tan.

With Vvy at Qi Xin Tan (七星潭)

With Vvy at Qi Xin Tan (七星潭)

Honey moon huh?

Honey moon huh?

Finally we arrived at our destination and checked in Lige Hotel, Hualien. For dinner, we tried the famous beef noodles. If you go to Hualien and happen to stay in this hotel, don’t forget to try this Nan Hua ( 南华) beef noodles. The shop is just a few shops away. This shop has operated for the past 60 years!

Famous beef noodles near our hotel

Famous beef noodles near our hotel

Night scene near our hotel in Hualien

Night scene near our hotel in Hualien

Day 2 After breakfast, soon we were on our way to Zhao Feng Nong Chang(兆丰农场). But there was not much to see, more for those who wish to experience the life in a farm and need to stay overnight.

Cool, serene and peaceful atmosphere to relax your mind..

Cool, serene and peaceful atmosphere to relax your mind..

We only stayed for a while before we proceeded to Morisaka( Ling Tian Mu San, 林田木三)to see wood sculptures . The wood sculptures are really unique and artistic. They are carved from the big tree trunks in the jungle. The fine arts are carried out by local tribes from the area.

unique and beautiful sculpture carved out  from tree trunk.

unique and beautiful sculpture carved out from tree trunk.

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Relax under the shade

Relax under the shade

On the way back, we visited the sugar factory. This factory has already ceased operation due to short of sugar cane supply. However, it was turned into a exhibition centre and a tourist attraction with their unique and yummy ice cream. A lot of people come here just to taste the ice cream! You need to queue up just to buy a cone or a cup of ice cream!

Sugar factory turned into an exhibition centre for the tourist, but alas not many tourist visited this centre.

Sugar factory turned into an exhibition centre for the tourist, but alas not many tourist visited this centre.

Big crowd queuing up to buy ice cream..

Big crowd queuing up to buy ice cream..

Don't be mistaken. One for me and one for the photographer!

Don’t be mistaken. One for me and one for the photographer! Not so greedy lah!

We also visited the Sui Hui Nong Chang( 瑞穗农场 ). Over here, you get to see the cows and ostrich and of course every visitor will try their dairy products like ice cream, milk drinks and candies.

The flowering plants are edible vegetables!

The flowering plants are edible vegetables!

Fascinated by the ostrich! Let's have a shot together!

Fascinated by the ostrich! Let’s have a shot together!

Another one is fascinated by the milking cows! So one shot with them!

This  one is fascinated by the milking cows! So one shot with them! Moo..Moo…

We also stopped at Tropic of Cancer. This is the spot where during winter solstice, you won’t find the shadow of yourself. The sun shines directly onto your head! DSC_0233 For dinner we stopped at Chung Zhen Street to get some famous dumplings. (小龙包). Most of the restaurants closed early due to CNY.

Big crowd queuing up to buy the dumplings!

Big crowd queuing up to buy the dumplings!

Assorted  drinks being sold here!

Assorted drinks being sold here!

In Hualien, you can find  betel nut stores everywhere.  Taiwanese like to chew betel nuts as they say it helps to stimulate their minds and keep them awake. According to Mr Tan, during summer, the betel nut girls will be wearing scantily with skimpy dress to attract customers! Too bad, it was winter, so we didn’t get to see these girls!.

You can find  this type of kiosk selling betel nuts everywhere in Hualien!

You can find this type of kiosk selling betel nuts everywhere in Hualien!

Day 3

Waking up fresh, and after breakfast, we bid goodbye to Hualien and we were on our way to explore the Taroko National Park.

A group photo before entering the Taroko National Park

A group photo before entering the Taroko National Park

Another shot at the information center

Another shot at the information center

The road to the National Park is long and narrow, with lots of tunnels. At the Taroko National Park, you get to see the beautiful valley and gorges. The air is clean and fresh. The Taiwanese care very much of their environment. Signboards are everywhere to remind the visitors to bring back any rubbish they have.  No dustbin is provided here. I see the people here really follow the rules.  On the way, we also walked to take the breathtaking view of the valley. In fact Wei Juan wanted to hike up one of the trails, but due to time constraint, we had to abandon the idea.

A loving couple posing!

A loving couple posing!

Notice the tunnel and the dangererous hanging  cliff? Everyone needs to wear a safety helmet while walking along the roadside!

Notice the tunnel and the dangererous hanging cliff? Everyone needs to wear a safety helmet while walking along the roadside!

So daring! Standing in the middle of the road!

So daring! Standing in the middle of the road!

Long and winding road...

Long and winding road…

On the way up to HeHuangShan..

On the way up to HeHuangShan..

 

Panoramic view from HeHuangShan

Panoramic view from HeHuangShan

Another part of HeHuangShan

Another part of HeHuangShan

Ice cubes formed under the bushes!

Ice cubes formed under the bushes!

Ice stalagtites and stalagmites formed from water oozing out from a broken water pipe!

Ice stalagtites and stalagmites formed from water oozing out from a broken water pipe!

Resting at Wu Ling

Resting at Wu Ling

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Clear blue sky...

Clear blue sky…

One for the wedding album!

One for the wedding album!

After about three hours of walk and drive, we were soon up the HeHuangShan (合欢山). The temperature here was about 9.5o C. Here it is about 3,400m above sea level. The view at the mountains is marvelous.  There were some ice cubes formed under the bushes. Besides mountain hiking, there is not much activity you can do over here. So we descended  slowly to Qing Jing (清境) a small town mostly for those who want  to get a retreat during summer in Taiwan. This place is famous for its sheep farm as well as its cool climate all year round. We checked in Sheep Village Country Home, a home stay for a night. In fact this home stay is a  bit far from the town, but here you  can have a panoramic view of the valley and is famous for catching and watching sun rise.

Day 4

Wei Juan and I would not want to waste time just sleeping. So we woke up at 5.30 am hoping to get a glimpse of the sunrise. And hopefully can get some good shots. Alas we waited until almost 6.30 am before the sun slowly came out! It was really beautiful indeed!

Sun slowly coming out..

Sun slowly coming out..

Still not in sight!

Still not in sight!

Coming out soon..

Coming out soon..

Yes! Finally!

Yes! Finally!

Good morning! Out there to grasp some fresh air!

Good morning! Out there to grasp some fresh air!

A lot of people camping near the hotel.

A lot of people camping near the hotel.

Posing in front of our hotel.

Posing in front of our hotel.

Our hotel in Qing JIng

Our hotel in Qing JIng

No need to go to Japan. You can find a lot of sakura here!

No need to go to Japan. You can find a lot of sakura here!

After a simple but delicious home cooked breakfast, we checked out  to visit the Qing Jing sheep farm. Entrance fee is NTD 200 per pax.  Normal day  is NTD 160. In the farm, there are sheep show and also horse show. Because it was festive season, the farm was really packed with visitors. As it was too crowded, we did not wait until the show ends.

Going to the sheep show..

Going to the sheep show..

Sheep shearing..

Sheep shearing..

WJ did a superb jump!

WJ did a superb jump!

JI posing in front of the windmill.

JI posing in front of the windmill.

So  we left earlier to go to Sun Moon Lake (日夜潭) On the way, we visited Puli Shao Xing ( 埔里绍兴酒厂) wine factory and had turkey lunch at Puli. FYI, Shao xing wine is one of the oldest wine brewed in China. It is still very popular among the Chinese in China, Taiwan and also Malaysia.

Selling shao xing wine...Any buyer?

Selling shao xing wine…Any buyer?

 

There was a massive traffic jam on the way to Sun Moon Lake. We arrived almost 4.00 pm and bought our tickets to take a ferry to go round the lake. Sun Moon Lake is a very famous and popular tourist destination. But we were quite  rush for this lake tour as the last ferry  trip was at 5.30 pm!

Boarding the ferry in Sun Moon Lake

Boarding the ferry in Sun Moon Lake

 

Street in Sun Moon Lake

Street in Sun Moon Lake

It was another two hour  drive  before we finally arrived at Taipei and checked in Wonstar Hotel, Ximending (西门町), Taipei.

 

Wonstar Hotel Taipei

Wonstar Hotel Taipei

Day 5

8.30 am sharp set off to Qing Tong Lao Jie (清铜老街). This place is actually an old and abandoned coal mine which has been converted to a tourist attraction. It was quite crowded that day. So we didn’t stay too long. In fact we did not even go into the mining area due to time constraint.

Qing Tong Lao Jie

Qing Tong Lao Jie

Write your wish in this bamboo tube and just hang there..

Write your wish in this bamboo tube and just hang there..

So we left for Jiu Fen Lao Jie(九份 老街) which is famous for its Taiwan desserts  and homestay. Here the weather is cool and the air is fresh. And of course it is always  very crowded not only during festive season, it is all year round! So no lunch, only snacks and desserts!

Airview from Jiu Fen.

Airview from Jiu Fen.

Very crowded in Jiu Fen Lao Jie

Very crowded in Jiu Fen Lao Jie

Soon we were on our way to Ye Liu Geo Park(野柳), a famous geological park with beautiful rock formation.  This is a place where no tourist will miss and it is worth visiting.

Ye Liu Geo Park

Ye Liu Geo Park

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Again we did not take dinner, only Taiwan xiao shi(台湾小食) because we wanted to go back to Ximending to try the famous Ah Chung rice noodles and  three brothers mango snow ice. If you are in Ximending, don’t forget to try also.  For your information, at Ah Chung Rice  Noodles, there is no chair and table for you to dine in. You need to stand around the shop to eat! Yet many people don’t mind that. Honestly, I think there are many noodle stores in Malaysia serving better noodles than this one. But the mango snow ice is different. I haven’t come across any store in JB selling better mango snow ice! In fact we went there two consequent nights. Vvy especially likes it very much! Ximending is one of the most vibrant part of Taipei. At night, a lot of youngsters and tourists gather here for food and shopping. You can also get to see lots of roadside artists performing there!

Street artist

Street artist

All standing around to try the noodles

All standing around to try the noodles

Day 6

Day 6 was the day we did not hire the driver. We went around Taipei by MRT.  At 8.30 am, we were already at the MRT station to catch the train to Taipei 101 Tower, the tallest building in Taipei and  the second tallest building in the world after Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This building has 101 floors with a height of 504m (Petronas Twin Tower is 451.9m). It boasts of the fastest elevator in the world with a speed of 16.83 m/s or 60.6 km/hr.

We bought the one day pass for NTD 150 which you can use to travel unlimited by MRT.  We were glad that there were not many people at Taipei 101 Tower as it was still early. Soon we were at the top of the Tower to take a panoramic view of Taipei city.

101 Tower Taipei

101 Tower Taipei

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Air view from the top of 101 Tower.

Air view from the top of 101 Tower.

Taipei 101 is designed to withstand the typhoon winds and earthquake tremors using the tuned mass damper..

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And of course we did not miss the famous dumpling at Ding Tai Feng restaurant tin this building.(鼎泰丰 小龙包). Honestly, the dumplings in Hualien taste better than this one and is much cheaper too.

 

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After that, we proceeded to Chiang Kai Sek Memorial Hall to have a glimpse of the history of Taiwan before we went to Tamsui Lao Jie (淡水老街) a fishing town famous for its local Taiwanese food. Here we also tried the Hokkaido ice cream.    DSC_0760

In front of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

In front of Chiang Kai Sek Memorial Hall

Tamsui Lao Jie

Tamsui Lao Jie

 

Day 7

After breakfast, it was time to leave for Taoyuan Airport  for departure. Honestly, I like Taiwan. It is a very clean and safe  country with very friendly and helpful people. Will definitely come back to other parts of Taiwan!

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.