SE Asia Trip: Taiwan
From Phnom Penh we flew to Taipei, Taiwan. Exit from Cambodia requires a $25 (USD). They do take credit cards. We got to Taipei in time for dinner, which was fairly typical tourist class Chinese food. We did two nights at the Landis hotel, which is listed as a Leading Hotel of the World. It was fine but not in my mind outstanding.
We spent the next day traveling to Taroko Gorge on the East Coast of Taiwan. It is a two hour train ride from Taipei to Haulien, and then half an hour by bus up to the gorge. This is Taiwan’s most famous scenic spot. It is a series of steep, deep gorges through marble deposits. Very beautiful. We hiked several trails (none too taxing) and had lunch at a restaurant that was supposed to recreate the food of the native inhabitants of the island. Not a highlight. Dinner was, we had Shanghai style dumpling at a restaurant called Ding Tai Fung. Best dumplings ever! After which we went to the Shi Lin night market, which easily rivals Temple Street in Hong Kong. Seriously cool night market.
Our final day was spent touring Taipei. The changing of the guards at the Martyr’s Shrine was forgettable, but the National Museum was fantastic. This museum houses much of loot from the Forbidden City in Beijing; it was carted off by Chiang Kai Shek in 1949. Great museum. The final stop was Taipei 101, which claims to be the tallest building in the world (the one in Dubai is not finished). The observation deck is on the 89th floor. It was too cloudy to see much.
We finished the tour with a site inspection of the Grand Hotel. This is Taiwan’s signature hotel, built by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek as a place to be worthy of hosting international dignitaries. It is a classic property; one really could feel like a cold war head of state staying here. It even has emergency escape tunnel in case of attack by the Chinese!
Our farewell dinner was hosted by Taiwan Tourism and EVA air. Full blown Chinese banquet on the 12th floor of the Grand. Lobster, scallops, big Chinese mushrooms, all the good stuff!
SE Asia deserves its place as an up and coming destination. Vietnam reminds me of China ten years ago; a bit rough around the edges but bustling, energetic, and tasty! Cambodia is for the more serious traveler. The poverty and tragedy of the recent history of the country makes it a place that would be challenging for the unprepared tourist. The rewards are great: Angkor Wat is incredible, but it is a challenging place. Taiwan was a nice transition back. It is a bit of China, a bit of Hong Kong , but more Americanized than either. EVA air was good, and Travel2 and their land operator Travel Indochina were fantastic.