Archiv der Kategorie: Asia

Back in Kuala Lumpur & Singapore

Saying goodbye to Taiwan was difficult since I really liked the country and felt like I didn’t have enough time there. However, I was also looking forward to being back in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, two of my all-time favourite cities.

I was lucky to find a Couchsurfing host for most of my time in KL, and spent a lot of time getting organized, working on my blog, doing laundry etc. Sometimes when travelling for a longer time, you need days like these in between! I only had two things I really wanted to do in KL: finally visit the Batu Caves – and to eat as much Roti Cheese as possible!

 

Mission accomplished I’d say! I then decided to take the bus down to Singapore – not such a smart decision in hindsight. The journey took much longer than expected, the wait at the boarder was endless… So I arrived in Singapore much later than expected, and super tired! The next 2 days I spent walking around the different parts of the city: Chinatown where I was staying, Little India, the marina with the merlion and all modern buildings etc.

 

I fell in love with Singapore during my exchange semester in Malaysia 11 years ago – and I’m still loving it! It’s just the perfect mix between Asian and European. I could totally imagine myself living here. The best part of my visit this time were the Gardens by the Bay which didn’t exist in 2007. I visited in the late afternoon and stayed until it got dark. There was a light show around 7pm which was simply stunning! I felt like in the movie Avatar. Photos cannot quite capture it, but here’s some anyways.

 

And with that, I said goodbye to Asia and hopped on my plane to Australia…

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Taipei and surroundings

I finished my stay in Taiwan the way most people start it: by spending a couple of days in Taipei and it’s surroundings. The weather forecast could have been better: it looked like I was gonna be stuck in the rain for my last 2.5 days in Taiwan! But…I wasn’t going to complain – after all I was travelling Taiwan in rainy season and had not had a single day of bad weather yet. And in the end, I actually only ended up having one greyish afternoon and one half day with fog and a few drizzles. Could have been waayyy worse!

So I arrived around noon from Tainan and quickly dropped my stuff at the hostel to go sightseeing as long as it was still dry. This was the greyish afternoon I mentioned and while it was not great photo weather, I was just thankful that it wasn’t raining! I first walked to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, expecting something similar like Pier 2 Art Center in Kaohsiung. It wasn’t though – much less interesting for the spontaneous visitor. I guess there are some cool shows on if you have time to check the agenda! Then I continued to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – another famous building – and this one was massive! Unfortunately a big part of it is under renovation at the moment, but still…wow!

The rest of the afternoon I walked past some smaller sights in the area – temples, churches, memorial halls and passed through the busy central districts. I then visited the Longshan temple, one of the biggest and most important temples in the city. When I came there, a ceremony was just happening (or a mass? Not sure how to properly call it), there were loads of people and they were all singing… In those moments, while they are very special to experience, you just feel like a stupid tourist who shouldn’t be there. Lol. So I walked around a bit as discreetly as possible and snapped some quick pictures.

Then I left the locals to their ceremony and checked out the Huaxi night market nearby which was just starting and found a little chocolate snack. I needed some energy because my day was not over yet! I decided to still visit Taipei 101 tower, to get another city view from high up. Since the weather was not great, I went up late to rather see the city lights. Probably a good idea since there were actually more clouds and they were hanging deeper than expected. Ok, it was maybe not such an amazing idea to head up a viewing platform on a day like this! Haha, in hindsight you’re always wiser. Still, it was nice to see. Again, wish the windows would have been cleaner…! Since the Tonghua night market was just around the corner (my language: a 15 min walk), I decided to drop by after for dinner and found some nice chewy noodles.

Next day, I met up with my Couchsurfing host for the next few days – Paul. He lives nicely central, so we were able to start out sightseeing from there afterwards. He first showed me Dihua street and the Dadaocheng Pier. Then we walked up North to two very important temples of Taipei: the Baoan Temple and the Confucius Temple – two temples of very different styles which are located just next to each other.

I ended up liking the Baoan Temple more, but they were both pretty! After walking around a bit more in different areas, I continued on my own to Beitou. Beitou is famous for its hot springs, but it was far too hot for me to book myself a spa day! I just wanted to quickly see the thermal valley – where the water is literally smoking hot! It was cool to see, but more a photo stop for 10 min.

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So I decided I still had time to continue to Tamsui – a place that had been recommended to me for late afternoon/sunset time. However, it being Saturday, I was not the only one with that idea! Haha. The whole place looked like a fun fair and crowds were pushing their way through the streets and along the corniche. It was fun to watch for a bit and I made an attempt to explore some streets and temples, but it was a bit too much for me at that moment!

Hence, I left after a bit over an hour and decided to have dinner at Shilin night market – one of the city’s most famous. Of course, this place was also super busy, but well. Night markets are supposed to be full and busy, right!?

On my last day, I had planned to go on a day trip to Jiufen and Jinguashi – about 1.5h bus ride away from Taipei. Unfortunately the closer we got, the worse the weather became. In Taipei it looked like it was going to be a rather sunny day – in Jiufen thick fog was hanging low, sometimes in the streets and it was drizzling out of the fog now and then. Luckily, a big part of Jiufen’s streets are covered market streets. Too touristy for my taste, but at least you were able to stay reasonably dry.

Jiufen was ok, but I was a bit disappointed. I had expected less tourists and more of a local village feel – totally not what I found. So after walking up and down the steep stairs a couple of times, I took another bus onward to Jinguashi – an old gold mining town. I had wanted to visit the Gold Ecological Park, but people didn’t seem to know about it, I couldn’t find it on Maps.Me and I also couldn’t find a lot of motivation inside me to keep looking in that weather. So I just went to the Gold Museum instead, which is actually more like an open air museum. It was not extremely interesting, but strangely enough, the gloomy atmosphere fitted quite well to that place and gave it almost a kind of ‚lost place atmosphere‘ even though it’s a museum of course!

Supposedly the area is really nice for hiking as well, but with no views and even the hilltops disappearing in the fog, there really wasn’t much of a point. I had a feeling that weather was gonna be better in Taipei, so took the bus back and right I was! Sunshine and heat, perfect for my short visit to the National Martyr’s Shrine, basically just to take some pictures as there was not much to explore or look at.

I spent the next hour or so at a little cafe, cooling down a bit and charging my batteries. Later, I took the metro outside the city to the point where you can hike up Elephant Mountain. While it’s more a hill than a mountain, the climb as such is quite exhausting, going up many steep flights of stairs. Luckily my knees are fine again, otherwise this would have been impossible for me to do! There’s many awesome viewpoints clustered around the hill, each providing really cool views over Taipei. It’s a popular spot also for locals at sunset, so I definitely wasn’t by myself up there… nevertheless it was amazing, probably my highlight of my time in Taipei!! Taiwan treated me to a last beautiful sunset – as if it was a goodbye present to me! 🙂

Taiwan, you’ve been amazing and surprising in so many (good) ways. Wish I would have had more time to spend in this small but great country!

Taiwan – Summary & Pictures

People: There’s not a lot of Western tourists (yet), so you have to be comfortable with potentially spending some time on your own. Sometimes I was almost the only one in the hostel! Locals are very friendly and extremely helpful when you approach them. However, they are not per se really interested in you as a tourist. You’re not an attraction here like in other Asian countries. People will not usually ask you to take pictures with them and kids will not be coming running towards you, shouting helloooo. Depending on which angle you see this from, it could be disappointing or relaxing 😉

Food: It was at times difficult for me to find vegetarian food. Often food stalls at night markets only have Chinese writing and even some smaller restaurants might not have English menus. Sometimes I ate at vegetarian restaurants but didn’t like it that much because they use all the mock meat instead which to me tastes just like meat. That being said, I found some dishes that I ended up liking, I even tried stinky tofu and didn’t find it too bad. I think my favourite discovery was cheery tomatoes filled with dried plums on a stick, covered in sugar glace. Very sweet but actually quite nice!

Weather: There’s 2 things I felt very grateful for in Taiwan. No 1 is the weather. I was traveling in rainy season and looking at weather charts and reports from people traveling in a similar time, I expected to be stuck in nonstop rain at least on some if not all days. Luckily, this was not at all the case! I only experienced two half-hour evening showers, one grey afternoon and one drizzly and foggy half day in Jiufen and Jinguashi. The rest of the time, the sun was burning down, it was hot hot hot and felt like being in a steam sauna. Lol, no complaints though, anything is better than rainy days!

Costs: My daily costs were just above 30€, whereas the biggest cost factors were accommodation and transport. Street food was very cheap and sights mostly free!

Accommodation: Taiwan has some of the best hostels I’ve ever seen! Everything is clean and works well. Only reception is not always occupied so you have to take every opportunity you have to ask the questions you have.

Infrastructure: Trains and buses are rather modern and were always on time (except for the Taroko NP bus). Costs were a bit high sometimes I found, especially for trains. Kaohsiung and Taipei have good metro systems, in Tainan there’s some busses that don’t run very frequently though.

Illnesses: The 2nd thing I was very grateful for, was that I finally got rid off my bad knee pain that had been terrorizing me the last few weeks. Seems like extreme heat and lots of walking were good for my knees! 🙂 When you are suffering of a continuous pain, you feel SUCH a relief when it’s finally gone!!

Safety: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country where I felt safer. Taiwan must be one of the safest countries in the world, at least feels like that.

Itinerary: Apart from starting in Hualien, I followed the typical backpacker trail (if there is one). I could have added Kenting for some beach time and some more national parks or hikes in the Taipei area. As I mentioned in many of my Taiwan posts, in almost every place I wished I had more time… and I do want to return one day! I think 3-4 weeks would have been ideal to see the country. Even though it’s small, it has so much to offer and there’s lots of cities where you could stay a little longer because they’re so cool!

Highlight: …uhmmm, everything?

Lowlight: Nothing really.

Click on the photo below to see my full photo album of Taiwan:

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