Back from Taiwan (29 Oct-9 Nov), had a wonderful 12 days there and the weather was great. Came back with a tan! Out of 12 days only 2 days were rainy, both in Taipei. It was in fact very hot where I went.
Would like to recommend these from my trip:
1. Xin Xing Guest House at Miaoli, No.3 Jian Guo Street新興大旅社, 苗栗市 建國街３號 , Tel: 886-37-260133. A 50 year old guest house which won Taiwan’s top 10 minsus/hotel award. I paid only NT700 for a single room with attached bathroom. The place is very clean and comfortable and the owners are simply wonderful people. The guest house itself is worthy of spending some time exploring as it has lots of collections of a bygone era. Guest house is just a short walk from Miaoli station.
2.一口香餡餅(Yi Kou Xiang pan fried dumpling) – I tried the pork dumpling and carrot dumpling, both very good indeed. Shop is just a short walk from Miaoli train station and opens only from afternoon.
3. Mr Lai Qing Zhao (赖庆昭)the driver in Miaoli, Tel: 886-921-773062 or 886-977-118188 – I engaged him through U-Taxi. $3000 for a full day tour. I used four different drivers for this trip and he is my favourite.
4. 85-Resort, Kaohsiung. . Kaohsiung hotel彩色窩, 電話：886-938-763826 . It was lovely staying in a harbor view room.
She charges between NT3500-4000 for a full day tour.
6. There are others which have been recommended by forummers already so I shall not repeat here. These include Chin Shan Minsu in Alishan, Bayview Hotel Hualien.
Arrived Taipei at 12 noon, took Guoguang bus to Taoyuan train station then took train to Miaoli (NT189). Checked into Xin Xing. Later took train to Sanyi (NT27), then cab to the now defunct Sheng Xin Train Station (fixed price for cab NT200). eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002110&id=5961 A lot of Hakka eateries there. Unfortunately I did not get to see the Long Teng broken bridge.
The cabbie, Mr Lai Qing Zhao 赖庆昭 (Tel: 886-977-118188 or 886-921-773 062 (U Taxi)), picked me from the guest house at 0900.
We went to Nanzhuang （南庄）, Gui Hua Xiang （桂花巷）, and coincidentally there was some temple festival going on that day so it was very crowded and festive.
Then we went to Luchang （鹿场）. Luchang is an aboroginal village and it's pretty remote. Not a single convenience store was found there. There were a couple of restaurants, some stalls selling vegetables and fruits, a police post, a building which looks like a community club, and that's about it. But the mountains are beautiful, even Mr Lai said so.
We then went to Secret Valley, just a short drive down from Luchang. http://www.8898.tw/miaoli/p45.htm
Then to Penglai River Fish Protection Trail, Shi Shan (Lion Mountain) scenic area/Xian Shan (Fairy Hill) temple, where we climbed an endless flight of stairs right to the temple at the top. The whole mountainous area was very scenic and was swarming with worshippers that day.
We then went to Ri Xing Island （日新岛）, and discovered that after passing through 2 suspension bridges and walking for about 10 mins we can actually reach the Miaoli lavender farm. Didn’t go into the lavender farm as no interest and have to pay an entrance fee. (entrance fee to Ri Xing Island is NT100 but can redeem for food / drinks at the 水榭楼台café.).
That evening, took train to Chiayi, checked into Shan Tong 三通饭店 (was White Palace). Last time I am staying there. Awful place, awful bed and there was even a horrid stain on the bedsheet.
Next morning, took the 0910 bus to Alishan. Checked into Chin Shan. After lunch I ventured into the Alishan forest trail. Despite info from visitor centre and minsu, I got lost half way into the trail. I managed to find my way to the elephant trunk tree, three generation wood and the museum, but completely lost my sense of direction trying to get to the Shun Mu Station. It then got very foggy and I wasn't feeling very brave then so I made my way out again to the visitor centre to take the shuttle ticket to the Alishan Hotel. from there the trail to the Sisters Pond and Shen Mu Station was quite easy to follow. The trail was rather slippery in parts and I fell once, but very pleased I saw what I wanted to see. Took the shuttle from the temple (Shou Zheng Gong) back to visitor centre (return journey NT80). I really enjoyed the day. It felt so good walking the forest trail and being among giant trees.
I then went to check out the sunset. Glorious sunset. Night was too cold so stayed indoors.
Woke up freezing. Had breakfast at 松阁, then quickly went to reserve seat on the 0910 bus down to Chiayi. Thank goodness I didn't leave it till later for it wasn't a coach but a 20-seater van, and it was full with a waiting list. I think I was the first to reserve a seat. It was a horrible journey and I almost puked. It was so winding and the weather was warm and I had on a thick sweater, and the seat was terribly uncomfortable. Arrived Chiayi and bought ticket to Kaohsiung train station, then MRT to San Duo (三多商圈）then walked to the 85 resort. A hotel staff came down to meet me and brought me to the 25th storey.. I stayed at the 新古典全海景房， at only NT1600. The room was very very spacious and nicely decorated. They even provided WII entertainment which I did not use due to ignorance, and they also have an Asus notebook with 2 keys missing unfortunately and which did not come with a mouse so I had a hard time trying to use, and eventually gave up.
It was near dusk and the room was so comfortable that I decided to just rot in the room, admiring the harbour view, watched a beautiful sunset, and later the blinking harbour lights.
to be continued....