Beautiful beaches, cascading waterfalls, breath taking coastline- but wait, we’re not talking about Hawaii. We’re describing our scouting trip to Taiwan for aother upcoming Lanai’s Travel Club adventure! You’ll be amazed at some of the things we discovered during our recent scouting trip to this culturally alive country. With Taiwan in mind as an upcoming Lanai’s Travel Club destination, we decided to explore the city and its surrounding area and you wouldn’t believe the beauty there! The lush greenery was completely unexpected!
We started the trip off in usual fashion- flying Hawaiian Airlines- and arrived in ideal weather. Each day was between 65 and 75 degrees, and we couldn’t have chosen a more perfect season to visit. We stayed in a small boutique hotel called the Simple Hotel, which was tucked away in the heart of the city. On our first day, we didn’t waste a minute getting to know the area, and immediately took off to explore the 101 Building. The third largest building in the world, 101 Building is magnificent and quite the sight to behold.
We had an incredible meal at the award-winning Din Tai Fung restaurant, (this place was named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the New York Times!). Here you can watch chefs prepare and create the noodles at the transparent kitchen window and enjoy excellent service and food. By far my favorite dish were the dumplings! They are ridiculousy delicious!
The next morning at 9:00am we took a tour to some amazing places with our local guide Eddie. Similar to Circle Island Tours in Hawaii, this adventure was like exploring all the sights of Taiwan- from history to landmarks to marketplaces and eateries- it was a great day. We started the tour by checking out Queen’s Head, which is a naturally formed rock (by the air, ocean and waves) that closely resembles the head of a queen. This national park had many other rock formations that were unique and interesting to photograph, and it was also connected to the Taiwan aquarium.
The crazy thing about the Queen’s Head rock is that experts only give it 5 more years till it’s cracked and eroded away. There is a large fissure running up the ‘neck’ of the queen, and it will likely snap and crumble away very soon. So now’s the time to check out these incredible mushroom-like rock formations!
Next we traveled along the coast to a town called Keelong, which is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and is very important for importation and exportation. We checked out the Keelong fish market for lunch, where you can pick out your fresh seafood and have it cooked in the restaurant on-site. We sampled a variety of interesting looking sea creatures, including geoduck, squid, giant shrimp and salmon belly.
After the fish market, we continued on our journey to a place called Shihfen, which is an area high up in the mountains of Keelong. The drive up the mountain was worth the trip alone! The lush, green, mountainous beauty reminded us of Hawaii! But once we arrived in Shihfen, we got to take part in a lantern lighting event that was quite the experience. These paper lanterns aren’t like the typical small lanterns your would normally see either- they’re huge! Almost like hot air balloons! And each of the four sides of the lantern represents a different meaning and there are several colpr theme optons you can choose. Things like health, prosperity and love.
Once we chose a color theme, we got to write our own special message on our lantern. Whether it’s the names of your family or a secret wish or prayer, once you write on it, you then light the bottom on fire and the hot air forces the paper lantern to float up into the sky. These lanterns were used in the olden days as a way for towns to communicate back and forth to one another. But today, they are for locals and tourists to send their wishes to the sky.
Continuing our way up the mountain, we passed by several Buddhist temples along the way and then stopped at Jiofun, which harbors the Golden Waterfalls- one of the most magnificent things we had ever seen. This giant waterfall has multiple branches and offshoots, and the waterways take up an entire mountainside. The water tumbling down casts a golden glow because it is known to be a gold mine- hence its name.
And if all that wasn’t enough, to top the day off we went to one of Taiwan’s bustling night markets. This outdoor area is unlike most marketplaces where if you’ve seen one shop you’ve seen them all. In fact, each vendor is very unique from their neighbor, so wandering through the shops is an exciting activity immersed in the Taiwanese culture. One of the most favored foods at these marketplaces is sticky tofu- which you’ll either love or hate. The variety of foods here is amazing, and they have this interesting corn on the cob type dish and tons of desserts and sweets too. Stretching for miles down the street, this mix of food and merchandise is a classic example of the hundred night markets that populate Taiwan.
Our third day in the country was spent exploring the city and different shopping areas. We enjoyed more food sampling, local massages and even jumped on the rail to skirt around the city. The rail system is amazing! When you purchase a pass, you’re allowed to get on and off as you please and you can even use the pass to purchase things at the store. It’s like a personal credit card! This is an extremely efficient way of transportation and the Taiwanese seem to have it dialed in.
We also checked out the Taipei Zoo and saw the famous panda bear. Come January, visitors will have the chance to see the new baby panda, but in the meantime, this papa panda was very entertaining to watch as he jumped and played around his habitat. After the zoo we checked out Ximending, which is the go-to shopping place for the young, fashionable and trendy people of Taiwan. With clothes, shoes and accessories o-plenty, there is a bewildering variety of things to buy, taste and explore here.
Taiwan was a surprisingly beautiful country with so much to see and do. We’re excited to offer Lanai’s Travel Club members a trip to this incredible place sometime next year, and hope you’ll be part of the adventure!