"Travel broadens the mind". A wise saying I'm sure we've all heard before. But do you know Albert Einstein also once also said "I love to travel but I hate to arrive"? That is so deep Adele can't even roll in it.
With so many wise sayings, I just had to add my own. "So many places to visit, too little time and money no enough". hahaha life's short. If you have money, you can travel further and longer. Less money? Travel nearer and shorter. Just somehow try to find a way to make travelling part of your life.
The number one tip when exploring Taiwan
If you're travelling in a group, to enjoy Taiwan more intimately it's highly recommended to engage your own driver. The good ones also serve as guides. And to minimise your expenses, do stay at one of the many "ming su" (homestay). Most of the time you will really be out enjoying the sights, sounds and food. So skip the expensive hotels unless that's what you're after.
One basic requirement when going to Taiwan is being proficient in Mandarin, as most communication will be in that language. To be honest, I had a great time brushing up on my rusty Mandarin (also my Hokkien which their older generation speak) during my trip.
If nature features heavily on your itineraries, the Taiwan "fun quotient" is frequently a hit or miss affair. I have had friends who encountered a massive landslide in Taroko Gorge which blocked the main arterial road between east and west of the island. That necessitated a re-routing and loss of precious holiday time. There were also those moments when the sunrise and sunset just didn't happen, after a two hours drive up the mountains.
My 10 days in Taiwan
My family and I were doubly blessed to have a great private driver cum guide and superb weather, so I'm able to share this pictorial travelogue with a happy heart. As my trip spanned 10 days over the northern half of Taiwan, I have to break into a few parts to better capture all aspects of this beautiful island.
Da Hu Strawberry Farms
Our 10 days trip kicked off from Taichung after an overnight 5 hours flight via Scoot Airlines. We visited the strawberry farms of Da Hu (in the Miaoli County), also known as the strawberry capital of Taiwan.
The local farm produce includes a range of strawberry related products like strawberry wines, meatballs and ice cream. For readers who have experienced those in Cameron Highlands, the strawberries here are grown differently, on the ground level, rather. So plucking the juicy fruits is a more back breaking affair. But it's still wonderfully sweet and refreshing.
The lady owner of the farm we visited. We were very lucky as we were her very first retail customers before the hordes of locals and other tourists descend on the Da Hu county for the strawberry picking festival. So we enjoyed the season's 1st picks and a discount from her.
The farmers are generally very laid-back and affable. Took us under a 10sec to warm up to each other. And she practically chatted non-stop with us...
Munching on freshly picked strawberries is a happy experience and a wonderful way to start the trip.
That's how farmers harvest their strawberries! By seating on little wheeled carts, moving backwards by pushing with their legs as they go down the rolls of strawberries. The brown tracks are filled with rice husks and not mud.
Da Hu Central Market & Street Food
The Da Hu town central market is teeming with people and the locals fave mode of transport are scooters. In fact, the streets are full of them. So it's best to be alert when walking on the streets. As a result, I could not take many pictures here as I spent most of the time taking care of my children and avoiding them.
A roadside stall selling braised meats. Not my fave!
Taiwan style roti pratas... quite tasty and eaten as it is, but without curry :) Hey, this Taiwan...
A stall selling vegetables that locals buy home to be cultivated to a bigger size before eating. Yes, that would be generally unthinkable to most of us here in land scarce Singapore.
The organically grown roasted sweet potatoes in Taiwan is different from the Japanese version. The flesh are more moist and just as sweet. It's wonderful to hold a hot roasted sweet potato in your palm as you stroll along in chilly 15-16'C temperatures.
What's Taiwan street cuisine without the ubiquitous Chou DouFu (Stinky Beancurd)? The smell when it's being deep fried might smell somewhat odd, but it's really delicious. You can find the different types of versions of the dish at Ching-An Tofu Street, where all types of tofu can be found.
Would you like some Chou Tofu ? It's yummy ! Honestly....
Sheng Xing Old Railway
Taiwanese entrepreneurship can be seen in the many streetside food vendors. Like this lady spotted along the street at Sheng Xing Old Railway, a disused railway station.
The Sheng Xing Old Railway- a quaint disused railway. With loads of eateries along the street and curios shops, souvenir hunters will love this venue.
The cat-themed curio shop will find appeal to many a cat lovers.
Our 1st lunch in Taiwan -sinfully delicious stewed belly pork that melts in your mouth. Absolutely delicious!
"Lei" tea, a signature beverage of the area. Our guide said confidently that it will be the "best" tea we will drink in a long time. He was not joking. It took us about 20min of concentrated arm power by every one in the family to ground the seeds, releasing it's oil to form a paste.
The drink stall owner then adds rice puff to the mixture and lastly boils hot water to form the tea.
Compliments from the owner for our effort...a moochi with ground peanut. It was really good.
The Gao Mei Wetland
It is Taiwan's answer to clean energy for the people. An impressive sight to behold, with all those gigantic blades spinning away the wind from the coastal area of Qingshui, Taichung City.
Met a group of undergraduates shooting their graduation pictures. Volunteered my photography service and asked them to be themselves.
Boardwalk at the 300 hectares Gao Mei Wetland, which have special soils mixed with mud and sand. Ecology here breeds diversified organisms of both plants and animals. Research shows that animals here include birds, fishes, crabs and invertebrates.
The wetland surface does not soil our feet and is firm to the touch. You can walk kilometers out to sea during low tides by just pulling up your pants.
The picturesque Gao Mei Wetland with the windmills in the near distance.
Feng Jia Night Market
No visit to Taichung is complete without going to Feng Jia Night Market. It's said the food street is like an incubation centre for F&B entrepreneurs. Stalls that do best usually moves on to become a full fledged restaurants.
Stinky Tofu for you?
Best stinky tofu I ate in Taiwan :)
Skewered food stall...just NT15 per stick and cooked the healthy non-oil style.
Seriously, a SpongeBoB and Square Pants pastry? Yes, just NT50 gets you the entire 12 pieces!
Taiwan Travelogue Part 2
The next part of my Taiwan travelogue chronicles itineraries that precedes my ascent to the mountains of He Hehuan Shan, in the Taroko National Park.
A BIG Thank You for hopping along the journey so far. Check out part 2 of my trip below!