TAIPEI – The City of Azaleas & its awesome get-aways

Taipei 101 stands tall as the sun sets in the city of Azaleas

Taipei itself is a great city that has a unique character of a typical east asian shade with western influences. A busy capital city throws open a lot in itself to explore in the evenings. For one, if you are someone like me who is intrigued & interested with tall structures, this is the city that has one of the tallest man-made structures in the world. I made sure to pick a hotel that gave me a clear vision of this super skyscraper from my room…always.

The Taipei 101 is an architectural marvel that showcases the city’s pride. It is truly a majestic structural marvel that stuns you at the first sight and continues to do so every time. To start with there are two special elevators to the top, engineered by Toshiba, that gives you the fastest ascending experience in life. I would call it a ’37 seconds to a super high’! Yes, it takes only 37 seconds to travel from the 5th floor to the 89th floor of the skyscraper, at a speed of about 1010 meters per minute.

A stairway to the skies…?!

Influences of Asian aesthetics in its modern avatar defines its architectural styles. This structure is built to withstand earthquakes and storms. The skyscraper has an observatory right on top that offers some spectacular views and keeps someone like me with my lenses very excited and keen to find angles to capture Taipei from over 500 meters above ground level. Within the city, there is Taipei National Palace Museum, an incredible testimony to oriental architecture, to enthral any traveller with so much on the Nation’s history and an remarkable collection of over 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks.

A treasure trove of ancient history

The terrific Taroko Gorge

When in Taipei on a short trip, be it business or a quick visit, a one-day trip to Taroko Gorge is easily the best choice that one can make. As I set out as planned on a day trip, primarily to check out the Taroko Gorge, I am told by my travel operator that there are a couple of places that can be checked out on the way by bus. And then take a high speed train ride as it gives an opportunity to experience the country side of Taiwan. After a pleasant ride, making a couple of mandatory stops to check out the local artisan’s work, we reach our destination for an authentic local lunch.

This for me, was an interesting lunch as it had the essence of their culture in the local tribe’s cuisine style. The one thing that stood out and deserves a mention was the rice cooked inside a bamboo stem. It was indeed a cool experience to break open the stem to take the cooked rice and consume, with some exotic locally grown veggies that I had never seen before in my life. 

Enroute to the world’s deepest marble canyon

Taroko means magnificent and splendid in Truku language and it was splendid indeed with mountainous landscape and thick green cover all over. The Truku is an aboriginal tribe that resides in this region and the best part of this trip is that one gets to experience their culture and know a bit about their livelihood. Taroko Gorge is a long canyon composed of metamorphic rocks such as marble and is about 20 kilometres long situated by Taiwan’s east coast. And thus began our walk into this beautifully rugged coastal cliffs through untamed path towards an elevated deep green cover of the coniferous forest. 

A terrain so rugged cut through rocky marbles
An awesome drive curving through steep valleys along with white waters

As we walk, its interesting to see the white and raw marble stones showing themselves in patches as some of the miners work their way to cut and scrape them out of the mother earth, in an orderly fashion. The views turn spectacular as we keep going up on a rocky & rugged trail with the waterway crawling in frequent curves below. Steep valleys and narrow canyons give this place the colour of adventure and excites travellers like me with my lenses looking to capture every uncommon view. As the world’s deepest marble canyon Taroko gorge poses itself with absolutely narrow sections that are a thousand feet high.

A view from the inside
A trek through…
A view from the outside

I am told that Taroko National Park as a subtropical terrain is a home to over 140 species of birds with some of them being indigenous to Taiwan and also has lotta butterflies some animals and reptiles. The best part of the trek are few bridges, very old, rustic and a couple of functional ones that hangs across the gorge invitingly. 

Ropes and planks…to walk across with rocks & residual water below…!
A bridge so beautiful
An exciting entry into the deep green!
One of the indigenous species
A Holy Shrine embedded among the rocks and cushioned by the thick green

On completing the trek reluctantly, a bus ride towards the coast offers some beautiful views as we roll towards a specular beach. This is clearly what I call a ‘pebbly Beach’ with millions of rocky pebbles in incredible shades of colours forming the shoreline. 

A road to paradise by the coast…!

The blue of the sky seem to sink and merge with the aqua-blue canvas of a calm sea. With the peaks at a distance forming spectacular backdrop in blue and grey one behind another, the beach cannot be missed for an awesome evening walk by the coastline to finish the day off. 

Shades of Nature…moody rocks, browny sands, shining aqua-blue waters, blue mountains, and a sky with an artistic cloudscape !

The other ‘must-do’ get aways from Taipei.

The Chiffon village is a drive away from the big city of Taipei and is a quaint little place over an inclined landscape. Once a gold mining centre, this cute village now is a most colourful & bustling spot with some of the most unique teahouses lined up with a number of shops that sell a variety of taiwanese traditional stuff. 

A quaint little village

One can get the best taste of the local cuisine and buy some of the ethnic handicrafts of this land. Historically speaking, the gold rush should have turned this place into a busy little place which now attracts a lot of tourists for an unique shopping experience.

A gastronomical galore

As I walk through the narrow lanes and climb steps in between the beautifully constructed wooden houses, it opens up on top for some great views of the entire village, the sea and the islands. 

Shades of blue…and a view so spectacular!

Formations of Nanya

Another get-away is the northern coast of Taiwan that showcases an amazing coastal rock formations. Titled the formations of Nanya, this place is a must visit as it has beautiful waters bordered with some spectacularly shaped rock formations.

A rocky shoreline
Landform marvels
The rocky northern coast
An ocean to fish from…all for himself!

These sandy rocks to begin with on the shore has masterfully created layers naturally and has given themselves some interesting shapes. And as you walk towards the water these rocky shore gets darker in grey and then turns black closer to the waters, offering an eerie yet beautifully rustic look and ending my exciting ‘get-aways’ when in Taipei.

Piercing the skies…101!

Taipei, is an interesting city, that has much to offer, to make even a short trip, a memorable one. 

Pictures – irk99 | www.instagram.com/irk99

A bridge in the sky…where eagles dare!

A man-made marvel in between God-made nature!

Very often we find ourselves in a situation having to decide on places that we need to visit especially when the visiting country throws open a number of getaways. Malaysia is one such nation that offers multiple choices in terms of exciting destinations within its borders. And I had this challenge too as I was planning my trip to Malaysia. As someone with a passion to explore everything that I can, Langkawi fitted right into the plan.   

Langkawi is possibly an undeservingly undersold destination when compared to others, among all the places that you could visit when you are in Malaysia. The reasons for this are the amazing man-made creation amidst some breath- taking nature. The very first sight of that picture showing the Cable car ride and the Skybridge as they appeared in a climax of a movie and then its appearance in front of my eyes, in the travel guide book in my hotel room, reassured my plan was absolutely right indeed. 

Langkawi…by the pier.

Getting there

 Air Asia and Fire Fox are the two carriers flying to Langkawi and I chose Air Asia. The other option is by a ferry, if you have enough time. Made up of 99 islands on the west coast, Langkawi quietly dazzles as one place that cannot be missed when you are in Malaysia. Though you may not find many fancy resorts and glamorous hotels, this place does have modest accommodation facilities to offer. The fact that it is not commercialised as some of the other destinations, keeps Langkawi raw and full of nature. Sporting a hot, humid and a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of about 32 degrees Celsius, Langkawi’s popular beaches are Burau Bay, Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Datai Bay and Pantai Kok. The main island, surrounded by an absolutely stunning sea in the best of turquoise as it can get, has in its interior, a mix of beautiful paddy fields and the jungle-clad hills.

Amust do’ without a doubt.

The first in most list had to be the Cable Car & Skybridge, which woos many a visitor to this place. After about an hour of driving through some really picturesque fields, with the glimpses of blue water making it more interesting as the terrain kept getting uphill, I reach the Oriental Village in the upper northwest of Langkawi Island, near Pantai Kok. This is the entrance for what turns out to be one long ride in the cable-car all the way up to Mount Mat Cincang. And as the car climbs higher, better it gets in terms of what I see, which includes an awesome view of the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls like a thick white line with twists and twirls sketched on a 550 million years old grey rock, that makes a rugged canvas. 

Spectacular setting…as the Sky Cab climbs up the heights

The best part of the whole experience is this ride itself in the longest free span mono cable car – the Sky Cab as they call it. This incredible ride offers spectacular ‘360-degree’ views as we cruise along a height of 650 meters above sea level, covering over 1700 meters in distance. What a ride! Rainforest jotted with hills under my feet, cool clouds on a blue sky over my head and the invitingly chill breeze hitting my face, I get there on top, the final destination. 

From one mountain top to another…cable cruising.

I step out to find myself actually looking at the magnificent Sky Bridge, all made all in metal, suspended across Mount Mat Cincang and a neighbouring mountain. The first flash of thoughts are in awe of this beauty. An amazing work of architecture, a brilliant art in metal and a masterpiece that defines incredible precision in design & balance.

Engineering at its best…that defines perfection in design & balance

Considering the height, this longest free span and curved bridge in the world, never ceases to amaze, especially when the passing clouds sometimes causing less visibility, it is as though you walk through ‘a curved bridge to the heavens’. Suspended from a single pylon, this brilliant work of art hangs at about 100 meters above the ground level. The uniqueness of this masterpiece lies in its curve as it offers spectacularly changing views of the world below and an unforgettable spatial experience. 

Hanging with a curve to offer the best of views
Brilliant balance…cool curve & another awesome view

This place offers such amazing views that makes you want to spend more time on top, especially if you are one who enjoys more with a camera in hand and looking for newer sights. The climb down by the SkyCab downs the excitement level too, but with a satisfaction of having explored the heights, where eagles dare!

Beautiful blues…and the green islets

Whats left to explore… 

Back in the plains, the calm beaches present a pleasant picture and worthy enough to spend time strolling around. With the ships and boats spread around on these blue waters provides great frames for the camera. 

when the sky went wild…offering a volcanic effect.
Sailin’ through…on waters so blue

The other ‘must do’ things when in Langkawi are the Eagle Square which actually offers a beautiful view of the sea with ships anchored around, an awesome landscape as a part of the background and some nice Indian cuisine. The interesting cloud formation in a characteristic dark grey right above the tip of the peak offered my lenses a volcanic effect. Sungai Kilim Nature Park, where they feed the sea eagles, Bird Paradise and Wildlife Park completes the list.

A bridge that curves…in between mountain tops…and a walk in the sky.

Langkawi, which means ‘eagle’, is a little island destination which makes a perfect ‘short getaway’ for an unforgettable experience, when in Malaysia.

Pictures – irk99 | www.instagram.com/irk99