Taiwan Part 2: Alishan amd Kaohsiung

Okay It's been a little while since I last updated on my Taiwan holiday. So here's a nice reminder of how amazing Taiwan looks:

On our second day with Taiwan Holidays we headed up the mountains to Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區). This is one of the "eight wonders of Taiwan" and an area known for cypress trees, sakura, high mountain tea and the girls of Alishan. I remember the song "Ālǐshān de gūniang" or "The Girls of Alisan" was a popular song my parents would sign with friends over some alcohol and karaoke and a song I frequently heard at every Chinese culture type event! "The Girls of Alisan" refer to the beauty of the girls in the aboriginal tribe living in Alishan; their beauty attributed to the clean water and environment. 
We made a quick pit stop for some fuel and I picked up some grilled sweet potato before ascending the mountain.       
I love roasted sweet potato. Fond memories of travelling Beijing with my cousin while holding a hot sweet potato for warmth compels me to buy sweet potato everywhere I go. I bought a small container this time as this sweet potato was roasted with some sugar syrup. It made it sticky and gooey but I felt it didn't really need that added sweetness! The sweet potato would've been beautiful on its own!

One of the biggest issues in Taiwan is the amount of typhoons and earthquakes that affect the little island. We luckily didn't go during typhoon season but we saw many of the effects. This picture is of a landslide that occurred a few months ago where a large amount of the mountain was sliced away by the landslides, destroying many houses along the way. The grey bits are concrete used to seal up the dirt so the mountain won't degrade further. You might be able to spot two little spots on top of the grey patch. Those are two aboriginal people paving the concrete! Apparently their feet are more flat, making them agile on slopes. They're doing it with no safety equipment whatsoever!
And up the mountains we go..... 
Our tour guide arranged for us to have lunch at Alishan House, a hotel within the scenic area. The hotel looked pretty amazing with Japanese influences and lots of cypress wood! And this chicken was amazing! You will notice that we have seafood, especially fish a LOT during our trip..... 
We started our guided walk after lunch and the first thing we see is this huge sakura tree. There was only a small number of pink blossoms and our tour guide said this tree is used as an indicator of when sakura season starts as it is often the first to bloom. During sakura season the place gets very very crowded but as you'll see there was still a lot of people on the day we went.

Look at the magnificence of these tall straight trees!

This very strange looking tree is actually three trees that have become one. Each new generation grew on top of the old one. And look at the amount of people! The area is protected so wooden paths are built around the area. Sadly I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked as we had to keep moving along the path to keep the path congestion free.

At one of the lookouts. Look at that view! We don't have enough mountain ranges in Australia to get views like this!
On our way down I bought some dried wild boar meat. They cook then with spices, dry the meat then roll them into sheets! I bought the crispy kind and it was really good! Great snack on our long bus rides. The boar meat tastes a bit like beef and yet it also has a game meat taste to it. Very hard to describe so you'll just have to try for yourself!

After our visit up the mountain, we took a bus ride down to have some tea.
This is Formosa oolong tea. Oolong is probably my favourite type of tea. It's a semi oxidised tea so a bit like halfway between green tea and black tea. The place where I came from in China, is a oolong tea growing area so I have had oolong tea for many many years. These days I drink mostly green tea as my green tea comes in the ease of a tea bag (Oh laziness...)!

We taste tested two types of oolong tea, both grown in the mountains of Alishan. The demonstration lady asked us to taste one type of tea and asked us what it reminded us of. It had a fragrance like milk! She explained that the expired yoghurts from the supermarkets are collected and used as a type of fertiliser for the tea trees and the tea takes on that milky flavour! It was fascinating and a nice cup of tea during winter was what my tired legs needed.

These are charcoal peanuts. they look very strange and inedible but they are far from that!! The peanuts are coated in the black charcoal and are addictively crunchy and delicious. I still haven't figured out if it's safe to eat charcoal but I bought five packets of these back home with me.....

After our trekking morning and afternoon we re-boarded the bus and went to Kaohsiung 高雄: The largest municipality in Taiwan.

This is a view of some city lights at Love River. Our tour guide explained it was called the Love River as years ago it was a popular place to commit suicide if two lovers were forbidden to marry by their parents. Despite it's morbid origin, we could see the river really lived up to the name. There were couples everywhere! The river used to be a major eye and nose sore as it used to be the dumping ground for human, agricultural and industrial waste. It wasn't until the last couple of decades that they have been treating the sewage and cleaning up the once smelly river. Now the river is lined with cute cafes, trees and rows of bikes for hire. Needless to say it was a popular date spot and we saw many many couples taking romantic strolls.
A view of Kaohsiung city from the Former British Consulate at Takao. You can see the Tuntex Sky Tower in the skyline (The tallest skyscraper in Taiwan before Taipei 101 was completed).

Ok you've probably had enough sightseeing now and am wondering about the food! Of course this is a blog about food and nutrition so I'm pleased to say we visited Liuhe Night Markets (六合夜市). One of the largest night markets in Taiwan. This place was insanely packed!

I mean look at that crowd around the entrance! Before my trip to Taiwan, night markets was one of the top things I wanted to visit. Markets full of food and cheap shopping? Of course I'm excited! Night markets are very popular in Asia and especially in Taiwan where it is a must visit on every tourist's list. It often involves hawkers selling all sorts of food, drinks, electronics, clothes, shoes, handicraft and animals outside. This market is open 5pm-5am!

Our first stop was grilled abalone mushrooms. These are giant abalone mushrooms brushed in a soy type sauce and grilled on a stick. They also had smaller, deep fried mushrooms that were also delicious.

This is a man making us an oyster omelette. This is a widely popular dish in Taiwan which consists of small oysters in an egg omelette. This one was sadly disappointing as they didn't give us many oysters and they bulked up the omelette with lettuce!

I didn't take many other photos as night markets also involve strolling and eating and buying too much food at once and not having any hands to hold a camera....

Truth be told, this was probably my least favourite night market. It was just so crowded! The problem with going on tours is you have a time limit at each location. For this market we had 2hrs which isn't nearly enough! The lines on some of the stalls were insanely long. Our tour guide said to go to any place that had a long line as Taiwanese people love to line up for good food! I lined up for one store and it was so long I gave up and then proceeded to have lost the rest of my family. I ended up spending the remaining 15mins looking for my parents! I guess that could be a reason why I didn't enjoy this market!

There is one must try food though! Papaya milk tea. There is a store called Zheng's old brand papaya milk that has a really long line. It serves up amazing papaya milk tea that's endorsed by the president of Taiwan. Best drink of the trip, truly. This is a blog I came across when researching Taiwan and there's a lot of good photos and food recommendations for Liuhe Night market (as well as other places in Taiwan.)    

Next up: The day I got really ill in Taiwan.... or I might just skip to the amazing Taroko Gorge photos ;)


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