A quick Asia 2016 update

Hello from Taipei. There’s so much to write about our trip so far, but I’ve lacked the energy to do so yet. I think it shall have to wait until I reach home.

The story so far…

Our Scoot flight from Singapore to Sydney felt very long. Salt lakes in the Australian desert actually had water thanks to the Big Wet striking the continent. Unfortunately, these clouds meant the flight was full of enough niggling bumps that I could rarely relax. Big storm clouds over Indonesia only made things worse for me.

Water in the desert

Central Australia

Emerging from high cloud

Evening clouds as we sit in a holding pattern before descent into Singapore.

I used the onboard Internet to post live updates to Instagram, Tumblr and WordPress, and that’s been the best place to keep updated about our travel.

We arrived late into our hotel in Singapore, grabbed a quick supper from the hawker stalls opposite and fell asleep.

The next morning we swam and filled our stomach with laksa, noodles and other dishes from around the Katong area. I then started to feel sick and very anxious about flying through the afternoon storm clouds gathering around Singapore.

Janggut laksa, the original Katong laksa


We got this far at Changi

Indeed it was storm clouds that disrupted our trip. We reached the airport, checked in and went airside, but just after entering the Qantas lounge I received a call that a neighbour’s tree had collapsed and damaged our roof in Sydney during a storm.

We cancelled our flight, had to pass back through immigration (Jetstar were great about it) and find a hotel. Fortunately the Ibis Bencoolen and my Accor club membership meant we got free overseas phone calls to Australia as we spent the rest of the day trying to sort out insurance.

I was still feeling rotten the next day so B and Alex went by themselves to the aquarium and other attractions on Sentosa while I staying in bed.

We dropped the two night Hong Kong leg of our trip and booked tickets on Scoot directly to Taiwan. It departed at almost 1am.

Star Wars display at Changi Airport

After arriving in Taipei we tried to book the excellent Novotel Taoyuan Airport for a day stay but it was full. So off to the same hotel as our last stay, the City Inn II. Unfortunately, it was too early to check in.

We took a wander through the surrounding area, ending up at the historic Dadaocheng wharf and Dichang Street area, with its old shops and interesting foods.

Sunday was very wet. Last time we were in Taiwan we caught the Pingxi scenic railway line which was absolutely packed on the weekend. However, we decided to risk another scenic line, the Neiwan. An HSR (High Speed Rail – basically a Shinkansen) took us to Hsingchu, after which we caught a connecting train one station and then the wonderfully decorated diesel rail car the rest of the way to Neiwan. No trouble getting a seat today!

It was indeed a pretty line along the river and up into the mountains, past lots of little farms and even a paintball match. Neiwan’s old street was lined with food stalls serving all sorts of Hakka delicacies. We did get soaked though.

I got to stand at the front of the train on the way back, my favourite spot.

That night we had a dinner of small snacks from the Ningxia Night Market, a short walk from the hotel. Alex learned the smell of fermented tofu and we had an incredibly delicious mango snow.

Yesterday  we experienced some of the inspiration for the movie Spirited Away with a trip to the mountain village of Jiufen. A train ride to Ruifang, then a bus up the twisting road. Legs were then the main form of transport, up the narrow shopping street past a variety of food stalls. We tried many. Some good, some great, some inedible. The highlight was taking tea and pineapple tarts in the old teahouse.

The bus ride back down was the scariest I’ve been on (though there are many worse in this world).

The night was spent wandering around the huge Shilin Night Market, which quickly became very crowded. So many different snacks to try. Buns, sausages, squid, fried ice cream and fried milk cubes.

Some new shoes for Alex, replacing the soaked old pair.

And that’s where we are up to now. I’ll write up more detailed descriptions here after we get back.

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