It is time to add a new country to my list! 😉 Maybe/probably the last one for 2019. After France, Belgium, Wales, Morocco, China, Czech Republic, Germany, USA, and Indonesia; let's now discover Taiwan! 😀
Note that both the ROC (Taiwan) and the PRC (People's Republic of China = Mainland China) still officially (constitutionally) claim mainland China and the Taiwan as part of their respective territories. In reality, the PRC rules only Mainland China and has no control of but claims Taiwan as part of its territory...
The flight from Shanghai to Taipei lasts a bit less than two hours, which I am glad as I am feverish with a sinus infection... Yes, this is why I am back on my travel blog with two new articles, after a little break! 😉 My driver (fancy) was waiting for me when I landed. First impressions of Taiwan? Same same but different! People look Chinese, they speak Chinese, but they do not act Chinese. They are civilised! Amaziiing! What I mean by that is: they do not spit everywhere, and they say "hello" and "thank you" and "goodbye".
As I mentioned in the previous post, I am here to attend a scientific conference, namely the 26th IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP), or the world's largest and most comprehensive technical conference on image and video processing and computer vision. Two of my papers were accepted.
But I had my morning free as I did not register to any tutorials. At first, my plan was to go to the Elephant Mountain, a little park with a great view on the city, but I read on a blog that there were a lot of steps to climb up there, and I did not feel like it at all with my sinus infection / fever / shortness of breath. I thus gave up and went to the Taipei 101 tower instead, located right across the road from my hotel.
To be honest with you, this is not at all the kind of visit I am fond of (paying EUR 15 to go to the top of the tower, to see more towers in a grey polluted sky), but I did not really feel like doing something sporty this morning. The Taipei Observatory offers a 360 degree point of view on the city, as well as a few shops and cafés. If you want a nice view on the city without having to pay, go to the Elephant Mountain!
This afternoon, I joined the ICIP bird watching tour. We went to Guandu Nature Park.
This evening, I went to the welcome reception of the conference. I got to catch up with my PhD supervisor (who offered me a job), with my master's supervisor, and with a few other people I have met during other conferences. I will be presenting my works tomorrow, wish me good luck! 😉 Nite nite readers!
My presentations went really well yesterday, I received a lot of interest from the audience. After a long day, I went for dinner to a good Korean restaurant with my PhD supervisor and with a German colleague.
This morning, I randomly met the General Chair of the conference while at the coffee break, and he insisted to take a picture with me and share our business cards! 😉 After a few interesting sessions, I decided to get out of the conference centre and go explore the city for a couple of hours. I took the subway to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, located five stations away from the conference.
Note the guard change ceremony takes place on top of the hour from 9am to 5pm.
At the ground floor of the building can be found several art exhibitions, as well as a few shops and cafés.
In the evening was the conference banquet! I had a great time (good company 😉) in spite of the bad food (sea cucumbers, fish skin, and other Chinese/Asian delicacies... bon appétit bien sûr).
ICIP 2019 finished on Wednesday! I took a train to Hualien in the evening. The journey cost TWD 440.
Yesterday (Thursday), I took the train from Hualien to Xincheng and bus to Taroko National Park.
I started the day with Shakadang trail, also known as the Mysterious Valley trail. This trail is built along the river cliff so travelers can easily observe both the rock folds and plant ecosystem beside in the river valley. It was a very nice flat walk (about 5 kilometres), with very few people but a lot of birds and butterflies. I really wanted to go for a swim, but there were signs everywhere saying "No Swim"... 😥
I was absolutely starving after the trail (only had two toasts for breakfast) and was almost running out of water, thus I decided to look for something to eat. In mainland, there are food places everywhere; I expected the same here but not at all! It is a really national park! 😀 Therefore, I had to head back to the entrance of the park... but I could not find any bus. I walked there, including a kilometre in a dark tunnel where pedestrians were probably not allowed (oopsy). I eventually found some food, and devoured it lol.
Big question after lunch: go back to the park for another trail or head to the sea? After some intense reflexion, sea it is! But, when heading to the bus stop, I notice that the next bus is... at 2.45pm (it was only 2pm). Five kilometres to my destination, wait or walk? Walk! 😉 I got slightly scared on the way, when I saw the sky getting darker and darker. But I avoided the thunderstorm / typhoon, yay!
I made it to Xincheng train station and bought a ticket for Chongde, located only five (more) kilometres away. Life would be easier if they had Uber or Didi here - or maybe if I rented a scooter instead... Anyways. When I made it to Chongde, I quickly noticed two things: 1) the sky got even darker and 2) the famous Qingshui cliffs (where I wanted to go) were still... 8 kilometres away. Oopsy. I gave up, and only walked to 崇德海灣 (no idea what is the name in English lol, maybe Chongde beach), for a few pictures and quick rest.
Time to head back to Hualien after this tiring day (I walked 13 kilometres in total). I had a very appreciated shower, and treated me for dinner with bread, mozzarella, tomatoes, and a yogurt! 😉 This may sound funny / weird to Europeans or others, but it is fairly rare in Asia! 😀 Come back for more stories!
It was raining heavily when I woke up yesterday, around 9 am. I checked the forecast: rain all day... Not good for my plans! 😦 When I asked at my hostel some indoor ideas (i.e., museums or so), the answer I received was: shopping malls (no way) or big Starbucks (no way). Time to get my laundry done then (useful). After that, I enjoyed my lunch at the hostel (leftovers from my yummy dinner), and quickly noticed that it stopped raining. I checked the weather forecast again, no more rain! Let's move! 😀 My original idea was to rent a bicycle and ride around the city of Hualien, but I quickly changed my mind and decided to head back to Taroko National Park, to try another trail. I took the train from Hualien to Xincheng, and then the bus towards the park. I had decided to do the Jiuqudong (Tunnel of Nine Turns) trail, but eventually got off the bus 5 kilometres earlier, at the Zhuilu Suspension Bridge (because it looked beautiful 😉).
But I then discovered that a permit was required to enter Zhuilu Old Road mountaineering trail. Too bad for me! Or maybe it is a good thing, as a "decent level of fitness" is recommend to climb the slope until reaching the cliff... 😉 Instead, I went for the Swallow Grotto Yanzikou trail, effortless to walk through.
Breathtaking, isn't it? 😀 [...] There is one thing I really do not like: it is to walk back from the same way I came from. Hence, instead of walking back to my bus stop, I thought that I could just walk to the next one... This was a really bad idea, for several reasons. First, the roads were very narrow, with no pavement, which made it scary for me each time I met a scooter, a car, or a coach. Second, there was nobody else walking, only me. And third... I got to walk through a tunnel for two kilometres, with a beautiful sign at the beginning saying "NO PEDESTRIANS". But I did not want to head back. It was dark and smelly and hot and humid and lacking of oxygen. I got so relieved when I made it to the end and found the next bus stop! 😉 That bus was actually going to Hualien, so I did not have to take a train - perfect. In the evening, my new Taiwanese friend took me to the famous Dongdamen Night Market, which offers a good insight into Taiwan’s street food. After a very good (and cheap) dinner (BBQ), we did rifle shooting, yay! 😀
I used to always go to bed early and wake up early when traveling, in order to see as much as I can. Yesterday (Saturday), it was already 10.40 am when I woke up... Oops! 😉😀 My Taiwanese friend took me on his scooter for the best breakfast place in town. I have no idea what the name of the place is, because it was all written in Chinese, but it totally worths it! For about 3 euros, I had: an omelette, a sandwich, and a big Taiwanese donut. Also, the café has a nice view on a temple... which I do not know the name...
We ended our little road trip in Hualien going to the Pine Garden. The garden itself is very relaxing, with a nice café, however, all the explanations about the rooms are written in Chinese only... Not helpful! 😦
We headed back to the hostel around 2.30 pm so that I take a (very) quick shower, pack my stuff, and check out to reach the train station. Next step? Taitung! Two hours by train from Hualien towards the South. I barely reached my hostel that Monique, a Hongkongese girl, offered me to join them (her and two Taiwanese girls, Joy and Yuki) for a Japanese dinner. Why not! 😀 We took a bus downtown and went to Mr Cow. The food was good, and we had a good time. After that, we walked around the Railway Art Village.
This morning, I chatted for almost an hour with two Taiwanese while having breakfast. Shao-Yu recommended me to go to Chishang, which I did, as Monique also recommended me the same yesterday. Also this morning, I booked a one-way ferry ticket to the Green Island for Tuesday... but this is a story for another day! 😀 Talking about raincheck, I owe you the story of my sunburt: I noticed yesterday evening, when getting out of the shower, that my whole back and shoulders and neck were red. I put some aloe vera cream, it looks better now. Good thing is that I do not feel any pain, and it will probably get tanned soon. The train journey from Taitung to Chishang lasts 40 minutes and costs NTD 74... or 55 with the IC card!
Back to my hostel around 6pm, for a warm shower, a little dinner, and for catching up with my emails and travel blog - now up to date, yay! 😉 Tomorrow will be my last full day in Taitung. Not sure about my plans yet. I was supposed to take the train to Tainan on Tuesday but, as mentioned earlier, I changed my mind!
Today is typhoon day! 😥
I stayed in until 12.30 and then got bored. I walked 7 kilometres in the city, without really doing/seeing nothing interesting. I even ended up in a Starbucks (shame on me) to eat a scone and read my book... I should probably have used this day to: a) study for my Chinese test, b) prepare my lecture and lab for next week, c) write my resignation letter, d) apply for new jobs, e) all of the above; but well, I am a lazy person.
I received an email from the General Chair of the conference, who absolutely wanted to take a picture with me (yes, next year will be in Abu Dhabi). I still do not get why, because I really look obese... Sadface 😥
A last selfie with the Taiwanese and Hongkongese for my last morning in Taitung! 😉
October 1st, yet very hot. Around 30 degrees with 70-80% of humidity. I experienced my first earthquake! I felt the sofa starting to vibrate, I looked around me, and noticed my neighbour also felt it. I thus checked the Volcanoes & Earthquakes app and, indeed, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake in Taitung! :O
Boats travel a few times a day between Taitung and Green Island. However, the schedule might be changed due to weather conditions or tides... All the boats were cancelled yesterday because of the typhoon! It takes about 50 minutes by ferry, and a round-trip ticket costs NTD 920. Be aware that the sea is very rough, and the ferries are called "pukey boats"! Indeed, at least half of the passengers vomited, including me, even though I am usually not seasick and I had my peppermint essential oil. We fed the fish! 😉
Everyone was happy to reach the land. A driver was waiting for me with a little sign with my name, and took me to my hostel. The best way to travel around the island is by scooter, I thus asked Mrs Lee (my landlady) to organise one for me to rent. I paid TWD 1000 for two days and a half (EUR 30), which is a lot more than what we used to pay in Bali, but well! 😉 However, it is an e-bike (i.e., electrical scooter). The Green Island is a apparently a great spot for snorkelling and scuba-diving, but I did not bring my contact lenses, thus I would not even be able to see my own shadow... 😥 Sorry to disappoint you Victor! 😉
My accommodation is located in the North of the island, next to Gongguan (see on the map above). This afternoon, I explored the North West of the island on my scooter, including 7-Eleven (lol), a few beaches, and the lighthouse. I went for a couple of swims, and then witnessed the most beautiful sunset of my life.
If you look at the little map of the Green Island I put on my previous post, you will easily follow my steps. As I told you, my accommodation is located near Gongguan, therefore this is where I started this morning. Today, I basically did a clockwise loop of the whole island! 😀 I, of course, stopped (very often) to take some pictures, to go for walks, to go for swims, to have some food... Some pictures of the East coast below.
Tonight is my last night on the Green Island, and tomorrow will be my last night in Taiwan... 😥
After two scooters, one boat, three minibuses, one plane, one bus, and two subways... I am back to Taipei!
Not sure why I woke up at 5 am this morning, and did not manage to get back to sleep afterwards. I could have used this opportunity to go watch the sunset, but I am too lazy lol. I went for my last swim (😥) after breakfast, and enjoyed a little sunbathing (I will not be able to pretend that I was working away!)...
I then had a quick shower and a quick lunch at my hostel and re-did my CV completely with a view to apply for my dream job (hmmm almost lol). I know have four full pages! 😀 Note this does not make any sense as I have only been working for seven months - anyways. My driver met me at 1.30 pm in order to drive me, and three Asian dudes, back to the harbour - to take the "Green Island Vomit Comet" (read that on a blog, found it funny) back to Taitung. However, he tried to turn his car on for ten minutes and finally gave up. I should admit that I started to get slightly worried for the boat, as it was the last one of the day (there are only two) - even though I would have loved to stay longer on the island! 😉 The landlady came out and told me: "women qu motuoche" (我们去摩托车). I understood (with my limited Mandarin skills) that we were gonna go on scooter. In my head I thought: no problem for me, as I only have a backpack, but how are we going to do with the three big suitcases of the three Asian guys??? Well, we did it Asian way! 😉 I wish I took a picture. The landlady was driving the scooter, with a massive suitcase between her lungs, me behind her, holding my small backpack, carrying my bigger backpack on my back, and with a long umbrella (belonging to the Asian dudes, of course) between us. We made it, "keyi keyi" (= "yes we can")! lol
Long story short, bye bye Green Island! Note the ferry ride was a lot smoother, almost nobody puked. When I reached Taitung, I decided to go have a look at Xiaoyeliu, which was on my bucket list but got postponed due to the typhoon. It was only one bus stop away from the harbour (but too far to walk), so the bus driver offered me a free ride! 😉 The minibus was full of Asians with big suitcases, going to the centre.
So, after that, I headed to Taitung airport, and flew to Taipei (one hour flight), where I am now.
This morning, I took the subway to go to Treasure Hill, Taipei artist village. Most of the labs, studios, and shops were closed, however, the village itself offers a nice walk. Apparently the village is more animated in the afternoons and evenings, and probably during weekends. Well, too bad for me, I will be gone! 😉
I am writing this last post on the (very comfy) sofa of my hostel. It is now 2 pm. In an hour or so, I will take the subway to reach the airport... I am indeed flying back to mainland this evening. Sad, sad, sad! 😥 But I have a lot of plans for the next weeks and months: enjoy a Couchsurfing dinner in a French restaurant, pass the HSK Chinese profiency test, show around the country to my mum who is visiting soon, go to more adventurous weekends with M2, go to Xi'an... oh, and find a new job, and work a lot also (teaching, research, admin)! To conclude this trip: Taiwan was a great discovery. I really love the East coast for its National Parks, its landscapes, its Green Island, its peaceful and quiet spirit. I do not really recommend the West coast (even though I did not go there haha - but I imagine its some small versions of Taipei! 😉).
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