On our second day in Taiwan we got up bright and early (this is customary when Dan and I go on vacation. As someone who loves sleeping in, I never thought that I would be an early bird go-getter type as an adult). After having a quick breakfast at the hotel we took the MRT from Taipei Main Station to Beitou Station. From Beitou Station we transferred and took the MRT to Xinbeitou (which translates to New Beitou) Station. The MRT in Taipei is very easy to navigate. Signs are all in Chinese and English and announcements are made in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. We also bought Easy Cards and put money on them, since we were planning on using the MRT a lot. The Easy Cards lived up to their name as they were definitely easy to use.
I had the latest copy of Lonely Planet Taiwan to help guide us, but it was mostly useless. It gave some good background information and some highlights. For the most part I did a lot of research on the Internet and that helped us the most with figuring out where we wanted to go during our trip and how to get there. The Cosmos Hotel also helped us make a reservation for a private hot spring room at the Grand View Resort in Beitou. I had seen reviews on it and it sounded pretty good.
In Xinbeitou we walked to the Thermal Valley. Unfortunately it was closed due to the rain (it rained for almost the entire time we were in Taiwan). Since we had a lot of time to kill we decided to walk to the Grand View Resort instead of taking their complimentary shuttle from Xinbeitou Station. It was well signed and the walk wasn’t too bad. It gave us a chance to explore.
When we got to Grand View Resort we still had a few hours before our reservation, so we decided to go to the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum. At one point it was the “Ling Family Mansion” so I made a joke that it was my family’s mansion. The museum was beautiful and we learned a lot about its history. At one point it was a Japanese hot spring house and we had the opportunity to see one of its restored rooms. They also had a special tea wares exhibition on (no photography allowed). The pieces that we saw in that exhibition were delicate and fascinating while the exhibition itself also explored the history of tea. The upstairs of the museum had more about the building’s history and included the Banquet Room (still used for special occasions today). Overall it was a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.
After the museum we went to Grand View Resort. At first they were confused and thought we were there to use their general hot springs (closed due to the rain) and then they told us that their private hot spring rooms were all booked. I told them we had a reservation and they were very helpful, escorting us to the elevator to get to the correct check in desk.
Our private hot spring room felt very luxurious. There was a toilet, shower and the giant hot spring tub. They also provided shampoo, conditioner, soap and a comb, dessert for afterwards, slippers and bottled water. We could set the hot spring temperature to whatever temperature we wanted and there was also a daybed if we wanted to rest (since hot springing can make you tired!). It was a very nice, relaxing hour. The hot spring felt amazing after our time in the rain and cold. They also gave us a courtesy call when our time was almost up, so that we had enough time to shower, get dressed and pack up.
The dessert was tart and sweet at the same time. It felt refreshing after soaking in the hot spring.
When we left I asked if we could take the shuttle bus to Beitou Station so they phoned the shuttle to let them know that we would be waiting in the lobby. When the shuttle arrived, Dan went outside and got into the shuttle. I followed him because I didn’t want to lose him, though I felt a little embarrassed because we hadn’t talked to the driver to confirm. We sat in the shuttle with the door open for about 15 minutes (he wasn’t ready to leave yet) and soon others piled in and we were off.
The roads in Beitou were very narrow but the shuttle bus driver knew what he was doing. We stopped at Xinbeitou Station first to drop a few people off, and then continued on to Beitou Station.
From Beitou Station Dan and I took the MRT to Tamsui (or Danshui depending on how you Anglicize it). We enjoyed exploring Danshui but we got confused very quickly. We were originally looking for a restaurant from the Lonely Planet book that had also received good reviews online. Somehow we missed it. After realizing we’d walked past it we decided to try to catch a bus to the Fisherman’s Wharf area. I’m not sure how, but we figured out where the nearest bus stop was and found the right bus. In Taipei the Easy Card can be used on the bus. When you board you have to check near where the driver sits and there’s a sign that says whether you pay when you get on or get off. For this bus we paid when we got on.
After getting to Fisherman’s Wharf we went to the Lover’s Bridge (also known as the Valentine Bridge). I had heard about the bridge and wanted to see it for myself. It was cold, rainy and windy but we still attempted to cross the bridge together. It was slippery and when we reached the middle/top of the bridge the wind blew our umbrellas inside out and we screamed and gave up. I found out later that locals believe that if you cross the bridge with a loved one you will break up shortly afterwards! Maybe the weather saved our marriage!
Feeling hungry, we went into the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf building and found a restaurant at the top. It was completely empty because of the poor weather and the staff greeted us pleasantly. They gave us an English menu and we ordered three seafood dishes. Danshui is a fishing town and known for their seafood so we felt like we had to try it.
It was nice to warm up and we had an excellent view of the Lover’s Bridge. At night the bridge lights up in different colours and was really quite beautiful to watch. After we finished we went back out into the cold and rain. There was a tv crew shooting in front of the bridge and we also saw the bus that we needed to take. We sprinted over and managed to catch the bus. Originally we had been planning on hitting a night market in Taipei, but after such a cold and rainy day we were exhausted and headed back to our hotel to call it a night instead.
Despite the rain and cold we were still having a good time in Taiwan. People there were all friendly, helpful and welcoming, which made our visit even better.
When you “liked” my latest blog entry, my e-mail brought be to this blog entry of yours. I suppose that my computer told it that I had been researching “Taiwan” today. I am looking forward to reading more of your insights from there. I was born in Taiwan, but have never visited. I was thinking of running a marathon there one day. I don’t suppose that you’ve ever ran one of the marathons that are held there have you?
Unfortunately I’ve never done in a race in Taiwan (though I did look into it when we were going there. The race schedule and our vacation schedule just didn’t line up). My dad is originally from Taiwan so I was happy to get the chance to visit. Hope you get to go back for a visit too. Definitely let me know if you ever end up running a race there. 🙂