Saturday, December 14, 2013


Lantern in Alishan
I went on a little Taiwan with a brief stop in Hong Kong.  This was my first trip to Asia and I am so glad I went.  Taiwan is an enchanting place with lovely people that is seriously underrated by the Western world.  I would not have traveled there myself had it not been for being invited to a friend's wedding in Chiayi.  Not only was I able to experience the culture and people in a wedding setting, I was also able to travel around the country easily with their incredible high speed rail and metro system.
Headed to the Wedding Ceremony
Chiayi Night Market

Note: I do not speak a word of Chinese and I was able to move around the country with a Rough Guide book with relative ease.  I did not have cell phone access unless I was in a hotel or train station where free WiFi was available.  If I could do it all again, I would have spent some time learning some basic Chinese words and phrases.  The one term I learned quickly and used a lot was, "Xièxiè" which means "thank you".  Kind of sounds like "shea she", although I would recommend listening to a native saying it to get the idea. 
Taroko Gorge
One of the undisputed highlights of the trip was a visit to Taroko Gorge.  This is a lush, green mountain range that stretches into the clouds with crystal clear blue water running through the gorge.  I stayed in Hualien which is about an hour away from the Gorge by bus and was a lot less crowded and busy than Chiayi and Taipei.  There is a high speed rail stop at Hualien from Taipei and the hotel and food prices in this little town were excellent.  Think $80 a night for a nice room that is a quick walk from the train station and an abundance of turkey rice for $2.  If you have not had turkey rice, a Taiwan speciality, and you love rice as much as I do, this dish is a real treat.    
Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge
Dragon on Top of Alishan Shoujhen Temple
Maokong Gondola Ride in Taipei
Tea and Waffles in Maokong
Finally, one of the things I learned on this trip is that people in Taiwan take their tea seriously.  There is ritual to how the tea is brewed, the quality and temperature of the water, the tea leaves and the pot it is brewed in and the pot from which the tea is poured.  Of course, once one tastes improperly brewed tea, the attention to detail does not seem outlandish since tea is somewhat of a delicate beverage that can be easily mangled.

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