With our tour wrapping up and the strong desire to cool off, Taipei looked like an interesting place to visit. We picked up an AirBnB and headed off to our new adventure. Taipei is not on the typical tourist track. But with cooler temperatures and significantly cheaper than Hong Kong, we thought it was worth checking out.
We loved it! The food, the people and the sights. The weather was a welcome relief – warm but not dripping in sweat as we wandered around. Lots of amazing food to try – fried dumplings, bubble tea, amazing sushi and even stinky tofu (don’t bother with the stinky tofu as it smells and tastes like sweaty gym socks).
We spent an entire day at a 12 story electronics showroom. Every manufacturer in Taiwan had a storefront in this place from cameras, sound equipment, headphones, drones, phones, computers and more. Most of the products we fell in love with are not even available in the US yet. For a digital nomads, we were in heaven exploring floor by floor.
Of course we explored outside, used the extensive metro system and met up with a few locals. One retired judge came up to us at the metro while we studied the map. He ended up walking us to our destination and chatting us up with great stories. He was so cute, I wanted to take him home. We also went on a guided tour of the old town area. It is always great to hear from locals about the area and get different views. We noticed significantly different views on the local politics for each generation.
Early (very early) we jumped on the train and headed south to Taroko National Park. This amazing gorge is 20 kilometers long and lined with marble. While I am used to seeing granite as we hike, even red rocks are becoming normal. The white and grey marble was all new and an amazing sight.
As the sediment collected in the gorge, it was subject to increasingly large amounts of pressure which eventually hardened it into limestone. Over the past 100 million years, tectonic compression between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate supplied additional pressure that metamorphosed the limestone into marble. Uplifting forces from the plate collision pushed this rock above the surface of the ocean to where we see it today. The region is still being uplifted by approximately 0.5 cm (half-centimeter) per year.
Originally the gorge was to house a dam for electricity production. But in a first ever event, the people of Taiwan fought against it and won. The area was designated a park in 1986 and the infrastructure originally built for the power plant (roads, tunnels and bridges) were converted to tourist trails. Some of the tunnels require headlamps – they are very very dark!
We hired a driver for the day and managed to stay in front of the tour buses and enjoy amazing recommended hikes and sight seeing. I highly recommend a private driver – just grab a taxi when you jump off the train. We spent about $100 for the day and it was worth every penny.
We just scratched the surface of Taiwan on our visit. For the next visit we hope to see even more of the country side and hopefully take a train all the way around the county. I strongly recommend adding a stop in Taiwan to your travels if you like to feel like a local, try amazing food and meet wonderful people. If you prefer to travel with a pack of loud Americans and never want to hear any other language than English, then head somewhere else. Taipei is off the beaten track and well worth the journey!