5 best things to do in Madeira

View from Restaurant São Cristóvão, Boaventura

Although it is part of Portugal, the island of Madeira is closer to mainland Africa than it is to Europe. Only 500km away from the Canary Islands and a three-hours flight from Paris, this stunning island is often compared to Hawaii due to its volcanic landscapes. If you are looking for adventure, botanical wonders and dramatic coastlines this is the right place for you.

In this post I have highlighted five reasons to visit Madeira, a destination that offers a glorious climate, a stunning natural scenary and challenging mountain hikings.

Let’s discover together the best things to do in this subtropical island!

1. Ponta delgada and São Vicente

Located in the north coast of Madeira, Ponta Delgada and São Vicente are small villages which economy is based on agriculture, services and tourism. The main attractions in this area are the dramatic “São Vicente Caves” and the festival “Arraial do Bom Jesus”

São Vicente Caves

Formed 890.000 years ago from a volcanic eruption in Paul da Serra, they were first reported by the English naturalist James Yate Johnson in 1885. These are among the first caves of volcanic origin to be opened to the public in Portugal (1st October 1996) and may be visited by following an underground route over 1,000 meters long.

At the end of the tour, visitors are welcome to access the Volcano Center, a pavilion where to discover more about the birth of Madeira and the evolution of the caves among the years.

Arraial do Bom Jesus

If you go to Ponta Delgada in September make sure you see this festival. It takes place the first weekend of the month and it is one of the biggest on the island. Pilgrims come from all over Madeira in a desmonstration of faith to devote the Imaculado Coração de Maria.

The rest of the year, Ponta Delgada is a quite rural area which activity is based on agriculture and some tourism. There you can find a few hotels and high quality local restaurants. Surounded by stunning cliffs and located close to the mountain, this part of the island is ideal if you want to enjoy wild nature.

2. Porto Moniz

Still in the north of Madeira we can find Porto Moniz.

This area is known due to its three natural swimming pools filles with salt water and its black sand beach. This unique pools are formed by natural volcanic rock structures which allow cool, fresh sea water to enter, offering a refreshing experience to visitors. Enter in this pools will cost you only 1 or 2€ per day.

Personal tip: Use some water shoes and a mask to have a better experience

3. Ponta do sol

Situated on the south coast of the island, Ponta do Sol is more turistic than the above mentioned places.

Although the economic activity is based on the primary sector, mostly on the production of sugar cane, bananas and floriculture, Ponta do sol is considered the sunniest point of the island, which is an attraction for both locals and foreigners. Here you can enjoy a cute pebble beach and amazing sunsets.

In case you´d rather enjoy the mountain than the beach, there is another stunning attraction in this municipality: Paul da Serra, the only plateau on the island of Madeira with an altitude of 1,500 meters, from where you can enjoy the stunning views surrounded by indigenous vegetation.

4. Levadas 

Walking along the levadas is one of the main tourist attractions of Madeira. But do you know the origin of this paths?

Levadas are channels of water with a slope originally created to transport the water from the north to the south of the island, where the climate is drier and the population higher. The origin of these paths dates back to the 15th century, when the levadas were created as a way to irrigate sugar and vineyard plantations.

Nowadays, the levadas are an extraordinary way to discover the magnificient nature of the island.

In this post I want to share with you two of my favourite levadas:

Levada das 25 Fontes

This is one of the most popular levadas in Madeira. Its name comes from the number of little waterfalls that you can find once you arrive there. The path is stunning and it allows visitors to admire a wide variety of flora and fauna.

To walk along the 25 Fontes levada I recommend you to wear comfortable mountain shoes and clothes. The climate in this mountain is really damp and warm, therefore do not forget to bring some shorts and something to drink.

It took us around 4 hours to finish the whole path. Would you also like to enjoy this magic place?

Vereda de Ponta de São Lourenço

This mini levada is situated on the very east point of the island. Unlike the “Levada das 25 Fontes”, São Lourenço’s climate is windy and semi-arid, which explains the lack of trees and the low vegetation that you will find along the path.

Walking along this levada you will enjoy stunning rock formations, resulting of the volcanic origin of the island. Take your time to appreciate all details!

After a few kilometers you can find the Sardinha house. If you are wondering why someone would like to live in the middle of a levada, let me tell you that São Lourenço is part of Madeira’s natural park. Therefore, the Sardinha house is the base for a group of people, who work for the park and who are responsible for watching over the area and its species.

Since this part of the island can be very warm and sunny, I recommend you to walk this levada early in the morning. It took us around 3 hours to reach Ponta de São Lourenço and come back.

If you are interested in more Levadas take a look at this page, where you can find more than 50 walks, safety information, points of interest and more!

5. Funchal

The capital of Madeira is located in the south coast of the main island. The majority of the population of this volcanic island live in dramatic Funchal, with abundant plant life, colourful gardens and an eternal spring climate.

There are lots of things to do in Funchal, many of which are free. From cable cars to colonial architecture, this city is a fantastic holiday destination.

Lets explore some of the best things to do in Funchal:

Funchal city

Old town Funchal is relatively flat and easy to explore by foot.  Here are some of the highlights of Funchal that we discovered during our trip:

Santa Maria

In 2010 the project “Arte Portas Abertas” breathed new life into the historical center of the city by turning old, disused doors into works of art. Rua Santa Maria is the best place to enjoy the creativity of local artists.

Funchal Market

Fruit, fresh fish, vegetables, flowers and souvenirs are beautifully displayed in Funchal’s “Mercado dos Lavradores”.

 

 

 

Santa Clara convent

Built in the 16th century, by order of the second captain-major of Funchal, this convent is a valuable heritage for its furnishings. Nowadays, this unique place is still the house of Franciscan Sisters, who kindly open their doors for those ready to admire the stunning Amarante Chapel and the courtyard.

Opening hours:

Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm & 15:00 pm – 17:00 pm

Cable car

Ready to enjoy magnificent panoramic views from Funchal?

The cable car is one of the main tourist attractions in the city. It takes you from the old part of Funchal to Monte in around 15 minutes. As you go up the environment evolve and the urbane mesh is substituted by green slopes and flowery hills, with the city and the sea in the background. A stunning experience not suitable for those suffering from vertigo (although one of my companions suffers from vertigo and he took the cable car without hesitation. Yes, he couldn´t move a muscle during 15 minutes 😉 therefore, he took great photos 🙂 ).

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday: 09:00 am – 17:45 pm

Wicker toboggan ride 

Once you reach Monte you will find a very special type of transport: the Wicker Toboggans, which is a unique experience not to be missed 😉

The “carros de cestos” are produced with wicker and wood. Traditionally, they have two seats and are driven by two men called “Carreiros”, who are dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The downhill journey is made in about 10 minutes (around 2 kilometers at a speed of 48km/hour) of pure adrenaline. Ready to try it?

Madeira botanical garden

One of the most beautiful, colorful gardens in the island is Madeira botanical garden. Built in 1881 this part of the city was created by the Reid family as a private park. Luckily, this 80,000m² park is now open for everybody ready to enjoy its fascinating collection of a wide variety of plants.

Opening hours: 

Monday to Saturday: 09.00 am -18.00 pm (last admission at 17.30)

Madeira typical food

Espetada

Espetada is made with meat cubes – it can be chicken, beef or pork – in a laurel skewer and grilled on wood. To accompany the dish, locals suggest “Milho Frito” (fried maize).

If you want to try the best espetadas of the island, I highly recommend you the local restaurant São Cristóvão in Boaventura, north of Madeira. Try them while enjoying a stunning view of the blue ocean and the magnificent Madeira’s cliffs.

 

Scabbard Filet

Espada“, or black scabbard fish, is the most typical fish of Madeira. This kind of fish swims in deep waters and has a fearsome appearance, at least before cooked. However, it is really tasty, mostly when they prepare it with some fruit sauce.

Picadinho

Another traditional recipe of Madeira.

Prepared with beef cut into small cubes, fried and seasoned with garlic, “Picadinho” is always a good option if you want to try some local food.

Octopus

Tropical fruits

Bolo do caco

A typical bread made from wheat flour. Its name is due to the way it was traditionally cooked: on a basalt stone called “caco“.

It can be consumed hot as a meal entree, with garlic butter spread to melt, or as a main dish.

 

Your turn

The island of eternal spring, the “Hawaii of Europe”, the blossom island…

Madeira is a stunning place full of exotic plants, tropical fruits, steep cliff edges and beautiful waterfalls.

Have you ever been to Madeira? Is there any other hidden gem in this island you would like to recommend us?

In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via any social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

How to experience the best of Paris like a local

 

While travelling around the globe, understanding local’s customs and way of life is important to feeling like you are connecting with the local culture and community. Paris is a place with deep-rooted traditions and is a city that offers a wide variety of possibilities for both locals and tourists. In 2018 around 40 million people visited Paris area, hitting a new record.

Recently, I asked in IG if you guys wanted to discover what do locals in Paris do. Due to the positive reactions I asked a raised and born Parisian boy to help me writing this post. Loic is a young engineer who is about to show you 10 iconic sights, secret spots and locations you should visit to experience the best of Paris like a local.

1. La butte aux cailles

A hilltop neighbourhood of Paris which was once home to countless windmills and many vineyards.

“It small streets and cozy bars contrast with the noisy, busy areas os Paris” says Loic. “This “oasis” is like a small village inside the city. A haven of peace for those who are looking to experience the real Paris.”

This historically working-class district has become the favourite area for hipsters and artist, providing him with a special charm free of international fashion stores and full of street art.

2. La rue Crémieux

At one time this little cobble street was a “secret place” few people knew about.

This is a colourful residential area which receives its name due to Adolphe Crémieux, a lawyer who defended the human rights of the Jewish people in France. Amid the colourful façades you feel more in Portobello than in Paris. That is the reason why this street is so special” he smiles “However, it is Instagram which is making this street famous”.

He is right, IG is becoming this part of the city the most Instagrammable one irritating its residents. So please, take this into account when you visit this street and avoid being laud and noisy 😉

3. Le parc des Buttes-Chaumont before chilling next to Canal de l’Ourcq

“A green, peaceful oasis in the northeast of Paris. From this park I suggest you to walk until “Canal de L’Ourcq” where you can enjoy a nice aperó at sunset”.

To better understand this park, I would like to share some facts with you.

Before “Le parc des Butter-Chaumont” was opened by Napoleon III, in 1867, it had a sinister reputation. Until 1760, the bodies of hanged criminals were left in this area after their executions. Nowadays, this pleasant spot in the middle of the city has 2.2km of paths, a lake, a suspension bridge and a temple called “Temple de la Sibylle”, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. A nice place to go for a casual stroll under the sun.

4. Le pavillon de l’Arsenal

A center for information, documentation and exhibition of the urban planning and architecture of Paris.

“Here you can better understand the evolution of the city of Paris throughout its architecture. You can also enjoy their regular temporal exhibitions about new architectural and urban projects. And, it is for free!“.

5. Restaurant “Au dernier metro”

Close to the Eiffel Tower there is a lively, welcoming restaurant where Parisians like to spend some time gathering with friends and relatives while enjoying a nice meal.

“It is an authentic Parisian restaurant. It is located in front of the metro. Here you can meet locals and enjoy a nice beer. My suggestion is to order a “planche de charcuterie” (a plate of cold meats & cheese) and a glass of good french wine”.

6. Have a crepe in “Le petit Josselin” next to Tour Montparnasse

“A small, cozy crêperie with tasty crêpes and galettes. It is located nearby the “Tour Montparnasse”. In fact, my recommendation is to first visit the top of the building Montparnasse and then to come downstairs and to enjoy a delicious “crêpe caramel au beurre salé” :)”.

7. Bar “À bulles”

Located next to Pigalle is a cozy bar/restaurant which offers a wide variety of tapas and local apéritifs.

“This bar is a hidden gem in the middle of Place Pigalle and the area of Moulin Rouge. They open from Tuesday to Sunday until 2 am in the morning, so you can either go for a drink in the evening or have lunch at midday.”

Find more information in the website: Bar à Bulles

8. Le Marais

“If you like to have brunch on Sunday morning this is your place.”

Le Marais is a historical medieval area of Paris converted into a bobo (bourgeois bohème) quartier full of wine shops, fashionable art galleries, fashion boutiques, trendy stores, restaurants and hotels.

“This area is a unique one. I like to meet my friends and go for a drink on Friday evening or a meal on Sunday morning. At the same time, every time I need to buy some clothes, I always walk around Le Marais and check all the stores. Here you can find everything!“.

9. Les Catacombes

The Catacombes are ossuaries located under the streets of Paris which contain the remains of around six million people. These ossuaries were created to provide the overflowed Parisian cemeteries with a solution.

The entrance to this underground cemetery is located in the Place Denfert-Rochereau, a square known by locals as the place where most demonstrations and protest marches in Paris either start or end.

“The Catacombes are a travel in time. They are a network of underground tunnels that you cannot find in many countries. To visit the Catacombes is a unique opportunity to understand the history of France.”

10. Cine UGC les Gobelins

Have you ever thought about going to the movies in Paris?

“If you ever plan to go to the movies while visiting Paris I highly recommend you to go to Cine UGC. This theater is located at the entrance of Mouffetard street, the party place of the city. So after the movie you can directly go to enjoy a glass of wine and a dance night.”

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Paris? Is there any other hidden gem you would like to recommend us? In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

What to do in Jiufen

If you are staying more than a couple of days in Taipei I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen, a nice traditional taiwanese village located two hours away from Taipei.

Although Jiufen was founded during the Quing Dynasty, it became popular when gold was discovered in the area. The gold industry carried this city industry until the 60´s. From the 90´s onwards, this gold mine town became really popular among tourists.

The name Jiufen (Chiufen – EN: nine pieces) comes from an ancient legend. Regarding this legend, nine families used to live in this town. Since going to the market was a huge inconvenient due to the lack of transportation the nine families came to an agreement; whenever one family went to buy groceries at the market, they would have to divide them into nine pieces, each for each family.

Jiufen Old Street

Located within hills, next to the mountains and facing the ocean, Jiufen Old Street is known for its foggy weather and its beautiful views. The street is full of local snack vendors, traditional products and souvenirs stores.

Among the various snack vendors you can find some Jiufen traditional food such as taro balls, fried meat balls and taro cake. In addition, chinese tea houses are really popular among both locals and tourists.

Instead of having lunch on the street surrounded by locals and thousand of tourists – be careful, Jiufen is so trendy that its old street is usually crowded with people in the noon time, especially on the weekends- we decided to stop in a nice cafeteria with natural juices and beautiful views.

Temples in Jiufen

Jiufen is not only a touristic old street. If you are curious enough, I highly recommend you walk up the main road to the top of the hill.

On the way you will find a first temple – which was full of locals praying and some tourists – and at the top of the hill you will find a second one, – to find this temple you may need to get yourself lost among all the tiny Jiufen non-touristic roads. This is quite an adventure! and locals are so nice…! :). Sadly, I don´t know the name of this second temple, however, I still remember the peaceful, good vibes that we could feel up there. In fact, we were alone in the temple, no locals and no tourists. A heaven of peace!

Another interesting – and really well-known – temple is Fushan Temple. This 200 years old temple is dedicated to Tudigong, the God of Earth, and it is an interesting blend of Japanese, Chinese and Western elements.

How to get to Jiufen?

There are two different possibilities to reach Jiufen from Taipei:

Train to Riufang and then bus to Jiufen From Taipei Main Station – Take a train to Riufang – the views during the trip are really interesting. Once you reach Riufang, leave the train station behind you and go straight, cross the main square and turn left.  After a 5 minutes walk – you can always stop at a local vendor to buy some tasty tea – you will reach the bus stop. Don´t worry, you won´t get lost! All tourists are walking the same direction 😉 There you will find all the information related to the bus and its schedule.

Direct bus to Jiufen – Apparently there is a direct bus from Taipei to Jiufen. At that time we were recommended to take the train, so we could make other stops if we wanted to.

The bus starts at Zhongxiao Taipei Station and it drives you directly to Jiufen Old Street.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Jiufen?

This ancient gold-miner town is a once in a lifetime must-see place. Although it is becoming too touristic, this place maintain some ancient charm that makes it special.

I highly recommend you to escape the town bustle to climb the hill, to reach the highest temple of Jiufen and to enjoy a moment of peace staring at the sea. It is a good idea to reconnect with yourself and to recharge some energies while contemplating an amazing view.

Enjoy your time at Jiufen and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

 

 

Must-dos on a short trip to Taipei

Our Taiwan trip is coming to an end…

It took us 10 days to visit the west coast of this magnificent island: Kaohsiung, Kenting, Changhua, Taichung… All were great, beautiful places where we had the chance to learn more about local traditions, local culture and local food 😉 Each city had a positive impact on us. What a country! 🙂

Therefore, we couldn’t finish our Taiwan adventure without visiting the capital of the country: Taipei (and some other places nearby… We love to discover!).

Taipei is the most inhabitant city of Taiwan with an estimated population of almost three million people, as well as the most modern city of the country. Here visitors can enjoy fascinating attractions both modern and historical. And while a three-day break is nowhere near enough time to see it all, here you can find some of the “must-dos” on a short trip to Taipei:

Lungshan Temple

Located in Manka district, this temple was founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Today, Lungshan Temple is no longer the original building constructed at that time. In fact, many deities of Taoism have been included in the temple structure among years.

The present temple consists of three halls: the fore hall, the main hall and the rear hall. The first one is used as the entrance and the space to worship. The second one, located in the center of the whole complex, is home to a statue of Guan-Yi, the main God of the temple. The third hall was added at the end of the 18th century.

Something that fascinated me about this place was the waterfall located at the right corner of temple´s main entrance. This is known as the Waterfall of Cleaning Your Heart.

Tradition says that when visitors come to the temple, they must first clean their hearts with the spring water. In this way they can clean their minds and dignify their bodies, so that they are in a good position to worship the Buddha and learn the wisdom.

 

Taipei Liberty Square

This magnificent square known as Liberty or Freedom Square, is a massive 240.000 square meter plaza located in the Zhongzhen District.

This place is dedicated to leader Chiang Kai-Shek and it hosts many of Taipei´s public gatherings. In fact, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall are located in this complex and they host over 8000 different events each year.

Bopiliao Old Street

Bopiliao Old Street is located in Wanhua, one of the oldest districts in Taipei. This area has undergone different historical periods during his 200 years of history, starting all the way back in the Ching dynasty period, running through the Japanese occupation to the post World War II period.

Between 2000 and 2009 the government repaired the buildings, built a Culture Center and invited artists to decorate the street. Today, Bopiliao Old Street is full of creative paintings, as well as of stores such as a barbershop, a Chinese medicine store, clock stores and a tea house.

Ximending

This part of the city got its name due to its position outside the west gate of Taipei City. During Japanese times, this was a wilderness area through which there was a road connecting the west gate and Bangka (now called Wanhua). Later, the Japanese decided to set up a business and entertainment area.

One building which perfectly represents this area – as well as one of the oldest buildings in this part of the city – is the Red House Theater, built in 1908. The inside of this building consist of two remodeled floors full of Taiwanese indie, modern art galleries and fashion stores. It is really interesting to take a look around!

Nowadays, Ximending is known as the shopping district of Taipei. In fact, young people like to meet here to enjoy tasty food, have some tea, go shopping or enjoy the last blockbuster at the movies.

What can you find at Ximending?

  1. Tattoo Street – One of the most interesting things you can find in this area is its famous Tattoo Street, where you can get a nice, high quality tattoo.
  2. Penis cakes – Yes, you can find thousand of different flavours
  3. Claw machines – Since I arrived to Taiwan I was impressed because you can find claw machines all around the country (even in some Buddhist temples!!). There are probably dozens of these machines all around Ximending, so you won’t have to look far to find one.
  4. Graffiti Lane – Also called America Street, is full of incredible graffiti-works made by famous Taiwanese graffiti artists.
  5. Nice cocktails – Just behind the Red House, you can find the city’s largest LGBT district, which is a welcome-all environment and Taipei’s best collection of outdoor bar patios.
  6. Tasty Sushi – Have you ever thought about eating sushi from a Conveyor Belt Choo Choo Train? In Taipei it is possible! In fact, if you like sushi this is a nice place to enjoy some fresh row fish.

Memorial Sun Yat Sen

Located in Xinyi Distric you can find a memorial to Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China.

The hall contains displays of Sun´s accomplishments and today it is a meeting ground for social, cultural and educational activities.

At the main entrance there is a statue of founding father for the public to pay their respect. Outside the main building there is a nice park which includes decorative historical walls and beautiful gardens.

Taipei 101

Probably you have already heard about the tallest building in the world until 2010, year when Burj Khalifa succeeded to the throne. This dramatic building is one of the most photographed spots in the whole Taiwan. We decided to spend one day visiting Taipei 101 and the surroundings, which were built to support the tower´s feng shui and to prevent positive energy to escape.

Although the construction of Taipei 101 started in 1999, it was not until 2004 when it finished. This magnificent, full of symbolism building incorporates a steel pendulum – the largest and heaviest in the world – that sways freely to offset the movement of the building itself. In this way, this enormous pendulum can counteract and help Taipei 101 tower to survive potentially destructive nature forces such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Visitors can see the pendulum once they reach the observation deck. In fact, it has became so popular that it has a mascot 🙂

Some other interesting facts about Taipei 101

  • Height – 508 meters, from which the highest occupied floor is at 438 meters
  • Owner – Taipei Financial Center Corporation. There are many companies based on the tower as well as five floors underground which are home of brand stores and restaurants.
  • Elevator – Inside the tower you can find 61 elevators, which have atmospheric controls to keep passengers´ears from popping. The two fastest elevators (Toshiba Ultra Speed Elevators) inside the building move at a speed of 1.010 meters per min. They are considered one of the fastest elevators in the world since they just need 30 seconds to travel from the ground to the roof.
  • Sundial Tower – This enormous tower is known as the tallest sundial in the world. A circle-shaped park surrounding the building was built to support the tower’s feng shui, as well as to reinforce the sundial effect idea.
  • French Spiderman – French climber Alain Robert climbed Taipei 101 legally on Christmas Day in 2004
  • Tower colours – The tower lights up in different colors depending on the day of the week.
  • Observation decks – Taipei 101 has both indoor and outdoor observation decks. I have been there with people suffering from vertigo, so do not worry if you are one of them. You can do it! 😉
  • New Year´s Eve – Since 2005, Taipei 101 is the place-to-be in New Year´s Eve. Fireworks at Taipei 101 attract thousand of locals and visitors every year.

Elephant mountain

Officially known as the Xiangshan Hiking Trail, the Elephant Mountain is the perfect place to have the most amazing view possible of Taipei 101 – and of Taipei city in general-. This hiking trail is a very straightforward path. The entire trail is 1.4500 meters long and it takes about 1 hour to complete it. If you do not have so much time, or motivation, you should at least reach the top of the mountain to enjoy the view.

From the beginning of the path – it is a climb full of stairs and Taiwan weather can be really hot, so please do not forget to take some water with you – you can make it to the top in about 15-20 minutes if you are in good shape, if not, do not panic! There are plenty of rest stops and seats all around the path.

If you decide to continue on this path, after getting awesome shots of Taipei´s skyline, you will reach a trail down and some facilities.

Traveller hint: I recommend you to do it or early in the morning or in the late evening, to avoid both tourists and hot weather.

Jiufen

Located less than one hour away from Taipei you can find this picturesque city called Jiufen. If you are able to spend more than one day in Taipei, I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen and to get lost in Jiufen Old Street.

Check the post I wrote about what to visit in Jiufen and discover more about this place – and how to reach it from Taipei.

Must do in Taipei

Mango Shaved Ice

There is one great refreshing snack that we should import to Europe 🙂 and that visitors should try – it is traditional from Taipei.

The mango shaved ice is a bowl of shaved ice topped with fresh mango, mango ice-cream and sweet mango sauce. The bowl is huge and I recommend you to share it (unless you are super ultra hungry 😉 ).

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Taipei?

The capital of Taiwan is a city full of contrasts and nice surprises.

Taipei 101 is the main attraction of the city, however, other parts of the city have also some special charm that makes the visitor fall in love with it.

I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days walking around and discovering the different areas of Taipei. You can find really cool traditional galleries and stores hidden among modern buildings!

Enjoy your time at Taipei and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

It was a pleasure to share this adventure with you & to read your opinions via different social networks. Thank you!

 

Discover Kenting

To continue our taiwanese trip we decided to drive to the southern part of the island.

Therefore, after spending a couple of days in the beautiful city of Kaohsiung, we took the Kenting Express bus to go to Kenting.

It took us less than two hours to arrive to this picturesque seaside town, whose lively streets welcome visitors with lights and music.

This part of the island is a tourist attraction for taiwanese and chinese people who want both, to enjoy some peaceful days at the beach and to discover natural parks.

If you are planning to visit Kenting, I highly recommend you to avoid chinese new year and summer season, since the national park can be really crowded and hotels can duplicate their prices.

Ready to find out what to visit in the unique seaside town of Kenting?

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park (Eluanbi Park) is open from 7 am to 5:30 pm.

This area is a great spot if you are into hiking. I would recommend you to choose a non-rainy day to visit the park, otherwise, the path will be wet and slippery.

If hiking is not for you, you can always either rent a scooter or get a tourist bus to visit the National Park.

A nice spot located at Kenting National Park is the renowned Eluanbi lighthouse, nestled on a green grassy hill. Built during the Qing Dynasty, in 1883, this unique lighthouse suffered serious damages during the World War II and had to be re-built in 1962. Today, this iconic place is still functional and, at the same time, is held as a historical monument admired (and photographed) by tourists who visit the National Park.

Kenting Beach

A nice place to chill and get some sun while practicing different water activities such as kite-surf or snorkel. If you like calm crystal waters where to explore the deep sea, Kenting Beach is the ideal place for you.

Little Bay Beach

A more hidden, quiet place. Little Bay Beach is a small beach located not far away from Kenting Beach, however, this beach is more quiet and familiar than the previous one. Most of people visiting it are just families or couples looking to chill and swim in the warm sea.

This place is also interesting during the night because the snack bar located at the entrance offers live music until midnight.

If you are looking forward to eat chips and finger food while you get a tan, this is your place. Otherwise, you can always enjoy a nice sunset or a drink in the evening.

Sail Rock

Known as Chuanfan Rock is a huge piece of coral reef rock. The name “sail rock” was given to the rock due to its from,because, from a distance, the rock looks like a sailboat protruding out on the sea.

Situated next to the Sail Rock, there is a small sandy beach popular to practice snorkel, since the area is rich of aquatic life and coral reefs. If you are not into snorkeling, you can always lay down and enjoy the warm water.

Kenting Main Street

How many food stands and restaurants can coexist in one street? If you want to get an answer, come to visit Kenting Main Street where delicious traditional taiwanese food stands and occidental restaurants live together among traditional buildings, which turned into modern hotel rooms.

Something that I really liked about this street was the good vibes you could feel in it. Most of the people knew each other already, in fact, many locals owned a food/drinks stand together with other friends, as a way to earn some money during the weekends, and they were super nice with visitors 🙂

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Kenting?

This southern point of Taiwan is a unique place with a lot to offer.

Kenting National Park is the main attraction, however, Kenting beaches and the town itself have some special charm that makes the visitor feel somewhere else.

This part of the island is far from noise and pollution. It is the perfect place to disconnect from daily crazy routine and to re-connect with yourself and with nature. If you plan to visit Taiwan, I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days relaxing in Kenting. Furthermore, locals are super friendly!

Enjoy your time at Kenting and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the north of Taiwan, to the capital of the island: Taipei. Meet you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover Kaohsiung – in (almost) two days

It took us around 2 hours to travel from Taichung to Kaohsiung in the rapid train. Once we arrived to our destiny we left our packages at the hostel and we started to explore this amazing taiwanese city.

What to visit in Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung 85 building

This dramatic 378 meters high building, called “Tuntex Sky Tower” was constructed from 1994 to 1997 and it had the honor to be the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan until the building of Taipei 101. Its elevator is one of the world´s fastest elevators reaching the 75th floor in only 43 seconds, at 600 meters per minute.

From 75 View Deck, the observation deck, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the entire city and harbor. A good idea is to go there in the late evening to enjoy the sunset of Shou Mountain (promised we tried to do it, but we didn´t mange to arrive on time…) or to go early in the morning to admire the vitality of this incredible city.

Love River

Known as Dagou River in Qing Dynasty, this beautiful river gained the title of “Love River” due to its developed green park areas, which makes Kaohsiung Canal one of the most romantic places for lovers to date. At night, visitors can take boats on the east or the west coast to enjoy the charming views among the river.

Good news for bicycle lovers: A very long bicycle way was constructed, to wander on the pathways while admiring the beautiful landscape.

Lotus Lake

One of my favorite parts of the city is the well-known “Lotus Lake“.

Located in the old section of Zuoying district, this lake is surrounded by buildings close related to the ancient Chinese culture.

How is this possible? Easily. Lotus Lake is, as I previously mentioned, located in Zuoying district. This section has always been a historical one because it was established as a military fortress during the Qing Dynasty, to later on become a community of nationalist Chinese who fled to Taiwan when the Communist took over of China.

The lake is surrounded by a 3km path. There is also a road for tour buses, since this place is becoming very popular among tourists. Here it is easy to find visitors enjoying the pretty views of the lake and walking along the different temples in the area.

Starting at the southwest part of the lake, visitors encounter the beautiful Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Following locals traditions, the dragon’s throat is the entrance and the tiger’s mouth is the exit. It is said that entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a tiger’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune. From the top of the pagodas visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the lake.

A little further down you can visit the Spring and Autumn Pavilions and the Wuli Arbor, which welcomes the visitor with a nice, ancient foot bridge. Spring and Autumn Pavillions, built in 1951, are dedicated to Kuan Kung (the God of War).

Confucius temple

Wandering along the path you will find the beautiful Confucius Temple. This is not 100% the original temple, since the original one was built in 1648 in a different location of the city. In 1960 the government decided to renovated and reopened some old temples around the country (abandoned during Japanese siege). The mayor of Kaohsiung mandated to build the temple next to the beautiful Lotus Lake.

To be honest, the mayor had a great idea! This place is seldom busy – most of the touristic buses do not arrive until here – and it is a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the view.

Rose basilica

This church was established during the Qing Dynasty, when Spanish missionaries arrived to Taiwan. It suffered a reformation in 1860, when it got its current name “Rosa Basilica”. Again in 1928, the basilica was reformed into a Renaissance-style architecture. The current Rose Basilica is the result of another reformation which took place around 1931.

Night Markt

Liuhe

Liuhe is the most touristic night market located in Xinxing District. In fact, this market is one of the most popular ones in the country. 

During the day, Liuhe 2nd Road looks like any normal road with tons of traffic, however, after 18.00pm things change a bit there…

The whole street turns into a crowded pedestrian market full of stands selling crab, shrimp, octopus and squids. Although this market is know due to the quality of its seafood, here you can also find other traditional dishes such as beef, papaya juice or snake meat.

It takes around 30 minutes to visit the whole market (always depending on how hungry you are and how many stands you want to visit 😉 We spent almost one hour there).

Guanghua

Located on GuangHua Road, this local night market is around 60 years old. At that time, street vendors gathered in from of GuangHua theater, where people went to the movies. After years of prospering, this night market expanded and it became the local night market of nowadays.

Over hundred vendors and shops are located here. Known for its cheap price and quality food, this night market is the favorite of locals.

Ruifeng

Doubtlessly the most popular and busiest night market in Kaohsiung. Located in the north part of the city, this night market is the ideal place to find all kind of food and shoppings choices.

Take the subway!

Does the name “The Dome Of Light” sound familiar to you?

This public art is the largest glass work in the world. Its vivid colors and unique design are located at the Kaohsiung MRT transfer station for the Red and the Orange lines (Formosa Boulevard Station). The renowned artist Narcissus Quagliata took four years to complete this piece of art, which tells the story of human life in four themes: Water, Earth, Light and Fire.

The immensity of this design cause tourists and locals to simply stop and to admire this unique monument.

Of course,it is becoming the “selfie place” of Kaohsiung by far.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Kaohsiung?

This city is a charming place with a lot to offer. Discovering dramatic skyscrapers, cycling/wandering around Lotus Lake or trying taiwanese food at the local markets is an experience I highly recommend. Kaohsiung and its citizens are amazing!

Enjoy your time at Kaoshiung and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the south of Taiwan. Meet you there!

 

Discover Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Just 64km away from Taichung (2 hours by bus) lies the unique and dramatic Sun Moon Lake.

The largest body water in Taiwan is also home to the Thao tribe, an aboriginal taiwanese tribe, and a tourist hotspot, mostly during Chinese New Year.

This area offers some accommodations for those who want to spend some days discovering this enormous lake and its surroundings. In our case, we spent a whole day enjoying this majestic place before coming back to Taichung.

First thing we did after getting off the bus that drove us to the lake, was to take a plan of the area at the tourism information office and to check which activities we could enjoy.

Following you can find some information about Sun Moon Lake attractions:

What to do in Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Circular Walk

After grabbing a coffee at a local cafeteria we decided to explore one of the walking trails at Shueishe Pier (the main pier of the lake). We figured out that we could have a nice walk among nature and take some nice pictures of the clear turquoise waters.

On our way we found some local fishermen and a couple of adventurous who, like us, were enjoying an early morning walk.

 

Sun Moon Lake Shuttle Boat

The quickest way to discover this beautiful lake and its green mountains is to take one of the various ferries that you will find at the Shueishe pier.

Since there are many different ferry companies I recommend you to take a look at this website “Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Boats“. Here you can find all the information related to the different boat operators, their prices and schedules.

If you decide to take a boat tour you will be able to see and visit the following places:

Shueishe Pier

Although Shueishe is the most tourist-oriented part of the lake, it is also a great area to have a nice walk, to enjoy nature and to visit some traditional places such as Longfeld Temple.

Ita Thao Pier

You can get off the boat at Ita Thai Pier and discover the old village of Thao tribe, the aboriginal taiwanese tribe. Here you can get lost among the narrow, colorful street and their food markets. If you want to try some traditional food and buy some souvenirs, this is a nice place to do it.

From the wharf you can enjoy an amazing view to the sun moon lake cable car.

Xuanguang Pier

From my point of view this is, by far, the most interesting spot in Sun Moon Lake.

Once you get off the boat you can enjoy a nice, an maybe crowded, walk until you reach Xuanguang Temple. This beautiful taiwanese temple was built to honor Xauanzang,  a prestigious monk who devoted his whole life to promote Buddhist teachings and it is still one of must-go places for many visitors to Sun Moon Lake.

However, this is not the only temple created to honor Xuanzang. At the top of the mountain, visitors can discover one of the most magnificent temples I have ever seen: Master Xuanzang Memorial Hall.

To be honest, you can reach the temple either by walk or by bus/Car.

I highly recommend you to discover the trail on the mountain, surrounded by nature and wild animals (Do not worry, they are afraid of people, so they tend to hide when you make noise).

We decided to invest some time at Xuanguang and to walk up the mountain until Xuanzang Memorial Hall. Surrounded by nature, we did not find any other tourist on the way – which was a huge surprise for us.

The first image that comes to my mind when I think about the temple is the dramatic views that the visitor can enjoy from its esplanade.

The temple is also really special. On the first floor, it is easy to find solo monks praying on silence. On the second and third floor, the visitor can learn more about Xuanzang story and the importance of this monk  who brought back the original Buddhist sacred texts to translate them himself.  This journey took him twenty years and, since then, his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable.

Lalu Island

Located in the middle of the lake, this tiny island was inhabited by Thao people. It is too small and fragile for tourists since it has been half disintegrated due to the building of a dam around 1930, as well as due to the 921-earthquake in 1999. However, you can have a great view of it from the boat.

You can dock the boat at either Shueishe, Xuanguang or Ita Thao Pier and get back when you are done with visiting each part of the lake.

Sun Moon Lake Bikepaths

At the very beginning I talked to you about the Circular Walk. If you prefer to ride a bike instead of having a walk, I recommend you to do not miss out this amazing bikeway that covers half of the lake and allows the visitor to enjoy great views as well as to take beautiful pictures.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, with around 1.877 meters length, runs between Ita Thao Pier and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The cable car travels over two mountains with altitudes around 1000 meters.

This ropeway is used as a public transport by locals, as well as a touristic attraction by foreigners ready to enjoy a dramatic view of the lake. The cable cars are designed with three different colors: red, yellow and blue, which represent the sun, the moon and the lake.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake?

This lake is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Cycling, having a nice walk around the lake, getting ourselves lost among the streets markets and discovering dramatic temples is a unique opportunity you should not miss. This place is stunning!

Enjoy your time at Sun Moon Lake and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the colorful city of Kaohsiung. See you there!

What to visit in Changhua

Located around 2 hours by train from Taichung, Changhua county is the fourth smallest by area and Changhua city is the second largest city in central Taiwan, with a population of around 230.000. The county embraces incredible people, abundant resources, dramatic spots and delicious cuisine.

To continue our trip to Taiwan we decided to spend one day in Changhua in order to visit its famous Great Buddha Statue. However, once we arrived there we discovered that Changhua has a lot of different things to offer.

What to visit in Changhua

Confucius Temple

Built in 1726 to worship Confucius, this beautiful temple hosts the renown Baisha Academy, one of the four most famous academies in Taiwan. The front gate remains always closed except during worshipping day (28th of September), therefore visitors must enter through the side gate.

Lukang Old Street

One of the most popular streets in Changhua. Full of traditional taiwanese food stands, Lukang Old Street hosts many historical buildings such as Yanchanghang.

Buddha Statue of Baguashan

Built in 1961, the Great Buddha Statue of Baguashan used to be one of the biggest Buddha statues in Asia back in the days. This around 25 meter high statue is located in the hill 74 meters above sea level and its interior is separated into various different floors, each of them containing colorful dioramas representing the story of Buddha´s life.

Yes, you can actually walk around inside the monument!

It is very interesting the fact you can climb the stairs up and down to learn more about Buddha and his life. If you are a religious person you can use the ground floor to find some inner peace and pray.

Around this dramatic Buddha you will find various different statues, each of one representing something different. The most symbolic ones are the different Buddha statues (Laughing Buddha, Wise Buddha…) and the 12 Buddhist Zodiac Signs (the rabbit, the rat…).

 

Following the the statues you will find to the Great Buddha Temple, located behind the huge Buddha statue and built in 1972.

This temple is quite special since it is a combination of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs in one single community. Divided by three floors, always accessible for the visitor,  the first one is dedicated to Confucius, the second one enshrines the Taoist God of War (Guan Yu) and the third one is dedicated to the practice of Buddhism. Beside the temple you will find two beautiful 9-floor pagodas.

From the balcony located at the third floor you will enjoy from one of the most beautiful views ever. Starting from the whole esplanade, in the middle of which you will recognize the draw of a lotus flower, and finishing with the panorama of the whole Changhuan City. This area is known as the highest point of Changhua and it is the ideal place to find some inner peace, to have a relaxing walk and to discover more about the asian culture.

Behind the temple you will find a pond full of enormous, colorful fishes and beside it you will find more nice Buddha statues and some private areas only accessible for monks and Confucius students.

Never mind if you are not religious at all. This place is so dramatic that I recommend you to spend at least half a day discovering it. If you go during the weekend, you will probably find locals enjoying the beautiful sunset and dancing traditional music nearby the lighted water fountains located all over the place.

How to arrive to the Buddha Statue of Baguashan

There are two different ways to arrive to the top of the hill.

To go up we decided to take the “nature walk”, which means that we started from the Changhuan City Library and we followed the path up to the hill. During the walk we discovered a small old house from where we could take nice pictures of the city (some locals where have lunch and enjoying a nice talk there) and the Baguashan Silver Bridge.

To come back to the downtown we took the most touristic walk, let´s call it the “city walk”. From the Buddha Statue we descended the whole way nearby the parking. This is also a nice walk since the way is full of ancient God statues, some of which we did not know before.

Lukang Mazu Temple

Another historical temple that you should visit is the Taoist temple dedicated to Matsu (the God of the Sea). Here you will appreciate the image of black-faced Matsu, and a huge display of weapons.

This area is pedestrians only and if you decide to visit it during the weekend, you will find out a really nice market where local vendors will gently offer you some local Taiwanese snacks.

What to eat in Changhua

Visiting Changhua, as well as visiting Taiwan, means getting lost among its multiple food markets. So, if you want to enjoy the Changhua experience you should try some traditional meals including the tasty Changhua Meatball.

How to arrive to Changhua

  • If your first travel destination after landing in Taipei is Changhua, you should know that there is a bus (less than 3 hours journey) that covers the route Taipei Airport-Changhua.
  • If you are planning a day trip from Taipei the best option is to travel by train. You can choose between Taiwan High Speed Rail and regional trains. The price you will pay in case you take the THSR can be twice as the regional trains price (around 400NT$).
  • If you are enjoying some time in Taichung – do not hesitate to take a look at my last post containing some tips about what to visit in Taichung – and you want to escape from the city, I recommend you to take a regional train from Taichung HSR Station (less than one hour journey).

Your turn!

Have you ever been in Changhua? Do you know any other interesting places to visit in this area? If so, feel free to share your thoughts leaving a comment below 🙂

 

Trip to be continued….

What to visit in Taichung

To start our taiwanese trip we will travel all around the city of Taichung, a taiwanese hidden gem chosen by locals as the best destination in Taiwan. The attractiveness of the city originates in its architectural mix, its lively streets, its mild climate and the kindness of its citizens.

Taichung is the second largest city of Taiwan with 2.7 million inhabitants and it is known to be the house of the famous, tasty bubble tea (still don´t know the taiwanese bubble tea? Just keep reading then 😉 ).

While endeavoring to achieve modernization with the construction of new, modern buildings as well as remember the past, Taichung strive to position as the second most important city of Taiwan (today this honor belongs to Kaoshiung).

What to visit

Let´s make a tour around the city to discover some amazing spots you should take into account when preparing your trip to Taiwan:

Central District

Konfunzious Temple

Built around 1976 Confucius Temple is a peaceful oasis in the middle of Taichung´s downtown.

This incredible temple follows the construction-style of the Song Dynasty by mixing sobriety and simplicity together with vivid colors and decorated roofs and beams. In the galleries located at the side of the main courtyard the visitor can find various classrooms and a library, where traditional arts are taught.

This temple is usually used by young couples as the perfect landscape for their pre-wedding photo album.

Yizhong Street Night Market

If you want to experience the real, ancient Taiwan lifestyle you CANNOT miss this unique night market.

Located closed to Taichung´s University, this area accommodate thousand of students willing to enjoy its young, trendy culture with many fashion stores and tasteful finger food such as stinky tofu (you can feel its smell since the moment you approach the market), baozi or fried chicken.

Among its specialities you will also find cold tea, watermelon juice and the famous bubble tea.

Haven´t you ever heard about it?

Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the 80s. Although there are many varieties of this unique drink, the original recipe contains a tea based mixed with milk, tapioca balls (know as bubbles 😉 ) and fruit jelly such as lychee.

North District

Paochueh Temple

A nice walk from the city center will lead you to Paochueh Temple.


Beautiful isn´t it?. Wait to discover its dramatic (laughing) Buddha statue (the largest in Taiwan). I fell in love with it! 🙂

 

Feng Chia Night Market

Described as a “sensory feast for both eyes and palate”, this is the most touristic and large (around 1 km) market in Tiachung.  Always full of people (during the weekend around 30.000 people usually visit it), this market boast about exotic and delicious food such as crepes, stinky tofu, cheese potatoes, low-calorie ice-cream, bread with fried noodles and many more. Furthermore, due to its proximity to Feng Chia University, visitors can also find a wide range of low-cost fashion and tech stores.

Shengang District

Balloon Museum

Taiwan Balloon Museum is in fact an over-50-years-old balloon factory located in the residential area of Shengang. Here visitors can take an informative journey to discover how does the manufacturing process of balloons work. In addition, the museum offers rubber balloon DIY workshops and guided tours.

An original plan for children and not so children 😉

Taiping District

Earthequake Museum

On September 21, 1999, Taiwan experienced one of its worst natural disasters ever, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed the central part of this amazing island. The earthquake museum was built in order to honor the victims of this catastrophe, as well as to raise citizens awareness and show them how to act in case of earthquake.

West District

National Taichung Theater

Ready to walk on the roof of an opera house?

The National Taichung Theater is an opera house and multifunctional space which includes:

  • Grand Theater: A 2007 seats cozy, red-themed theater
  • Playhouse: An ocean blue space where musicals and concerts usually take place
  • Black Box:  A black interior space for experimental theater performances
  • Outdoor theater: Covering 1000 square meters, the theater is surrounded by transplanted trees that creates a beautiful natural space, which, by the way, is linked to the Black Box
  • Sky Garden: Visiting the Sky Garden is like entering a different world. The space, surrounded by skyscrapers, is a great area for outdoor concerts. This sixth floor venue is accessible via elevator

National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Great museum with exhibitions mostly focused on taiwanese art, although all the time there are temporary exhibitions. The building itself is splendid and it has been  rebuilt after the 921 earthquake.

Where to sleep

Love I

Located just a short 4-minute walk from Feng Chia Night Market, it is a pretty cozy place, nicely decorated and with own private bathroom.

Talmud Hotel

Located in the central district, 1-minute walk from Yizhong Street Night Market is an ideal european style hotel with private bathroom and taiwanese breakfast.

Wowwow House

Located near by Taichung Park and surrounded by restaurants, Wowwow House is a taiwanese cozy hotel whose rooms own private bathrooms.

Where to eat

Street food

  • Fengchia Night Market
  • Yizhong Street Night Market

Hint: Try both stinky and spicy tofu. Tasty!!!

Hot Pot

  • Modern Toilet

European Food

Japanese Food

  • Chung You Department Store

Did you like the post? Motivated to include Taichung in your bucket list? If you want to share more information about this dramatic city feel free to leave a comment below 😉

To say goodbye I want to share more pictures with you (Remember: Next stop Sun Moon Lake 😉 ):