Leaving Kenting, we drove up the west coast of Taiwan. For this leg of the trip, we decided to make pit stops at Tainan, Alishan and Taichung prior to arriving back in Taipei. As we headed inland towards the central mountain range, the views got more impressive the higher we climbed. At some point, we climbed so high that we were actually within the clouds and our view of the valley was obstructed by the clouds. After we left Alishan we drove through Yushan National Park and encountered families of formosan macaques.
Highlights in Tainan
The temple is one of the oldest buildings in Taiwan and is thought to be the first official school in the country. It was built in 1665 and since then has undergone several renovations. Regularly, it is used to host ancient Confucius ceremonies. The area right after the main entrance is free to visit and includes a garden which is a local hangout spot.
Admission fee: NT$ 50
Anping Fort/Fort Zeelandia
Back in the 17th century, Dutch troops conquered the area around Anping and built Fort Zeelandia as a defense base. It was later seized by the Chinese and turned into government offices. At some point during the Qing Dynasty the fort was demolished and abandoned, only to be later rebuilt after the Japanese occupation and named Anping Fort.
We spent time walking around the grounds and climbed up the watchtower for views of Anping.
Admission fee: NT$ 50
Anping Tree House
Located a few metres behind Anping Fort is Anping Tree House. The main attraction here is the large banyan tree that has grown among the ruins of an old warehouse which was previously used by Tait & Company, but was abandoned.
Admission fee: NT$ 50
Hayasi Department Store
The department store was opened in 1932 during Japanese rule. It is known for being the first place in southern Taiwan to have a modern elevator, and thus has become a tourist attraction. During WWII, when Taiwan was bombed by American forces, several sections were destroyed but have since been restored, though on the top floor evidence of the bombing can still be found.
Admission fee: NT$ 0
Staying in Tainan
Located not far from tourist attractions, this hotel was the perfect choice for the one night we had to spend in Tainan. Rooms were clean and of a decent size. Breakfast was adequate, and the hotel offered complimentary tea, coffee and ice cream throughout the day. At night, a light dinner was served.
Eating in Tainan
After walking in the pouring rain we finally found this small Japanese restaurant hidden discretely behind wooden doors. Though the price was slightly above our budget, the food and atmosphere were good.
Highlights between Tainan and Alishan
Guanzihling Hot Springs
One cannot visit Taiwan and not visit a hot spring. All throughout the country are several hot springs which are frequently visited by locals and tourists hoping to be rejuvenated.
The Guanzihling hot springs are famous for their muddy hot springs which are supposed to cure a number of skin allergies.
Water and Fire Homogeny
The water and fire homogeny is an amazing natural phenomenon. The Liuchong River fault passes this area and allows underground natural gas to ascend through the cracks in the rock. The gas together with the water from the hot springs, emerges on the surface and feeds the eternal flames that appear to dance on the water flowing down the rocks.
Highlights of Alishan
Alishan National Forest Recreation Area
Covering an area of 1,400 hectares, at over 2,000 m above sea level, Alishan is a ridge within the Yushan Mountain range. The main reason we ventured up here was to wander through the thick forest to see the renown giant cypress trees which are over 2,000 years old.
The Giant Tree trail is divided into 2 separate wooden paths, with almost 40 huge red cypress trees of different ages. We spent just over an hour wandering through the forest.
Admission fee: NT$ 300
Staying in Alishan
One of the only places to stay in the middle of the park is Alishan House. All the other places are located about 1 km away near the parking lots. Though the rates for the rooms are exorbitant, since we wanted the convenience of being able to wake up and go for the trek in the forest we decided to fork out the cash. The hotel has an old and new section, and the old section is considered to be part of a historic building and thus maintained as such. Due to its remote location, half board is provided though it caters mostly for Asian tourists.
Highlights near Taichung
Sun Moon Lake
This is the largest body of water in Taiwan, and most visitors choose to bike around the lake. The lake surrounds a tiny island and is thought to resemble the shape of the sun from one side, and the shape of a moon from the other. The lake is however very popular with tourists and we witnessed a few bicycle traffic jams.
Xinshe Castle (Summit Resort)
Nestled in the Xinshe mountains is a European-looking castle set in the middle of well-manicured gardens. While from a distance it appeared as though it was an ancient castle, as we wandered into the grounds, we realized that the castle was obviously modern and built specifically for tourists.
Admission fee: NT$ 250; Parking: NT$ 250
Staying in Taichung
The best thing about the hotel is the location, which is close to a large shopping mall. Within 15 minutes of checking-in we had seen 3 separate rooms. The first room had a nasty odour, the second was too small and not in the same class as what we had paid for, and the third, barely acceptable. Breakfast catered mainly to local tourists, but was fairly decent.