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Trip Report Taiwan Trip Report

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Spent one week in Taiwan - 5 nights in Taipei, 2 in Hualien.

Highlights:

1) Taroko Gorge - Well worth a visit. I hired a cab for the day, which was not cheap, but much better than taking a bus tour. The Eternal Spring Shrine was definitely the highlight. The walk toward the water curtain was nice as well, though the best part of the trail is closed. And there are plenty of great views of the gorge, the river and the coast throughout.

2) Elephant Mountain - What a great idea to have a hiking trail lit at night. It's not really a trail, more like about a thousand steps to the top. But the views of Taipei 101 and the city at night are incredible.

3) Costs - Everything is dirt cheap, particularly food and taxis.

The Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail and the Silver Stream waterfall near Maokong both require long walks, but the waterfalls are worth it.

What I Didn't Like:

1) The weather - It rained 4 out of 7 days and was cloudy on the other 3. I had about two hours of sunshine the whole week.

2) The crowds - It was off season, in early May, but everything was ridiculously crowded. The train from Taipei to the Pingxi Railroad was like a New York City subway at rush hour in both directions. And the Pingxi Railroad was just as bad. This was on a Thursday. On Friday, Maokong was overrun with visitors. Train tickets to Hualien are hard to get. The English website never worked and by the time I had someone help me in Chinese, most of the trains were full. Then you have to go to 7-Eleven and have someone help you purchase the ticket at the kiosk.

3) The food - Yes I know Taiwan is known for its good food. If you like all kinds of strange meats, then I suppose you'll enjoy it. Otherwise, good luck. Lonely Planet recommends a bakery famous for its Taiwanese breads, but the line was two blocks long every morning, no matter early I got there. They also recommend a dumpling place in one of the malls, but that too had a 30 minute wait. English menus were hard to come by, even in the Taipei 101 mall food court. I ended up with some mediocre tempura. Only when I was accompanied by a Taiwanese friend did I find some better options.

I really had great expectations of Taiwan. The previous Lonely Planet guide raves on and on about it. For me it was ok, but not what I expected. It is a long and tiring trip from New York and only Taroko Gorge and Elephant Mountain were really worth the effort.

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