Taichung, Sun Moon lake, Chung Tai Chan temple
13.8-14.8: Munich -> Dubai ->
Taipei -> Taichung
15.8: Taichung -> Sun Moon lake -> Taichung
16.8: Taichung -> Chung Tai Chan temple -> Taichung
18.8: Taichung -> Kaohsiung -> KL -> Bali
Planning and overall impression
This was a brief, five days trip to Taiwan, which I did at the
beginning of my journey to Asia in August 2016, mainly to meet my wife
and her relatives who at this time were in Taiwan. More specifically in
Taichung, where my brother in law is living.
The city of Taichung itself is rather unspectacular and in fact we had skipped it during our 2013 Taiwan trip
. However it's kind of interesting because it's a typical Taiwanese city and isn't focused on tourists.
Taichung, towards the interior there are a number of interesting
places: the Sun Moon lake and the surrounding area, the Chung Tai Chan
temple and a natural reserve further to the north.
Taiwan is not a low budget place where to travel, as for instance the
cost of hotels is close to the level in European countries. Despite
that we found a relatively inexpensive hotel for just 1500 TWD (= 42
Euro) in Taichung. On the other hand food and taxis are not so
Food is one of the reasons to visit Taiwan, although I must say that on
this visit we didn't go to restaurants with delicious food. On the
first night we went to a night market where my wife and her relatives
enjoyed eating local snacks. Lots of fried seafood and other strange
fried or grilled stuff. In Taiwan there are plenty of choices of Oolong
tea; another local speciality are the pineapple cakes.
The place where we stayed, the Taizhong Huiguan hotel, is not in the
international booking portals. We stayed there because the wife of my
brother in law knew this place and booked it for us. The room was
relatively inexpensive at 1500 TWD/night (inexpensive for Taiwan), but
the room was also quite unimpressive.
Money / Exchange rate
Euro = 34.5 TWD
1 Euro ~ USD 1.08
phones and prepaid cards
I got a SIM card upon arrival at the Taoyuan airport for 450 TWD. This
incluced a five days data package and 300 TWD of airtime for calls.
Internet connectivity was good and overall coverage was good.
I used mainly the mobile phone as a modem to access the Internet, because the hotel WLAN was not very good.
Quite rainy, because August is in the middle of the rainy season in
Taiwan. Steamy and hot, like in a tropical country as it was summer.
Health / Vaccinations
Probably no vaccinations are required for Taiwan, as the country is well developed.
VISA / Entry requirements
With my German passport I didn't need a visa to enter Taiwan. I'd guess
the situation is similar with nationals of other developed countries.
Taiwan is a very safe place.
We used taxis for short and long trips, chartering taxis for half a day
when needed. Good, fast high speed rail line linking Taipei with
Kaohsiung and stopping in Taichung.
(some of the thumbnails are clickable and lead to larger images)
Huiguan hotel (台中会馆 in Chinese). 1500 TWD for a big, but quite basic
room with A/C, one cupboard, two smallish tables, telephone, flat
screen TV on the wall, WLAN (not fast) in the room. Bathroom with
shower in a bathtub (no curtain). Room is with 110V AC and US sockets,
but there is a small hairdryer (ours doesn't work because it's a 220V
AC model). No brekfast. The room is reasonably clean and there is a
daily room service cleaning the room. For this price I can't complain.
Weather: hot and steamy in Taiwan.
leave home shortly at 12:30pm and reach the airport at 1:40pm.
is smooth (only a short queue because I'm at the counter of those who
checked in via the web). The security screening is different, because
you have to go to the upper floor, then down again. Also it's now first
security, then passport control. The security check guy complains when
I walk through the electronic gate without him calling me. He tells me
a story of somebody who did this in the U.S. and was fined 30 million
USD. After security, to get to the actual departure gate it's a bit
weird. Long walk, passing by a few queues, then suddenly the signs for
the C gates area disappear. I walk back, finally I find an electronic
gate where the passport control is automated. Finally I'm at the actual
There is some time to kill (still over an hour), so I
chat with Shirley via wechat. She sends me the address of the hotel and
reminds me once again I have to go to Taizhong (Taichung), not Tainan.
Around 3:10pm I board the plane. It's an A380 of Emirates. Big,
spacious seats with an A/C power socket. Multi-standard socket, takes a
variety of plugs without an adapter.
The plane ends up being
completely full (at least the area where I am in the front of the
plane). Next to me a young couple going to South Africa for a safari
(and to the Maledives after that - not bad, I kind of envy the guy).
Young couple, no kids, should have a lot of fun.
starts rolling at 3:55pm, and finally takes off at 4:10pm with some
delay. The flight proceeds smoothly and we land in Dubai shortly before
midnight local time. Some searching for a trolley for the backpack and
camera bag (which together are quite heavy). I can't find a place in
the terminal where they have these trolleys, but luckily after some
walking I manage to find a free trolley.
thing to arrange
would be some drink. Again I can't find a 7/11 or some other
convenience store. Lots of shops selling lots of stuff, but not what I
need right now. So I walk to the Burger King near gate B2. Horrible
queues and crowd, almost impossible to get in. I have to make a big
round to get in.
So I queue up, then after a while I change
queues to a shorter one. Finally at 12:45am I have placed the order and
paid. Then I have to wait another 10 minutes until I get the food and
drink. Around 1:20am I walk to the gate.
The plane, again an
A380, starts rolling at 3:55am and finally takes off at 4:20am
(scheduled departure: 3:40am). Again big, spacious seats. I manage to
catch around two hours of sleep. As food they serve a sandwich and a
We touch down in Taoyuan international airport at
4:25pm. By 5pm I have passed the passport control and shortly after
that I retrieve my luggage.
step would be to get some
cash. Over the next 30 minutes or so I try several ATMs, but they don't
accept my bank cards. Finally I change 70 Euro cash into TWD. Then I
buy a SIM card for 450 TWD (5 days of unlimited Internet and 300 TWD
balance for calls).
At the information counter I ask about how
to get to Taichung. There is a bus, takes 2 1/2 hours and a
train. Guy can't really speak English and is happy when I switch to
6:20pm I'm finally in the bus (30 TWD) to the high
speed rail link (why doesn't the high speed train stop at the
airport?) and reach the high speed train station 20 minutes
With the help
of a local guy I buy a train ticket at the machine (skipping the long
queue at the counter) and pay by credit card (520 TWD).
6:43pm I'm at the platform, but have just missed the 6:43pm train. So I
take the next one at 7:01pm. Seems I have to stay in the waggons 10-12.
at 7:40pm I'm in Taichung. Then I take a taxi to the hotel, arriving at
8:20pm. Everybody is already waiting for me. Quick change of clothes
and then we take a taxi to the night market.
This is sort of a
modern night market in Taichung,
with plenty of
small shops mostly
selling clothes or junk and many small food stalls and tiny
restaurants, also mostly selling food of questionable quality (one
place selling steamed chicken feet, bleaaahhh...). Lots of places
selling fried seafood.
After 10.30pm (probably 10:40 or 10:45pm)
we take a taxi back to the hotel. On the way back I make a stop at a
Standard Chartered bank, but their ATM is out of service.
in the hotel I call my two banks in Germany and tell them about the
bank card problem. The first one tells me I can't use VPay bank cards
outside Europe. My goodness, this was no problem in the past with
Maestro/Cirrus cards. VPay is a useless piece of crap. The second bank
tells me they blocked my card because the cash withdrawal attempt in
Taiwan seemed highly suspicious. But in a few minutes they will unblock
the card. Let's see. Without cash I won't get far on this trip.
Moon lake -> Taichung
Taizhong Huiguan hotel, Taichung.
hot (maybe 30 something degrees Celsius), mostly overcast with some
patches of blue sky and the sun poking through every now and then; some
very, very light rain at the Sun Moon lake and later some rain when we
drive back to Taichung; dry evening in Taichung; no wind the whole day.
Overall better weather than I had expected.
jet-lagged, I'm woken up at 10am by the alarm clock. In the morning,
while buying some breakfast at the convenience store below the hotel I
try without success to withdraw cash at the ATM. One more call (Skype)
to the customer support of the bank in Germany. They claim that my card
is fine and that they can't see the cash withdrawal attempt.
breakfast we leave the hotel at 12pm. We walk a bit along the street,
looking for an ATM. Suddenly we spot a taxi waiting for customers. Some
discussion, the driver agrees to bring us to the Sun Moon lake and back
for 3000 TWD (come back in the evening). Seems reasonable, given the
distance and the time.
We get into this
taxi and ask him to
bring us to an ATM of an international bank. The driver brings us to
the bank of Taiwan, where I finally manage to withdraw cash. Then we
continue driving to the Sun Moon lake. First it's a motorway with max.
100km/h, then it's a well-built mountain road. Pleasant countryside
with forests and rice paddies.
We reach the lake shortly
before 1:30pm. The Sun Moon lake lies at 762m of altitude and the sky
is more overcast than in Taichung.
We are immediately
by a lady who wants to sell us a boat trip around the lake. It's a boat
making a three stop tour of the lake, the first one being the starting
point, the second one on the opposite side,
the third one in a
city near a cablecar. 300 TWD per adult, for the kids she only charges
us 150 TWD/kid. We can get out at the stops, walk around and take the
next boat. Last boat at 5pm, we are actually a bit late. One boat every
Around the lake there is a ring road. The lake
itself is pleaant, not too big and surrounded by mountains. Plenty of
visitors today, most of them Asian. I see no western tourists.
buy some snack and drinks, then board the next boat which leaves at
2pm. We cross the lake and twenty minutes later reach the other side of
the lake (stop Nr. 3 of the boat journey).
Sort of small town
full of shops and restaurants. Since we had no lunch, we eat something
(noodle soup, some icecream) in a 7/11 convenience store. Later we
realise that we should have immediately gone to the cablecar, because
it is actually very late (last cablecar ride at 4pm).
finish lunch, then shop around a bit in this place. Shortly after 3pm
we start walking towards the cablecar, which is a bit out of town.
Walking along the street, we reach the cablecar at 3:15pm.
discussion at the ticket counter, because the cablecar isn't cheap (300
TWD per person, even the kids pay the full price) and there is almost
no time (10 minutes to go, 10 to come back). Finally Alissia and I buy
tickets while Shirley and Natasha will wait here for us.
3:30pm Alissia and I board the cablecar. It's actually a beautiful
ride, with great views of the lake, forests and cliffs around the lake.
The cablecar doesn't bring you to a higher place, it brings you
to another place near the lake which isn't accessible by car. This is a
aborigenal cultural village ("Formosan cultural village"). We reach it
at 3:42pm, but to get in you need to buy another ticket. Probably not
worth it for just a few minutes. We should have come here earlier.
3:55pm we catch one of the last cablecars of the day and get back to
Shirley and Natasha. Then we walk back to the city, this time along a
path around the lake which we previously had missed. Then we take the
next boat and are back at the other side of the lake at 5pm. There we
call the taxi and then drive back to Taichung.
hotel room around 6:30pm. At 7pm we are down again and meet Eryka (the
daughter of Lisa) and Lisa, the wife of David, the elder brother of
Shirley who lives in Taiwan. Together with her and other relatives of
Shirley we walk to a steamboat restaurants. Total of 13 adults and kids
walking along the street, the three small girls walking in front of us,
very very fast.
At one point we lose sight of the kids and
when the group of adults reaches the restaurant, the kids aren't there.
Great, I've lost my kids in a town in Taiwan and I can't call them
because they don't have a phone. We walk back, but it's almost
pointless to look for kids in a big city.
We call the hotel,
hoping that the kids will have walked back there, after having missed
us. And yes, they are there. It was Eryka who apparently misunderstood
the name of the restaurant when her mother told her where we are going
(both Eryka and Lisa are locals of Taichung).
So the group of
adults have dinner in this steamboat restaurant. The dinner is not bad
and at about 250 TWD per person including drinks (I pay for all), even
relatively inexpensive. After dinner Shirley tries to withdraw cash
with her card, but this is still blocked, while mine works. Will have
to call again the bank. We are back in the hotel at 11pm.
Tai Chan temple -> Taichung
Taizhong Huiguan hotel, Taichung.
overcast the whole day, some intermittent rain during the day. Very
heavy rain on the motorway at 1:30pm for about 20 minutes, then again
rain for about 20-30 minutes after 3pm but less strong. It rains also
in the evening after 7pm. Less hot than yesterday.
12pm Eryka joins us in the hotel room. Some time later we leave the
hotel. I buy some food in the convenience store below the hotel. The
idea today is to visit the Chung Tai Chan temple and weather-permitting
the Huisun forest reserve.
some time to find a taxi, but
finally around 12:40pm we are in a taxi. This is a big car,
rows of seats. The driver will bring us to the temple and the forest
reserve and back to Taichung for 3000 TWD.
So we leave Taichung
and start driving. Around 1:30pm, while we are on the motorway, it
starts raining heavily.
So heavy that I'm
wondering if we should cancel
this trip. Luckily the rain doesn't last long (20 minutes only) and at
2pm we reach the temple. Since the kids and Shirley don't want to see
this temple, they will wait outside while I have a look.
Chung Tai Chan temple is a relatively modern Buddhist temple, actually
a monastery with monks.
I was expecting
some kind of Chinese style
temple with lots of decorations, but this is a pretty austere one, with
simple lines but quite large. The monastery is surrounded by a pleasant
garden with pond. Inside there are some halls and a museum. Not that
many things (statues, decorations etc.) inside. In fact, there is not
that much to see.
Shortly after 3pm I'm done with the temple
and join Shirley and the kids. Turns out that they didn't have lunch,
because the shops area is rather basic and lacks a restaurant or
In the meantime it has started raining. Not
heavy rain, but you still get wet. So we cancel the forest reserve
visit and tell the driver to bring us back to Taichung, to the Tiger
city shopping mall. Small price reduction of 500 TWD, because the trip
is now much shorter.
We reach the Tiger city mall one hour
later, at 4:05pm. This mall is surprisingly small, if compared to the
malls you usually find in East/South east Asia or Dubai, which often
are huge, like small cities, where you can spend hours shopping around.
Inside it's mostly outlets for high end western branded stuff. We get
to the third floor where there is a small food court and have some fast
food in a McDonalds. It's quite cold inside this place, and there isn't
actually much to see, because this place is so small.
suggests to go to another mall, supposedly better than this one. Ok, so
we take a taxi to this place. It's the Dayuanbai mall, somewhere in
Taichung. We jump into a taxi and a short time later we reach this mall
(in the evening I find out that we could have walked, as the the two
malls are just 500-600m apart).
The Dayuanbai mall
than the Tiger City mall, but is still relatively unimpressive. Again
lots of shops with high end, western branded stuff. On the upper levels
and in the basement there are cheaper stores (there is an H&M
the basement for instance). Seems to be a quite new place however,
because for instance it's not (yet) in the Google Maps map.
some walking around, at 6:15pm we take the lift to the 12th floor.
There we have some dinner in the food court. Plenty of traditional food
stalls in this place. After 7pm we take a taxi back to the hotel.
the evening I book a flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo for Friday
19th and a hotel in Labuan Bajo for two nights. Most hotels in Labuan
Bajo city are full and the ones which are available are not that great.
The one I book, the Exotic Komodo Hotel, probably is nothing so special
and it's 1km away from the centre of Labuan Bajo.
Taizhong Huiguan hotel, Taichung.
mostly sunny sky with plenty of clouds in the morning, quite hot.
Gradual clouds build-up in the early afternoon. It starts raining
lightly at 3pm. At 4:30pm it's raining heavily.
couldn't sleep well last night, probably a combination of the jet lag,
too much cold A/C in the shopping malls and perhaps too much tea (?).
So in the morning I'm not really in a hurry to get out of bed and to
At 11:30am Sara (the sister of Shirley) comes and
picks up the kids. She will spend the day with them and Eryka in the
Shirley and I leave the hotel after 1pm. The
weather is still good, but in a couple of hours it will start to rain.
We buy some snacks and a drink in the convenience store, then look for
a taxi. We quickly find one - it's the same guy who brought us to the
Sun Moon lake two days ago. I tell him to drive me to the international
convention centre because I want to take a photo of it.
drive and by 1:50pm we arrive. The place is near the high speed rail
station, but it's not exactly the elegant building with the futuristic
architecture I was imagining. It's a very unimpressive building without
windows and corrugated metal walls. After a couple of photos we drive
to the World Trade Center, a few km further north. Also this building
is quite dull and unimpressive.
We then drive to the nearby
After a short stop
of a few minutes, we drive back
this time heading
to the national performing arts center,
which lies between the Tiger City and the Dayuanbai malls. This
building at least has some interesting modern architecture. Since it's
starting to rain we decide to skip the Taichung park (台中公园), which
would have been our last stop for today. We tell the driver to drop us
off at the Dayuanbai mall (trip cost: 880 TWD). It's 3pm now.
the mall we go to the -2 level where there is a food court and a small
supermarket. Plenty of bakeries and cake shops with very sophisticated
and appealing pastries. There we relax and have some food. After the
food we shop a bit in the supermarket. It's relatively small
supermarket, with quite sophisticated food however. Lots of imported
stuff, but also good, local Taiwanese products. For instance the rice
they have here is quite special - not so easy to find in Munich. Plenty
of different tea types, Taiwanese pineapple tarts and so on. A pity all
this is not available in Germany.
When we exit the mall at
4:30pm it's raining heavily. I had actually hoped to find some
sunshine, but no, it's raining and it will continue to rain until the
evening. August is not the best time to visit Taiwan - hot and humid,
with lots of rain.
After waiting a bit for the rain to end we
just walk to the taxi rank and take a taxi back to the hotel, arriving
there at 5pm.
Shortly after that
Sara is back with the kids.
the evening at 7pm we have a dinner in a noodle restaurant with the
family of Shirley. It's a quite elegant place, serving mostly cafe
stuff (drinks, teas, small dishes), but also some complete food sets
(one tray with soup, salad, rice, vegetables, meat, total of six
bowls/dishes). Very photogenic setup, and probably delicious in case
you are into this kind of stuff. I'm told that the total expense for
the eight of us is just 50 Euro (a bit over six Euro per person, which
is very cheap considering that you get a meal with six courses).
8pm I walk back to the hotel, because I have to prepare for tomorrow's
trip to Bali. Will need to catch the 10:40am train to Kaohsiung and
from there the flights to KL and then Bali.
Novotel Bali Ngurah Rai Airport. 800000 Rupiah for a wonderful room,
high class with everything. Four star level. Probably the best hotel I
will see in the coming two weeks. I'm upgraded to a free breakfast (was
not included in the booking.com reservation). Elegant room, with
comfortable bed and all amenities. The hotel is in the domestic
terminal of the Bali airport.
sunny, blue sky with lots of clouds in the morning in Taichung. In
Kaohsiung mostly sunny, but milky-blue sky with clouds. Overcast in KL,
clear sky with some clouds in Bali.
Entire day spent
travelling, leaving Taichung in the morning and arriving in Bali
after midnight. I get up at 8:40am,
then leave the hotel by taxi (290 TWD) at 9:45am. In just 10 minutes we
reach the high speed rail station (there is little traffic on the
buy a ticket fot Kaohsiung (765 TWD), then walk to the
platform. Initially I walk to the wrong place, as it appears that the
normal train station is attached to the high speed rail station. Then I
walk to the right platform and catch the 10:20am train.
11:05am I'm in Kaohsiung, by 11:10am I'm in a taxi (420 TWD) to the
airport. Less than half an hour later we reach the airport.
Kaohsiung airport is relatively small. At the Airasia check in
tells me that the luggage is checked in until Bali and that in KL I
don't have to go through immigration
(i.e. there is a
transit area). A
welcome development, Airasia is moving towards a full-service airline.
I head to the security check and passport control. At the passport
control they route me through an e-gate where I don't have to show my
passport. Only my fingerprints are scanned and immediately after that
I'm allowed to go through, quite interesting.
I proceed to
the gate and have a small meal at the restaurant before boarding the
plane. Boarding starts quite early at 12:55pm (the scheduled departure
of the Airasia flight is 1:45pm). The plane starts rolling shortly
after 1:30pm, then takes off at 1:43pm, even a bit ahead of schedule. I
guess because Airasia is a low-cost airline, they must hold their
schedules very tightly and avoid any delays.
The plane, an Airbus A320, is completely full. Narrow rows of seats
with minimum leg space. Almost all passemgers are Asian.
arrive in KLIA at 5:30pm, about half an hour ahead of schedule.
proceed to the departures area. I don't have to go through passport
control and my luggage is checked through until Bali.
8:45pm Airasia flight to Bali is delayed. The plane only starts rolling
at 9:25pm and takes off at 9:30pm. Again it's quite full. Must say that
it is a bit tiring to fly for so many hours in a plane with so narrow
seat rows with little leg space. An A380 flight with Emirates from
Germany to Malaysia is no problem, but I probably won't spend again
eight hours flying with Airasia, not if there is so little space in the
We land in Bali around 12:10am, with 25 minutes of
delay. Then I proceed through passport control as one of the first
persons of this flight. One (Caucasian) traveller in front of me is
questioned endlessly at the passport control. No idea what's going on,
I hear 'multiple entry', perhaps some visa problem.
proceed to the luggage retrieval and quickly get my suitcase. Things
are less smooth when I pass through the customs. First I have to X-ray
my suitcase and my bags (other travellers don't have to). Then a
customs guy asks to see the content of my suitcase. It's 1am and I'm
really tired after a full day of travelling. This individual opens
everything, no idea what he is looking for. He finds it a bit weird
that I'm coming from Taiwan. Then he is surprised to see my Iran visas
in the passport. And finally he asks where I'm going to and when he
hears Flores, he asks why and sort of says hat nobody travels to Flores
so something must be wrong with me. I have to justify my trip to Flores
and tell him there are beaches, nice landscapes villages etc.
individual must be one of those people who only travel to mass tourism
destinations, Disneyland-like places, and find it suspicious if
somebody travels to a less visited place. It takes really a lot of
self-control to answer all his stupid questions in a cool manner. Then
he walks somwewhere with my passport and only comes back after a few
minutes. I guess he must have run my name through a database of weird
people. Finally he comes back with a bomb sniffing tool and takes
samples from my hands and from my trousers. I understand that there are
heightened security measures in place, but then why don't they screen
Muslim travellers with beards from the Middle East instead of a tourist
Finally after 20-25 minutes I'm allowed to
proceed. I walk out, get some cash at an ATM (only 1250000 Rupiah per
withdrawal are allowed, i.e. 83 Euro) and look for the hotel. It's
supposed to be in the airport. Countless people who ask me if I want a
taxi. Probably I tell no to two or three dozen people or mote. One
gives me the wrong directions, another one insists to bring me to the
hotel for 100000 Rupiah, then goes down until 70000 Rupiah. Finally I
backtrack and find the signs for the airport hotel. You have to walk
for about 200-300m to the domestic terminal. I reach the hotel and
check in and sleep after 2am.