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Adrianli

Road trip in Taiwan from Taichung to Taipei 2019

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It has been a long time since I visited Taiwan. This time, my in-laws were interested in visiting the country. They wana see Taichung and Taipei, so it was an excellent opportunity for me to include a road trip to satisfy myself. Having driven on the left in USA last year, I do not see myself having much trouble with driving on the left. So why not and they(in-laws) get to experience an overseas driving holiday. Also we planned it in late Feb for the cooling weather and to see the cherry blossom. Average temperature was around 16 - 18°C but it got warmer around 20°C when we left Taiwan.

 

For this thread, I will touch on more of my driving routes. Half of the trip is driving and the other half is on public transport.

 

Day 1

 

An overnight flight on Scoot and arrived in Taoyuan Airport 5.10am. OMG, it was too early in the morning. Did not expect to arrive so early so we just sat around in the airport while my bro-in-law went to buy sim card for data. Next we took the MRT to Taoyuan HSR station, about 20 mins ride only.Our arrival at Taoyuan HSR station was early too as our scheduled booked train is at 8.05am. So we just sat around the station. My in-laws first time ride HSR, so it was something new for them. I planned it. It took 45mins of ride and we arrived at Taichung HSR station. 

 

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This is the place where I had booked our car and pick up of the car was. I went with Hotai rental, a large local rental car company. It offers the option of returning the car at a different city. Had booked a 2.0L Toyota Wish for the five of us. The car had 45K km on the odometer. Took me a while to install my car camera(Blackvue DR650S), all the wirings to charge hp and hp holder. I am using two hp, one with Waze and another with Maps.Me.

 

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Our first destination was Lavender Cottage up in the mountains. Drove off from the station was ok but I missed the entrance of the freeway and had to make a slight detour to get back on the freeway. Generally driving on the centre lane and just follow the flow of the traffic. Lots of speed cameras and lots of road hoggers on the overtaking lane. I guess it is normal for Taiwan cos I do not see anyone flashing their headlights or honking their horns at the hoggers. They simply undertake and move on.

 

As I got nearer to my destination, the mountain roads became a single lane for both direction traffic!!! Need to drive with caution and lookout for oncoming traffic. There were rows and rows of cherry blossom trees lining the road as we drove up. What a wonderful sight for us, some bloomed but some not yet. About 45mins drive and we arrived at Lavender Cottage. Free parking but requires entrance fees. Above 65 years old, free entry. Nice place to makan(a bit expensive), see lavender plants and watch the little mountain scenery.

 

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While the family was still shopping, I went back to the car, took out my DJI Mavic Pro drone and flew it up to take some aerial photos.

 

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After that we drove towards the hotel, directly at FengJia night market. Great to have free parking at the underground carpark. There is a traffic light at the carpark entrance cos it is a one way access for both way traffic. Thatz all the driving for the day. Spent the night at the night market.

 

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Day 2

 

Breakfast at hotel and we set out for Sun Moon Lake, roughly a 2 hour drive up the mountain again, a different mountain. The journey was smooth, not much traffic cos it was a Sunday morning. The freeway speed limits starts to go higher up, up to 110km/h. But damn, realised there is no limits for their trucks, lorries and coaches one. I was travelling 110km/h on the centre lane and these trucks and coaches overtaking me at the overtaking lane.

 

At the base of the mountain, decided to take a pee break and top up the fuel tank to full. Received the car in slightly more than half tank of fuel only and have not refilled despite the previous day drive to the mountain.

 

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In no time, reached Wen Wu temple at Sun Moon Lake. Parked at the free parking lots along the road and went to visit the huge temple. It was a panoramic view of the lake. The temple is huge with lots of steps to climb. The view was good but a bit cloudy.

 

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The family proceeded to the souvenir shop while I got back to the car and took out my DJI Mavic Pro drone to take some aerial shots of the place. Pretty strong wind up there but the Mavic Pro held up to it. Took some aerial photos and came down before anyone knows I flew up there. They have very strict drone laws in Taiwan and lots of place are restricted for drone flying.

 

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Our first destination was Lavender Cottage up in the mountains. Drove off from the station was ok but I missed the entrance of the freeway and had to make a slight detour to get back on the freeway. Generally driving on the centre lane and just follow the flow of the traffic. Lots of speed cameras and lots of road hoggers on the overtaking lane. I guess it is normal for Taiwan cos I do not see anyone flashing their headlights or honking their horns at the hoggers. They simply undertake and move on.
 
As I got nearer to my destination, the mountain roads became a single lane for both direction traffic!!! Need to drive with caution and lookout for oncoming traffic. There were rows and rows of cherry blossom trees lining the road as we drove up. What a wonderful sight for us, some bloomed but some not yet. About 45mins drive and we arrived at Lavender Cottage. Free parking but requires entrance fees. Above 65 years old, free entry. Nice place to makan(a bit expensive), see lavender plants and watch the little mountain scenery.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
While the family was still shopping, I went back to the car, took out my DJI Mavic Pro drone and flew it up to take some aerial photos.
 
 
 
 
 
After that we drove towards the hotel, directly at FengJia night market. Great to have free parking at the underground carpark. There is a traffic light at the carpark entrance cos it is a one way access for both way traffic. Thatz all the driving for the day. Spent the night at the night market.

 

 

Lavender Cottage! I remember going there once many many years ago. Booked a mini bus to Tai Chung and included Lavender Cottage in one of our stops. Nice place but didn't appreciate nature as much then when I was younger. Only wanted to shop and shop. Now that I'm older, shopping becomes secondary and sightseeing seems to be more interesting.

 

Looking forward to the rest of your trip updates!

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Next drove a short distance to ShuiShe ferry point to take a ferry across the lake to Ita Thao Shopping Street. Lots of touts here stopping you and offer cheap ferry tickets but we didn’t take it. Better to go with the official one. There is a huge carpark behind the main street at the pier. Gantry parking and has direct walking path access to the pier cutting through one of the building. During the ferry ride, the crew will give some introduction of the lake and some history plus info.

 

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When we arrived at Ita Thao Shopping Street, it was raining. So we simply went to the first food shop for shelter and lunch. After the meal, the rain has stopped and we started our shopping. Just a few streets full of shops wanting to earn the tourist dollar. Look see look see and bought some snacks back as gifts.

 

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While waiting to take the ferry, suddenly the clouds moved in and the whole place was covered in cloud cover. Visibility dropped to a few meters, very dense cloud cover. Surprisingly, the ferry continue to operate, probably they are used to it. The ferry I was on, the compass and its GPS brought down and the captain was piloting the ferry using google maps on his mobile phone!!! 

 

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We arrived back at ShuiShe pier safely. It was pretty clear at this part of the lake. Paid the parking at the token machine, NT$140 for about 3 hours of parking. Then we drove back to the hotel. Along the way, slight drizzle so traffic was a bit slower. While the rest kooning in the car, I had to stay awake and drive. Had a little near miss on the freeway. The car behind me was not able to stop in time and nearly rear ended me. He/She swerved to the road shoulder to avoid hitting me. I guess he wasn’t paying attention on the traffic slowing down.

 

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Back in the hotel in one piece and we settled dinner at FengJia night market again.

 

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Day 3

 

It was the day we are crossing from West Coast of Taiwan to East Coast of Taiwan. Breakfast in hotel. Checked out of hotel, loaded the luggages into the Wish and we set off. It was a bright and sunny day but temperature still hovers at 16°C. 

 

First stop was GuanYin waterfall. I read that it is a short hike only by the road to see the waterfall, so why not check it out since it is on the way. There is a long suspension bridge next to the carpark across the river. Very nice and sturdy, I jump and jump, it did not sway or shake much to my dismay to frighten my wife.

 

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Within the first 5 mins of the hike, we came upon the lower waterfall. My wife and in-laws say thatz it for them and they don’t wish to go further.

 

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So I proceeded further up, as I hike up, it was steeper and really need to pace oneself. Within 10 mins, I came upon the waterfall. It was about 20 stories high with lots of trees covering it. Rest a while, took some photos and left. We returned to the car and continued our journey up the mountains.

 

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Second stop was CingJing sheep farm. There was an entrance fee to be paid. Parking near the entrance were limited, needed to wait a while before I got a spot. Lots of parking at the lower level but prefer to park near the entrance. Upon entering the farm, can see all the cherry blossom trees, sheeps and nicely maintained hilly grassland. Took photos and tried to touch the sheep. The sheep’s fur is very rough, unlike my late rabbit’s smooth fur. We then went down to the performance stage and souvenir shop. There were more sheeps there for you to feed and touch. Bought a packet of food and the sheeps came rushing towards me. They very practical one, only come near you if there is food. I think these wondering sheeps are overfed by all the tourists.

 

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There are no performance show during weekdays. So we just sit there and watch the guys training the sheeps for the show. They used shepherd dogs to gather the sheeps uphill and then downhill into the pen. Poor sheeps and dogs, they were doing it repeatedly. All of us just sit there and watch.

 


 

 

Further downhill, it was another entrance/exit and next to it was a gathering of hawkers selling all kind of food. We settled our lunch there. Food there was not nice at all, supposed to be food by the hill tribes people. Probably not to our taste bud. The shan ji (hill chicken), the stall owners say very nice and tasty with their simi special marinate and bbq, taste so dry and hard. And no chilli sauce hor, when asked, they provide chilli oil. Finished lunch, climbed back uphill. Ya, earlier walking downhill very shiok, now had to walk back up. But I would say good exercise after a meal. Watch the sheep herding one last time and we went back to the car.

 

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The mountainous road after the sheep farm, slowly became single lane for both directions. The mountainous view was getting spectacular the higher we went. The sides became steep drop off. Speed was only 30 to 40km/h. There was traffic but not a lot cos I guess it is a weekday. Cant imagine if weekend or public holiday. The 2.0L Wish climbed the mountain without any problem at all. We came to the peak of the mountain and there were many cars stopped there to enjoy the air. There was no view at all due to cloud cover, yes we are driving in the clouds. We did not bother to stop and drove on.

 

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Down the other side of the mountain, it was downhill time. Switched to manual stayed within gear 2 and 3. This side of the mountain is facing the Pacific Ocean, therefore lots of cloud cover and rain. The roads were wet and have to drive with caution. Temperature dropped to 11°C outside. Need to keep the headlights on too so that the other direction traffic able to see you coming. There was the occasional car or lorry. Midway downhill, we came to a halt along a bridge with a long line of vehicles in front all stopped. We waited for 20 mins then the traffic marshaller in front let traffic through. To our surprised, there was a huge landslide. Lots of rocks and boulders were cleared. They used shipping containers to temporary block the rock fall to allow traffic through. We only waited 20mins, I wondered the first car in front waited for how long.

 

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The rest of the way downhill was smooth and soon we arrived at our next stop, Eternal Spring Shrine. Alamak, there were a lot of PRC tourists there also. Mostly waiting for their tour bus. We used the toilet and took some photos. It was too late already, the sun sets early so did not walk all the way to the shrine. Around 4 hours drive since leaving the sheep farm, not too bad in my opinion. We left and make our way to our hotel in Hualien.

 

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Arrived at our hotel(Taroko Liiko hotel) in the dark and its only 6+pm. The hotel staff told us that the area is considered rural so not much night activities there and not much eatery too. We settled for dinner at the hotel, must order first, before 7pm. They need to get the ingredients ready. 1 hour later than can eat. When we were back down for dinner, was surprised that the front desk gals also double up as waitresses in the dining hall. Food was ok only. 

 

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Day 4
 
Breakfast in the hotel, same dining hall. Food was ok, not much variety. Checked out of hotel and headed north towards Taipei.
 
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After the mountainous drive, now it is sea side drive. Yes, the Pacific Ocean is next to the road. Lots of speed camera here but not too bad cos can drive at higher speed compared to the mountain roads. There are lots of tunnels to go through here so not really hugging the coast drive.
 
After about 1.5 hours drive, wifey say need to use toilet. So we came into a tourist rest stop with shopping facilities. There was a stall there called Chilli hunter. They had the hottest chilli there, I bargained a little. He wanted NT$700 for a bottle of his hottest chilli, I bargained till NT$500 for it. He was impressed that I could eat the sample piece without any problem. He also had it in ice cream, yes, chilli ice cream. I chose the spiciest one. He was truly impressed when I finished the whole cup without any water. My wife took one small sip of my ice cream and screamed out. She went to other stalls to buy some dried products while I finished the ice cream. Of course, I was perspiring like mad. It was cold and spicy, first time eating chilli ice cream. My in-laws think I am siao and they don’t want to try at all. We moved on after everyone is happy with their purchases.
 
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First stop was NanFangAo NanTian Mazhu temple in Yilan. My in-laws say wana visit a temple so I can only think of a famous temple that I visited previously which the tour guide brought me to in my previous guided tour of Taiwan. This temple houses Jade and Golden Mazhu and overlooks the fishing harbour. Supposed to be a famous temple. Not crowded at all. There are three levels, each level housed a different Mazhu. So we just pray and donate some money, take pictures and left.
 
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After that, it’s the freeway liao. Shiok ah, can speed to 110km/h. But most of the other vehicles were going much faster so I kept to the right lane. About 1.5 hours, reached the outskirts of Taipei but that is not our destination yet. Drove on.
 
Second stop, Jiufen. Easy drive up this hill but parking is a problem. Don’t see any public parking at all. So we parked at one of the tout’s parking area. NT$200(about SGD10) for 3 hours, not too bad. Jiufen Old Street is crowded as usual, lots of tourists. We settled for lunch at one of the shops. Walked around, buying gifts and looking at the beautiful sight of Keelung Harbour. Within 2 hours, we are done and decided to leave the place.
 
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Third stop, Shifen. Quite nearby but had to drive down the hill and up another hill. Driving through an off beaten path to the place. Lucky for Waze, if not I don’t think able to navigate there. Reached there and followed those private cars and parked at some private lots, NT$100 per entry. Walked to the railway tracks and lots of shops at both sides of the railway offering sky lantern. Went for one and they even offer to help you take photos and videos with your camera. Wrote finish our wishes on the lantern, then they ask you do all the funny funny poses with the sky lantern. Like hold your hand on one side of your face as if u got toothache, Korean love you sign, hand over head for heart shape, clenched fist for jia you, the peace sign and hands stretched out upwards. Finally the lantern is released and it floats away with the wind.

 

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They went shopping along the stretch while I was standing outside looking at other tourists letting off their lanterns when suddenly, lights from a distance appear along the railway track. The various stall owners get their customers to clear the track. It’s a running railway track!!! The train approaches and went off.

 

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We made our way back to the car and head off to Taipei City. It took me about 45 mins drive to go into the city with heavy traffic jams in the city. Bumper to bumper traffic. We went to Taipei Fish Market as recommended by my in-laws relative. I didn’t know this place at all. After parking the car, took the lift down to the shops then I saw the prices. This is a high end seafood place. Every restaurant, the prices were pretty high. The biggest is one that you can pick your seafood and tell the staff how you want it to be done. Too expensive for us, so we left and headed to the hotel to check in.

 

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Only 15 mins drive and arrived at the hotel. The hotel, City Inn Branch III, got no car park. So drop off the passengers and luggage and went to a nearby parking garage next to a museum to park the car. About NT$30(SGD1.20)/hr and operates for 24 hrs. The hotel’s front desk staff taught me how to drive there.

 

I met up with them back in the hotel and all of us walked over to Taipei Main Train Station for dinner. Level 2 was a whole level of dinning restaurants at reasonable prices. After dinner, I went to collect the car and returned it to the rental company in the train station. The instructions provided for return of car was useless. Lucky the rental guy asked me to scan the QR code provided and it used google maps to direct me to the car park at the train station. There are a few car parks there so better check with them which one.

 

 

Thatz the end of my driving experience in Taiwan. Overall, pretty good drive. Only thing, in Taipei City, lots of scooters zooming around. Change lane have to keep looking out for them. And have to get used to them in front of you at a traffic junction.

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Screenshots from my Google Maps timeline.

 

Day 1 driving

 

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Day 2 driving

 

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Day 3 driving

 

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Day 4 driving

 

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Day 5

 

Visited Tamsui and Fisherman’s Pier.

 

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Night time, went to NingXia night market for dinner.

 

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Day 6

Visited Taipei 101, CKS Memorial Hall and WuFengPu. Supposed to see the change of guards at CKS Memorial Hall but it was public holiday the whole week so don’t have. Instead, huge police presence. Its Peace Week holiday.

 

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Night time, went to RaoHe night market for dinner. Lots and lots of ppl. Sibei crowded.

 

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Day 7

 

Visited SOGO shopping mall, Rilakkuma Cafe and GuangHua Digital Mall.

 

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Night time, went to ShiLin night market for dinner. Super duper crowded. A lot of stalls got long snaking queues.

 

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Day 8
XiMenDing shopping.
 
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Night time, went back to Taipei Main Train Station for dinner. My in-laws scared of the night markets liao. Too crowded.

Day 9
Lazy around in hotel and took the flight back to SG.

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Day 4
 
 
After about 1.5 hours drive, wifey say need to use toilet. So we came into a tourist rest stop with shopping facilities. There was a stall there called Chilli hunter. They had the hottest chilli there, I bargained a little. He wanted NT$700 for a bottle of his hottest chilli, I bargained till NT$500 for it. He was impressed that I could eat the sample piece without any problem. He also had it in ice cream, yes, chilli ice cream. I chose the spiciest one. He was truly impressed when I finished the whole cup without any water. My wife took one small sip of my ice cream and screamed out. She went to other stalls to buy some dried products while I finished the ice cream. Of course, I was perspiring like mad. It was cold and spicy, first time eating chilli ice cream. My in-laws think I am siao and they don’t want to try at all. We moved on after everyone is happy with their purchases.
 
 

 

 

I love chilli hunter since we visited Yi Lan in end of 2016, found their main shop there and they don't have shop in other part of Taiwan, not even in supermarket. For last 2 trips that i went back last May and Jan this year, i have to place order before my trip and for them to courier to the hotel i stayed in Taipei, Taichung respectively, my favorite is the beef spice paste sauce, good to go with porridge and noodle.

 

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and i believe this was the one you tried and bought.

 

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The Wish is spacious enough to accommodate the five of us plus all five of our luggages with the rear seats flattened. Road noise can be heard but surprisingly, not much wind noise. For me, not used to the seating position, more upright seating. Suspension was soft and comfortable, body rolls in turns so have to significantly slow down in corners. Although it is 2.0L engine, it is adequate for moving around. But if looking at mid-torque, travelling at 80km/h and pedal to the metal to move ahead for overtaking, it seriously lack of power. I tried to overtake a cement mixer up the mountain and it struggles to overtake it. Other than that, I would say it is a comfort, bread and butter MPV. No frills kind of car. FC was decent, around 10-11km/L.

 

Taiwan looks very much improved from the last time we visited, 10 years ago. Food is still yummy at most places. Service was pretty good. But I don’t get the want to return to visit feeling. [:/]  Just enjoyed the cooling weather there. I only bought a pair of shoes there, nothing else. The other stuff are all food gifts to giveaway.

 

Thank you for reading this thread. [wave]

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Next drove a short distance to ShuiShe ferry point to take a ferry across the lake to Ita Thao Shopping Street. Lots of touts here stopping you and offer cheap ferry tickets but we didnât take it. Better to go with the official one. There is a huge carpark behind the main street at the pier. Gantry parking and has direct walking path access to the pier cutting through one of the building. During the ferry ride, the crew will give some introduction of the lake and some history plus info.

 

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When we arrived at Ita Thao Shopping Street, it was raining. So we simply went to the first food shop for shelter and lunch. After the meal, the rain has stopped and we started our shopping. Just a few streets full of shops wanting to earn the tourist dollar. Look see look see and bought some snacks back as gifts.

 

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While waiting to take the ferry, suddenly the clouds moved in and the whole place was covered in cloud cover. Visibility dropped to a few meters, very dense cloud cover. Surprisingly, the ferry continue to operate, probably they are used to it. The ferry I was on, the compass and its GPS brought down and the captain was piloting the ferry using google maps on his mobile phone!!!

 

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We arrived back at ShuiShe pier safely. It was pretty clear at this part of the lake. Paid the parking at the token machine, NT$140 for about 3 hours of parking. Then we drove back to the hotel. Along the way, slight drizzle so traffic was a bit slower. While the rest kooning in the car, I had to stay awake and drive. Had a little near miss on the freeway. The car behind me was not able to stop in time and nearly rear ended me. He/She swerved to the road shoulder to avoid hitting me. I guess he wasnât paying attention on the traffic slowing down.

 

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Back in the hotel in one piece and we settled dinner at FengJia night market again.

 

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So your Sun Moon Lake only day trip without staying there overnight. That will be very rush and tiring.
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