2 or 3 weeks itinerary in TW. Advice needed

Hi everyone,

Background: i’m a 40yo solo traveller.
I’m coming in June to Taiwan for the first time.
I will be traveling by train/bus.
I don’t want to rent a car or even a scooter if i can avoid (cause i’m afraid of the trafic and of the way taiwanese seem to drive :o)
I don’t speak mandarin.
I like cities, culture, temples…
I love to epxlore a city wandering a bit without looking at the map.
And a bit of nature also when it’s not too much of a hustle to go there :slight_smile:

A few questions first :

  • what are the cheapest flights from Bangkok -> TPE ? Cathay suprisingly seems for me the best deal right now but that means going though HK.
  • Do i need to book the hotels in advance in your opinion ?
  • i plan to get a sim card with 3G . Wich company/plan you recommand for 3 weeks ?

I’m planning on 2 or 2,5 weeks. What do you think of this list ? Any must-see i missed ? Or things i listed i can pass ? :

  • Taipei (and surroundings) : 7Days (is that too much ?)

  • Hualien / Taroko Gorge. Is the best way to visit to rent a scooter ? If i could, i would prefer to avoid this. Any other options ? 2D

  • Travel from Hualien to Lukan. Anyone have done this ? What is the best way to do it ?
    I guess i’ll need one day for this.

  • Lukang.1D

  • Sun Moon Lake. 1D. I’ve read several time it’s too touristry and overhyped. What do you think ? Is it a must do ?

  • Alishan National Area : can anyone tell me how is the current situation there ? I sthe forest train working ? 2D

  • Tainan. 2D

  • Kaohsiung 3D

  • back to Taipei

Another option would be to train from Hualien to Kaohsiung. Maybe that would be easier ?
I heard the train route is quite scenic.

I’m looking for any advice/remark so please shoot ahead.
Thanks in advance everyone !

Your route is a okay. 7 days in Taipei is too much unless you also plan to explore Danshui. Beitou, Maokong and Wulai.

Sun Moon Lakeis nice for a couple hours to enjoy some tea or coffee. Otherwise not a must see.

Alishan is not a must see. Overcrowded and getting run down.

In Lugang make sure to go see the new glass Matsu Temple in the coastal industrial park.

There are new bus routes now operated by Tourism. Very useful and they run hourly in Taroko. taiwantrip.com.tw/

I would also recommend you stay at this place as the owner will take you and a bike in his van up the gorge and you can ride down, stopping wherever you like.

rihang.wordpress.com/

I would go to alishan before sun moon lake. Alishan will give you a taste of the higher mountains. Sun moon lake is just a lake. I wouldn’t bother spending as much as one day in Kaohsiung.

Thanks both for the answers.
Maybe i should avoid Sun Moon Lake all together since nobody seems to care for it…
Alishan looks ok. But what about the train ? I heard a typhoon got it shut down ?

@Mucha Man : Tks for both suggestions !
I will definitely look at this !

@louisfriend : I know there isn’t much to do there but i want to stay a bit longer in Kaohsiung to see if i dig the place since i plan on going there next year to study.

In that case, in Khh I would recommend going to Qi Jin island for a fish dinner and 老爹爹 for the best Thai food in all of Taiwan (No. 20, Qīxián 3rd Rd, Yancheng District) Hours: 17:30 ~ 21:00, closed on mondays. I haven’t eaten there in years, but it was fantastic the time I used to eat there. If you can’t read Chinese it might be a challenge to order. A good reason to meet a new friend to invite for dinner :wink:

I don’t know if the train to alishan is running, but it seems to derail once in a while when it is. Edit* The time I was there plenty of people were abound, but I didn’t find it that bad by Taiwan standards. Hiking up to see the sunrise with everyone else on the top of the mountain was a cluster f*ck and not especially worth it. The good part about alishan is it’s easy to access by bus from Chiayi HSR and they have a few hotels and restaurants. I forgot if they have a starbucks. You don’t even really need to take the train once up there too. Taiwanese have a different concept of what is within walking distance. Taking a bus to the mountains and coming back the same day is a lot of bus time and not a lot of time hiking around, taking it all in, and relaxing, but it can be done

Given your interests, I think you should plan on spending more time in Tainan.

You can rent a bicycle next to the Xincheng (Taroko) station to explore Taroko gorge on. You will want to leave at the break of day so that you can ride up to Tianxiang before the tour buses arrive. There are some good hikes in the area and then ride back Shakadang is well worth exploring too.

Kaohsiong to Hualian is very scenic. I’d recommend that you get off in Taitung and go to Dulan.

The mountains are tough to do without your own transport although there are a few buses.

Skip Alishan and Sun Moon lake. Tourist traps.

The best way to see Taiwan outside the west coast is by bicycle.

I would advise you to stay in Taichung…or somewhere closeby, when you go to Lugang. There is NOTHING to do there at night and either you stay in a roach infested motel for 300 nt/night, or you pay 100usd/night for a nice one. But either way, Lugang is a great DAY trip, but I would just leave once it got dark. There are tons of buses, that run very late all the way to Taichung.

Since you are cutting sunmoonlake out, and you like temples, if you go to Taichung you can hit all the cool ones in a day (via taxi or scooter) and here is a wikipedia page listing most of the cool ones: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Taichung

You might wanna hit up Puli too, (or instead of Taichung alltogether) as Chungtai, one of the largest Buddhist orginazations here is based there. There temple is hella sweet and the museum it houses has stuff dating all the way back to the Tang Dynasty (probably the coolest museum I have been to in Taiwan, but I am into Buddhism).

Puli has a lot of other great temples and cultural stuff too (kinda like Tainan and Lugang…but different). And it has some killer food, some great touristy stuff by the lake, etc. Well worth a trip IMHO.

I used to go to SunMoonLake a lot because it was scenic and quiet and i can row a boat on it for hours. Apparently its over-run with mainly Chinese tourists now.

But i think its nice tho. Most people are hohum with the place, but iv always liked it.

TAroko and the whole East Coast is a must do/see.

Kenting/oluanpi is well worth spending five days or so .

Taipei is well worth spending a week, lots to do. Chill and relax and take in things slow. Visit Danshui, taipei 101, hsimenting, etc.

Kaohsiung is worth 2 days .

Taichung worth 2 days.

For scenery concentrate on the East Coast. If in Taipei and you have a car, then do the coast from TAmshui to Keelung and continue on the coast to Ilan.

Take in a hotspring in chiaoshi, near Ilan.

Eat some seafood at taiwans largest fishing port NanFangAo.

You can take a train to Chiaoshi,ilan and nanfangao and continue to hualian and even on to FangLiao near Kenting. And even onwards to kaohsiung from there. Or there are many buses from kenting to kaohsiung. OH take the same train from Taipei and get off in fulung if its warm enough to swim. And then continue.

Hualian is worth staying 2 nites. Chill out and visit the gorge. there are trails around there too.

you can take a bus to Tienshiang which is good enough to see all of the gorge and hike the 20km back to the beginning of the gorge and bus back to hualian (take a bus to tienshiang from hualian).

alishan is no big deal. It was nice when you could take the mini train up but i think that thing is now dead.

The sunrise thing? not worth getting up in the morning at 3am for it.

come to think of it, make it a TRAIN TRIP around Taiwan. Train all around it ! High speed rail from Kaohsiung to Taichung to Taipei.

ON the east coast take the new express train from TAipei to Fulung. To suao (then a short trip over to nanfangao, then contineu to hualian and then onwards to taitung. From taitung diff train (non electric i think) to FangLiao near kenting, and then onwards to Kaoshiung after a few days in kenting area. Then like i said Highspeed rail to taichung and then another to taipei.

And VOILA, you have done something unique, trained all around the island.

Well, that was a lot of interesting answers.
So i guess i should skip Alishan & Sun Moon Lake and take more time for the east coast ?
Ok, i need to look at this Lonely Planet Guide again to make a new itinerary :slight_smile:
Thanks again all for your anwsers !

Edit: do you think i need to book the hotel rooms in advance or not ? It is not full season, right ?

Usually you don’t need to pre-book, especially weekdays. But if you have a particular place and price in mind then it is a good idea. But I wouldn’t book more than the first couple nights as you may change plans.

Glad to hear this.
I hate planning all in advance when i travel…

I myself LIKE SunMoonLake, and Id visit it. TAke a boat ride around it.
I prefer to ROW but apparently thats dangerous now with all the tour boats around.

The lake has beautiful blue/green waters . And iv always enjoyed my visits there.

I’m also looking to go to Kaoshiung for 2-3 days.
Any recommended hotels?
Any recommended sites/places that I should visit/avoid.

Do you think 2 days in kaoshiung & 1 day in kenting is better or just 3 days at Khh.

Cheers lads!

[quote=“tommy525”]I myself LIKE SunMoonLake, and Id visit it. TAke a boat ride around it.
I prefer to ROW but apparently thats dangerous now with all the tour boats around.

The lake has beautiful blue/green waters . And iv always enjoyed my visits there.[/quote]

I like it too. The boat rides are fun, sitting at Starbucks overlooking the lake is a beautiful way to spend the morning, or go to the tea tasting area in the Lago Hotel and enjoy fine tea while overlooking the lake. The walkway now goes on for many kilometres along the lake and offers gorgeous scenery, and so on.

I just don’t think it’s a world class destination that a first time visitor has to spend a lot of time to go see. The only reason it ever became famous is that it reminded CKS of somewhere else (Zhejiang). It’s a part of Taiwan’s weird authoritarian era appeal. Kind of of like CKS Memorial. A piece of crap architecture that all the tourist rush to see as if it were something special. The only thing interesting about the memorial is why it exists in a democratic country.

Okay I am getting a little political, but I can’t stand that the tourism bureau still has no clue about their own country and promotes the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Places appeal to people differently because of their own unique experiences there.

Iv always had a special place in my heart for Taroko, for Oluanpi and for SunMoonLake (amongst other places in TW).

Now i havent been there since something like 1997 so things may be different now.

But back then, it was a place of calm. There wasnt a whole lot going on.

I remember staying at this one hotel (name escapes me now) but it was pretty awesome. And that bar tender there made an unforgetable Tom Collins ! After rowing for a few hours on the tranquil and beautiful blue/green waters. It was wonderful to retire to a wonderfully appointed hotel (was the best at the time at one time) and enjoy a nice drink and a nice meal.

Once borrowed a Mercedes 200 and drove from TAipei to and back from Sun Moon Lake with my then GF. That was a nice day out !

Even had time to “park” along that road that goes around the lake (wink wink).

Yes indeed, ones own experiences at a place shapes ones affinity and connection to it.

[quote=“tommy525”]
Even had time to “park” along that road that goes around the lake (wink wink).[/quote]

Unfortunately, i won’t be having any car or gf with me to enjoy this particuliar aspect of the lake so maybe i should give it a miss :slight_smile:

Saying as you’re interested in nature, here are a few other ideas for you while you’re in Taipei:

  1. Check out Yang Ming Mountain. You can a bus right up to a spot called Xiao You Keng, where you can some volcanic features (steaming vents and sulpher fumaroles). From here you can walk to the top of Qi Xing Shan:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qixing_Mountain_(Taipei
    It only takes an hour or so, and you can see lots of wildlife on the way. I remember seeing a lot of Elegant Five-lined Skinks - an impressive looking skink with an iridescent blue tail.

  2. Also on Yang Ming Mountain - you can go on a trail called the Butterfly Corridor. Here is a link with some info on it:
    english.ymsnp.gov.tw/index.php?o … Itemid=537
    If you go between June and August it will be pretty hot, but you can see up to 151 different varieties of butterfly. There are also a lot of birds and other wildlife to see.

Another place I’d recommend in Taipei is the National History Museum (different from the National Palace Museum):
nmh.gov.tw/en-us/Home.aspx
It has a really impressive collection of artwork, and is far less crowded than the National Palace Museum. If you’re into painting and Chinese art - then this is a must, as it features a few beautiful landscape paintings, sketches and calligraphic poetry by Zhang Daqian (one of the greatest modern Chinese painters). Despite Zhang Daqian’s fame, you can’t see any of his paintings in the National Palace Museum. By visiting this museum you’ll get an additional bonus - right behind it is the Taipei Botanical Garden:
sinotour.com/tourguide/taipei/ta … arden.html

Just a couple of ideas for you. Hope you enjoy your time in Taiwan.

Thanks for the suggestion, Dr Jellyfish, will have a look at those (the museum seems pretty interesting).

[quote=“lemerou”][quote=“tommy525”]
Even had time to “park” along that road that goes around the lake (wink wink).[/quote]

Unfortunately, i won’t be having any car or gf with me to enjoy this particuliar aspect of the lake so maybe i should give it a miss :slight_smile:[/quote]

True but you could always carry a fold out bicycle and cycle around the lake? Not quite the same, but it still gets you around the lake? :slight_smile:

Well nobody should be forced to go to the lake, but I and my buds (with the exception of my then wife who was from Taichung and like all Taichungers appears to think of going to sunmoonlake like being extremely Ho Hum) liked it.

If you like scenery, tranquility, and Asian design, you might check out a couple of my favorite places in Taipei:

  1. Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Retreat (法鼓山). You can take a bus from Taipei Main West bus station.

  2. It may seem a bit odd, but the Jin Bao Shan Cemetery & Art Park (where the legendary Teresa Teng is buried) is gorgeous and interesting. Google Image search the Chinese (金寶山安樂園) and you can see if it interests you. I know a bus from Taipei Main West station goes to Jin Shan, then you’d need to take a taxi to the cemetery. There may be a local bus/shuttle from Jin Shan, but I’m not sure–I’ve always ridden my scooter there.

Both of these places are near each other and can be seen in the same day.

lemerou, what time of year will you be here? If you happen to be in northern Taiwan on a Sunday, I’d be happy to accompany you to either or both places. I live in Taoyuan. My son will be here in July and August and I’m sure we’ll hit up these places when he’s here.