Fun in Formosa (Journey from NAIA Manila to Alishan)

December 19 and 20, 2017

Manila to Chiayi

Leaving Manila on a  rainy Tuesday for the 1140pm flight to Taiwan, ROC (Taoyuan Airport).

Have booked flights as early as August hoping that the free visa to PHL passports would take effect before our trip.

Armed with all the useful mobile apps (Taiwan Bus, Taiwan Metro,Taiwan Railway System) to guide us on our 9-day journey exploring Central, Western, Northern and Eastern Taiwan. The only part left out was Southern Taiwan (Kaohsiung and Kenting areas) as we needed 3 additional days to explore.

We arrived at the Taoyuan Airport at 2am. We stayed for 3.5 hours waiting for the opening of the pocket wifi kiosk to retrieve our device. At 6am, we went to the ground floor to board the  airport shuttle bus to Taoyuan High Speed Rail (HSR) station. As we went out, the freezing wind got through our Pinoy outfits (jeans, long sleeved shirt and rubber shoes). We were freezing and  immediately took out the thick jackets, scarf, gloves and bonnets. The trip took us only 20 minutes to the HSR station.

We purchased our HSR tickets from Taoyuan to Chiayi  in Central Taiwan and left in 10 minutes. The 300 km distance only took an hour on board their very efficient and on-time bullet trains, (I can only wish for this to be brought to the PHL). At 715 am, we took our breakfast at a convenience store inside the HSR station and also bought our Easycard (this is similar to the HK Octopus card).

Chiayi to Alishan

At 830am we were in platform 3 to take Bus no.7329 to Alishan.

It’s a mountain county known for its beautiful mountain tea plantation, giant cypress trees, an old but still functional railway built by the Japanese before the World War, bento lunch boxes, refreshing and calming Oolong tea and cold climate. The trip took us 3 hours.

Reserving a good and strategic place was a challenge for an AirBnB patron like me. After 2 months of browsing in Trivago and Booking.com, we got lucky in reserving a cozy triple  room in Wankou Hotel.

Alishan County Proper

After settling in, we headed to the Tourist Center just a few steps to the Alishan Railway. We had our first lunch of real Taiwanese cuisine-an eclectic mix of vegetables, some meat and delicious passion fruit, bamboo shoots, mushroom, dumplings and rice.We washed down everything with a refreshing cup of Alishan mountain tea.

From the center, one can see the eroded mountain where one attraction once was. An earthquake destroyed the area and hasn’t been opened since, Using zoom lens, the destroyed road can be seen.

We explored a little area of the county walking through its paved walkways. At 2pm, it was already 8degrees Celsius. Not much for a Westerner but quite uncomfortable for people who grew up in a tropical country like the PHL.

We took a rest until 5pm and at 6pm we again went out to check the town for dinner. We were served with Mountain Deer Hotpot. It was paired with stir fried noodles and rice plus Oolong mountain tea.

The crisp and cold mountain air crawled into my “Grandma coat” which I also lovingly called “Ginger coat” named after my Yorkie. It was really cold. The night was capped by hot tea and the cookies infused with coffee and tea which we bought from a local store.

December 20 and 21

Fun in Formosa (The train to Zhushan, Ogasawara and ANFRA then Yuchih)

Other than the  old railway and oolong tea, Alishan is also known for its  beautiful sunrise in Zhushan. On a clear day, one can even get a glimpse of Mount Yushan (or Jade Mountain or Snow Mountain). To get to Zhushan, a ticket reservation at the Alishan station must be made on or before 4pm on the day before the trip. We overslept on the day we arrived so we were not able to reserve tickets. However, I refused to give up and did some reading before we slept. We can buy tickets even on the day of the trip itself. We just need to wake up early and buy or tickets.

I woke the boys up at 430 am. After some whining and requests to extend sleep, they went up their feet and we headed outside towards the Alishan Railway station. It was 4 degrees celsius.

When we arrived at the station,  we thought that all visitors planned to view sunrise… it was packed with sleepy yet very excited visitors (mostly Chinese). I went to the ticket window and bought 3 tickets (NTD150 each one way and roundtrip is NTD300 each). We were scheduled for the second trip. The schedule of the trips were made depending on the time of sunrise. We left at 550am and sunrise was at 634am.

Being transported in a train running on old  and ascending and winding tracks was a bit nostalgic. The train chugged its way to the misty forest and I’m slowly rejuvenated by the refreshing smell of cypress and mossy trees. Eventually, the Amoy-Kumot smell of my seatmates in the train faded.

The train stopped at Zhaoping Station to pick up more passengers from the posh hotels in the area (Alishan House and Alishan Gou Hotel). At 620am, we alighted from the train and started to explore the Zhushan viewing point. There were Chinese tour guides chanting something and we were bit disappointed on the size of the crowd.

We started to hike up and checked our maps. We were headed to Mt. Ogasawara.

Our itchy feet got lucky choosing the correct trail. Indeed, unpaved trails lead to beautiful places. The red maple leaves scattered on the trail and the cherry blossoms (not yet in bloom) give that winter and fresh feeling. It is different from my hardcore mountain climbs in the PHL were I usually get to see dried pine needles or perennial grass and sometimes nasty limatik while walling on stony or muddy trail (if you are lucky to have a trail).

After a short hike, we arrived at Mt. Ogasawara. It was developed but not as crowded as Zhushan. The sun slowly peeped from the summit and to the west was the sea of clouds sprawled in the lowlands. All around were Taiwan red maple or Hayata, Magnolia and azaleas ( I read markers and take down notes…hahaha).

We headed back to the Zhushan station and went on board the train after taking photos. The hotel offered free breakfast. It was different.The pancit lacked the usual ingredients I see in Ongpin, the porridge tasted like “am’ but the pickled cucumber and soya milk were yummy. After breakfast we headed to the 711 to reserve bus tickets to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchih then went back to the hotel to check out.

We left the luggage at the hotel and headed back to the Alishan forest trails. The hotel proprietor said that the entire trail can be completed in 3.5 hours. Because we were fast walkers, we finished the entire hike in 2 hours. Everything was paved either with wood or stones. Several interesting attractions can be seen along the trail. Cherry Blossom trail was near the Zhaoping station, then we passed by the huge and elegantly decorated Shouzen Temple, Zhouzhi bridge (shaped like a boat), Magnolia Garden and then Sister Ponds. The Giant Cypress trees were also interesting. Some were more than a century old (around 30 trees), some were felled by typhoons and seeds sprouted and grew inside the trunk of fallen trees (called three generation trees). Some were given names like Elephant Trunk, three brothers, etc.

At 1230pm, we were at the hotel and  brought to the bus station for a trip to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi.

The trip was 4 hours. The hotel we booked was just across the bus stop and overlooking the spacious parking lot. After settling in, we explored the park near LongFeng Temple but didn’t get inside as it was already late. We just enjoyed the cool breeze and had delicious noodle dinner. Unfortunately, Yuchi does not serve any meat dishes at the time we were there because of a festival banning meat. We  settled for tofu. And mushroom as meat substitutes.

#wanderingpinoyfamily

#pamilyanggala

#FunInFormosa

Advertisements

Macau Taipa Coloane (Cotai) ….Not the Usual Macau Tour (May 15)

Our son’s birthday wish was to celebrate his 16th abroad…especially Macau.

How can we say no to a wonderful young man who is the source of our pride and joy.

We left Hong Kong via TurboJet Ferry at the Sheung Wan Ferry Terminal, HK.

It was a rainy morning when we left Sham Shui Po. After an hour of fast ferry ride, we arrived in Macau Ferry Terminal at 1030am. The other ferry service is Cotai Water Jet dock at Taipa Terminal. We took a taxi from the terminal to Jardim Flora where we booked for an overnight stay.

 

ROUTE:

  1. Sham Shui Po to Central Station or transfer train then take train to Sheung Wan (we opted to walk).
  2. Head inside the mall and buy ticket at their ticketing office or reserve and pay online (we bought on site at HKD 164 per head)
  3. Get in their boarding area
  4. After an hour of fast and scenic ferry ride, the first structure to see from afar is the long bridge connecting the islands of Macau and Taipa/ Coloane.
  5. Taxi from Macau Ferry Terminal to Jardim Flora (if you are booked in a posh hotel, they have free shuttle buses)

 

Getting around is by bus or taxi or walk. Macau is about the size of Pasig City (about 30 square km.) while Taipa and Coloane combined is about 14 square km or about 30% the size of Manila. 

We checked in and changed into lighter clothes and headed out for lunch. It was raining and according to our “Macau-related-transpo-Apps” on our phones, we need to take a bus to the Ruins of St. Paul. We took the Bus no. 25 which took us to Venetian in Cotai. I learned later that day, from my cousin who is based in Macau that the bus route just changed that weekend.

 

So, birthday lunch was at Canton Restaurant in Venetian Macau. The serving sizes were small but the food was rich in taste.

 

We were mesmerized by both flickering and bright lights inside the Venetian. Shops everywhere… well most items can be found in Makati and MOA so we were not really interested. After taking some pictures of the fascinating Venetian ceiling simulating the sky, a light walk on the bridges over the manmade Venice Canal and listening to the sonorous voice of gondola boat men and lady, my cousin and niece came by to meet us.

 

We went out of the hotel and the rain already stopped. We hopped into Bus No. 25 and headed to Hac Sa. The coastal area of Hac Sa has its own charm…hiking the Coloane trail then came out from a well paved rocky Long Chao Kok Coastal Trail overlooking the China Sea.

 

Route:

 

  1. Take Bus No. 25 at the bus stop in front of Sands Cotai (across Parisian or the replica of Eiffel Tower)
  2. Alight at Hellene Garden or hac Sa Youth Hostel (we alighted too soon at Villa Chok Wan Hou then took the Morro de Hacsa Family Trail)
  3. Follow the coastline and the row of luxurious white houses and at the last white house go straight the path to the restroom and the paved costal trail can be seen.

 

It was almost 7pm when we headed back to Hellene Garden. From the waterfront promenade, one can see the bright lights illuminating the clouds at Cotai strip and the statue of the goddess A-ma on top a mountain in Coloane.


 

We took bus No. 25 back to Taipa for dinner at B.Leaf Restaurant. After dinner we walked to the Old Taipa Houses Museum but it was already closed. We just enjoyed the view of bright skyline of Cotai and sat on the benches fronting the marshes. It was magical to see that the once neglected wetlands of Taipa and Cotai were now the sites of the brightest and busiest part of this side of China.

 

We walked again to the Cotai strip and used the longest walkalator on this part of the planet. We emerged at the area of Galaxy Hotel and watched their free indoor fountain show called “Diamond Show” featuring cascading play of water and lights underwater and above. It was relaxing to watch the dancing spurts of water and the monotonous yet refreshing splashing sound.

 

We walked again inside Parisian took pictures of the bright Eiffel tower and while listening to classical Mozart.

 

We took a taxi to Wynn Hotel at 12AM (yes midnight), to see the outdoor fountain show. But it was windy and we moved to a place near the cable cars with little water splashes. The music of Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro” or “Time To Say Goodbye” was magical to our ears and the water dancing to the melody was amazing.

 

Well it’s past midnight and “time to say goodbye” and call it a night. We took bus no. 26 back to Macau in front of Wynn then took another bus to Jardim de Flora.

 

We slept around 230am. We still have one day in Macau… how we spent it… in our next post…!

Dragon’s Back Hike (Shek O, HK)

We woke up from our 5-hour-or-so-sleep and got ready for Shek O. For this adventure, we did some research for about 4 months as we prefer DIY than exploring thru travel agents or tour packages. After a little consultation with all the HK-related Apps on our phones 😁, one thing was clear…we need to take the MTR…the massive and very efficient subway train system of HK. Despite the dense population and thousands of commuters in HK, i cant help but admire their centralized transport and payment system. Every transport transaction can be done through Octopus Cards. Di ba kaya ng Pinas toh? I just felt sad.

Route:

1. Sham Shui Po to Admiralty via MTR

2. Admiralty to Shau Kei Wan via MTR

3. Exit subway and head to Bus Terminus below the fly over. Look for Bus No. 9 to To Tei Wan

4. Alight at To Tei Wan bus stop. You will see the trail marker and proceed from there.

Unlike our PHL hikes, HK trails are well maintained and marked and easy. Your only concern will be weather. Pray it wont be too hot or it wont rain.


After 45 minutes of hiking with different people from different countries (ang lalaki ng hakbang ng mga puti…i cant keep up😩), we arrived at a place where we can see the impressive coast of HK…the Big Wave beach, further east was the Cape d’Aguilar and its rocky slopes.

Further up in the trail at 234 masl (about the height of a medium skycraper), there was this group of jolly Pinays having a picnic. We surprised them further when they talked in Ilocano. Maski saan lupalop talaga, uusbong ang Pilipino. Then they all hurriedly went beside our son shrieking and called him “Baby”, while hubby was called “Daddy” and i was called ” Ate”. Wahahaha! I thought they’ll call me Tita. Maige na lang.

We hiked further up to the point where a paraglider took off….ang garaaaa! My son asked me if someone’s offering a glider for rent. There’s none…sorry.

Going down, at the exit is Collinson (where a penitentiary was located). We took the same bus back to Shau Kei Wan at Shek O Road, then MTR back to Sham Shui Po.



The day was capped by a delicious dinner at Chinese diner and the servings were HUGE.


Tired but fulfillled. We went to Pei Ho to buy some fruits (very cheap) and some taho.

I would suggest Sham Shui Po to those planning for a long stay in HK. Food is very affordable and place is accessible to MTR and even airport.

We slept early as we need to get some rest for a Macau trip…plus it’s someone else’s birthday the next day.

Flight to HKIA

Flight to HKIA (May 13, 2017)
The struggle at NAIA was real…im not kidding. Our armpits almost boiled and bubbled due to the humidity and poor airconditioning plus the 1.5 hrs delayed flight.


We landed at HKIA at 11:10. Awe and OoohWow came out from the 3 Pinoys from Pandacan admiring the well planned, spacious and ohhh sooo well airconditioned HKIA terminal 1. For the first time, hiyang hiya ako sa NAIA ( actually mas maganda pa airport ng Davao). The spa-like scent at their immigration and baggage claim counters, the minty air in their restrooms, the free and fast WiFi….ay nako! I ranted “San napupunta buwis ko, terminal fee at travel tax ng mga Pinoy? ” Then it flashed on the screen Cebu Pacific flight no. XXX bags delayed. Araykoh! Delayed na flight, delayed pa bags. Mahabagin!



After waiting for 30 minutes our one and only maleta was there rolled over in the conveyor. We looked for a 711 to get our Octopus Cards loaded then headed to the Bus Terminus.

Since it’s already past midnight, we took bus Number N21 ( yes the double decker). We arrived at Sham Shui Po at 2am because we alighted at the Prince Edward station.Lumagpas kami.Hahaha first HK hiking for us…getting lost in a foreign soil.

The owner of the house we rented for a week (a French married to a Hongkonger) waited for us at Sham Shui Po. Namuti na buhok kakaantay. He was very nice and helpful.

And because we were so hungry 711 was there for a quick bite. Until now i cant believe i bought that very small toothpaste tube for HKD25 (about Php150) kasi nakalimutan dalhin yun CloseUp😝.

We went to sleep around 330am. We need some rest for a long hike to Shek O in the morning.

Next post…hiking in Dragon’s Back, Shek O…..

This is a blog collaboration of Husband Wife and Son

It all started back in 2008 when hubby arrived from Middle East.Back then, our son was only 7 years old. The love for outdoors was conceived when we started to get lost in exploration😁

Indeed,adventure starts when the itinerary gets mixed up and Google map does not work at all. 

Here is a chronicle of our adventures and mis adventures as we try to discover places in spots beyond what usual tourists see. We will try to retrieve what can be retrieved (we can’t recover password from previous blog after being idle for a year). 

Enjoy reading