Taipei and Taiwan Island Tour (reposted with pics)

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fountainhall
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#1 Taipei and Taiwan Island Tour (reposted with pics)

Postby fountainhall » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:41 am

In February, I posted some photos and a brief description of a tour I had done around Taiwan. At GB’s request I also added a two-part article with photos about several aspects of taking a holiday in Taipei and gay life in the city. Thanks to photobucket’s dreadful new policy, all the photos have disappeared. So I have reconstructed all three articles. Since the original articles prompted three pages of comments, rather than asking GB to delete them, I am reposting slightly revised versions here along with their photos. For those interested in reading the responses, this is the original thread –

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=8262

The gay scene in Taipei is not nearly as in your face as Bangkok or Pattaya but it is certainly there. I was delighted when one poster here, encouraged by my posts, decided to find out for himself. He has since made quite a few visits to Taiwan and has many friends there. The apps are particularly busy as my friends all tell me there is a shortage of older westerners on the island. There are bars, saunas, a major gay area at the Red House in the Ximen district - and my favourite of all, the hot springs. There is one that is predominantly gay where you will see up to 100 mostly slim and toned young Taiwanese happily walked around totally nude. Another has a larger area and is particularly busy with many gay guys especially on Friday evenings. These are not saunas, although it is often possible to exchange phone numbers for a later hook-up.

Taipei: Part 1

At GB’s request, this was the first of two articles on the reasons why I so enjoy my regular trips to Taipei. There are lots of photos of both the city and just a few from the Gay Pride Parades of recent years (I have been to four) which I shall intersperse throughout the text in the hope of keeping it more interesting – but will avoid those in the recent reconstituted post with photos of various Pride Parades.

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=8590

In view of the length, I am splitting it into two posts.

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My first visit to Taipei was in 1986 when the island was still under martial law. There was hardly any gay scene then and those who wanted to hook-up would make their way to Peace Park behind what was a few blocks behind the Hilton hotel (now the Caesar’s Park - across from the main station).

Peace Park
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Christianpfc made his first trip to Taipei last December and wrote about the Park and other more recent gay areas in his blog. With the city now boasting a large, flourishing gay scene, the number of cruisers in the Park has dropped to a fraction of what it used to be, but it still remains active.

http://christianpfc.blogspot.com/2017/0 ... aipei.html

One reason I love my now regular visits to Taipei – 4 or 5 times a year – is that I find Taiwanese guys the most handsome of all Chinese in all of Asia. Those I have met are always exceedingly polite, most are tall and gym fit, perhaps because all guys must go through a period of military service, and there is clearly that shortage of older westerners on the island. So apart from the friends I have made over the years, when I switch on the apps on arrival at my hotel, within 30 minutes I have several guys wanting to arrange a hook-up. Even at my advanced age, there are always more guys than I can possibly meet.

These are not money boys, merely guys who really do enjoy being with older westerners. In recent years, I think only two guys said they would be seeking money. One of my regular friends comes in from the airport area. Even though this means taking an hour’s trip by train and subway, he refuses to accept anything to cover his travel costs.

The Red House Gay area

Gays in Taipei can now gather together en masse at the Red House in the Ximen District. Get there on the Blue subway Line to Ximen station – one stop from Taipei Main station, take Exit 1, cross the road and it opens up on your left. The Red House is an arts centre. Surrounding it on two sides are gay boutiques and shops selling sex aides, around a dozen cafes and restaurants, mostly open-air, and some specialist bars including a Bear Bar and leather bar.

MRT Ximen Exit 1
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The Narrow Entrance through to The Red House Bar and Restaurant area
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The Red House Cafes and Bars in early Evening waiting for Customers
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This all gets packed with mostly handsome young men on Fridays. Saturdays and holidays, but less so during the week.

Saunas

Taipei has several male saunas. Less than 50 meters from the Red House is the small Hans Mens Sauna. This is an older facility catering to all types, mostly over 35s but with a reasonable sprinkling of students especially at week-ends. Entrance is NT$350 and the facilities include an open shower area, a mildy hot pool, completely dark steam room, tepid sauna and private rooms and a maze up stairs.

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The nearby Rainbow Sauna has recently closed – not a problem I feel as the couple of times I went there many of the boys there generally had a fair bit of ‘attitude’. A new sauna named Soi 13 took its place earlier this year. I have not yet been and it is hard to work out what it is really like. Some reviews say the management has an anti-foreigner bias but this is because a discount available to Taiwanese is not available to non-Taiwanese. But since the discount seems to apply only between 6:30 and 7:30 pm, it doesn’t bear worrying much about. The crowd seems to be mainly younger in their 20s and 30s and there is a mandatory nude area.

By far the best sauna is Aniki-WOW. All the guides claim this is one of the three best in Asia, on a par with Bangkok’s Babylon and Tokyo’s 24 Kaikan in Shinjuku Ni-chome. It is often jam-packed with handsome young Taiwanese. The problem is that it is expensive. Non-members have to pay NT$1,000 for up to 16 hours. Consequently there are not many westerners there. I have heard that the management is now offering discounts as attendance other than at week-ends has been dropping.

Other Bars

There are several other gay bars around the city in addition to those at the Red House. The oldest is probably Funky not far from the Sheraton hotel. Another is one my friends took me to for the first time last October. Commander is a small basement leather bar only a few blocks from The Red House (not to be confused with Commander 2 which is located on the second level at the Red House). This has a seating area, a long bar, a small stage for shows which I’m told start around 12:30 am and, the biggest surprise for me, a dark room. This opens around 11:30ish and is totally dark. Inside I’m told anything goes! Commander is located in a residential district and it is typical of the politeness of the Taiwanese that the young men manning the door at the pavement warn everyone to be quiet on leaving.

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Currency

A note on currency. The New Taiwan dollar currently hovers around 30 to US$1. The currency floats but has seen little change over the last couple of years. There are few moneychangers around town and so it’s best to change at the airport on arrival. Unlike BKK and most other international airports, the bank’s exchange booths at Taoyuan don’t have ridiculous rates. Almost the only difference is that you pay an NT$30 fee per currency changed. Credit Cards are accepted virtually everywhere.

Getting Around

Taipei has one of the best, most recent and widespread MRT subway systems. If you are happy to walk for 15 minutes or so, you can get almost anywhere in the city by the MRT. Short rides cost NT$20. Even long ones are rarely more than NT$35. You can also purchase a stored value ticket that is easily replenished which gives you a 20% discount on most rides. There is an excellent bus service and taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap. Always take note ot the last bus and MRT times. If you are out of the city at one of the hot springs and miss the last bus and subway back to your hotel, a taxi will cost you around NT$350 - $400 for a journey of around 30 minutes.

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Transport options from the main international airport are excellent. The subway from the airport to the main station is finally open and for many this will be the most ideal. Fare cost is BT$160 one way with 10 or 11 stops depending on whether you get on the train in Terminals 1 or 2. There are buses to the main railway station, the edge-of-town domestic airport (still called domestic although it now has a few international flights) and a couple of other destinations, some of which will stop at hotels. Costs vary but should be around NT$150. You can also take a bus to connect with the high-speed train to the main station. This costs around NT$200 total. I have done it once but it can be a bit of a hassle as there are sometimes queues to get on to the buses and you might have to wait 30 minutes at the train station. Taxis to most of the city are fixed at NT$1,000. Most of the less expensive hotels (i.e. not 5-star) will organize a limousine transfer for around NT$1,300. This is by far the most convenient. Travel time should be around 40-45 minutes door-to-door.

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Language

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, although the island has kept the old form of kanji rather than the more simplified form used in mainland China. Almost everywhere in the city signs are in both Chinese and English. Receptionists at all hotels will speak English although housekeeping staff not. Most younger guys will speak at least some English; many speak the language extremely well. Older Taiwanese, especially in taxis, may not speak English. So always have the card from your hotel with directions in Chinese, and get the receptionist to write the name and street of any site you want to visit for the driver.

Taipei’s Male Hot Springs

Taiwan sits on a seismic fault between two tectonic plates. So there are not only earthquakes from time to time; there are also areas with a good deal of hot sulphurous water pouring out of the ground. When Taiwan was a colony of Japan, Japanese entrepreneurs developed these areas as hot spring resorts and they can be found all over the island. On the west side of Taipei there are about a dozen such hot springs all concentrated in one small area. Each will have some restaurants as well as the hot springs and if you pay more than about NT$400 for your meal, you get free entry to the springs. If you go only for the hot springs, entrance is usually between NT$250 and $300.

There are two hot springs which are gay friendly – Huang Ding and Huang Szu. In the former you can be sure that at least 90% of the guys will be gay. But you always have to remember that some straight guys may also be there, occasionally with their young sons. So you have to exercise caution. The culture is simple. As you enter, take off your shoes and put them in the shoe rack. Pick an empty locker, put in your bag and disrobe. The lockers in Huang Ding are free but note that they are tiny. Don’t even think of taking a large backpack with you on a popular evening. The lockers in Huang Szu require NT$20 to be inserted before they can be locked. Make sure you have brought a small towel to dry off once you are finished and keep out of your locker a small bottle of water which you should also bring. It can be thirsty work sitting in 42C degree heat!

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All Taiwanese happily walk around totally nude. Occasionally you will see someone with a small towel covering his front. That’s a sure sign these guys are probably from somewhere like Singapore where guys are much more shy! As you walk in, you must shower and rinse yourself thoroughly before you dip in to one of the pools. I like Huang Ding but it annoys me that it is split into three separate areas (now reduced to just two I am told). So if you see someone you like, keeping tabs on him can be tricky, especially when parts of the floor can be slippery. Walk carefully in that hot spring.

On a Friday evening last October friends took me to a hot spring I had not visited before – Huang Szu. I was again staggered. At least 100 mostly slim in-shape handsome guys mostly in their 20s and 30s. What a lovely sight! And despite my being virtually the oldest and the only foreigner there everyone was very friendly. No feeling whatever of age discrimination. Since then I have returned to Huang Szu on each visit. In May I met a delightful 19-year old philosophy student with whom I have kept in touch on Line and hope to see again in October.

Huang Szu has a much larger open area with 5 pools, a steam room and sauna and guys regularly saunter from one to another. It is now the first place I hit after arriving in Taipei and dropping my bags at my hotel. Like Huang Ding it is busiest on Friday evenings and a little less so on Saturdays and Sundays. Don’t be worried if you arrive around 6:00pm and find not many there. A lot from the afternoon shift, as I call it, will have left to go off to dinner whilst the evening shift will not yet have arrived! Huang Ding’s steam room has a frosted glass front and it is obvious when there is a bit of mutual action going on – as it is most of the time. On my visits to Huang Szu, though, I have noticed almost no action at all. These are not saunas where anything goes.

To reach these springs, take the MRT to Shipai station on the red line.

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The springs are about 4 kms up a hill to your right. The first time it’s probably best to take a taxi from the rank located on the front right side as you get off the train. Show the driver the name card and he will get you there for about NT$150. When you return to the station, several buses stop at a bus-stop on the other side of the main road going past the station and the cost is just NT$15.

Huang Ding Hot Spring
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Huang Szu Hot Spring
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Caveat

Taiwanese tend not to go to bars, saunas and the hot springs on their own. You will usually see them with at least one friend, and more often with a group of friends. As such, it is less easy to go up to a guy to say Hi or offer a drink. You may be invited to join a group, but that does not happen often, So on your first visit it is best to try to make a Taiwan friend from the apps who can help show you around.

fountainhall
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#2 Re: Taipei and Taiwan Island Tour (reposted with pics)

Postby fountainhall » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:44 am

Taipei: Part 2

Accommodation

Taipei is awash with hotels to fit all budgets from simple bunk bed inns to five-star deluxe. In recent years a lot of small mid-range boutique hotels have opened and I try to stay at one of those. For three years I stayed at the Ambience Hotel. It’s about 12 minutes walk from 2 MRT stations and has a Starbucks about 5 minutes away. Prices here start around US$90 including a relatively simple breakfast.

Ambience Hotel Lobby with Sculpture
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Ambience Hotel Room
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I also like the Dandy Daan Park hotel. It sits on the east end of a nice park and is just 20 meters from an MRT exit. Close to the other end of the park is the large National Taiwan University with tens of thousands of students! Not surprisingly the apps are very active in this area. Rooms here should also be just under US$100 but the hotel does get booked up very quickly. Staff at these hotels are wonderfully friendly and both have laundry rooms for those staying longer than a few days.

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Sightseeing

There is a great deal to do and see in Taipei that I will only list a few here. A quick internet search will pick out lots more. On a clear day you will want to go to Taipei 101, for several years the world’s tallest building. On a clear day, the view from the Observatory close to the top of the building can be stunning. As at many sights, though, be prepared for masses of tourists from the mainland. So try to go early.

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The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial in the CKS Memorial Park is worth a quick visit, especially on the hour when there is an impressive changing of the guard ceremony (photo in an earlier post).

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
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Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park
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Looking down from the Memorial you see two impressive Chinese buildings. On the left is the National theater. On the right is the National Concert Hall. Both are world-class facilities, with the Concert Hall often featuring some of the world’s finest orchestras.

The National Concert Hall in the CKS Memorial Park
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One must-see is the National Palace Museum. Located on the edge if the city, this houses many of China’s most treasured arts and artifacts. When the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek were fighting the Japanese in China in the late 1930s, they had all the treasures from Beijing’s Forbidden City and other main Museums crated up. The aim was to prevent their falling into the hands of the Japanese. But after the revolution when Chiang and 2 million of his followers fled to Taiwan, they took with them all those crates, much to the fury of Mao. The Taipei Museum can only display a small fraction of the collection at any one time, but it is one of the world’s great must-see Museums. Sadly, once again you have to beware of the hoards of mainland Chinese who flock to the Museum. Best to time your visit for the morning opening or the late afternoon.

National Palace Museum Catalogue with a Photo of the Stunning Jade Cabbage with two insects carved into the top
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Temples

Taipei has lots of interesting temples. The main one is the Longshan Temple (Longshan Temple MTR station – one stop from the The Red House) where you will find several structures and lots of worshippers. Perhaps surprisingly, many are young. Further east take exit 2 from Yanshuan station on the Red Line and you are about 10 minutes from the Confucius Temple and several others nearby.

Scenes from various temples
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Surrounding the city there are other interesting places to visit, one being a trip requiring two trains to the Shifen Waterfall. The Falls themselves are worth the visit, but what makes the trip special are the crowds of young people who flock to the town to light up and fly dozens and dozens of paper lanterns.

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I'll end just by reminding you again that Taipei is not Bangkok or Pattaya. You will need a bit of adjustment. But as suggested earlier, try and hook up with at least one Taiwan guy from the apps, either on arrival or better still before you arrive. He will help you find your bearings more quickly - and no doubt more!! Good luck!

fountainhall
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#3 Re: Taipei and Taiwan Island Tour (reposted with pics)

Postby fountainhall » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:48 am

Taiwan Round the Island Tour

The National Theater in the CKS Memorial Park
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Changing of the Guard at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
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Despite my many dozens of visits, I did not really know much of Taiwan apart from Taipei until lune last year when I took a 5-day round-the-island tour. I had no idea it was so beautiful. Starting in Taipei the 5-day 4-night tour took us down the east coast towards Kaohsiung with the first stop at the lovely Sun Moon Lake in the centre of the island and a wonderful 5-star hotel. In addition to hot springs in the basement, each room had its own hot spring! As I woke early, I got into the little bath, raised my curtain and watched the lake come to life.

Sun Moon Lake at Dawn
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One of several Temples at Sun Moon Lake
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The next day we proceeded to Kaohsiung, then to the southernmost tip where crystal clear waters make the water off Pattaya and much of Phuket look like a dirty bath.

A Temple which collapsed in the 1999 Earthquake
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Buddhist Centre near Kaohsiung
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Crystal clear Water in the South
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A bit of a backtrack and then across the south to the east coast town of Taitung before heading north and the utterly magical Taroko Gorge.

The Stunning Taroko Gorge on the North East
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All hotels were 5-star which explains why the trip costs NT$16,000 per person on a twin-sharing basis or NT$24,500 for single accommodation. That sounds expensive but all the hotels were 5-star and doing it on my own would have cost a lot more.

As an alternative, you can make your own arrangements and use trains, buses and lesser accommodation. I would allow at least an additional two days if you take this route (more if you want to spend more than a day or so in one of the cities en route), for the east coast high-speed rail is not much good for a trip like this. But with a bit of advance planning I am sure one person can arrange a trip for not much more than NT$12,000 or so.

Then of course there is the now very famous Taipei Gay Pride Parade. Last year around 82,000 took part. This year the date is Saturday 28 October. For photos from some recent Parades, check this link -

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=8590


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