The past several years we spent the summer jetting around the globe for grand adventures… Costa Brava, Provence, Hoi An, Bali, rural Minnesota…
… but Winnie’s pregnancy is now in the 3rd trimester so travel isn’t really something we aspire to. And there is that global pandemic thing still raging… so this year we are mostly nesting, but also slipping in a few mini-adventures in Taiwan (aka a COVID-free island sanctuary.)
Summer is hot in Taiwan – today was 37C / 99F, but with 50% humidity it “feels like” 47C / 117F. It will get worse over the next 2 months.
That means we need to be in AC / at elevation / in the water. Or sometimes all 3 in one day. So far so good.
School ended on a Thursday. Friday we headed to Taiwan’s north coast to the White House Hot Spring Beach Resort. This is a great place for kids with numerous pools and hot springs plus a private beach. Anybody can use the extensive facilities for 300 TWD (~$10.) We made the most of it – swimming all day and a fresh seafood dinner before heading back to Taipei.
We liked it so much we will be back for a July 4th celebration – this time spending the night and using the BBQ. I hear a lot of people stay here for 1-2 months during the summer to enjoy the lower coastal temps.
I now have a Taiwan driver’s license to enable day trips out of the city. One recent outing was to the Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area at the top of Yangming Mountain (an active volcano.) Hiking trails wind around numerous steam vents and bubbling mud puddles, and the combination of elevation (~1000 meters) and strong winds make it all quite comfortable. The smell of sulphur can be a bit strong at times, though.
Just below the steam vents there are extensive flower fields and streams, good for an afternoon of exploration.
Leaving the city isn’t always in the cards, so we need another way to stay cool. GCC on Ice! There is a very nice skating rink at Taipei Arena. Jr loves the zamboni.
After getting a taste of Taiwan beach life, we headed to the East Coast and one of the more popular surfing areas – Waiao Beach. By car it is only about 1 hour from Taipei but feels much further – everything is smaller and slower (and cooler.)
At night we camped out in a really nice Airbnb (~$90/night) with rooftop pool and an in-room hot spring tub with a view (21st floor.) Across the street was a big park, and within 5 minutes walk we had good brunch, pizza, and ice cream. 10 minutes in the other direction led to the core downtown / old town.
(If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, you can get $35 off your first stay here – affiliate link.)
After 4 days at the coast, we headed further up and inland to meet up with Winnie’s long-time friends (and kids) at the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi. Normally I’m not a huge fan of 5-star hotels, but this place was incredible. Regular rates are $400+/night, but we scored deep discount rooms (~$200/night) via a promotion the hotel offered during the early days of the pandemic.
Everything about this hotel was top notch – the views, the pool, the game room, the dinner buffet (I ate mostly rib eye steak and grilled lamb chops), the kid’s club room with ping pong / pool / playground… There is even one of those foot soaking ponds where little fish nibble your callouses away.
We still have one additional mini-adventure that starts tomorrow. Every year I get 2 Bonvoy “free night” certificates from credit cards, and this year we are using them at the Westin Tashee Resort.
These rooms are normally ~$200/night – ignoring all other card benefits the annual fees on the cards are $95 and $135, so the room ends up at about half off.
[Those 2 cards are Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card (more details) and the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card from American Express (learn more) – affiliate links. The former also got us 5 free nights in Japan for a ~$2,500 savings.]
We’ve stayed here before and the kid facilities are great – there is a nice pool with slide and water cannons, a track with electric cars, mini-golf, etc…
I’ve already biked 2,132 km this year (as of last nights’ ride) – with the summer heat I start most rides before 6 am, but have started to add night rides. Since we were out and about these past few weeks I got my ride tuned and beautified. I had the rear cassette swapped to have a bigger ring for easier climbing and hope to give that a test this Friday. (Also: new brake pads, new cables, new front tire, added 2nd bottle cage.)
In between bike rides it’s nice to have some quality time with the fam. Reading, playing, excavating dinosaur fossils…
Kid #2 is expected to arrive about 2 months from now, so we are getting everything ready – we already have stroller / car seat / high chair / clothes. Today Jr and I assembled the baby bed – a very simple to construct design from a Japanese company with a Nordic name (färska.)
Speaking of Kid #2 (we have to think of a better name soon) here he is as of the latest Dr visit.
It’s hot – AC / elevation / water (or ice) are nice. With a baby on the way and a pandemic underway we are staying in place with a few mini adventures to spice things up. Those include some trips to the coast, some short walks in volcano parks, and taking advantage of some good deals and “free” nights at hotels with great pools.