Friday, January 20, 2012

Taiwan Travelogue: Driving To Hawaii

Right now I’m sitting at my computer in Taoyuan City.  The temperature is 16C.  (61F)  I would say this is cool, but not cold weather.  I can function pretty well at this temperature.  Because of my health issues when it gets cold, I hurt a lot, I can’t grab a hold of things, I have more difficulty standing.  But 16C I can handle all that.  The week before last it was a lot colder.

That was the week we had chosen for our first ever, family vacation.  We’ve traveled to visit family, and we’ve gone together to weeklong conferences, but this is the first time we just took some time off and just hung out together.  So we decided to drive down the coast to Hawaii.

Well, we didn’t actually go to Hawaii, but it felt like it.  When we left, at about 10:30 am the temperature in Taoyuan City was 9C (48F), when we arrived at our destination the Chateau Beach Resort in Kenting at 5:47 pm, the temperature was 21C (70F).  Ahhhhh! 

We decided to drive our car.  I had wanted to take the High Speed Rail but thought it a bit pricey.  It’s $1330 NTD ($45 USD) one-way for one person, from Taoyuan to Zouying Station in Gaoxiong City.  Then it’s another 480 NTD for the shuttle from Gaoxing to the Chateau, for my family of four that’s $14,480 NTD (about $482 USD) Round Trip.  The car took about half tank of gas ($1100 NTD or $36.67 USD) and about $360 NTD ($12 USD) in tolls.  That’s about $97.00 USD round trip.  I guess I don’t need to point out that I’m not a jet setter.  I don’t run into Paris Hilton when I’m traveling. 

Garmin:  A Good GPS system
It’s about a five-hour drive from Taoyuan to Kenting.  The drive is easy and fairly relaxing as you drive the tollway almost the entire route.  A good GPS system that warns you in advance of speed cameras, tollbooths and exits is helpful; especially the speed cameras which are hidden all over the freeway.  Most vehicles here don’t have cruise control.  Well, most of the vehicles I’ve driven didn’t have cruise control and you can find yourself zipping along at about 130 km/hr on a 110 km/hr road.  I don’t know the settings of the speed cameras and I don’t want to find out the hard way.  I never speed…honest…really. 

We stopped at one of Taiwan’s excellent rest stops on the way.  If you travel by road a lot in California, then you may then you may have trouble believing that rest stops can be great, but in Taiwan they’re great.  Our rest stop had all the comforts:  Gasoline station, mechanic shop, several restaurants arranged in a food court, a store and a huge parking area.  We decided to have lunch right there in the rest stop.  I had a variety of foods, my wife had steamed pork buns (Bao zi) and small steamed dumplings (Xiao Long Bao).  The kids chose not to eat real food but got containers of Caramel popcorn.  We spent about an hour and slipped back onto the road again. 

The only part that was inconvenient, I thought, was having to stop at so many toll booths.  They’re spaced about thirty kilometers (18.75 miles) apart. So about every half-hour you’re stopping to pay toll.  Toll is $40.00 NTD (or $1.30 USD).  Taiwan also has an electronic toll paying system so that you can just drive through, without having to stop.  You pay into an account in advance and they deduct the toll every time your car passes underneath the electronic reader. I don't drive the tollways enough to bother with it so I just stop and fork out the cash.

Near Gaoxiong you exit the toll road and drive on surface streets about another thirty or forty kilometers until you reach Kenting.  Kenting is right at the southern tip of the island.  I thought the scenery looked a lot like the area area surrounding Mazatlan, Mexico. That makes sense since Mazatlan is at 23 degrees N in latitude while Kenting is at 21 degrees N.  Honolulu is 19 degrees N.  Taoyuan City is 24 degrees N. but feels like it’s a lot closer to the Arctic Circle in January.  Next Post I’ll finish off the kenting adventure with a bit about the Chateau Beach Resort.

Brenda's Lunch at the Rest Stop

Exercise Facilities at Another Rest Stop:  I don't think this is their intended use.

Rest Stop Ice Cream

Some Random Scenery on the Road to Hawaii:

I don't know what these are for, but they're cool!

A Hotel in Taizhong

Bridge Superstructure

Photo Credits:  High Speed Rail:
All other photo's Chris, Brenda and Emily Banducci

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