Sunday, May 08, 2011

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Central Taiwan Tour 2011 observations

5/08/2011 Taiwan Explorer
For those who are interested in traveling to Central Taiwan, I've decided to put together a little post about observations, tips and cost overview. In short: My girlfriend and I traveled from Taipei all the way to Nantou County by train and stayed in Shueili, a lovely small town, for a night and then continued to see the Sun Moon Lake, which was our main destination. We also decided to see the famous Fengjia Night Market in Taichung before going home, but that proved to be a real challenge. Read about this and much more here and below.
1. What to see in Nantou County?

Nantou County is a huge county in central Taiwan and the only one, that has no access to the sea. The area around the famous Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 is just a small part of this huge county, which is the second largest in all of Taiwan. The capital city is Nantou City 南投. Other bigger settlements include Puli 埔里 and Caotun 草屯, the rest are just smaller towns and villages. Among the most interesting we saw were Jiji 集集, a small prosperous town, sadly known as the epicenter of the disastrous earthquake of 1999, Shueili 水里, a lovely small town, where we stayed overnight, Yuchih 魚池, a village famous for its tea and Zongxing New Village 中興新村, a government owned and planned small town, which is used as the administrative center of Taiwan Province of ROC. There's so much more to see in this county, as the area is huge and mostly mountainous. There are so many scenic spots, beautiful valleys, rivers and lakes, temples and cultural heritage on almost every corner. I definitely need to return and see more of this interesting part of Taiwan.

2. Taiwan's West coast and Changhua County

We took a train from Taipei in the morning and reached Central Taiwan in the afternoon. There are two routes from Taipei to Central Taiwan and we chose the one that avoids Taichung and rides along Taiwan's beautiful West coast, which was a great idea, because the scenery was really beautiful. We had to change trains in a small town called Ershuei 二水, where we spent 1 hour and were lucky to see a religious parade and a glimpse of the daily life in this part of Taiwan. This was still in Changhua County, but very close to Nantou County. That was also a very good experience and I will share with you my photos, so stick around the next days and keep reading.

3. Nantou County Map with most important places

Nantou County Map

Click on the map for Google Map.


4. Brief summary of our tours and trips

This is how we traveled: We needed about 4 hours to come from Taipei to Ershuei, a small town in Changhua County (not seen on the map). Then we changed trains in Ershui and went to Zhuoshuei, then from Zhuoshuei to Shueili we had to switch to bus, because they were doing some work on the rails. It was already late the first day, so we decided to go from Shueili to Jiji by bus and walk around a little. We returned back to our hostel in Shueili in the evening and went to bed very early. We woke up at 7.30 the next day (it was Sunday), had our breakfast and took the bus from Shueili to Sun Moon Lake. We spent few hours walking around the area and then took a bus to Puli. We had lunch there, walked around a little, but realized, that there's not much to see inside the city. All interesting things are a bit out, like the famous Chung tai Chen Monastery, a 136m tall temple, which we planned to visit, but skipped, because there were no buses to there and the cab was too expensive. Instead we decided to take a bus from Puli to Nantou City and see, if there's anything interesting. We soon realized that apart from the huge curiosity the locals showed for me, there was nothing interesting to see... Well, minus a beautiful temple from the Qing Dynasty, which we visited and then quickly returned to Taichung by bus. It was already past 7 pm, when we reached Taiwan's 3rd largest city and we've got stuck in one of the biggest traffic jams in Taiwan's history. We needed over an hour to reach the famous Fengjia Night Market, only to be nearly squashed to death in the gigantic crowds that day. I've seen extremely crowded night markets, but Fengjia is something else. It's just beyond anything I've seen before. I was completely shocked in that moment and only hoped we won't get hurt. We didn't enjoy the market a bit and couldn't wait to get a cab and escape to the bus station, where we took our bus back to Taipei and reached home around midnight. We were over 13 hours on the road in these two days, but we've seen and experienced a lot, so it was truly worth it.

5. Overview of the time and cost of the trip

PLACE
TRANSPORTATION
TIME
COST PER PERSON
Home - Taipei Main
Subway
15 min
20 NTD
Taipei - Ershuei
Train
4 hours
376 NTD
Ershuei - Shueili
Train
1 hour
40 NTD
Shueili - SM Lake
Bus
1 hour
51 NTD
SM Lake - Puli
Bus
30 min
55 NTD
Puli - Nantou City
Bus
1 hours 20 min
146 NTD
Nantou - Taichung
Bus
1 hour
91 NTD
Taichung - Fengjia
Bus
1 hours 10 min
32 NTD
Fengjia - Bus Station
Taxi
15 min
110 NTD
Taichung - Taipei
Bus
2 hours 10 min
260 NTD
Taipei Main - Home
Taxi
18 min
105 NTD
DURATION OF TRAVEL + COST (ALL TOGETHER)
13 hours
1286 NTD
ACCOMODATION COST (ALL TOGETHER)
1 night
1100 NTD
THE OVERALL COST (PER PERSON)
2386 NTD
Around 60 EUR

6. Things to keep in mind, before going to Central Taiwan

The first thing we noticed was the lack of good public transportation. This part of Taiwan is best to explore by car, bike or scooter, but if you still want to take buses and trains like we do, you have to plan your trip very carefully in advance. During the day there are buses available between all smaller towns (Jiji-Shueili, Shueili-Puli, Puli-Nantou City etc.). The frequency is usually one bus per hour and the price can be a little higher than in Taipei, so keep that in mind. You can waste a lot of time waiting for a bus, so plan your trip in every detail to avoid that. Cabs are even more expensive, so unless you have a big budget, skip them. Another thing common in Nantou Couty are the famous spots, which are usually outside towns and villages and to once again remind you, you need to plan your time and transportation very well. Time literally flew for us. Also keep in mind, that the weather can be very hot in spring and I'm sure even hotter in summer, so don't wear sweaters and long pants during the day, you'll sweat like a horse. For everything else, read my posts.

If you want read all my trip posts, just keep on clicking on the links at the bottom:

Start my Central Taiwan Tour 2011: Here>>

[My Tour MAP][My TAIWAN TRAVEL page][First photo by MKL, 2011]