Last October, my client Asher who is from Israel had been diagnosed with lymphoma. He must do the relevant examination and treatment as soon as possible; therefore, he had to cancel his scheduled trip to Taiwan. At that time, my mother also did chemotherapy in the hospital, so I understood his situation. I told him that I believe a cheerful heart is good medicine and sent my sincere blessing to him, hoping the examination and treatment will be pretty smooth. On the other hand, I returned the tour fees as much as possible to him and invited him to visit Taiwan once he gets better. Read more
When it comes to Hualien, the first place people have in mind is usually Taroko National Park. In fact, there are still a lot of places that are worth visiting in Hualien. We will show you something different and interesting, so you can plan your another trip to Hualien right now!
1. First Stop: Learn how to become a Amis hunter
Go to Cidal Hunter School (吉籟獵人學校) to experience the lifestyle and traditional knowledge of Amis tribe.
After 30-minute drive south from Hualien City, you would get to this Amis community and start the hunter experience course. The hunter will teach you how to weave a headdress, symbolic of the unity of the Amis tribe, from coconut leaves. The next lesson is weaving rope and creating a container for holding water from natural plant materials. After this, you are taught how to start a fire without the use of matches or a lighter. It is quite hard but very interesting. All of these skills are needed for surviving and hunting in the mountains. These activities will brings to the fore the wonderful harmony relationship between the human race and mother earth.
2. Go Cycling at Danongdafu Forest Park (大農大富平地森林園區)
Danongdafu Forest Park is located in Guangfu Town of Hualien County, the southern area of Hualien. The mild bike trails are attractive to people who love cycling and people who’s not very good at cycling. It seem like you can temporarily throw all your worries away when cycling. What else you will ask for when cycling along the secretive trails and lush trees with wild sky above. Once you visit here, you will never want to leave (or never want to get back to work).
Liyu Lake is only 18 kilometers from Hualien City. To be frank, here is not a prosperous attraction, but it’s a nice place with peaceful atmosphere to relax you. Every year around March to May is the best time to spot fireflies and butterflies in the area. If you’d like to do some light outdoor activities, don’t miss Liyu Lake.
The bicycle path that circles the lake is around 5 kilometers long, and allows cyclists to experience the pleasant natural beauty of the lakes and mountains from their vehicles. Liyu Mountain has many forest footpaths which allow hikers to enjoy the birds, flowers, and scenery, making it one of the best exercise choices. Besides, here are also some water activities such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and paddle boat experiencing. If you are looking for a place which is suitable for the whole family, Liyu Lake would be a good choice.
When looking for restaurant recommendations abroad, travelers always fantasize about a “local” who will guide them to the best and authentic meal. Today, as locals like us, would like to show you what we love to eat in our real lives.
Stir-Fried Dishes Restaurant 台式熱炒
Stir-friend dishes restaurant is the right place for you if you don’t want to eat with the tourists and want to try something local. Having hands of beers and some stir-fried dishes with friends could be considered as the local night life for Taiwanese. The environment of the stir-fried dishes restaurant is noisy, but it also means you can be fully relaxed and laugh as loud as you want when having meals with your friends, colleagues or family.
Each dish in the restaurant costs only 100-300 TWD , which is a very reasonable price! Some stir-fried dishes restaurants provide fresh seafood and you can pick fish or shrimp which is still alive by yourselves before the chef cook the cuisine for you.
What’s more interesting, some dishes are dubbed with really fancy names such as Ants Climbing a Tree, Old Skin Soft Flesh or Flies’ Head.
Ants Climbing a Tree
Ground meat cooked with glass noodles with soy sauce. It looks like tiny little ants climbing up the branches.
Old Skin Soft Flesh
Fried egg tofu. It looks like old people’s wrinkled skin on the outside and new-born babies’s soft skin on the inside.
Cooked with minced meat, chopped chive and fermented black beans. The big black beans look like there are some visitors on your dish.
Hot Pot / Spicy Hot Pot / Twin-side Hot Pot 火鍋
I believe hot pot is definitely one of Taiwanese favorite cuisine since we have a variety of hot pot restaurants here in Taiwan from spicy hot pot, twin-side hot pot, all-you-can eat hot pot, sukiyaki, hot pot BBQ and shabu-shabu. Oh! We even have stinky tofu hot pot!
There will be a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table, containing a variety of ingredients such as thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood…etc. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.
Taiwanese also pay attention to the matching the temperature of foods to the body’s needs, so in the winter, ginger duck with rice wine, mutton hotpot and Taiwanese sesame oil chicken stew are the popular hot pot as well. They are SO aromatic that will make you can’t wait to taste them.
Braised Dishes 滷味
Taiwanese people love eating braised food as it’s quick, convenient and delicious. There are two kinds of braised dishes mainly, cold and heated braised dishes.
The ingredients of braised dishes is various from vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, dried tofu to tempura. If you like to weird food (locals like us feel tasty), you can also order some animal’s entrails such us pork liver, chicken heart or duck’s gizzard.
For cold braised dishes, the ingredients are braised with soy sauce. You can eat them directly after picking what you want to eat from the vendor. For heated braised dishes, the only different is that the vendor will cook your food in hot water with soy sauce or some Chinese herbal so that the food will be tasty. You can also order the noodles and the vendor will cook them with the ingredients you pick together. Choose whether to add pickle and chopped spring onion to add some flavor.
Every year, many travelers plan to visit Taiwan during Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) to get a feeling of the atmosphere.
Is it a good idea? Let us share with you the suggestions for traveling to Taiwan in the Lunar New Year.
Kenting is located at Hengchun township, Pingtung. In Chinese, “Hengchun” means that it feels like Spring all year round in that area. So even though you wrap yourself up like a ball with heavy clothes in winter, you can throw them all away and change into bikini and slippers and run towards the sunshine and beaches when you are in Kenting.
Taroko Gorge is one of the must-visit attractions for many travelers who come to Taiwan, so our travel consultants often answer all sorts of questions and provides suggestions about visiting Taroko. Today we have collected the frequently asked questions to share with you. If you can’t find your questions here, you are welcome to leave a message below!
My grandfather brought me up, and when I was young, I used to play with a mini globe all day long. My grandpa told me that I could find all the countries on this tiny ball. Looking hard for Taiwan on the globe, I found out that Taiwan was unbelievably small compared to the other countries.
When I started to attend to school, I realized that my knowledge of my homeland was so little. Every time I read the articles praising Taiwan was the Kingdom of Butterflies and Bicycles, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all true or not. This wondering stuck in my head for a long time until the year that I left Taipei for university in Hualien. This change allowed me to see Taiwan in a very different perspective.
About a decade ago, Hualien was not as flourished as nowadays in terms of tourism. Many stores preferred “one-off consumption.” To put it simply, instead of keeping the customers coming with good quality and service, they only thought about cutting off as much meat as they could from each customer. A few years later, following the trend of blog, travel posts and delicacy posts went viral which brought many more tourists to Hualien. The government also told people that with more tourism income comes a better quality of life. However, I discovered that the poor quality of tourism only brought the local people in Hualien heavy traffic and polluted environment.
I always wanted to do something, but never had a good way of approaching the problem. Dream finally came true when I met Peter, the founder of Topology Travel, and became his second employee.
I found out that many foreigners who are working or studying in Taiwan like to travel around the island during the weekends. Unfortunately, once they set foot out of Taipei, there is not enough information written in English or other languages for them to arrange their own tour. The tourism environment of Taiwan was still not friendly enough to the foreigners. This is where Topology Travel comes in. We fill this gap with great service from our travel consultants and tour guides. This was totally different from what other travel agencies were doing back then, which was to focus more on the Chinese tourists. We chose the path less taken by providing English-speaking tour guides and customized tours so that foreign travelers can experience the real Taiwan in a way they prefer.
Through my work, I bring foreigner travelers into Taiwan which allows me to know friends from all over the world. Through them I learn how special Taiwan is and have more sense of belonging. Today, I don’t need to travel abroad to interact with foreigners and to learn different cultures. Taiwan possesses many unique qualities, such as super high level of convenience and quality of service. I truly believe that my hometown has a lot to offer, and for that I strongly recommend you to come and see for yourself.
Setting off from the small island in my memory, I have been searching for Taiwan’s position in the world and also working hard to let the world see the real façade of Taiwan.
Local Recommendations: As someone who spent his college life in Hualien, I recommend Chihsingtan Beach and Sanjhan River to you. Hualien is a fantastic place for downshifting; that is, doing nothing is the right thing to do. Just lay on the beach, listen to the whisper of the ocean, and let your body and mind wander in the wind.
It was in last November when Chen, who lived in the US, was planning a trip to Taiwan in this April with his family. Chen and his siblings were preparing an 80th-birthday gift for their mother, Madame Shinglien.
My name is Lukas. I am 19 and from Germany. I worked at Topology for four and a half months. My tasks were about organizing and hosting tours as well as promoting and improving them together with my colleagues.
Photo: I am the one in the middle of the first row.
I chose Taiwan because I wanted to experience Asian culture. In my opinion Taiwan has the best mix of it. Furthermore Taiwan offers a lot of nice landscape and huge choice of activities.
Taiwan and Germany are very different starting with religion and cultural influences and ending with food and everyday working. Following I will give you a small insight into the Taiwanese everyday life and point out the main differences between Germany (or European countries) and Taiwan.
Photo: Taiwan has variety of fruits and most of them are pretty nice!
Taiwanese have a special relationship to food. They love to eat many different kind of good and clean food. Eating together and inviting a lot of people to share food and stories are common.
I was invited by the boss of the hostel I stayed several times to have dinner together with his grandma and once we did a barbecue during a typhoon. There is not really much that can stop Taiwanese from a good barbecue.
The food itself is very delicious but very uncommon for Europeans. Furthermore the overall preparation of food is different. Germans don’t eat rice and noodles that much and particularly pork tastes different. I think the difference is caused by the feeding and preparation of the animals. All in all it tasted so well that I ate tons of it.
But the main difference between here and Germany is the dinner itself. Taiwanese will meet their friends, buy a lot of food and have kind of a buffet. Additional they have the Chinese tables which have a rotating plate in the middle.I like that very much. You simply don’t have to eat what you don’t like.
Another advantage of having dinner here as a guest, you will get offered tons of food. They don’t accept a simple “No thanks. I’m full”. You have to say it 4-6 times before they understand that you cannot eat anything more without exploding.
And don’t be afraid of dirty food, it nearly doesn’t exists here. Nevertheless would have a small first aid set in my backpack in case I don’t stomach some food.
The environment in Taiwan is really stunning. Everything you want can be found. Hiking in the famous Taroko Gorge or even just in Taipei (e.g. Elephant Mountain), natural hot springs in the north and along the east coast (Beitou, Jiaoxi in Yilan or Chipen in Taitung…etc), surfing and swimming all over Taiwan, aboriginal culture, temples, huge cities and a lot of small fancy villages like Jiufen or Dulan. All this makes Taiwan one of the most worthy countries to travel. If I compare it with Germany, hiking in the Alps and visiting the north sea are amazing but Taiwan has more options, especially when it comes to activities and distance. The thing you should notice it that there may be typhoons during summer time.
The people in Taiwan are all very kind and helpful. It is amazing how they care about you even if you are a foreigner. Getting lost is very hard because everyone will try to help you. And don’t be afraid if you travel Taiwan as a European or American. It might be strange that a lot of people will eye you, because you are different. But no worries, the most smile back.
When it comes to language it is hard to communicate in English if you are not in Taipei. But there is always a solution. They will ask someone, who knows English, to come over and help or communicate with hand and feet. Taiwanese are great at that.
They also have a remarkable mix of culture and history. The Japanese ruled Taiwan for 50 years, so there is a lot of influence from there. Furthermore Chinese culture, of course. You also can visit aboriginal tribes in eastern Taiwan. Additionally Confucian values are very important. You can find huge plates with the characters for “honor your parents” and “loyalty” in elementary schools. You will find a lot of these values in the everyday life.
As a traveller, altruism is the most present. I experienced to be invited to family dinners, being driven to the next train station, showed around the city and doing activities together. I didn’t experienced something like this in Germany yet. Particularly asking people if they need help finding the way and taking them to their destination is what Taiwanese makes so special.
Additional you can talk and discuss almost everything. The people are very open minded. Also the way of dealing with conflicts is different from other Asian countries. Talking directly about the things you don’t like or criticize is more common here, still not that hash as in Germany, but it was very easy for me to adapt to it.
Travel Guide Book vs. Real Life Experience
Getting lost while travelling is not something very spectacular. During my trip around Taiwan I got lost many times but this was mostly caused by non-existent skills in Chinese.
I travelled with Lonely Planet, Bradt and several online Blogs as well as with the advice from Topology Travel. But the main difference between the travel book and the experience is that you will meet several inconveniences which don’t show up in the book. Sights are described very beautifully but they do not mention how to get there by public transport. For example at the east coast of Taiwan, public transport is very limited. Sometimes there is only one bus a day but the travel guide doesn’t mention it. Or the famous Walami trail in Hualien, which is described as one of the best hiking trail. The travel books never mentioned that getting there is very complicated if you don’t have a car or a scooter.
I wouldn’t recommend driving there if you are not used to Taiwanese roads and driving style. The roads are very narrow and can be very dangerous. In my opinion only experienced drivers should drive there.
Concluding travel guides are good to get an impression of your destination and the surroundings, but for actual travelling, I recommend to use more than two different travel guides, several blogs and get help from locals!
A local travel agency offers you the best advice and some of them, like Topology travel, offer customized tours. This may cost money, but you can be sure to get the most reliable information. Hiring a travel agency is also the easiest way to get good information.
If you are travelling low budget, the staff from your hostel and other travellers you meet are also really nice opportunities to get advice.
Furthermore I really recommend to get a SIM card and mobile internet. Google maps was one of my best friends while travelling!
With all these experiences I made, I would really recommend to get some help. If you can speak Chinese you might don’t have a lot of these problems, but a few spots are a bit tricky and you will need help. The choice is up to you!
Photo: Former County Magistrate of Nantou, Mr. Yang’s memorial grave site
What left Nancy, one of our tour consultants, with a strong impression was a trip that involved a traveler trying to find her roots which has a history of over a century. Our client, Lily mentioned that she is Taiwanese American and she hoped to visit Zhushan, a town in the Nantou whereh most travelers would not know about. This made us feel curious. Lili told us that her mother is from Zhushan and she wanted to visit her grandfather’s grave site to pay her respects.
How would it be possible to locate her grandfather’s grave site though? Lily provided us with the English pronunciation of her grandfather’s name but it wasn’t enough because it could be translated into anything! A name in Chinese was needed. Afterwards, she managed to find an old photo with a portrait of her grandfather and his Chinese name. After Nancy went online and did a search, she found out that he was a prestigious person. Lily’s grandfather was the County Magistrate of Nantou from 1964 to 1966. Under his reign, a song of Nantou County was even composed! During the Japanese colonial period, he founded the Zhushan clinic (now called the Zhushan General Hospital) He was once also a Presbyterian Minister of a Presbyterian church!
Lily’s mother was born in Zhushan after the Japanese colonial period. In 1962, she moved to Tokyo, Japan and then gave birth to Lily and her sister Frances. After 1975, the family moved to New York in the US and they were not only fluent in English but also Japanese because of their background.
Both sisters married Americans and now have children of their own too. The purpose of this trip was to not only let their children trace back their roots but also for them to settle matters of inheritance because their mother passed away a year earlier.
Nancy took Lily and Frances to sort out matters of inheritance once they arrived and also looked for a housing agency to auction off real estate. When they were around the centre of Taiwan at Sun Moon Lake, their tour guide Edgar also took them to Zhushan to pay their respects to their ancestors.
After dealing with all the inheritance matters, Lily, Frances and their children’s “Real Taiwan” course began! The whole family were extremely active and not only finished their whole course around Taiwan but went to snorkeling in Kenting, cycling and also surfing! They were full of energy throughout the whole trip!
We heard that the sisters came back to Taiwan again to sort out inheritance matters and to complete the auction of their late mother’s house. We were wondering who inherited the house with its history spanning over a long time and also over three countries. (Taiwan, Japan and US)
The song of Nantou County is still passed down and sung in various elementary schools in Nantou today. Lily and Frances were born in Japan and since their grandfather passed away shortly after they were born, they might not have had the chance to remember their grandfather. However coming to the beautiful Nantou, at least they were able to have a taste of how life was like during their grandfather’s time.
The song of Nantou County: