Saturday, 15 December 2012

travel: Taiwan 2012, Day 1: Houtong Village, Jiufen, Sunny Room B&B

We arrived at Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei, at around 1.15 local time. We met our guide for the next 9 days of our trip: RoundTaiwanRound. I believe we have James Huang from RTR for the next few days, up until our stay in Alishan, after which, Grant from RTR will be looking after us.

We bought a prepaid phone card at the airport that includes unlimited internet (when you walk out of the arrival gate, turn left, then left again. There should be some phone company kiosks offering this service). As we want the convenience of our own hotspot for the duration of our trip, we chose the package that costs TWD1000 from Chunghwa Telecom. This involves unlimited calls and internet for 7 days, after which we have to call the phone company to extend for another 7 days (at no extra cost as the extension is already included in the price. Why they don't just do the 14 days since the beginning is beyond me).
After switching 1/2heart's sim card and turning on the hotspot option in his iphone (go to 'settings' and turn on 'personal hotspot'), we have our own mobile hotspot for internet for our other devices - ipad and my notebook.

James brought to our attention that there would be a slight change to our initial itinerary: the only road accessible by car to Taroko Gorge, our desination for day 3, is currently closed due to landslide just a couple of days earlier. The alternative would be to take a train, which neither I or 1/2heart was too keen about. So, we took James' alternative to shuffle our itinerary a bit and for today, we went to a small village we did not include initially into our itinerary: Houtong Village.

Houtong is pretty close with the more famous Jiufen, both were mining town booming back in the old days. Houtong was a mining town specializing in coal. There are many remnants of the old mines and workstations, but the scenery was absolutely beautiful. James told us that only a couple of days ago, he was also in the area and it was raining buckets. So I guess we are pretty lucky.

Uh yeah... sorry... that is my backside...

But Houtong nowadays is more well known for an entirely unrelated object to mining. I will give you some clues:

That paparazzi is James.

Got it yet? More clues? Plez, it's pretty obvious by now, right? There are a lot of paparazzi in the area, and the stars are the felines.

cats, cats, cats everywhere. Cuteness overload

After our cat therapy, we had to fill our tummy with some snacks...

Off to see some cats again...

I was quite smitten with this little guy...

Then off for dinner just around the corner. James brought us to this local eatery that served simple traditional dishes. Light and filling and delicious. We had some noodles, sweet potato leaves as our vegetable intake, braised eggs, pork dishes, and meatball soup. Total damage: TWD385, and our hunger was fully satiated.

It was already dark and James took us to the minsu/B&B that I had chosen for our Jiufen stay. And Oh God, this place is beautiful.

note: most of our B&Bs for our Taiwan trip were booked by James and Grant from RoundTaiwanRound on our behalf. All I did was search on the internet for accommodations and room type that I prefer and asked the boys to do the booking, as most of the minsu owners do not speak English.

B&B/Minsu in Jiufen: Sunny Room
Our Room is Blossom, and costs TWD 3200. (includes breakfast, and they also have free wi-fi in room)

Let the pictures do the talking.

See that rectangle stone basin on the right by the window? It is home to this little guy:

More details of the bathroom:

There is a convenience store nearby, reached by walking through some flight of stairs and more gorgeous night view of quaint Jiufen and surroundings.

Our purchase for the night: bought Taiwan Beer to try and see what the fuss is all about. My Taiwanese friends seem to always swear by this brand, so we had to give it a go. I gotta say, I am not too fond of it... . But of course we would not pass by the massive yakult drink... .

Our balcony seems to have a killer view... can't wait until next morning...

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