If Taiwan have been on your list of places to go but you have yet to go, my question to you is: What ARE YOU waiting for?
The place to shop, eat, shop and oh did I mention eat? Yes, everything fancy and nice at good affordable prices, Taiwan have all that to offer and more. Especially in Taipei, where it is a city similar to Singapore aside from all the big and normal brands of shops to visit they are also full of their own local brands and style.
Indulge in the plethora of night markets and wholesale shopping areas, it is never-ending. This time around however, I made a trip outwards to the eastern beach of Taiwan namely Hualien.
Enough of all the fancy lights and high rise building, it is time to go back to nature and bond with the natural elements.
Staying in an inn called Railway Homemade Homestay located at Xiulin Township, Hualien. The house is just beside the railway tracks. I have always seen it on Taiwan dramas with the scene of the children running around and farmers working the field, this is my second time staying beside the mountains and surrounded by green fields and train tracks.
The period when we were there is sort of after spring, so it is windy and cool to be out! Our hosts, a family who stays in the inn as well, provide abundance of services which made our stay comfortable and conducive.
Firstly, they have a pick-up service from the nearby train station, Xincheng train station. From our booking, they were responsive with every question that we have and they left no single details out. We coordinated the time of arrival and where we were from so that they came over to pick us up.
The whole layout of the inn is actually made by the husband himself, I am guessing that is why the name of the Inn is Railway homemade homestay? oh well…
We had a room for 4 of us together which is a quaint, simple, cottage style room with a bathroom ensuite. With mattresses placed side by side on the floor, we all slept like how the Japanese would call it “River Style”.
Our stay included breakfast every morning which our hosts will prepare food using ingredients which are grown in her backyard. From berries to leaves to brew into soothing warm tea, every part of the course is a wonderful process.
As part of the exploration in Hualien, we planned to visit Taroko Gorge as well. So we did some homework on how we can take the public bus and travel within to trek and explore. How surprised were we when we found out that the hosts also conduct personal tour of the Taroko Gorge and will bring us around to see the recommended places (plus some special places with less tourist) at a small fee. On a whole, it was a total package to sign up for as we do not only get transport to all the best places in Taroko but we got our own local guide as well to explain and educate us during each part of the journey. Our guide of course is none other than our host’s husband, so he is a native of hualien who have a rich culture of different tribes in Taiwan. With his vast knowledge of the history of the tribes and the story behind each place, we definitely have gained a lot of wisdom and story to tell when we come home.
Though we stay away from the main town area and nightfall means peace and quiet, we joined in the BBQ session for our first evening held by the hosts. A simple food fare of bbq meat, sotong, and snacks were passed around as we all huddled in the shack around the fire. We get to mingle and talk with other guests who were there. Coming from Malaysia, China and Singapore, we talked and shared about where we come from, what we have seen and tips being in Taiwan.
Another evening, we also made our way to their town to visit the night market and shopping. This has got to be one of the biggest that I have been to outside of Taipei, or wait! were they all these huge? hmmmm….things I ponder upon. Nonetheless, I love visiting all the night markets, like for instance, the main focus of the night market here will be on the tribal culture and stuff. Apart from the food that they are selling, there was a stage where I got to catch some authentic tribal performances. Everyone young and old were clapping and cheering as the youngsters danced and jumped around on stage. The merry feel and energy does not seem to stop even as the night gets darker.
Apart from the mountainous view that we have every morning, the place is also beside the coastal area. Just 5 mins by bicycle (which you can just borrow from the homestay) or you can walk over to the beach in about less than 10 mins, you can see the black sand beach. The waves were huge and we know that the water are not safe to play as underneath the seabed is a sudden drop into the deeper end. If you are into beaches, then I would recommend the southern part of Taiwan, such as Kenting!
The thing that I love about holidays is that, even when I am walking on the streets strangely it feel liberating, the mind does not bother with problems or worries. All I can tell myself is, I am away and solutions will always be there for any problems.
As I travel, I get to meet people from all walks of life. Curiosity will lead me to ask them questions like what do they do, why are they travelling to the same place that I am and what do they seek to derive from the place. This to me brings a whole new meaning of knowledge and education. Textbooks that I have studied cannot beat the information that I can learn from Google and it cannot further top the life experiences that I garnered when I travel.
As part of my travels, I always favoured AirBNB just for one simple reason, it is safe to book and make payment online thus lesser hassle while on the road. In order to encourage you guys to try using it, here is a free credit of S$30 for your first use of AIRBNB, click my link: www.airbnb.com/siti to register for free and get S$30.
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