Family Time – Taiwan Pt. 1

19th – 22nd August 2017

Brotherly loveThis is a strange trip – too long for a holiday but, at 5 weeks, short compared with some of the other travelling we have done. For this first section in Taiwan, the dynamic is even more complex – not like travelling and not like holiday. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see Rob, Sian, Ceilin and Jamie and I certainly hope they enjoyed our visit as much as we did. But for a start, a group of 6 takes much longer to make a decision than a couple – especially as Janet & I are so used to travelling together.

Chateau-villa hotel, Wai'aoWhen we were planning the trip, we all agreed that 6 nights in Rob & Sian’s apartment would be too long and that spending 2 or 3 nights elsewhere would let us see more and also take a little pressure off finding things to do in Changhua. A range of places including S. Korea (before the tensions with N. Korea sprang up), mainland China and Okinawa (surprisingly close to Taiwan) were all considered – with the aid of a spreadsheet, of course, and then rejected.

Beach and Turtle IslandIn the end we chose Wai’ao, a resort town on the North East coast that has a reputation as the surfing capital of Taiwan. As a bonus, its only a couple of hours drive from the airport. Sure enough, we found long beaches with the waves rolling in and the sea dotted with surfer. The grey sand on the beach was not exactly picturesque but the beach was clear of weed, litter and rocks and the sand was soft and gently sloping. Better still the air was hot and the sea was warm and refreshing (as a contrast to the ‘bracing’ that you get in the UK).

With Jamie at the waterfallRob assured us that the air temperature was actually a little cooler than usual for this time of year and that this is probably down to a typhoon currently heading towards the island. Although the typhoon takes a swerve south of the island so we miss the worst of the wind and the rain, we still see the effect and after the first day the seas are up and the beaches are closed. This is much to Jamie’s disappointment (that boy is a real fish and seems to have unlimited desire to go swimming). It does mean that we get to see a little further afield than just the beach.

Hot tub at the spaThe girls decide that they want to go to one of the nearby hot-spring spa hotels. Like much of Taiwan, the setup is strange to Western customs. The hotel is like a regular hotel except that rooms are rented by the hour and that each has a large hot-tub. There is even a decision to be made around which room has the decoration that most appeals. I’m still not clear as to which of Sian, Ceilin or Janet was responsible for their choice but they seemed to have a good time.

Wufengchi WaterfallMeanwhile, the boys went off in search of a nearby waterfall that seemed a much better option. It is set in a park with the obligatory set of food / tat stalls at the park entrance. A trail leads uphill with a (small, by later standards) stream of people heading along it. If Jamie is mad keen on swimming, I am more so on walking and so a gentle walk uphill for a couple of km suits me down to the ground. The guide says that there are three cascades in the waterfall but the path to the upper one has been closed due to a landslide following recent rain. Still I’m able to get quite close and avoid the bulk of the crowds to get some half decent photographs. As a bonus, there is (unusually) a church set in the grounds and it is interesting to see the contrast with the churches in Mexico last year and the Chinese influence on design and symbols.

One of the very few churches we saw this tripAfter we meet back up with the girls for lunch and then further exploring. To Jamie’s disappointment there is still no chance of the beaches opening – the waves are just too big and powerful so it is off to explore the nearby harbour. The harbour and fishing boats are not too remarkable (or picturesque) other than that the hulls of the boats seem to be constructed from long lengths of plastic drainage pipe bound together. I guess it provides resilient buoyancy in case something happens to one of the pipes.

Lanyang museum - a striking buildingFishing boats in Wai'ao harbourOf more interest is the Yilan Lanyang museum just back from the harbour. This striking building resembles the rocks that we’d seen on the beach canted up and seemingly emerging from the sand. Even better, it is surrounded on two sides by a lagoon and so we’re able to get some reflection photos despite the grey skies. As we investigate closer, we see signs that explain that the different coloured stone cladding panels on the walls represent the musical score of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I don’t quite see it myself but it does look quite striking. I bet there are some really fab pictures to be had here on a decent sunset / sunrise.

Great restaurant, great food, great companyThere is a final treat as we stay in town for dinner. Google Maps shows a restaurant with 4.4 stars located in a little back street. We have no other information about it but it looks intriguing and we head off to investigate. When we get there it is very un-prepossessing and completely empty – but Google says it is good and who are we to argue! It is good – and even more reassuringly as soon as we enter, then other customers start arriving and soon the place is busier. Sian & Ceilin chat away with the waiter / owner and order a set of dishes including fish that was freshly landed this morning. Fantastic food and good value – particularly as just as we were leaving, the owner comes out very apologetically and explains that we were overcharged and returns half of what we’ve just paid.

Looking along the beachThe consensus on our 3 nights in Wai’ao is that although it’s a shame that the beaches were closed for two of the days that we were there, it is a great place to come. It is a very undeveloped part of Taiwan (that could quite quickly become overdeveloped) with good surf and good scenery. The Chateau-Villa hotel we stayed in was distinctly quirky but comfortable enough (and included an ice-cream afternoon tea in the room rate). As part of our planning we considered going back to Kending at the southern tip of the island. However, the unanimous conclusion was that Wai’ao was the better choice.

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One Response to Family Time – Taiwan Pt. 1

  1. Rob Hornsey says:

    It was wonderful to see you both over here. We had a fantastic time and can’t wait until you come again, but I think the next trip is that we should come see you in Spain!

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