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Taiwan Diaries: Until next time

Rosie Loyd

Friday, 5 August 2022

From the unspoilt scenery on Green Island and Sun Moon Lake to the bright lights of Taipei, Rosie recalls her jam-packed last few weeks in Taiwan before it was time to head home.

Our Mandarin course at National Cheng Kung University was extremely useful; the teaching, the lecturers, and most of all, the content itself. Within the textbook we were studying, there was a huge emphasis on things to do and places to visit within Taiwan. Each chapter contained specific vocabulary which prepared us extremely well for future visits to these places.


Walking the streets of Jiufen

After Kaohsiung, Green Island was another destination that kept on popping up in lessons. We decided we would give it a whirl and see what the fuss was all about. Having now visited, the closest equivalent to the UK would probably be somewhere like Cornwall. It’s a touristy destination, but equally stunning. The only difference is that you don’t need a ferry to get to Cornwall!


Mhairi and I hopped on the Mountain Line train (Puyuma Express) to Taitung one afternoon, before going for a cycle ride the following day around the area. The next morning, we embarked on a ferry, unbeknown to what lay ahead. We had been given a fair few warnings about the choppy ride, but we weren’t quite prepared for the sound of fellow passengers being ill and the subsequent rustle of plastic bags…. Nevertheless, we made it through the journey unharmed!


Setting foot on Green Island was a relief – it wasn’t the smoothest of journeys, I must admit! We were greeted by the hotel’s staff at the harbour and swept away to rent some bikes. Given our lack of experience, we decided on hiring some e-scooters, and what a great choice that was. Despite only whizzing about at 25 mph, that was plenty, and it reminded me of the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam, with stunning views to our side. The whole island took roughly 40 minutes to circle, and on the way, we stopped at some natural hot springs as well as some fantastic viewpoints. Our Lonely Planet guidebook was a real success too – we visited Crazy Fried several times which served up some fresh tuna sashimi, as well as tangy Kung Pao fish.


Scootering around Green Island

Another must-visit destination that we managed to tick off was Kenting, in southern Taiwan. Think white sandy beaches and laid-back beach bars – extremely relaxing indeed. Us bookworms had a lovely time reading in the sun. If you ever get the chance to go, I’d recommend staying near South Bay Beach. We were at Coral Reef B&B. That beach is the cleanest and safest to swim at with not too many big waves, though there were still a few surfers about. We also ate at Bossa Nova Beach Café one night which was scrummy stuff, reminding me of my time in Thailand with the citrussy flavours.


Sun Moon Lake was next which we reached by taking a bus from Taichung. We had a brilliant few days there, exploring on bicycle and ferry and enjoying the all-surrounding greenery before heading to our next destination, Hualien.


The Taroko Gorge National Park was quite simply mesmerising. We made the decision to book a local tour guide, and what a fabulous choice that was. Iris, a lovely lady from Hualien who during the week is a school teacher, enjoys guiding for the company Island Adventures at the weekend. Due to the pandemic, the number of guides working for the company has decreased significantly from 9 originally to just 2 now. We felt very fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable of the whole Park, and it really was one of the best days of our whole time in Taiwan. From incredible scenery and breath-taking waterfalls to a rewarding, short hike up to a small belltower after which we rang the bell and made a wish, there was a lot to see, all in one day! Several monstrous spiders were also spotted that gave us a jump – not quite your average UK house spider.


And so, it was finally time to head up to Taipei for the last few days. I feel we barely scratched the surface of all the touristy places in northern-Taiwan, but in the short time we were there, we went up Taipei 101, visited the impressive Chiang Kai-Shek Museum, had tea in a traditional tea house in Jiu Fen, and experienced Hai Di Lao, a famous hot pot chain that I believe even has a restaurant in London!


The famous Hai Di Lao hotpot

Taiwan is a beautiful place. Since being back, I’ve recommended to everybody who asks that they explore if they get the chance in the near future. I was left with the feeling that it would be a brilliant family holiday destination what with the wonderfully diverse areas it hosts - bustling Taipei, old Tainan, relaxed Kenting or adventures in Hualien.


Leaving Taiwan felt strange. There was and still is an overwhelming sensation of uncertainty as to whether the next time we visit, Taiwan will still be how we left it. In that sense, our time there felt somewhat momentous and strangely sentimental. Most of all, however, it felt historic. Whether China attempts to invade in the next 2 years or 20 years, it really is impossible to know. What I do know, however, is that I feel unbelievably privileged to have spent a period of time in Taiwan, a place that is so very welcoming, warm (yes - the temperature too!), and beautiful.


Until next time, Taiwan. As they say in Mandarin, 再見 (Zàijiàn)。再literally translates to ‘again’ and 見 ‘to see’.


Group meal out in Taipei

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Images provided by Rosie Loyd.


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