It’s 6am. I’m sitting on the balcony of my hotel overlooking Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, one of the most visited places on the island; I can see why.
The largest body of water in Taiwan, the lake sits in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range, clouds are rolling over the forested peaks; a mist is gently rising off the water with rays from the morning sun catching the reflection. Blurring with the skyline, I can no longer see a horizon. The sound of a bell is ringing from a monastery in the distance…
Reluctantly, we’re flying back home to Australia in an hour or so, after an incredible whirlwind 5-days exploring the west of the Island. It feels like we’ve been here a month.
If you’ve been following our travels, you’ll know we loved the East Coast of Taiwan. This time, it’s the West.
The West Coast is more established than the East. It celebrates its rich history and culture, and beautifully showcases its lush mountains, pristine lakes, secluded temples, high-end hotels, and stunning fresh seafood – all wrapped up with the happiness of the people, a signature trait you’ll find right across Taiwan.
Western Taiwan in 5 days
We flew into the capital of Taipei, jumped on the fast rail, and headed all the way to the south west of the island, (1.5hr journey). We then crept out way back up by car.
Kaohsiung you’re a beauty!
The thriving port-city of Kaohsiung sits in the south west of Taiwan and is known as “Taiwan’s Marine Capital”. It has a wonderful balance of old and new.
Taking a walk by the lotus pond surrounded by the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas sets the scene for the colourful local culture.
Wherever we wander, there’s always a bustling market.
The Liuhe Tourist Night Market was lit up like a Christmas tree, with over 100 different food vendors.
The fresh seafood is first class.
A must for any traveller is the restaurant ‘Tianshuiya Hot Pot’ – a showstopper as far as experiences go. Make sure you give yourself enough time to truly enjoy this local experience.
A stand out for me, is the local restaurants.
Culturally there is so much to see.
Taiwan takes great pride in the arts.
You’ll find the “Dome of Light” in Kaohsiung’s underground metro – it is the world’s largest glass masterpiece, designed by Italian artist Maestro Narcissus Quagilata – and is composed of 4500 pieces of stained glass.
And the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is the largest performing arts centre on the planet. Somewhere between a giant whale and a space-ship is the only way I can describe it. In the night’s sky, it is mesmerising.
Day Two. Dapeng Bay in Pintung City for the 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival
There always seems to be a celebration going on!
The Taiwan Lantern Festival is the largest in the world. Marking the end of New Year celebrations, it’s held in a different town every year. This year it was Dapeng Bay, in Pintung City.
I especially loved the displays highlighting green-energy, and the lanterns lovingly made by school children from right across Taiwan.
Day 3. Meinong & Tainan
The Diversity of the people.
Taiwan is made up of many small tourist towns. One of them is the Meinong District in Kaohsiung that’s home to the Hakka Community.
Making up 15 per cent of the population, Hakka means ‘guest families’. They were originally Chinese tribesmen who migrated from northern China in the 1270’s.
Over a cup of tea, the locals proudly share how being resourceful is in their DNA.
There were so many places we could drop in on to understand the history.
The former Tait & Co Merchant House holds a permanent exhibit of household artefacts from the 17th century, showcasing the lifestyle of the Dutch, Chinese and indigenous families.
But it was next door at the Anping Treehouse that got our full attention – it’s a massive Banyan Tree that has swallowed an old warehouse which once belonged to the operation (Mother Nature will always find a way!).
Day 4. Tainan & Taichung
Still in Tainan City, the Sicao Dazhong Temple is one of many we saw on the West Coast. It enshrines the Marshall of the Sea, Chen Tze, a Taiwanese General, known for his bravery in defeating over 300 Dutch soldiers.
It sits on the banks of the Sicao Green Tunnel, where you can take a boat ride through the mangroves.
And if you’re looking for an instagrammable backdrop, take your camera to the Taiwan Salt Museum.
Or pay a visit to the Rainbow Village in Taichung!
The Rainbow village is in fact a street art that was created by former soldier, Huang Yung-Fu, who started painting his house to try and save it from a planned demolition.
He not only saved it, it’s now a major tourist attraction – and he’s more than happy to take a pic with you!
Day 5 Nantou County
Our final day was perhaps my favourite.
The Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village in Nantou County, is an example of what Taiwan does so well. It’s a theme park that cleverly celebrates the Formosan Aboriginal culture; with hundreds of school children enjoying a day of fun and cultural education at the same time.
The massive grounds are home to the tallest free-fall ride in Taiwan, and the Island’s largest European gardens and bell tower.
From the grounds of the theme park, we jumped on board the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway cable car, gliding our way over the top of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range, and arrived Sun Moon Lake shrouded in the enchanting mist it’s famous for.
The next minute it’s alive with super boats, packed full of holiday makers taking in life of the water.
And that is where I am right now, taking in the serenity.
The name of the lake is inspired by the beauty of the area. The east side of the lake is round, like the sun, while the west is long and narrow, like a crescent moon.
Taiwan, you’re a treasure. Until next time…
Have you got any questions about our trip to Taiwan? Let us know in the comments and we will fill you in!