Chuesok in Taiwan 2015
(Chuesok is the Korean Thanksgiving. Other than Lunar New Year, it is considered the biggest holiday of the year.)
It never fails that a travel day literally means ALL day. While the flight time from Seoul to Taipei is around 2 hours and our flight didn’t depart until 8:35p.m., we left the dorm at 10:30ish a.m. to catch our KTX (train) to Inchon (Seoul) airport. The wait at our local Dongdaegu(train station) was short and the KTX ride to the airport comfortable. It was upon airport arrival that the waiting game began.
Because of the Chuesok holiday, train tickets at time of booking, were few. So when booking our tickets we took an early train as all later trains that day were sold out. No problem, we thought, we can watch a movie at the airport theater …however, only two films were playing-in Korean. We should just check in and go to the gate we said…not yet, we were too early to check-in, by about three hours.
So we walked and sat and waited and did that all over again, a few times.
Once we were able to get to the gate, we had more waiting, so a little rest was in order.
After a nice nap on an empty row of seats we were ready to get to our plane. The flight was delayed about an hour, but we did eventually get in the air. The flight itself was uneventful and arrived in Taipei an hour and a half after scheduled. The luggage took 45 min to get to the belt, thus we were finally free of airports holds an hour or more after landing.
Welcome to Taiwan (Republic of China R.O.C.)
After the lovely welcome signs, before reaching customs, we were greeted with a no frills statement posted at the escalator entrance which read, `Drug trafficking is punishable by death. ‘ R.O.C. Yep, that is right. Decided not to whip out the camera and take a photo but rather keep on moving. Wonder what would happen if the U.S. would post and follow through with that?
There is risk involved in arriving in a foreign country after dark, and we had a plan for arriving at 10:35pm, but our arrival after midnight needed a plan all its own. We made it to a bus waiting line, and were able to buy tickets to get to one of the travel points in our original plan, a subway station, but were told the subway was already closed. Gulp! We were directed to take a taxi to our hotel from the deserted subway station drop off point. Fortunately, this was not the first time this country has done this kind of thing and we were dropped off in front of a very active taxi stand. Relief! Our little old man taxi driver was so nice, although he did have to pull over to call the hotel for directions, we were delivered safe and sound. Our heads hit the pillow about 2:00 a.m. That is one long day for a two hour flight!!
We spent the first two nights at the Gallery Hotel in Taipei. A nice hotel with a glass elevator. The complimentary breakfast, and each one on our journey, included standard fare of eggs and such but also included several kinds of traditional Chinese foods such as porridge. One was called Regional Porridge, one was a soy milk based porridge, and there was a third kind. I tried the regional porridge one time which to me seemed like rice in a lot of liquid. Of course there were many items I could have added to the bowl, but not knowing what they were left me just trying the porridge in the raw.
This trip brought to our attention the style of bathrooms in many Asian hotel rooms. Each hotel we stayed at on this trip had glass walled bathrooms within the room. This particular room had one interior bathroom wall with a window nearly floor to ceiling and a large pull down shade on the bathroom side.
Our first day in Taipei we headed out with our rain gear to do some exploring. We went to Taipei 101 and attempted to see the city from the top. We were able to get to the lower observation deck, but due to the weather the upper floor was closed.
The elevator truly was fast. This is a picture of the floor display inside the elevator. We boarded on the 5th floor and traveled to the 89th floor in about 37 seconds. The top speed this elevator can reach is 1,010m/min. An ear-popping adventure!
While the view from the 89th floor was mostly obstructed by rain and clouds, the tower itself was fascinating. In the center of the tower is a massive steel damper which acts as a counter weight to steady the structure during wind and earthquakes. Earthquakes? The massive steel ball is 41 layers of riveted steel. Although it was windy while we were there, we could not visibly see the weight moving. There was a video rolling of earlier events that occurred which caused the damper to visibly swing to near maximum range. One was an earthquake which showed the movement of the ball and the people in the building swaying about as if on a ship on the seas. I could not imagine being on the 89th floor of a building during an earthquake.
Some photos from the 89th floor and the damper.
We learned about the history of coral gemstones and the difference between coral reefs and gemstones. The history is fascinating and enlightening. Of course, there was a coral gallery at the end of the observation areas in Taipei 101.
Some exquisite pieces made from coral gemstones…pictures really don’t do these pieces justice.
More pictures from in and out of Taipei 101.
Though the rain was constant, we were able to make the best of exploring the city. We took the cable cars up to a small street market area all the while goofing around inside and taking in the lush greenery below.
Taipei is an interesting city and was celebrating the Autumn Moon Festival. However, the moon did not make appearance due to Typhoon Dujuan rolling in. Yep, that’s right…a typhoon. We knew that rain was in the forecast but did not realize nor investigate the cause of the rain :/.
Once in Taipei and learning of the typhoon, we thought that because businesses, trains, people, and the city were in a state of movement, the storm was nothing to worry about. After all, unless it’s CNN, we cannot understand local tv. It was shortly after we learned about the reason for the rain, we also learned that it was just shy of what’s called a Super Typhoon.
We needed to travel from Taipei to Chiayi City the day the storm was to roll in so we headed to the train station. We did not have our train tickets in advance and arrived at the station amid a flurry of activity. Whether it was a normal day’s events, the moon festival, or the storm the station was bustling with activity. As we waited for our departure time, we killed time in an air-conditioned shop. When Anna and I stepped out of the store, Tom said he heard that a train had been cancelled. For a brief moment, the memory of hurricane evacuations of 2004 entered my mind and I thought we may need to have plan B so as not to spend a night in a train station. Thankfully, twas all in my mind. Our train was on time and did a fine job of getting us to Chiayi City.
On to the Hotel Day Plus! The hotel was quite eccentric with an artsy flare. From the unique decor in the lobby (love the frame divider) to the creative and unique ‘Have a Nice Day’ greeting at each elevator exit, to the tree table and planter on the floor below us, this was a visually pleasing lodge. Our hotel room itself was quite fabulous. Again, a bathroom with glass walls and a spacious room which provided ample room to stretch out for our stay.
We were anxious to get to a night market as we heard and read that was the thing not to miss. Although it was early (4:00 hour) we headed out in search of the market. We did find a small stretch of market type vendors, but we were hopeful there would be a better one in another area of Taiwan as this market was nothing to write home about. We decided to make our way through the gusty wind back to our hotel. The gusts were strong enough to cause a swerve in my step (no alcohol involved!). Although the hotel staff advised us at check-in to wait until later in the evening to go to market and to take a taxi, we were so glad we went early and returned early. It wasn’t 30 minutes after we were in for the night that the torrential rains began and did not let up ALL night long.
We were one floor from the roof but the center of the hotel had an open area, so the sound of the rain pounding on and the wind blowing against the metal roof was at times deafening. The torrential rain came minutes after we arrived back to the hotel(around 7pm) and did not stop until sometime the next morning.
There were a few times I awoke in the night and was amazed at the force and relentless downpour hammering this city. Great thing is though, the power never flickered and we did not see any damage in our area.
Pictures of the hotel, area, and view from our room into the storm.
The frames turned room divider in the lobby. Love this idea.
From the room into the night and storm.
Walking back to hotel from night market. Street scenes. The sky was amazing. We found some food in a small open eatery. This picture was taken from inside looking out. We had a small bowl of chicken and rice which was delicious.
The next day we needed to find our way to Kaohsiung around mid-morning. Again, we did not have train tickets in advance and learned that due to the storm and winds the trains were suspended for the morning and would begin running at noon. We were unsuccessful at securing tickets online or at the 7-11 so decided to make our way to the station. Expecting crowds, we met very few people waiting, and we effortlessly secured tickets for the next part of our journey.
High Speed Rail boarding area and scenes along the way.
I feel like all the parts of Taiwan we travelled around were a city without sidewalks. The area between the building front doors and the roads were used for motor bike parking leaving very little room to walk.
We made our way to The Tree House hotel. An interesting place and probably really chic in its early days. This is looking up from the lobby; there is a staircase that goes up around the “tree”.
We headed out to do some exploring and navigated toward the water. We ended up at the Banana Pier. This was an open area with a pier, of course, several shops, a small museum, and some closed sidewalk cafes. We guessed the cafes, if still in business, would be open in the evening hours due to the high temperatures during the day. We did not have a chance to come back to the waterfront to prove our theory.
We found the ferry loading area, managed to figure quickly how to proceed, and off we went. The ferry hauls people and their motorbikes or just on foot to the island and back. It was a cool experience, but almost more fun to watch the folks zoom into the boat on their scooters. It truly was second nature for many of them. This is what the ferry looks like. The island we were headed to. Once there, we covered a lot of territory. We rode along the beach, found a Taiwan Hellships Memorial museum which told the stark story of the Taiwanese people’s struggle for freedom from China, rode through a wind generator “park”, past temples, and finally stopped for a short hike through an old fort.
We hiked around a fort that has been preserved.
Back to the ferry to head to the mainland, return the bicycles, and seek A/C and food.
A little mystery about the floors in the Treehouse Hotel – They tried to not have a 4th floor. We had read somewhere that in some countries certain floor numbers are considered bad luck. Not completely sure if this was the case here, but it was clear having a 4th floor was something to be avoided.
We visited the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Really fascinating artifacts, but the exhibit areas were too crowded.
A memorial/marking in the subway of the water depth during a typhoon in 2001.
View from the Novatel on our last day.
Headline in The China Post in Taiwan. :((
There were three prayer rooms, one room for Muslims, one for Buddhists, and one for Christians.
Taiwan had its interesting parts and terrific scenery, and we were glad to be able to travel here and experience this country.
More adventures to come!