Tuesday 17 September 2013

Chia Yi

Taiwan has proven to be such a popular destination that just about everyone I know has gone there on vacation  in the last few years. I can understand the appeal. The flight time of around 4 hours is one. Many budget airlines fly there too. We flew on Scoot for $400 per person.

After our 1-week holiday, I'm already joining the hordes of people who sing praises about the charms of Taiwan.

What I like about Taiwan is, there is something for everyone - from the magnificent mountains to the sprawling night markets and delicious street food. There is no language barrier and the Taiwanese are so friendly and helpful, you feel so at home whether you're in the bustling city or the tranquil countryside.

Unlike my other trips, I didn't do extensive research prior to arriving. As we only had 7 nights, I had no intention of dashing around the entire island. Instead, I focused on 3 areas - Chia Yi, Hua Lien and Taipei.

On the map, Chia Yi and Hua Lien look close enough but I only realised a mountain range separates them when I got there. Thanks to the recommendation of the locals, we hopped on a TransAsia plane and flew to Hua Lien in 30 minutes!

For those who are wondering what's at Chia Yi, well, it is Southern Taiwan's third largest city, famous for being the transition point to Alishan mountain, one of the most visited natural wonders in Taiwan. The early settlers at Alishan were Taiwanese aborigines until ethnic Chinese began settling in the 19th century.
Alishan aborigine standee.

Getting to Chia Yi was easy. We landed in Tao Yuan International Airport and took a shuttle bus to the High Speed Rail station about 20 minutes away. From there, we bought tickets at 930TWD each for a very comfortable 1-hour ride to Chia Yi.
Chia Yi HSR station.o
 The driver (engaged by our homestay) took us around the city to show us the sights. It is a small one, so there isn't much to see. We covered the Cypress Forestry Life Village in less than 10 minutes!

Then we crossed over to the narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway track which has stopped running due to some damaged tracks sustained during a major earthquake years ago.

 Chia Yi City Cultural Centre nearby has some interesting art installations.

It was fun exploring the market off the main Zhongshan Street.

Seedlings for sale.

Colourful traditional candies and pastries.

Cooked chicken, head and all.
We had the famous local specialty, turkey rice, for lunch. The meat was surprisingly tender and tasty.
 On the way to our homestay in Alishan, we made a quick stop at the persimmon factory.

Enjoying persimmon ice cream.

At the base of Alishan Mountain.

 After a long journey up the winding road, we finally arrived at the beautiful Seasonstar Minshu, our home for two nights.

Seasonstar at night.

Surrounded by tea plantation.

Bamboo grove at Seasonstar.

We were treated to afternoon tea and cake.

Delicious hot pot dinner.

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