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Old 1st February 2020, 04:37 PM   #16
yflyer
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I continued across the First MacArthur bridge to the far side...



...and headed down to the park to continue my run...



I could see aircraft taking off from the nearby Taipei Songshan Airport.



Finally I had a proper uninterupted path to continue my run...



This was a huge riverside park complex with sports and fitness facilities dotting the riverbank.



This was popular with runners, walkers and cyclists alike, and went on for kilometers and kilometers...



I continued my run along the riverside path for another kilometer or so, before doubling back the way I came...



By then, it had gotten dark. I retraced my steps back to the S hotel...



Overall, this was a pleasant 8+km run done in cool 17 degree weather, starting and ending at the S hotel...



...with the most pleasant part of the run being the stretch along the Keelung River.

Last edited by yflyer; 3rd February 2020 at 12:59 PM..
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Old 1st February 2020, 04:59 PM   #17
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Back at the hotel, I showered and headed out with Mrs yflyer and Miss yflyer no.2 for dinner at Dawan Yakiniku, a very highly regarded BBQ restaurant that Mrs yflyer had booked weeks in advance...



In this restaurant, we sat at the U shaped counter where your choice of meat and seafood would be cooked over charcoal by a dedicated chef...



A whisky high ball to start...



...and a salad to share...



...before the onslaught of beef, pork and seafood began...







Thinly sliced and finely marbled oyster blade...



...which was super tender...


Last edited by yflyer; 3rd February 2020 at 12:20 PM..
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Old 1st February 2020, 04:59 PM   #18
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Wagyu steak...



...expertly grilled...





...and sliced...



Intestines...





A mid-meal palate cleanser...



Tender, juicy prawns...



Delicious mountain yam...



Unless on a keto diet, I would recommend a bowl of their fluffy, moist white rice as well...



A very memorable meal, not just because of the spectacular cuisine, cooked tableside, but also because of the warm and friendly young chefs behind the counter...

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Old 1st February 2020, 05:03 PM   #19
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The next day we caught a train from Taipei to visit Houtong Cat Village and the town of Jiufen on the northeast coast of Taiwan.



This was a commuter train...



...with MRT-like seating...



We headed out into the countryside...



Our first stop: Houtong Cat Village...



This was an old abandoned mining village which became a haven for cats. Cats were now the main draw for visitors to this village...





I wouldn't say the village was overrun with cats, but they were everywhere...



...and many of the felines seemed to be enjoying the attention...



...and cat food...


Last edited by yflyer; 1st February 2020 at 05:20 PM..
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Old 1st February 2020, 05:19 PM   #20
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Miss yflyer no.2 was quite a fan of cats, and she and Mrs yflyer seemed to enjoy the experience of walking around...



...and exploring the cat-themed shopping...



What was a dog person going to do in a cat village though? I wondered to myself. In the end, I just wandered around and enjoyed the scenery.



We had lunch at Moggy Cafe...



This was an intimate cafe which served quite delicious pasta and risotto dishes...



The owners had a cat which made itself very comfortable on the premises.



Delicious pasta...



...and risotto...



...as well as coffee...

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Old 1st February 2020, 05:32 PM   #21
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From Houtong, we caught a train and bus to Jiufen...



This was a very scenic hillside town with a famous market, Jiufen Old Street...





...where shops sold local souvenirs and treats such as local Taiwan sausage...



...and specialities like "smelly tofu", which were really an acquired taste for some...



It was very busy when we were there, with the narrow alleys thronging with visitors from all over...



An iconic spot in Jiufen Old Street was Ah Mei Tea House...



...where you could have traditional Chinese tea in a beautiful setting overlooking the coastline...



Tea set for two...



This was also a really popular spot for photographs...a rare spot where you could take pictures of the buildings on the hill slopes...



...although at times you really had to jostle with the selfie stick-toting crowd in order to get that shot...



From Jiufen, we caught a taxi to a nearby train station for the ride back to Taipei.

Last edited by yflyer; 1st February 2020 at 05:57 PM..
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Old 1st February 2020, 05:38 PM   #22
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Back in Taipei, we headed to one of the smaller night markets, the Liaoning Street night market, for dinner.



This was just a small stretch of road lined with eateries, nothing like the massive night markets at Raohe and other locations, but perfectly fine for our purpose, which was to grab a quick dinner.



We decided on mutton hot pot at one street-side eatery...



Local beer to begin (They have beer promoters here, just like in Singapore)...



...and then a large hotpot filled to the brim with tender mutton ribs, vegetables and broth, cooked tableside...



Between the 3 of us, we finished this massive hot pot...



Absolutely delicious local fare!


Last edited by yflyer; 11th February 2020 at 01:16 PM..
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Old 1st February 2020, 05:39 PM   #23
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The next day, we caught an express train to Taroko Gorge...

The large atrium of Taipei Main Station...



Lots of food options within the train station, including, surprisingly, an outpost of the famous Singapore 328 Katong Laksa...



Our train was the Puyuma Tze-chiang express train, one of the fastest trains in operation in the Taiwan rail network.



This had comfortable seating and a very smooth ride...





This limited express service got us from Taipei to Xincheng Taroko station in just under 3 hours...





We got off the train at Xincheng Taroko station, which was the station before the city of Hualien, where most other pax would disembark...





This station was very close to our accommodations, Aluwa Taroko Homestay.

Last edited by yflyer; 2nd February 2020 at 10:50 PM..
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Old 2nd February 2020, 11:59 AM   #24
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Unlike the sleek, modern hotels in Taipei, we stayed at a small Ming Shu, or traditional Taiwanese homestay or BnB: Aluwa Taroko Homestay.



Aluwa was a small property located close to the beach, set among rustic fields and hills further inland...





This was a very welcome change of pace compared to hectic city life in Taipei or Singapore. Here things were quieter and slower. The best part was the very warm, personal service from our hosts at Aluwa, which began with a pick-up directly from the train station to our homestay.



Our warm and cheerful host at Aluwa checked us in at the reception area, before escorting us to our room...





Veranda with great views of the surrounding countryside...



Our room was on the 3rd floor, and had two low double beds...



This was a very comfortable room. I initially thought the rainbow lighting to be a little tacky, but that was before I understood the significance of the rainbow in local indigenous culture in this part of Taiwan.





Shower stall with half-size bathtub...


Last edited by yflyer; 2nd February 2020 at 12:16 PM..
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Old 2nd February 2020, 12:01 PM   #25
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There were bicycles available for guests to use to get around the local area...



The 4th floor rooftop was open to guests...



The rooftop had views of the sea...



Dining room where a daily breakfast was served...



The all-inclusive breakfast was a set meal comprising western and local dishes lovingly prepared fresh by the hotel staff each morning.



We enjoyed these breakfasts immensely.



We were very happy with our stay at Aluwa. This was a rustic, intimate property with nice rooms in a quiet, rural countryside location, very conveniently located for a visit to Taroko Gorge, and just a short train ride from the town of Hualien. Our very warm and helpful host also took very good care of us, with tips and suggestions on what to do in the area, as well as transport to and from the station, and to the nearby town for meals.

Last edited by yflyer; 4th March 2020 at 11:58 AM..
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Old 2nd February 2020, 12:17 PM   #26
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For dinner on our first evening, our host in the hotel drove us to a nearby restaurant for a local dinner...



An English language menu might have been available, but we decided to go local and order from the Chinese-only menu sheet provided to us...



A sumptuous spread...



Local specialities included coagulated duck blood on rice...



Taiwan beef noodles...



After dinner, we called our host in the hotel to fetch us back to Aluwa, but not before stopping at a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up some snacks. There were 7-Elevens everywhere in Taiwan...

The local 7-Eleven also had a decent supply of beer and liquor, not to mention local Chinese/Taiwanese wine and liquor.



That said, I also noticed that while whisky, vodka, wine and beer were all available, this was not a country of gin drinkers. No gin or tonic in sight! There is a market opportunity here!

Last edited by yflyer; 2nd February 2020 at 03:46 PM..
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Old 2nd February 2020, 03:58 PM   #27
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Early the next morning, before our visit to Taroko Gorge, I ventured out of the hotel to the nearby beach for a run.

From the hotel, I crossed gingerly over a strip of tape...



...and headed down a narrow path through the trees...



...to the beach.



The beach was a stunning expanse of dark, almost black, sand and smooth stones...



This stretched for kilometers in both directions...



I headed first to the south, then doubled back to the north, all the time watching the waves of the Pacific ocean lap lazily onto the beach....



Looking inland, I could see the hills and mountains of Taiwan beyond the treeline....



No buildings were visible, just trees and mountains. If not for the large ball shaped markers hung at the entrance of the path, I might never have found my way back to the hotel...



This was just a short 3.5km run up and down Manbo beach, but the act of running on loose sand and stones was quite tiring, and by the time I headed back to the hotel, I was perspiring quite heavily.



Back in the hotel, I showered and had breakfast with Mrs yflyer and our daughter before our tour guide came to Aluwa to pick us up for our tour of Taroko Gorge.
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Old 2nd February 2020, 04:57 PM   #28
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Taroko Gorge, a very popular attraction in Taiwan, is a 19km long canyon formed over millions of years by geological uplifting and erosion from the Liwu river. Distinctive features include steep canyon walls and near vertical valleys, walls of exposed natural marble, and a very varied range of lush vegetation and plant and animal life.



Aside from stunning views, there was a lot to learn about the history of the gorge and the region, from its original indigenous native inhabitants from the Truku tribe, a number of whom still live in the area, to its initial use as a park in 1937 when Taiwan was occupied by Japan. The park was closed in 1945 at the end of WW2, and remained closed for a long period until the area was re-established as Taroko National Park in 1986.

Some episodes in the history of the region were quite violent, particularly during Japanese colonial rule, such as the uprising in Hualien in 1914, between Truku and the Japanese occupiers, known as the Truku war.

More well known is probably the Wushe Incident, an uprising in 1930 from a closely related indigenous people, the Seediq tribe, depicted in the hit movie Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, with the Rainbow in the title probably alluding to the tribe's belief that after death, one crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be reunited with their ancestors.

Last edited by yflyer; 11th February 2020 at 01:18 PM..
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Old 2nd February 2020, 05:11 PM   #29
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History aside, there was incredible natural beauty on display in Taroko Gorge that photos simply could not do justice to. We were there on an overcast day, so while colours of the sky and surroundings were more muted than on a sunny day, the cool weather and mists more than made up for it.

We began at the Shakadang Trail...



This was a walking trail...



...carved into the cliff face...



...that offered stunning views of the gorge and its environs...



...from crystal clear blue waters...



...to dramatic rock formations...



As an eco-friendly National Park, there were many things that were left in their natural state, which meant that there were strict rules to be followed in order to stay safe and also to avoid impacting the park itself...

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Old 2nd February 2020, 05:15 PM   #30
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Part way up the trail, we paused to sample the famous local sausage at a small cluster of stalls part way up the trail...



The sausage seller was a gregarious man. "These are the best sausages in Taiwan!", he proclaimed proudly. These were made fresh from local boar and peppercorns...



"My sausages are world famous. If you don't believe me check the internet!", he continued, as he grilled a fresh batch for our group...

Certainly these were very delicious: hot, juicy and savoury, with just the right amount of peppery spice...



Also available as a snack were delicious sweet mochi...



...as well as their home brewed wine and potent liquor (To be sampled at your own risk!)...



The trail went on much further -- we could have spent hours exploring the rest of the Shakadang trail, but we turned back towards our starting point to continue our tour of the rest of the Gorge.


Last edited by yflyer; 11th February 2020 at 01:27 PM..
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