Yangmingshan - Hiking in the green

Yangmingshan National Park is less than 1 hour bus ride from Taipei and it's great for some hiking and nature-watching. You can also combine the hot springs in Beitou and do an amazing full day trip!

One of the easiest way to reach the park is taking the red line of the MRT until Jiantan and then the S15 bus. The last stop is Qingtiangang that is exactly where the trails start. There are various options and you need to go further into the wild in order to be immerse in nature without having people around. 

I climbed up to Mt. Qixing (2100mt) that is the highest peak and it takes around 1.5 hour of stairs up to the main peak and then went down to Xiaoyoukeng passing through the volcano. A part from this trail there are really tons of different options if you want some hint shorter or less steep! Once you reach Qingtiangang you can decide which one to do and spend one day lost in the green :)

If you're doing my same itinerary then you can take the bus 108 from Xiaoyoukeng until Yangmingshan Bus Station and then one of the many buses to Taipei centre.

Here's what's left of my map! :) 

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Enjoy getting lost! :) 

Sun Moon Lake - Cycling and Hiking in Taiwan

From Taipei I took the HSR (high speed train) to Taichung and then the bus to Sun Moon Lake. I bought the ticket for the train in advance online and it costs TWD 700 while for the bus there's no need to book in advance and there is one every hour.


In SML I took a basic hotel, convenient to what I had in mind to do, that is renting the bike to go explore the lake and then to climb Mt. Shuishe. My hotel was in fact in front of the Giant shop that rents bicycles and next to the bus station of Shuishe.


My recommendation is to spend at least 1.5/2 days in Sun Moon Lake. One day you can rent the bike (really nice Giant shop on B1 of the Visitor Center building) and either do the full loop (around 30km) or just a few parts of that. In any case you have to stop and visit all the amazing temples along the way.


I did the full loop starting from Shuishe Visitor Center going clockwise and stopped at Wenwu Temple, Xuanzang Temple (Xuanguang is a smaller one next to it but it's nothing special) and the amazing Cien Pagoda with a breathtaking view!!!!
You'll also find many view points where to enjoy the peaceful and beautiful scenery. 

 

Some more shots to show you how wonderful it is!


The other day you can do some hiking!

Mt. Maolan is a short (around 2km) and easy one, it starts behind Shuishe Visitor Center, while Mt. Shuisheda it's way more challenging and starts from Ita Thao. 

This last one takes around 6 hours and it has around 800mt elevation. Make sure you have enough water and snacks with you because there's nothing along the way! The surrounding is amazing and very very wild but from the top there's not a great view since it's mainly covered by he trees!

ENJOY! :) 

Jiufen - Little Gem

 "wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow"

"wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow"


I really fell in love with this little village nestled against the mountains and overlooking the ocean! Kinda Asian version of the Italian Cinque Terre ;) 

I went there for a one-day trip from Taipei but if you have time I suggest to spend one night there in order to explore more! You can either hike the mountains around there or rent a motorbike and visit the coast. 

To get there you can take the 1062 bus from Taipei straight to Jiufen Old Street (about 1 hour).
Once there, as first thing, just get lost walking along the super crowded Old Street!

A few things you could and should try:

  • drink the Taiwanese bubble tea
  • try the taro and sweet potatoes balls, apparently super typical
  • stop in one of the traditional and super cute tea houses overlooking the sea
  • try the stinky tofu or any other "strange" (for me!) food you find there
  • visit the temples along the way and get lost in the small alleys

After having visited the Old Street you have many options specially if you like hiking!
One of the best spot where to see the sunset is Mt. Keelung that you reach walking from Jiufen itself. Once you enter the path you will soon find a junction, at that point keep left: it's the longest route but the one with the best scenery!!
Have a look at my pics during the sunset and I'll let you judge :) 

Another option is to go to Teapot Mountain but you need to take a bus from Jiufen and then start the hike!
If you don't wanna hike then you can take a bus to Jinguashi, another small village, less crowded than Jiufen and really near.

Dambulla & Sigiriya

The first stop of my trip to Sri Lanka is in the North of Kandy, an area called The Cultural Triangle, famous for its ruined palaces, temples and caves. Here I've visited Dambulla's cave temples and Sigiriya's Lion Rock! A great start that foretaste the wonderful nature and sceneries of this simply amazing country.

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Dambulla is famous for its five cave temples decorated with amazing murals. They're open from 7.30am to 7pm and it will take you around 45mins / 1 hour to visit them all. The best murals are in cave 3, cave 2 is the biggest and most spectacular and cave 1 hosts a 14-meter long sleeping Buddha. At the bottom of the steps up to the cave temples stands a Golden Temple of Buddha that claims to be the biggest in Asia but actually is not even the biggest in Sri Lanka :)

15km from Dambulla there is Sigiriya, famous for the Lion Rock! I highly recommend you to but the ticket (around 30USD) and climb it till the top! It will take you around 1.5/2 hours to visit the area, climb the Rock and enjoy the breathtaking view! The best times to visit the Rock is either early morning or late afternoon, less tourists and better light! I've done it around 5pm and was perfect. On the summit there once was the Royal Palace, but now only remain the foundations, a square brick platforms overlooking the green hills.

ELLA-HATTON: Wonderful Train Experience

Guys, A DREAM CAME TRUE!! This train was on my travel bucket list and I still can't believe I finally took it! :) 

Ella is one of my favorite villages in Sri Lanka and I highly recommend you to spend at least one night there! A few options of simple hotels but with an amazing view are the followings: Golden view guesthouse, Nine Arch view and Mountain Miracle cottage. The last two are located on a hill facing the famous Nine Arch bridge where you can go to see the old trains passing and take nice photos among a super green nature. 

Once in Ella, try to wake up early to see one of the best sunrise you could have. I'd love it and the view there gave me a sense of peace and calm that filled my heart fully.

Then, after a yummy breakfast overlooking the mountains you can stop at the Nine Arch bridge before heading to the station to take the train. I took the one from Ella to Hatton.

4.30 hours that went really fast, I was completely absorbed by the landscape and everything that was happening at every stop! This experience is a Must-Do... Tickets should be booked in advance because the trains are usually quite full. The "first class" ticket costs 1000 rupiahs that is around 10 USD. 

xxx

Giulia

TOP 15 Things To Do in Sri Lanka

I've recently come back from an AMAZING trip to Sri Lanka! I'm still speechless if I think about all the wonderful things that this country has to offer. In a certain sense it reminded me of Kerala and overall it was a unique experience!
Below you'll find a list of the main things you should do while visiting Sri Lanka and I'm already writing specific posts to go deeper in details and share with you my experience :) 
By the way, the only point listed below that I didn't do is "whale watching"... it's quite common over there but I was afraid it would have been a waste of time and I preferred to do other activities since the time I had was quite limited!
In case you do it, let me know!! :) 

  1. Take the famous train to/from Ella!!!
  2. Do a safari (Uda Walawe or Yala, the first one is less crowded and touristic)
  3. Eat rice and curry
  4. Climb Adam's Peak (NOT during weekends)
  5. Visit the Cultural Triangle
  6. Visit a tea plantation in Kandy or Nuwara Eliya area 
  7. Climb Lion's Rock in Sigiriya
  8. Go in one of the Bawa hotels 
  9. Visit Galle, beautiful old Dutch colony
  10. Enjoy the nature and look for wildlife
  11. Do an Ayurvedic massage 
  12. Surf and relax by the beach on the South of the island (Arugam Bay, Tangalla or Mirissa)
  13. Attend a Kandyan dancing show
  14. Visit the 5 cave temples in Dambulla
  15. Go whale watching

Now you can start planning your next trip! ;)
Subscribe to my blog to receive the next articles!

xxx

Giulia

Penang - Hipster Cafes & Street Food

As mentioned in the "Top Things to do" in Penang, the café trend is a worldwide phenomenon with no signs of slowing down and in Georgetown you can definitely find great spots! These trendy cafes have quirky interior design, mix of styles and a nice atmosphere.  

Here there's a list I did for you... 

China House (153 Lebuh Pantai): by far my favorite!! You can't miss this amazing multi-concept dining spot. Combining three heritage houses into one fancy space, the China House includes 14 areas comprising of shops, a cafe, restaurant, galleries, live music stage and a bakery. Each section is decorated differently, each with a distinctive vibe, to enhance one’s experience there. The cafe section is famed for its extensive selection of cakes (up to 30 at any point of time) and is every cake lover’s dream. When night falls, local bands or stand-up comedians entertain the crowd. Give it a go and let me know what you think 🙂  

 

Bean Sprout (35 Masjid Kapitan Keling Road): have a look at both floors and the hidden area on the right side. I loved the interior design! This café is a good option for a brunch with a menu that includes avocado toast, pancakes, different types of scrambled eggs etc... 

 

 

 

The Alley (5 Stewart Lane): it hides under the facade of the shop’s former front, an incense shop under the name Kedai Gaharu Keat Seang. Though limited in space, the café makes up for it with its quirky interior. Check it out and try their churros! 

 

 

 

The Mugshot Café (302 Chulia St): nice café famous also for its freshly made Bagel Muffins as well as their home-made Yogurts. 

 

 

Penang is also known to have some of the best street food in Asia. Georgetown's streets in particular are renowned as a food paradise mainly due to its diversity in ethnicity and culture. There is no lack of food options here! 
Those are the typical dishes you should to try...

  1. Penang Assam Laksa: a proud signature dish of Penang, the laksa is a rich and spicy, fish-based noodle soup with tamarind juice, chili paste, lemongrass and topped with prawn paste and mackerel/sardine flakes. I have to admit, it's too spicy for me ahah
  2. Chee Cheong Fun: rice noodle sheets with shrimp paste
  3. Char Kway Teow: flat rice noodles stir-fried over very high heat with soy sauce, chilli, prawns, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives
  4. Cendol: iced green rice flour jelly with coconut milk, beans and palm sugar  
  5. Nyonya Kuih: coconut and rice desserts, I LOVE THEM! 
  6. Egg tarts: like a custard tart with a soft-centered egg fill. Try them at Ming Xiang Tai

Enjoy and let me know if you manage to try any of the above!! 

4 Must Do's in Munnar

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1. Trekking Munnar is a real paradise for nature lovers and it's a perfect place to do many trekking tours! I personally fell in love with the bright green tea plantations. I strongly suggest that you explore the area close to Lakshmi Hills. In fact, you can walk nearly 10 km reaching an elevation of 1472m all while enjoying the view of Anamudi's peak, the highest mountain in the South of India. Along the path you'll have the chance to see tea and spices plantations (pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg...) and meet the tea workers.

Augustine (+91 9497678473) is a super nice guy who works as a guide in Munnar area and can organize among other things, amazing trekking tours, overnight camping, and jeep excursions! Feel free to drop my name if you decide to contact him :-)

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2. Waterfalls

There are a couple of scenic waterfalls in the area. My favorite is located at Athirappally, on the way from Kochi to Munnar. In order to reach this specific spot, you’ll have to leave your car in the parking area, pay a small entrance fee, and then walk around 10 minutes.

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3. Tea museum and shopping

Even though I highly recommend you to sleep in one of the hotels/tents/resorts outside Munnar, I think that the main village is certainly worthy of visiting, even for just a few hours. Some of the main attractions include, visiting the tea museum, buying some spices and tea in the adjacent shop, treating yourself to some typical handcrafted chocolate,  purchasing a saree to really plunge into Indian culture. Generally, most shops in this area will sell two types of sarees, the traditional Kerala style that is white with embroideries or the classic pan-indian style (many colors either silk or cotton).

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4. Ayurvedic treatment or Abhyangam massage 

After a long and intense day, pamper yourself with a (deep tissue) massage or Ayurvedic treatment! The Fog Resort has a nice SPA which offers many treatments that suite every kind of need! What I've found super interesting is the Shirodhara, also known as the "brain massage", done pouring hot oil drops on the forehead...you can’t miss it.

ENJOY!! :-)

Chiang Mai - Elephant Tour

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Durante i miei viaggi mi è capitato di avere esperienze contrastanti con i tour organizzati dalle agenzie locali. Alcune volte si sono rivelati troppo turistici (come nel caso del tour su Chiang Rai), altre volte sono state esperienze fantastiche. Di questa seconda categoria fa parte un'escursione che vi consiglio assolutamente! Io amo gli animali e la natura e questa mezza giornata è stata davvero emozionante.Si tratta della visita al Baanchang Elephant Paradise ("baan" vuol dire casa e "chang" elefante), vicino a Pae. Ho comprato il tour su questo sitoe devo dire che è valso tutti i 3200 bath! Per mezza giornata ti prendi cura di un elefante, gli dai da mangiare, fai una passeggiata di un'oretta nella giungla, lo spazzoli e fai il bagno con lui...! ho sempre adorato Dumbo fin da quando ero piccola quindi per me ̬ stato qualcosa di fantastico! :-) So che in internet si trovano altre escursioni con gli elefanti più economiche, ma non ti permettono di cavalcarlo e prevedono "show" di questi poveri animali in stile circo, che tristezza...! Secondo me sono da evitare!

I'm not so fond of the travel agencies in general, sometimes their tours are really too touristy (as in the case of the tour of Chiang Rai), but sometimes they made me experience really beautiful and touching moments! Of the latter category is a trip that I highly recommend! I love animals and nature, and this half-day in the Baanchang Elephant Paradise ( "baan" means house and "chang" elephant), close to Pae, was really awesome. I've bought the tour on this web site and I must say it was worth all the 3200 baht! For half a day you are caring for an elephant, feed him, have a ride in the jungle, brush him and even swim with him ...! I've always loved Dumbo since I was small so for me it was a dream come true! :-) I know that online you can find many other tours that are cheaper, but they're not worth it since you cannot ride them and you have to assist to sad "shows" of these poor animals as if they were at the circus! Just avoid them!

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Enjoy :-)

BFL