Seeking

Taipei, Taiwan March 2017

Taiwan is a mountainous island located about 120 miles east of southeastern China. It is where the nationalist “Republic of China” forces who were losing the war to Mao fled. It is currently an independent nation, though it may eventually merge with the mainland. It is my next destination.

Taiwan is a bit smaller than Switzerland, and the 4th most mountainous island in the world, with more than 100 mountains over 10,000 feet high, and one peak reaching nearly 13,000 feet. This is a lot for Taiwan’s size!

 

Arriving at the airport in Taipei could hardly have been easier. In 15 minutes, I had gotten cash from an ATM, bought a one month data SIM providing unlimited 4G data for $32 (about ¼ of the price in the USA), and a stored-value subway card. I walked within the terminal to the subway, and for $2.68 USD got a 40 minute ride to Taipei (Main) Station. What a visitor-friendly country!

I then walked underground over to my AirBnB apartment on the 18th floor of a nearby high rise.

This should be a fun 5 days in Taipei before I take a train from Taipei Station to begin my journey around Taiwan Island.

I walked the streets of Taipei on a grey day with some drizzle at times, then rode the subway over to Taipei 101, not long ago the tallest building in the world.

There is a famous restaurant there specializing in xiaolongbao, a type of small bites of various meat and vegetable fillings steamed inside a wrapper. These were first made in the Shanghai area. The closest thing we see in American usually we would call ‘dim sum’, but that really is a southern Chinese specialty.

 

xiaolongbao from Mel Malinowski on Vimeo.

My second day dawned sunny, so I strapped on my mountain boots and headed for the park, starting with Taipei’s excellent, modern, clean fast subway out to near the park.

This big park is reachable by city subway and bus, as it forms one border of the city. While having a snack at the park visitor’s center, I met a pair of sturdy, well-equipped Taiwanese hikers. Zhang is 77 years old, and has climbed the 3,675 foot mountain central to the park many times. They shared food with me, and we set off together up the mountain.

That is his friend, rather than his daughter. He’s lucky to have such a sturdy hiking friend.

The park is a lush, temperate rain forest-like habitat, reminding me a bit of South Island New Zealand. Lots of ferns, moss and lichens.

I expect to sleep well after this steep climb of several thousand feet. A lovely day’s outing. On the way back down, amidst the fog drifting in and out, there was a faint whiff of sulphur to remind me that this is hot springs country. Another day, I will seek them out.

“Silk threads” waterfall

The next day began with grey skies and drizzle. I actually enjoy hiking in the rain at times, so I headed out to a hot springs area in the mountains to the south of Taipei.

 

I hiked up along a deep canyon just above a lovely teal-green river that has polished its bank smooth. It appears that about ¾ of the former water volume has been diverted downstream to generate electricity. This hike reinforced my impression of Taiwan as an extremely rugged, very vertical island. The lush, fern and tree-covered walls towering above me looked unclimbable.

The hot springs I saw available were all indoor, so I decided to wait. I much prefer outdoor. Otherwise, it’s just like taking a hot bath, although the water is smelly.

Next day, I took a 1 ½ hour bus ride out into the mountains north of Taipei to an outdoor hot springs, reputed to be the best in the area.

Now this is getting better!

Hot Springs in Taiwan from Mel Malinowski on Vimeo.

IMG_2142 from Mel Malinowski on Vimeo.

I’m spending the month of October this year traveling down the length of Japan. Sitting in this outdoor hot springs, I decided to make a point of visiting as many of the Japanese ‘onsen’ or hot springs as I can during that trip.

Now, time to circle around the island of Taiwan, starting with Taroko (Gorge) National Park.

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