Posted by: daradoodle | March 3, 2009

Taiwan (台湾), Week #1

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without spending it with the ones you love. My original plan was to meet Nathan aka Naters aka Nate aka my BFF in Japan for the holidays, but when I learned that it’s one of the pricier countries in Asia, we opted for an alternative. Ironically Nate was asked to do some work in Taiwan during December and although I didn’t know much about this Republic of China also known as Formosa, I had heard that there were quite a few vacation destinations on the island. After many hours of research, I booked us a two-week trip to Taiwan.

Nate and I reunited in Taipei (台北) at the uber hip Hotel 8 Zone located in the city center. This boutique hotel was surprisingly affordable with its steam shower, fancy pink and blue bedroom lighting, two person jacuzzi, two flat screen TVs, and the biggest bed I’ve ever seen in my life. Here’s what I’m talking about.


Pink and blue lighting above bed.

Pink and blue lighting above bed

Projection of a sun that can be turned on and off.

Projection of a sun that can be turned on and off

View of the Taipei 101 from the jacuzzi tub

View of the Taipei 101 from the jacuzzi tub

Cool hallway ceiling panels and lighting.

Cool hallway ceiling panels and lighting


Our first day brought us to the top to the Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world. We took advantage of the free audio tour that guided us around the observatory providing an aerial breakdown of the entire city.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101






The damper absorbs vibration during an earthquake

The damper absorbs vibration during earthquakes


Nate with a "damper baby"


Entrance to the Taipei 101 shopping mall


Cool light-up artsy tiles in front of Taipei 101

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Taipei had an exhibition going on called SuperGeneration@Taiwan. All of the pieces displayed were said to represent the environment that the “younger” generation is experiencing. Instead of being interested in “bigness,” “greatness,” or anything “epochal,” the “strawberry generation” cares about shredded pieces information that has minimal significance. I realized that I’d been in China too long when I kept asking myself if some of the images on displayed were too riskay for the public eye. The best part of the day was when Nate was asked by a young Taiwanese lad in the gift shop for some help with his English test he was preparing for. Nate then passed the guy off to me. Yeahhh.

MOCA Taipei

MOCA Taipei




Bao bing (刨冰) is an amazing shaved ice sweet treat topped with fruit, condensed milk and ice cream. Nate and I can’t understand how this icey treat hasn’t caught on in the U.S. because it would be a hit. One of the best places in Taipei to get one of these is at Ice Monster.


bao bing (刨冰)

One of many funny shirts in Asia... no idea what the slogan means

One of many funny shirts in Asia... no idea what the slogan means


Memo on the Metro platform in Taipei

After four days in Taipei, we jumped on the Taiwan High Speed Rail and headed south for Taichung (台中). We stayed at the new In One City Inn where we realized how spoiled we had been at Hotel 8 Zone. With only an artsy blue and white tiled shower to write home about, this hotel walks a fine line between budget and boutique. However, the receptionists get cool points for printing out a Nantou bus schedule for our trip to Sun Moon Lake the next day.

Artsy hallway of In On City Inn

Hallway of In One City Inn


After checking in, we walked around Taichung for nearly two hours before flagging down a cab to bring us to the Japanese-style teahouse, Wu wei tsao tang (无为草堂 ). We ate lunch, drank tea and Nate fed the massive fish in the pond crackers from our table.



Don't forget to smell the fragrance of the tea

Don't forget to smell the fragrance of the tea


Tasty teahouse snacks

Tasty teahouse snacks


For dinner we had the pleasure of going to a Hot Pot restaurant with Nate’s co-worker Jeremy and his lovely and expecting wife, Mingyi. I ate a few “firsts” during this meal which included duck’s blood and a certain pig intestine that will remain nameless. I gotta say, not a fan of either. The food department bonus that night was driving 45 minutes away to a spot where we sampled a different type of bao bing. Mingyi ordered us shaved ice with red beans, yams and colored jellies as well as a warm sweet bean soup type dessert.


Cold sweet treats in Taichung

Warm sweet treats in Taichung

Warm sweet treats in Taichung

Unfortunately on the way back to the hotel, we got into a bit of a fender bender. Thankfully everyone was ok. Jeremy decided to call the cops to file a report and told us that we’d better get a cab back to the hotel since it was getting late. Feeling really bad about the accident, we made our way back.

We woke up the next morning to an awesome breakfast in the lobby before setting off for the bus station. Sun Moon Lake (日月湖) is the largest lake in Taiwan and located in the center of the island. The winding ride to this stunning landscape scales mountains covered in green. The bus dropped us off at the Shueishei Sun Moon Lake Visitor Center and a receptionist there called the Crystal Resort to notify them that we had arrived. Nearly an hour later, the resort people still hadn’t picked us up, so the receptionist phoned again. Apparently there was a bit of a mix-up and the wrong couple got on our shuttle. A few minutes later the shuttle returned to the visitor’s center and we were on our way to the resort.

When we arrived, we were the only people there. This was a tad bit creepy since we were nearly 15 minutes away from the lake with no businesses around for a few miles. There was a strong David Koresh-esque/Waco, Texas/cult compound vibe going on, but we kept an open mind a took a walk around. We found an outdoor spa with a large heated pool, a patio bar and a hiking trail up the side of a mountain. We climbed the mountain to a landing that gave us a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area. We made our way back down the mountain to find a small farm behind the main building that housed goats, chickens, bunnies and guinea pigs. We headed back to the room to get cleaned up for dinner (which was included in our room rate along with breakfast) and popped over to the bar for an affordable beer at NT$75 before making our way to the dining hall.

Crystal Resort

Crystal Resort






We wanted to spend our first full day, which was Christmas Eve, biking around the lake. After breakfast, the hotel staff drove us to the nearest “Around the Lake” bus stop for no charge (usual cost is NT$200 to the visitor’s center). When we arrived at the center, the guy working behind the desk tipped us off to rent bikes a few doors down rather than the expensive Giant Bikes downstairs that charged by the hour. We found a place that rented new bikes at NT$200 each for the whole day. The owner threw in some bottled water to close the deal then we set off around the lake.

The weather couldn’t have been better. The sky was blue, a cool breeze was blowing and the sun was shining. On the 30 mile journey, we stopped off at the Wunwu Temple, Peacock Garden, Sun Moon Lake Spring, a boardwalk/trail along the lake, Yidashao Village for lunch and closed out the day with the Cihen Pagoda.




Wunwu Temple






Peacock Garden






Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

Streets of Taichung

Streets of Yidashao

Taiwan has perfect weather for growing mushrooms

Taiwan has perfect weather for growing mushrooms and they're sold in bulk at local stores

Cihen Pagoda

Cihen Pagoda


Huge (and LOUD) bell inside the Cihen Pagoda



!!BONUS VIDEO!! Added 3/8/09 by request…

The sun went down 30 minutes before arriving back at the visitor center and there were no street lamps lighting our path. I was a little nervous pedaling in the dark, but we managed to find our way back to the rental place and dropped off the bikes. We had the concierge at a nearby hotel phone a cab (more like someone’s little brother who was cruising around in a mini-van) to bring us back to the resort. We ate a traditional family style Chinese dinner then soaked in the outdoor spa before turning in for the evening.

We spent Christmas day at the nearby Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village along with every kid in Nantou County. The mobs of youngins added to the experience because had they not been there, it would’ve been Nate and I walking around this cultural amusement park by our lonesome. Admission was NT$700 a pop which included the rides, cultural shows, traditional handicraft demonstrations and access to replicated Aboriginal homes throughout the park. During one of the performances, a kid turned around and gave Nate and I some fruity marshmallow candies. Nice kid. Nate also managed to find another pond with massive fish. We bought three tubes of fish food from a nearby dispenser and watched the fish go crazy.

European Palace Garden

European Palace Garden










Aborigine houses



School kids dressed in blue and yellow uniforms watch the performance

This was about all the evidence of Christmas in Sun Moon Lake

This Santa hat wearing Aborigine was the only evidence of Christmas in Sun Moon Lake


There were also poinsettia looking flowers along the bike route

Sun Moon Lake isn’t called one of the most beautiful tour sites in Asia for nothing. A must destination in Taiwan and I hear that it’s a great place for summer vacation.

After five days, we said good-bye to the Crystal Resort and took the Nantou bus back to Taichung to catch a ride on the Taiwan High Speed Rail down south.

Next stop, Tainan (台南)! To be continued…..

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  1. I finally made it to a blog post HAHA! I like those fish they were fun. You need to post the video of me ringing that bell and blowing our ear drums out.

  2. […] in the world, Burj Khalifa. Now, I had been to the tallest building in the world back in 2008, the Taipei 101, in Taipei, Taiwan, but when this Dubai skyscraper opened in January 2010, it surpassed Taipei 101. […]

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