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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:23 PM   #31
yflyer
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Next, we headed to the Swallow Grotto trail...



In this part of the gorge, helmets were mandatory as rockfalls were common...





More stunning scenery...





The natural marble cliff faces looked stunning, with white and black striations



Some sections of the river had grey muddy water that day on account of the weather and sediment.



It would be weeks before the turned clear again...



We crossed a narrow suspension bridge...



8 seemed to be a very small maximum capacity for the bridge...



...but anyone who took a few steps on the bridge would understand why: this bridge swayed a LOT!




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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:26 PM   #32
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One of the highlights of the tour was Jiuqudong Trail, which translated to tunnel of 9 turns...



This was a section of the trails that had been damaged in a 2013 earthquake, and had only been restored and reopened in mid 2019.



We walked through the tunnel, taking in the stunning view as we strolled...



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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:33 PM   #33
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We also made the obligatory photo stop at the Eternal Spring Shrine...



...built in memory of the workers who died building the central cross island highway.

A short walk away was the Guanyin cave...

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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:37 PM   #34
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Our lunch stop was the Taroko Village hotel...



The hotel itself comprised wooden accommodations set around a large grass field, surrounded by hills...





The large restaurant at the hotel was popular with both hotel guests and tour groups...



Lunch comprised a selection of set meals with both western mains and local specialities...



...including delicious rice cooked in bamboo...

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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:47 PM   #35
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After lunch, we headed to the Qingshui cliffs for an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) ride along the beach...

First, a short briefing on how to ride the ATVs...



...and a few loops of the carpark...



...before heading down a dirt track towards the coast...



I had no idea what to expect on this ride, but was stunned by the extraordinary view as we turned onto the beach itself...



This was a thrilling ride along a wide flat beach, with the cliffs on one side, and the waves of the Pacific ocean on the other...



There was something to be said about whizzing along the beach, with no other traffic around, with the wind blowing all around you...



We rode close (but not too close...) to the waves...at one point there was a gully in the sand, and we had to time our crossing to ensure that waves didn't lap over our ATV's...



At the far end of this stretch of beach, we dismounted and spent a few minutes taking in the view...





This was quite an experience, and one of the highlights of our trip!


Last edited by yflyer; 7th February 2020 at 07:59 PM..
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Old 7th February 2020, 08:12 PM   #36
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After our ATV ride, we headed to the nearby town of Hualien, where we soothed the aches in our tired legs with a round of foot reflexology (Very popular in Taiwan!) before heading to Dongdamen night market for dinner.

It was a wet evening at Dongdamen, but it was still very busy.

This was a very large night market with lots of shopping, games and most importantly a huge selection of food stalls...



There was more sausage...





...and lots of seafood...



...including fish coated with salt and then grilled...



Delicious!



Seafood on skewers...



...and oysters which were simply gigantic...



We ordered some clams and one humongous oyster...





The oyster was incredible. It was the size of the palm of your hand, and was fresh, plump and succulent...



We washed it all down with icy cold beer...


Last edited by yflyer; 11th February 2020 at 10:09 PM..
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Old 7th February 2020, 08:35 PM   #37
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The next day, we caught a train from Xincheng back to Taipei, and checked into another hotel, the Eslite Hotel...



Eslite started off as a bookstore before branching into retail stores as well as the Eslite hotel. The bookstores are still very successful, and the department stores are impressive as well.

As for the Eslite hotel, this was a very impressive, high-end property.

The lobby...



The check-in area...



Our room was beautifully styled...



...with an extra single bed added along with the King to fit 3 in a room...



Everything was spotless and looked brand new, with extremely high quality finishings and materials...



There was a large balcony...



...with very nice views of the park and city...



...as well as views of the Taipei Dome...an impressive looking silver domed sports complex which was still under construction, having been delayed for some time for various reasons...


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Old 7th February 2020, 08:42 PM   #38
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The bathroom in our hotel room was large and very well appointed, with a large bathtub...



...and separate shower stall...



Dual wash basins...



Luxurious L'Occitane toiletries...



...and even a Dyson hair dryer...



Washlet equipped WC...

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Old 7th February 2020, 08:47 PM   #39
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There was a Nespresso machine...



Stationery...



Large LCD flat screen TV with a very friendly user interface...



Blu-ray player...



Very beautiful wood furniture...



...which was of a quality seldom encountered in hotels these days...



Overall, this was a wonderful room: elegant and refined, with very high quality amenities and fittings.
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Old 7th February 2020, 08:48 PM   #40
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There was a well-equipped gym.



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Old 7th February 2020, 08:55 PM   #41
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There was also a restaurant, named the Chapter, which served a good buffet breakfast as well as an excellent a la carte lunch, tea and dinner...







Their signature beef noodles...



Their western dishes were of a good standard as well...

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Old 7th February 2020, 09:02 PM   #42
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All this was very impressive, but for me, the best part about this hotel was the fact that it was owned by a bookstore: the lobby was stocked with a large selection of books, which were available for guests to browse freely in the lobby...



...including many English titles on a wide range of subjects...



...including some really impressive hardcover volumes...



I spent a lot of time in the lobby browsing The NASA Archives...



I could have read it cover to cover if I had the time...



...eBooks are now the rage, but there is nothing quite like handling a physical book, let alone a wonderful high quality publication like this one, whose creation must have been a labour of love...



The lobby bar was pretty good too...


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Old 7th February 2020, 11:02 PM   #43
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Across the street from the hotel was a small park with a pond...



...which was teeming with fish...



Right next to the park and hotel was the Songshan Culture and Creative Park...



This was an arts, design and cultural centre which showcased Taiwan's artists, craft and design talent.

And adjoining the hotel was the Eslite Spectrum department store, which had a very eclectic and well curated selection of merchandise, not to mention a bookstore.



This was an excellent hotel which I would want to return to. A very impressive property, with huge attention to quality and detail, and a lot of understated style and refinement.



To be continued...

Last edited by yflyer; 4th March 2020 at 10:59 AM..
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Old 8th February 2020, 02:42 PM   #44
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We had dinner planned at Japanese omakase restaurant Xiao Cui that evening, but before that, I headed out for a 10 km city run, aiming to get to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and back in time for dinner. At this time of year, things got dark fairly early so by 6pm it was dark.

I started out of the Eslite hotel just after 5pm...



...and headed down Zhongxiao East Road before turning onto City Hall Road...



...and past Taipei City Hall...



...to Taipei 101, which looked unreal in the rapidly darkening sky...



I continued past the Grand Hyatt Taipei...



...down Songshou Road and Keelung Road, before turning right onto Xinyi Road...



...towards the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall...



There are many monuments across the world which are lit up at night. This one was not...



This imposing monument looked far more impressive by day, where the dark blue roof and brilliant white surfaces could be seen at its best, but at least I achieved my objective of reaching this monument, which was the halfway point of my run, at approximately the 5km mark.

Up till that point, I had the same issue that I had with my earlier Taipei runs: each time I reached a junction, if it was a green light, it was all good: I could just continue across the crossing. However, at red lights, it was at least a minute or two of waiting, which was no fun.

Still, it was a cool evening, and I took a slightly different route back to the hotel, heading back via Zhongxiao Road, but not before passing some interesting sights along Jinshan S Rd...



As I jogged down Jinshan S Road, I came upon a large crowd of people waiting outside a building, along an otherwise empty street...



My curiousity was piqued, and I paused for a look-in...



It was a hotpot restaurant!

Later I googled the place...this was Lan Ji Spicy Hot Pot (藍記麻辣鍋), apparently quite a popular place in Taipei. No time this trip to try it, but certainly a place worth noting for future reference!

Last edited by yflyer; 9th February 2020 at 01:34 PM..
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Old 8th February 2020, 02:43 PM   #45
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Elsewhere on the route back, I passed many Christmas decorations...



Taipei at Christmas time was quite festive...



The last checkpoint on my run was the National Dr Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall...



I ended my run back at the Eslite Hotel...





Total distance that evening was 10+ km...



This was a decent distance, with a lot to see along the way, but the many stops at traffic lights and junctions did detract from the overall experience. Good for sightseeing and orientation, but it appeared that the only way to get a good uninterrupted run in central Taipei was to head to the riverside park, and not run along the streets.
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