Where's James

Philippines: North Luzon

From Manila I headed for the mountain town of Banaue, famous for its rice terraces. There’s a 12-hour overnight bus but I prefer to avoid those and see the scenery instead, so I first took a five-hour bus to Baguio after battling the packed MRT at rush hour. The scenery on the way to Baguio was pretty good but it was outstanding the following day on the six-hour minibus to Banaue, which made up for the really uncomfortable ride.

Philippines: Metro Manila

From Taipei I took a Philippine Airlines flight to the country’s chaotic capital, Manila. Being at least a two hour flight from the rest of Southeast Asia the Philippines gets far fewer backpackers than other countries in the region (though there are many other factors at work too), and Manila is often seen as an entry point rather than a must-see destination. Metro Manila is a metropolitan area made up of several different cities one of which is, quite confusingly, called Manila.

Taiwan: Kaohsiung, Tainan and Sun Moon Lake

From Hualien on the East coast I continued to Kaohsiung on the West coast, the second-biggest city in Taiwan. No train crosses the mountain range in the middle of Taiwan so I had two options, backtrack to Taipei and then take the HSR (essentially the Japanese bullet train which they licensed) down the West coast or a slow train down the East coast and around the bottom of the island. I chose the scenic (and cheaper) route which took a leisurely 5 hours but was a nice journey.

Taiwan: Taroko Gorge

From Taipei I took a train about two hours to Hualien on the East coast. I didn’t see much of the town itself but I took a day trip to Taroko Gorge National Park, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country. Taroko is about 90 minutes from Hualien and there’s a tourist bus you can hop on and off around the park. I took it out to the furthest stop first, then managed to cover a few trails working back towards the park entrance.

Taiwan: Taipei

After my brief stop in Dubai I took a flight to Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. The Emirates flight and Dubai terminal 3 (the world’s largest - this is Dubai after all) were both great but at 4:30am I wasn’t really interested in ether. Taipei is huge but not a megacity like Tokyo or Seoul so it’s still pretty easy to get around using the MRT (metro), though almost every local of driving age has a scooter.