Sun Moon Lake and driving through the mountains

I’m about halfway through the trip to Taiwan now. After this, there’ll be two more posts.
Thursday was another early start. The hotel we were staying at next to Sun-Moon Lake was the least westernised of the three hotels we stayed in. The staff spoke very little English and all the other guests were Asian. Understandably, the breakfast was also very Asian. I ate some kind of vegetable omelette, noodles with (I think) pickled vegetables and some slices of what we think was sweet potato. There was also toast and jam for the less adventurous tourist. The breakfast room was two floors above our room and gave a better view of the lake.

After breakfast, we checked out, picked up the car and were off for a drive around the lake. Our first stop was at the Wen Wu Temple, which was built after two other temples had to be torn down due to rising water caused by the building of a dam. I said the temple we visited in Taipei was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to this one. Everywhere you looked something screamed out to have its photo taken, and when you tired of looking at the temple, you could turn around and see a stunning view of the lake. Here are just a few of the photos I took. Sadly, my crappy little camera couldn’t do it anywhere near the justice it deserves.

It was another boiling hot day, so before leaving the temple we treated ourselves to an iced tea, then we drove on around the lake. We stopped again at a pier that I don’t remember the name of (if anyone recognises the view please let me know!). It was incredibly crowded there and, as I’ve mentioned, another boiling hot day. Also, we had a long drive ahead of us, so after taking a few photos we moved on.

Once we’d driven all the way round the lake and almost back to where we’d started, we switched the sat nav back on and set off towards Hualien. Now, as the crow flies, Hualien and Sun Moon Lake aren’t actually that far apart, but the only way to get from one to the other is via the cross-country highway, which leads through the mountains. Basically, to drive from Sun Moon Lake to Taroko National Park (or vice versa), you need to plan in an entire day. Which is why, not long after we started going up into the mountains, we decided to stop and buy some food. At the rest stop, we came across the tiniest little kitty.

Taiwan

We purchased chocolate cake, milk and chocolate mini cookies and some bizarre jam sandwich type things – two slices of white bread without crusts that had been filled with strawberry jam and somehow sealed around the edges. Then we were on our way again, occasionally stopping to admire the view. Here are a few photos I took during our drive – sometimes we were in the clouds, other times we had an amazing view of the mountains below us.

At some point on our drive, we noticed that there was some red tape across the road and a bunch of cars had stopped. We stopped too and Jan got out to find out what was going on. It turned out some workers were securing part of the mountain that had become unsafe due to a rock fall. The section of road was closed, apart from for 10 minutes on every hour when cars would be allowed to pass. We had arrived in between two hours, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes. Then, at 4 p.m., the workers stopped what they were doing (which mostly seemed to involve throwing huge boulders down on to the road!) and the queue of cars was allowed to make its way slowly through the dangerous section of road. Nature at its terrible best! That was the only incident we encountered along the way, and a couple of hours later we were driving through the Taroko Gorge then finally in to Hualien. Having checked in, got rid of the car and dumped our bags, it was time to go in search of food. A piece of paper in our room told us how to get to Hualien night market, so that’s where we headed. We bought one of each of the three types of dumplings pictured below.

Taiwan

The left one is pork and spring onion (my favourite!), the middle is some kind of green vegetable – not sure what, and the right one contained mainly cabbage and (I think) mushroom. I didn’t really like that one. We then found a kind of bar/grill place, so we decided to sit there for a while. They had all kinds of beer from all over the world, but of course we chose ones from Taiwan.

One of the bar workers offered us some shrimps (?) on sticks, so we decided to give them a try. They were coated in some kind of curry powder and tasted quite nice. I wasn’t brave enough to eat the head and tail, but after being told it was ok Jan did eat one whole. Later, Jan ordered some of a larger variety. I only ate one of those – I found it tasted bitter and not very nice, but Jan liked them. And we also decided to try a local craft beer that the bar had on offer. That was very nice! (And washed away the horrid taste of whatever that seafood on a stick was!)

Tasty beer and interesting food was the perfect way to round off our day of driving through the mountains.

~ Taiwan was my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday and also counts towards my 35 before 35; item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

Touring the west of Madeira

I’ve already told you about the final day of our holiday, when we drove to the easternmost point of Madeira, and about Funchal, which we visited on the first day and again on subsequent days.

On the second day of the holiday, we decided to drive West.
Our first stop was the bay at Câmara de Lobos, which is on the south-central coast of the island, but it’s west of Funchal anyway 😉

Here are a few photos. I loved the boat with fish drying on it, but I’m not sure whether I would like to eat the fish! I imagine it would be incredibly salty.

Next, we stopped at the Sao Vicente Caves & Volcanism Centre. I’ve been to caves before, of course, but always ones that were formed by water. These ones were volcanic caves… the result of lava flowing through the earth after the volcanic eruption that caused Madeira to be formed. Our guide told us that you won’t find stalagmites or stalactites in those caves because there isn’t any limescale.

Continuing our drive, we stopped at a few view points along the way. I don’t remember exactly where any of these photos were taken, but I like them all, so onto the blog they go.

Our next proper stop was at Porto Moniz, in the northwestern corner of the island, to see the volcanic rock pools. They form a natural outdoor swimming pool, and we did see a couple of people in the water. We didn’t swim though. There are also little black fish in there. I loved the pools and took far too many photos! Here are a few of them:

After leaving the pools, we went for a drive among the mountains in the west of Madeira. Paúl da Serra is located at 1,300 – 1,500 metres above sea level. At the top, we just had to stop to take more photos… if I hadn’t known better, I could have sworn we were in Scotland! Just look at this landscape:

After a very brief stop in Calheta, where we found a supermarket and purchased some small bottles of sparkling wine, it was off back to Funchal for a meal followed by New Year’s fireworks. And thus concludes our tour of the west of Madeira. Next up in the Madeira series: Monte, and the experience of sliding down a mountain in a wicker toboggan.

~I am counting Madeira for January in the Take 12 Trips challenge, although part of the holiday was in December~