Every summer I travel to Taiwan and I thought I’d just tell you about the trip this year!

We need to take a long flight to get there first.  Last year we made connections at Portland, OR and Narita, Japan by Delta Airlines.  This year we took a different route and different airlines. We made connections at Newark, NJ and then Narita by United Airlines and All Nippon Airway to Taiwan. We tried a very expensive crab roll that cost $23 at Newark Airport. And it tasted okay only.

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Anyway, airlines in America are all similar. The air is stuffy, the temperature is cold, and the food is not tasty.

Life in Taoyuan

Most of the time we lived in Taoyuan and spent time in school to learn Chinese. My favorite activity in class with my classmates are playing dodge ball. However, the dodge ball is played very differently than in U.S.  In Taiwan, the field is much larger and the players who were hit still have chance to get back into the game once they hit opponents from the outer fields.

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Most of time we ate at home. Grandma’s cooking is good. We ate some traditional street foods once in a while. For example, we ate Salty Crispy Chicken Nuggets (or Salt & Pepper Chicken).

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In addition, during one of our visits to Taipei, we had lunch at Din Tai Fung. The dumplings were soupy and the meat inside was tasty. The skin was delicate. It is one of the most popular restaurants in Taiwan and has been featured in a CNN article http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/eat/40-taiwanese-food-296093.  There always have so many people waiting in lines.  We were lucky this time that we only need to wait for 30 minutes.

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Of course, we tried many foods on the CNN list. Open-mouthed smile

Tainan

After school finished, we finally started our trip. The first stop is the province of Tainan in the south. We went by grandfather’s car. We are pretty excited because this is our first road trip in Taiwan.

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Along the way, we saw windmills along the highway near the Qing Shui rest area

Qing Shui Rest Area

A highway rest stop. Certainly not like the normal rest areas we see along U.S highway.

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There are convenience stores, souvenir shops and all kind of restaurants in there! It’s like a mini mall!  There is even a aquarium tunnel, too. How amazing!

Tropic of Cancer

Along the way, we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer in Jia Yi Province.

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It is shaped kind of like a space station. So we travelled south into sub-tropical zone and it was already blistering hot!

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There’s monuments everywhere!

Ciqu Salt Mountain

We then continued south, stopped by the Beimon Tourist Center, visited the Crystal Church, and got directions to Ciqu Salt Mountain.

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Somehow, we could not get into the Crystal Church. But it looks pretty. We then went to the salt mountain— A mountain built by salt.

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We climbed up there. We saw the salt fields and the channels that they would channel the salt water in and sundry it for salt.  We tasted the salt a little bit. So salty!!! Then think of all the saltiness in that mountain…After eating salty ice cream, we continued our journey to Tainan city.

Once we arrived Tainan City, we were so hungry. We went to Xiao-Dou-Dou to have braised pork rice (number one in the CNN list!) and noodles for dinner. They are really good.

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Next morning, we have traditional fish porridges. But they are not my flavor so I barely eat.

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Fort Provintia

A must-see stop in Tainan. The fort’s name comes from the Taiwanese aboriginal village recorded by the Dutch as “Sakam”, which has developed into the modern-day Tainan. After growth, the Chinese called it Chhiah-kham, and surrounded it with high brick walls. It eventually became the capital of the whole island under the name of Taiwan-Fu.

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Taiwan Confucian Temple

The Taiwan Confucian Temple, also called Tainan Confucian Temple, is the first Confucian temple in Taiwan to honor Confucius, the famous teacher who found Confucianism long time ago.

Confucianism is a philosophy, doctrine, and ethic system in ancient China and is still prevailing in modern Taiwan. For example, the five constants in Confucianism: humaneness (Zen), righteousness or justice (Yi), proper rite (Li), knowledge (Zhi), integrity (Xin) are mentioned a lot even in children’s books. Other elements such as loyalty (Zhong) and filial piety (Xiao) are everywhere. Behaviors such as respecting teachers and caring seniors are also come from it.

Today the temple serves as a tourist attraction and also celebrates traditional Confucian ceremonies. The temple also includes display cases for the musical instruments that are used in these ceremonies.

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Koxinga Shrine

The family shrine was built in 1663 by Zheng Jing to honor his father.

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After a morning of terribly hot weather, we cannot wait to go back hotel to take a rest.  On the way back, we went to a traditional market to pick up Tainan famous street food for lunch.  Gua bao (cut bun) and Wa Gue. Again, both of them are on the CNN list!

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Fort Zeelandia

After cooling down a little bit in hotel, we continued our Tainan tour.  This is a fort built by ancient Dutch. Dutch once colonized Taiwan but only in a small region. That is today’s Tainan city. This is why Tainan has quite a mix of historical heritages.

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We climbed up the tower and the view of Tainan was amazing. Clear blue skies!

IMAG8389IMAG8374Ancient fort walls

Anping Tree house

The banyan trees are really strong so they can practically break the roof with their roots.

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Trees are everywhere!

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Banyan trees galore!

That night, we had dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in Tainan — Zhou’s Shrimp Roll with Mom’s friends.

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Great dinner!!!!

Eternal Golden Castle

Third day morning. Before heading to eternal golden castle, we went another fish porridge shop for breakfast. (sigh)

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The fort was interesting with a moat outside and cannon ditches lined with ancient bricks.

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Wushantou Reservoir

Before we left Tainan for Sun Moon lake, we stopped by the Wushantou dam.

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We watched a movie and learned that the designer was a Japanese, Hatta Yoichi. He realized that the villages needed water for farming but water was really far away. So he designed, constructed a dam, and dug a canal to induce the water. He really loved the people being really happy so he constructed a railroad to help people to get more goods. We got to look into the designer’s house. It was cool.

Nantou

We then travelled to Nantou province to the Sun Moon lake. Before reaching the lake, we stopped by the Che Cheng wood station

Che Cheng Wood Station

Here is the place where Japanese collected the best wood in Taiwan and shipped them by the railroad and boats back to Japan when they governed Taiwan.

At Che Cheng wood station we smelled different types of wood and saw sculptures of wood that were in really cool shapes.

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Sun Moon Lake

Here is one of the most famous sight-seeing spots in central Taiwan. Do you know how to tell which part of lake is Sun Lake or Moon Lake?

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taiwan-sun-moon-lake-map(1)There’s a story of how the aboriginals found Sun Moon Lake. It’s really a legend, though.

“Once a group a men were hunting and they saw a beautiful white deer. They followed and chased it till it disappeared. When it disappeared, they found Sun Moon Lake. Flat land, the lake teeming with fish and lots of greens to gather. So seeing no reason to go back, they decided to settle in.”

Our hotel is not gorgeous, but nice. The views from our hotel balcony are great!

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On the second day morning, we rode boats across the lake. The view is nice!

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Sun Moon Lake Wilderness Trail

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We walked this trail to get to the Sun Moon Lake Cable Car Station. From the Sun Moon Lake Cable Car, the lake was really beautiful. The water glowed turquoise.

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A amazing view of the lake from the Xiang-san visitors center. This is the closest visitors center to the lake.

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Along the way, we saw the real passion fruit. In US, we tasted the artificially flavored passion fruit drinks couple times.  But the real fruit tastes so different than the artificial flavor.

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The Ci En Pagoda has 9 floors and a blue and white spiral staircase to the top.  It is the highest point of the Sun Moon Lake.

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My mother climbed the hill so she could get to the tower and get the best shots of the Sun Moon lake.

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Paper Church

On the next day, we visited the Paper Church which is to memorize the victims of 9/21 earthquake in 1999.

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The seats, the roof, the pillars are all paper. Amazing. It took people five weeks to build it. The materials were donated by Japanese who experienced Kobe Earthquake.

Puli Whisky Museum

Before we headed back to Taoyuan and finished our road trip, we stopped by Puli, a place famous for its Shaosin whisky.

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Here I learned there was a kind of whiskey to give to the daughter when she was 16. There was a whole collection of antique bottles from when the company started to the present. There was blue and white porcelain vases, pottery, and glass bottles. It was an interesting museum.

Hualien

After a short rest (one day actually), we then headed to my Dad’s hometown, Hualien. The fastest and most convenient way to get there is by the newest Zhi-chiang Puyou-ma train.

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On the train ride, we can see Turtle Mountain Island. It wasn’t really clear because of the fogging.

Hualien is still a countryside but became a very popular sightseeing place. The night we arrived, we visited a night market nearby and played a lot of games.

Shueiyuandi (Watershed)

It is a upstream of a local river. This is the place my dad used to swim. He said that it does not change much.

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We played in the water while some of us caught shrimp and fish. The forests were green and provided shade for us.

Ci Xin Beach

A major tourist place in Hualien.

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Here, the views were like always; gray skies and turquoise seas.

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We played with the rocks and gravel and we built a fort out of most of the big rocks. Because the shore drops so quickly that we cannot play in the water.

Shakadang Trail @Taroko National Park

On the next day, we woke up at 7:30 to get on the car and arrived at 8:15 at Takoro National Park to walk on the Shakadang Trail.

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The walk was sweltering hot but the views were outstanding. We finished at the Five Room House where they sold handmade fans and drinks and food.

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Train and Bento

Ha ha, I just realized it was the last item on the CNN’s list. Yes, eating bento on the train is such an interesting and important tradition.

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Last year we tried the Chi-Shan bento, a must-try food in Tatung province, on the train from Hualien to Kaohsiung . It was fantastic. This time, we tried Re-hai, a famous special bento shop. Dad said he grew up with it! The pork rib is great!

Back Home

Ok, Time to head back home. At Taiwan airport, we visited the special gallery for hello kitty theme air plane (EVA Air). At Narita airport, we saw the special shop of Totoro, a legend animal in Miyazaki’s animation.

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In our return route, we connected through Chicago. Well, nothing to mention over there since we were in jet lag. Smile

In summary, this summer trip to Taiwan was really fun but it was just blistering HOT HOT HOT.

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