The first and last stop of our journey, Kaohsiung gifted us our first impression of Taiwan. It is the second largest city in the country, and home to a very nice international airport. In terms of activities, I suggest visiting the art district Pier 2, a quick jaunt to Formosa Boulevard Station, and if you're in the mood for something funny/vaguely awkward, there is a sex themed restaurant called 'Funny Sex'. Due to time constraints, we didn't make it to the Lotus Pond, which houses a multitude of unique and beautiful Buddhist temples, and came very highly recommend. So, if I ever make it back to Taiwan, that will definitely be on the to-do list.
We only stayed in Tainan for one day and one night, and while there were a few cool sites, I did not find the city to be overly interesting. This being said, the night market in Tainan was, without question, my favorite of all the ones we visited. Tainan is known throughout Taiwan as a culinary hot-spot, and the food at the nightmarket did not disappoint. We tried fresh steamed squid, juicy mangos, soup dumpling, green onion pancakes, and even a skewer of crickets!
At 'The Armory'
Of course, you can't go to Taiwan and not visit Taipei. Like most of the Asian capitals I've been to, Taipei was busy, full of people, and seemed to never sleep. Hundreds of scooters racing here and there, delicious restaurants around every corner, and an abundance fun things to do. We visited Taipei 101, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, and then spent a day at the Wulai Hot Springs. If you have the time in Taipei, I would highly suggest the hot springs. Though the springs are about an hour bus ride from the city center, it is absolutely worth the trip. The river is clean and cool, the hot springs are hugely relaxing, and there are many places to eat and unwind in the surrounding town. Perfect for a single day trip.
The main attraction of Hualien is it's proximity to the massive and marvelous Taroko Gorge. When planning this trip, both my friend and I were immediately drawn to this site. There are several ways to approach a visit to Taroko Gorge: relying on buses, renting a scooter, or hiring a taxi for the day. We opted for the bus route, and I maintain that this is a totally viable option. There are about 12 sightseeing and hiking attractions within the gorge itself, so I suggest you pick between three to six and focus your efforts on those. Buy a bus ticket at the Hualien Bus Station (right next to the train station) and ask to go to the main tourist office. This way you can get a map and advice before venturing further into the Gorge. The buses pass by each site every 20-30 minutes, and the cost of each ticket depends on how far you are going. Though the buses worked out just fine for our group, if you want to travel in style or are prone to motion sickness, I would hire a taxi for the day. While scooters are an option, I personally would not suggest them. The roads are curvy, very narrow in some areas, and the buses especially drive without much consideration for their surroundings.
This leg of our trip was quite possibly my favorite, despite that fact that due to a card malfunction I was quickly running out of money. Kenting is the epitome of a sleepy beach town - the people are relaxed and friendly, the air is salty and smells or the sea, and the overall vibe is one of calm and contentment. We rented a scooter for both days we were there and spent our time eating streetfood, sipping mojitos, and lazing on the beautiful beaches. So nice.
Despite its smaller size Taiwan has a lot to offer, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. If given the opportunity I would gladly go back in the future. For more detailed information on transportation, Taiwanese food, and my overall impression of Taiwan, check out this Country Guide. I recently acquired a MUCH nicer camera than that on my Galaxy, so I'm hoping to step up my picture game in the near future.
Enjoy the beautiful view!