We spent the last week of 2016 in Taiwan exploring Taipei, Hualien and Taroko Gorge. Taipei had tons of incredible vegan food, and our couchsurfing hosts helped us navigate the night markets and side streets to find cheap local dishes. I think we could have easily spent a couple weeks hanging out, eating and experiencing the different corners of the city if we had the time.
After our first few days in Taipei we took a train and then a bus to Jiufen, an old mining town on the east coast. It’s famous for it’s old street that winds up a mountain, lined with shops, temples and tea houses. After spending some time there, we decided to hike a 3km long trail over the mountain to Houtong. It ended up raining quite hard during the hike, and it was slightly more treacherous than we imagined, but I think (and Abby may have a different opinion on this one…) it was really worth it. Houtong is a cat village with lots of cats roaming around, cat themed stores and cafes, cat statues, cat street art etc.
In Hualien we miscalculated the amount of time we needed to get to Taroko Gorge and so we missed the deadline for hiking the trail we wanted to, and instead found ourselves packed to double capacity on a tourist bus for several hours. Taroko Gorge itself is fairly impressive, but even on an overcast day there were so many people and it took so long to get anywhere it hardly felt worth it. The temple at the top was cool, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you get the permit to hike the Zhuilu Old Trail and are able to arrive at the trail head before 10:30am (which means leaving Hualien sometime around 6 or 6:30).
Our last day back in Taipei we spent in the Sanxia district of New Taipei City. This is a part of the city well worth a visit in my opinion but it was made to be the highlight of our trip thanks to the hospitality of our Couchsurfing hosts Yuting and her sister Evelyn. We had a breakfast picnic on a bridge overlooking the river, walked through the old street and morning market, visited some temples and they taught us how to ride their scooters.
When we first arrived in Korea I didn’t really care about visiting Taiwan and we really booked it because the tickets were cheap and we realized there was a lot of vegan food options, but if I find myself in Asia again in the future it will definitely be high on my list of places to revisit.