A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

The rest of Taiwan

So, I tried to get out a bit, but we had a lot of work to do. One day, I was in the fab for 13 hours.

I did have a couple of days that started later, so I got a chance to go check out Hsinchu port. On a Monday morning, nobody is there. I saw a couple of shops set up to rent people these double-bicycles with shade, but only one pair of people using it my whole time at the port.
I saw a ton of boats in the harbor, but none moving. I didn't even see people working on the boats or getting ready to move.
I saw where they must have a really cool night market (at night), but it was completely abandoned in the morning. The character of the rides is certainly different when they're not lit up and moving. The food stands are much sadder without the smells and sounds.
I saw a nice-looking shady park area, but again, no people.
I did see some road construction happening, but that was the most exciting thing.

As it was hot and super-humid, I really didn't want to walk all the way back to town, but as there were no people, I realized that I didn't have much of a choice. Until I got lucky and stumbled upon a random cab. I have no idea why it was chilling in this empty area, but I took it.

I got downtown to see if I could see something new that I hadn't last time, but it started to drizzle. Keeping in mind what happened yesterday, I decided that I would go check out one of the places that the internet says is the "best place for a rainy day in Taiwan"- a famous book store. It was in the Big City mall. I usually don't like going to malls while traveling, but for a book store, I was willing.

Actually, the mall itself is pretty cool. The top floor has an ice skating rink, bowling alleys, an arcade, and a ton of other fun activities. Another floor is decorated like an outdoor pier area. (It's supposed to be San Francisco. I didn't see the resemblance, but I still thought it was nice.) And the food court is quite large and varied. I enjoyed walking around those areas. The stores were the same stores you'd find internationally, so I wasn't really interested in them. I didn't have time for a movie, but a different time, that might be interesting. I never quite made it to the book store, as I had to get back for a meeting before I found it. Maybe next time.

I also got out a bit Friday night. At around 9, I was able to go hunt for dinner. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants are not open at that time. Generally, what is open are convenience stores and what I'll call "fried protein."
The idea at these places is that you pick some raw protein from a display, they deep fry it for you or stick it in a hot pot, and then you eat it. you can pick from all sorts of recognizable and unrecognizable items- feet, tofu, fish, organs, thinly-cut beef, etc. Some places will give it to you with rice or noodles (especially the place where they put it in a broth), but a lot just give you meat on a stick. I didn't see a single vegetable at any of the places.

Which made me realize that I actually haven't seen mixed veg and protein almost anywhere. Even at other types of restaurants, you can get vegetable sides or dishes, and you can get protein dishes, but rarely together (except sometimes soup). I experienced this at the buffet at work, at the restaurants I've been to, at the hotel buffet- pretty much every where. This contrasts with my typical mental image of stir-fry as protein and veggies mixed together in a sauce (plus rice or noodles). That just doesn't seem to be a thing here.

I didn't get to ask the guys about this to see if I was missing something, but I did have an interesting conversation with the guys about the Hakka culture that everybody in the area is so proud of. Apparently, there are a bunch of different groups that came to Taiwan from China. They all use the same written system, but everybody speaks a different language. Not a dialect, like somebody from Australia trying to communicate with somebody from Boston, but different language, like how Spanish and Hebrew are different. I hadn't realized, but the whole time they were communicating with each other, they were switching languages based on who they were talking to. (It all sounds "Chinese" to me.) When they spoke to a local guy, they spoke Hakka, to somebody from a different part of the island, Mandarin. I find that fascinating that they all use the same written language, but to read it out loud would sound completely different.

In any case, that's about the most exciting thing I learned about Taiwan for the whole second half of the trip. It wasn't much of an opportunity to tour around, but that's ok, we're headed to Mt. Kilimanjaro in a few days.

I'll post pictures when I'm back.

Posted by spsadventures 09:10 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Old Streets

Beipu, Taiwan

I woke up a bit later than I had wanted, had breakfast, and tried to get out of the hotel for the first bus, but that wasn't happening.
When I first tried to catch the second bus, I was wearing jeans and brought a sweatshirt in anticipation of the rain that was supposed to come today.
It was still early and not as hot as it was going to get, but already I could tell that jeans would not be fun, so I quickly ran back up to change, knowing that if the bus was on time, I might be really close.
As I stood on the street corner, waiting for the light to change so that I could cross the street to the bus stop, I saw 2 tourist-looking buses stop there. They then moved on to the light, which had now turned so that I could cross. Crap.
I crossed, and decided that since the light was very long and the buses were waiting, maybe they'd let me on. The first bus was not the bus to Beipu, but he pointed to the second one, which was. He gestured for me to go out into the street and try that one, honking to the other driver to help me. At first I was nervous, but there was plenty of time left on the light. Thanks to him, I was able to get onto the bus and didn't have to wait another half hour for the next one.

The bus is actually really nice. The seats are wide and comfy. There is enough legroom. It is decorated a bit funky- tassled orange curtains, textured seats, and overhead lighting that belongs in some 80s teenager bedroom- but that just makes it more fun.
The next stop was the Hsinchu High Speed Rail station. As we arrived, a recording came on over the speaker system to tell us about the architecture awards the station was eligible for and won.
The bus continued on past all of the skyscrapers and into an area of town with much shorter apartment homes, although they were still packed tightly together. As the bus went along, announcing the stops and informing as about them, we never quite seemed to leave the densely-packed housing. There were some agricultural areas interspersed in the city areas, but they were more like a football field in the city, than their own area.
Some seemed flooded. I'm hoping that they are rice paddies that are supposed to be that way, and not normal fields that have flooded due to the recent rains.
We finally left the city behind about the time we got to the agricultural park.
At that point, we were in the forest. We passed acres of woods or farmland, periodically punctuated with a cluster of houses. Still, I saw no individual homes, just densely-packed clusters of 3-story apartments or townhomes.
We arrived at the end of the line- Lion's Head Mountain park. The information center gave me a map and advice, and I was off.
I admired the many beautiful plants. The butterflies clearly liked them. And the dragonflies were out in full force too. I appreciate a locale that has pretty bugs and not the stingy itchy kind.
dragonfly

dragonfly

butterfly

butterfly


I started on a path towards some sort of cave temple. I found it, but it was not what I expected. The temple is new and modern and not covered in the gaudy designs like all of the interesting temples I saw last time. It is located under an overhanging rock that causes a waterfall. The whole thing is set in a forested gorge.
temple

temple


While the natural setting is quite serene due to all of the greenery and the sound of the flowing water (both from the waterfall and the nearby very clear stream), the temple wasn't much. I had wanted to continue on the trail to a bridge made of glutinous rice, but the ranger had mentioned that it was closed today.
running water so clear you can see the fish

running water so clear you can see the fish


I didn't really come here for hiking, and it was HOT and super humid. I was sweating up a storm and very glad I had gone back to change into sport capris. Jeans would have been hell. I decided to take the next bus back towards Beipu, which is what I was really interested in anyway.

The bus came by the well-marked stop and I piled on with a bunch of other tourists, although they seemed to be a more local group.
I hopped off at Beipu old street. This area is a touristy area where you can buy all sorts of traditional foods and souvenirs. Fortunately, there were plenty of free samples.
Beipu is known for their dried persimmon. I don't particularly like persimmon, but either these were better than ones I've had in the past or drying them improves them. I saw (and sampled) plenty of other dried fruits and even some kumquat juice. Everything was good, but I didn't taste anything I felt was super special.
persimmons

persimmons


Another food item Beipu is known for is Hakka tea. Hakka tea is definitely different from any tea I've ever seen. This tea starts with a collection of ingredients- anything from nuts and seeds to dried fruit and spices, even beans and grains are usually somewhere on the list. This seemingly random collection is thrown in a large wooden bowl with some actual tea leaves (maybe) and beaten with a stick. (Basically, this is their traditional version of mortar and pestle.) Eventually, it becomes a thick paste, if you have patience. If not, then it's just a collection of bits and chunks. Add hot water and viola! You have chunky, gritty tea! I'm glad they had free samples and I didn't have to pay to taste this.
But, if you have kids, grinding the tea is a fun activity. Lots of shops advertised DIY tea and at lunch, I saw several families order a bowl and mash their own. Or, you can make it at home. Here is an example of an ingredients list for "original flavor:" soybeans, corn, black sesame, black beans, barley, rice, sorghum, millet, green peas, oats, white beans, buckwheat, kidney beans, chickpeas, yam, ginkgo, soy milk powder, sugar. Tea leaves isn't even on that list.
grinding their own tea

grinding their own tea


I actually did try one that was good enough I bought a packet to take home. I was almond and very very smooth. This was not ground by an amateur and must have required a lot of patience.
As with all markets, there were some vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, although as many as usual. One guy had a food truck that only served freshly cut pineapple. The more exciting of the vegetables was bitter melon and of the fruits was dragonfruit.
There are a few craftsmen selling their wares, like a guy weaving sandals, but the majority of the goods sold here are food.
Personally, I loved the mochi samples. They could have used more sugar, but since the dough was rolled in a sugar and nut mixture, they balanced out in the end. Little old ladies stood by their tables full of loose, handmade mochi dough. It was looser and less stiff than what you can get in the store, but was equally chewy and delicious. They had little balls already coated in the powder or you could buy a bag of the dough and a bag of the powder and make your own balls. If I thought for an instant that I had the ability to transport that, I would have bought as much as I could carry.

In addition to the markets and restaurants, there are 2 temples in town. One is located right next to the bus stop. It is quite ornate and worth checking out. The other is the "big" temple and is also very ornate. You can go in and see all of the fun art, but this is also an active temple. People come in and burn incense, bow, and pray. I rather enjoyed watching people live their normal life, semi-oblivious to the wide-eyed tourist ogling the roof dragons.
temple

temple

temple

temple

temple

temple

temple

temple


For lunch, I stopped in a restaurant because it had air conditioning. It's hot and the air felt good. I also happened to enjoy the food. During college, a colleague at my internship gave me the best advice ever: if a restaurant has homemade pasta, order it. While intended for Italian food in New Jersey,this is also applicable to Taiwanese rice noodles. The soup containing the homemade noodles was ok- some sort of spicy curry and tomato broth with lots of cabbage, some tofu, and some other sort of dried tofu sheets. The noodles were a bit more exciting. They had a very different texture than store-bought rice noodles (less chewy, but thicker), and they were less sweet.
After lunch, a light drizzle had started to fall. It was good planning on my part to have done the hiking and nature area in the morning when it was dry (at least from the sky, the humidity could have fooled me) and leave the afternoon for more of the transport.

I got back on the bus and headed to Zhudong Station, which is where to get the train to Neiwan, another old street. This tourist shuttle is so easy and convenient! It's like a hop-on-hop-off bus except the route isn't contained in one city. They do a good job taking care of tourists here.

The Neiwan train only runs once an hour, so I waited a bit in the little train station waiting room before waiting some more on the platform. It may not run so conveniently, but it is super cheap- 20 Taiwan dollars, or about 65 cents.
It passed a few train stations that might have been neat to check out, if the train ran more than once per hour. Also, if it was a clear day. By this point, the drizzle had turned to full-on rain. When I got off at the Neiwan, a field of umbrellas was lined up to get on the train, and based on the number of bright yellow ponchos, some store was doing good business.
Neiwan Old Street

Neiwan Old Street


Despite the wet, tons of people were still out and about and shopping. I can't imagine how crowded it would be on a day with nice weather!
Neiwan Old Street is pretty much just that- a single street. It twists and turns a bit, but it doesn't really branch out and you can't really get lost. You really have no choice but to walk up one direction and then retrace your steps before doing the same in the opposite direction.
But, this street is somewhat like a night market or fair, only during the day. Like Beipu, there was plenty of food, but unlike Beipu, there was so much more.
Lots of shops sold mass manufactured goods- purses, plastic toys, clothing. But a lot sold locally made artisan items- wood carvings, soaps, or calligraphy.
In addition to the shops that sold items, the street abounded in entertainment shops- arcades, carnival games, and a poop house.
At first, I got excited when I saw a banner showing a lady wearing poop on her head. Then I saw what was in the building- a bunch of opportunities to pose with fake poop, toilets, and a cutout that makes it look like you are coming out of an elephant's rear. If I was with somebody, this would probably be hilarious! But it's hard to take selfies in those poses and less fun by yourself, especially for somebody who doesn't like being in pictures that much anyway.
And of course, the food here was different than in Beipu. The dried fruit was different- here there were more pomelas and less persimmons. (BTW, dried pomela is super-crazy-strong, like a breath mint.) There were more barbecued and fried dishes- things you might find at a night market. There was an abundance of bamboo- I saw a ton of different ways of serving bamboo shoots, and every other food stand seemed to have sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. The mochi here was a bit more refined. They were not just dipped, but filled and dipped. Some places had a wide variety and sold them in variety boxes like little bonbons.
Mochi "BonBons"

Mochi "BonBons"

Eventually, I had walked to both ends of the street. While my shoes are water repellent, they aren't water proof, so my feet were pretty wet at this point. I decided to grab the next train back to the bus to the hotel. I had excellent timing, as I could hear the train in the station as I approached. I quickly bought my ticket and was able to get on the train just before it left. Plus, while some cars were packed, I was able to move to one where I could find a seat. Lucky me!

The first thing I did upon arrival at the hotel was pull out the hair dryer to use on my feet and shoes.
The second was to grab dinner at the hotel because I was not going back out into the wet.
And then I needed to make plans for tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be the same. While I do really want to see Sun Moon Lake, I'm not thinking that it will be so beautiful and fun in the rain. I'll keep you updated...

Posted by spsadventures 07:21 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Back to Hsinchu

Hsinchu, Taiwan

overcast

In a startling decision, my company sent me back to Taiwan for a couple of weeks. In theory, I'm working in the fab during the days and having meetings at night, but as we're off to a slow start, I have been able to get out a bit.

After a very short first day of work, I thought that it would be a great idea to start with the one thing in Hsinchu that I really haven't seen yet- the Glass Museum. I went to the cab stand downstairs and told the guy there that's what I wanted to do. "Are you sure it's open?" he asked me. I told him that their website says their hours are 9-5, so I think they should be open. (It was about 3pm.) He quickly checked on his phone and came up with some important information- they were closed for renovations and wouldn't open again until September. Well then. I'm glad the Sheraton has such good service, but now I was without a plan.

I walked right.

I figured I'd just walk a while and see what there was to see.
It was super hot and muggy, so nobody in their right mind was out. That left the streets pretty quiet. I passed a bunch of shops with no customers. I passed an empty park. I passed an empty stadium. I passed some municipal buildings. Some sale of some sort was going on out front of the tax authority's building, but nobody was buying, and even the seller seemed to be behind the doors enjoying the air conditioning.
20180821_145743.jpg 20180821_150221.jpg
I was sweating and gross. It is so humid that the walk almost felt like it turned into a swim.

Eventually, I entered another area with shops, some of which had the air conditioning blasting so hard that I could feel it as I walked past. I walked past those shops much more slowly than the others.

I eventually grabbed a pizza for lunch. It was actually not bad. the crust was buttery and thick. The cheese was gooey, just like it's supposed to be. I also stopped in at Carrefour in order to do some grocery shopping.

For the most part, they had foods that you can get anywhere, although the ratio was different than what I'm used to. There were several aisles of noodles- one just for ramen, another just for rice noodles, another for other types, but there was only a tiny section for canned fruits and vegetables. Of course, they did have products that you only see in Asian markets, and not even in all of them. Pork floss, tofu jerky, and matcha candy are not easily found in many places. And of course, they had interesting flavors of "normal" items, like seaweed Pringles.
For me, the fresh section was just as exciting. They had a whole collection of durians, and there were several other items that I can't get at my local grocery store.
20180821_163846.jpg

The second day, I had some meetings, but I got out again for another afternoon walk. This time, I went left.

To the left, there are fewer shops, but the street is lined with many more trees. The residences are all skyscrapers, but quite a few of them appear to be overgrown forests- intentionally. I actually think it's quite neat to have so many plants keeping the buildings cool and keeping the air nice. But it must be hard to maintain all of these balcony plants.
DSCF1406.JPG
This whole section of town seems much newer, and there is also a lot of new construction still happening.
I stopped for lunch at a cafe-style restaurant and asked the person taking my order what was his favorite dish. He started his sentence with, "foreigners usually like..." and I cut him off. I don't want to know what foreigners like. I want to know that YOU like. He really struggled to tell me. Finally, he settled on "the pastas." So, I ordered pasta with some sort of spicy nut sauce.
It wasn't actually that spicy, and there were a lot of whole "nuts" (cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, dried peas) that were a bit hard to pick up with the pasta and a fork (nobody had chopsticks there, only forks). But, it was quite tasty and I enjoyed it.

I passed a small local temple that had a playground in it. Nobody was at the temple at the moment. It was just open to all.
DSCF1411.JPG

On my way back, I saw another supermarket and had nothing better to do, so I stopped in.

I entered to some guy with a microphone saying something in Chinese and a class full of maybe 3rd graders wearing aprons bowing to me. The kids' moms were taking pictures. I was a bit confused. Maybe I won some prize? Maybe I was their 100th customer of the day? I tried to express with facial expressions that I had no clue what was going on. They got it. I entered the store and started shopping. The next person who entered got he same treatment, although she seemed to understand what they were saying. The next person got the same treatment. And the next. Maybe it was just some sort of lesson in customer service.
20180822_150225.jpg
This store was much smaller than the Carrefour. It had a lot of similar items, although not 3 aisles of noodles. It did, however, have an entire section for mushrooms. I didn't even know there were that many kinds of mushrooms. I also saw interesting fruit vinegars- pinapple vinegar, anybody?- but for the most part, didn't see anything too crazy.

And then, the next couple of days were non-stop. I got up, maybe went to the hotel gym or pool, breakfast at the hotel, the fab, the hotel for dinner and meetings and bed.
So, I can tell you about the huge breakfast buffet or the lounge cocktail hour food, but not much else.

Tomorrow though, is the weekend. And I'm getting out to somewhere.

Posted by spsadventures 07:06 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Taroko Gorge

Hualien, Taiwan

I originally wasn't supposed to spend the weekend here, but they kept adding work to the point where we extended my trip. As this is not a holiday weekend, I was determined to make it to Taroko Gorge, unlike last time.

The guys at work assured me that they would have tickets, unlike last time. So, I researched the options and asked the train ticket teller for the ones I wanted. Except that those trains were all filled up. I could get to Hualien (the city near Taroko), but instead of 11pm, I'd arrive a half hour after midnight. I could get a return ticket, but only to Taipei and not Hsinchu. I hope there's a high-speed train that comes back from Taipei that late. If not, I'll get a taxi.

I wasn't delighted with this development, but I was determined to make it.

The trains were actually pretty full, and I get how they don't have seats. But they should offer standing room or run more trains, in my opinion. As it was, there were a few people sitting in between the cars anyway. And there were some people in seats until the seat's rightful owner came to claim it. So maybe there's an unwritten rule about being able to take a different train that the one printed on your ticket. I saw only one ticket checker on-board, but I fell asleep before he got to me. He didn't wake me, so maybe they aren't that diligent.

The train stopped at Shulin for me to transfer to another train. I had quite a while to wait. I asked the ticket seller there if there was an earlier train I could take, but the train that left earlier arrived later.

I walked around the streets near the train station to kill time, but the excitement of bright city lights has worn off a bit for me. The lights are bright and exciting, but then you see that they're just trying to get you into another store. The stores here are the same as everywhere- drug stores, shoe shops, clothing stores, restaurants. The proportions are a little different in some ways. Pretty much every shopping street here has a bubble tea shop. I've seen more motorcycle helmet stores here than I have in the whole rest of my life combined. And there are a plethora of convenience stores.

There used to be a comedian who had a bit about how the Starbucks density was so thick he saw a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks. 7 eleven is like that here. In Hsinchu, I stepped out of one, turned the corner, and literally saw one on each side of the next street, right across from each other. I'm not sure there's anywhere you can stand in a city here where you can't see at least one 7 eleven, Family Mart, or other convenience store.

Eventually, the train came and I got to Hualien. It was after midnight and the streets were empty. They didn't have a creepy-empty feel, just a sleepy-empty feel. It reminded me somewhat of a beach town in winter, when there's just nobody around to make a ruckus.
Empty Daytime Hualien

Empty Daytime Hualien


It was a very short (and safe) walk to the hostel. I'm staying at Colorful Taiwan Hostel and I can't rave enough about the staff and service. I booked 24 hours before I planned to arrive, and was planning on a late arrival (which was listed as an extra fee because they usually close the front desk earlier.) They were very quickly abke to confirm my late arrival via email. And when I saw that I was going to be even later due to the train situation, I called and was able to get a later arrival, no problem. The lady who greeted me at the hostel was friendly and helpful. She got me checked in quickly so that I could get myself some much-needed sleep.

Beyond the above-and-beyond check in, the hostel is super-clean. There is not a sign of mold in the bathroom. Even the slippers they give you when you leave your shoes at the door have a sign saying that they are sanitized after each guest. I can't recommend this hostel enough. For the great cleanliness, location, and service, the price is amazingly low. I got an awesome deal.

I did not set an alarm last night, so I didn't get up until after 8, which is super-late for me. I needed the sleep though. I quickly got my stuff together, checked out, and grabbed a 7 eleven breakfast. I was sure that there must have been some sort of bus to Taroko, but the internet said the bus was over an hour, and a car would take only 30 minutes. I decided not to waste my precious day-off time dealing with the bus, and just grabbed one of the many cabs parked outside of the train station.

The ride was about 30 mins mostly on open road and it only came out to about a $15 fare, which was totally worth not dealing with the hassle. It dropped me right at the visitor's center. I finally made it!

The visitor's center had great maps and the lady behind the desk even suggested which paths I should hike based on my time limit. She also gave me a printed copy of the schedule for the bus that takes tourists around the park and back to Hualien station.

I started down the main path that was right by the center. It was mobbed with tourists. It's an easy path- relatively flat, paved or semi-paved, and has railings anywhere you might need them. People were walking it in flip flops and dresses, and lots of families strolled slowly on their way or stopped on the benches for little picnics.
Tourist Path

Tourist Path


The scenery is beautiful. turquoise waters

turquoise waters

You see the river flowing through the gorge. You see the beautifully striated rocks that almost seem as if somebody painted the stripes on them. You see tons of trees and forest. It's a very pleasant start to the day. The official "suggested" trail ends at a cabin.
Striated Rocks of Taroko Gorge

Striated Rocks of Taroko Gorge


end of the main trail

end of the main trail


But the trail continues on.

But the tourists don't.
Trail without people

Trail without people


Beyond the cabin, the trail gets rockier and less paved. There are fewer handrails, although they aren't really needed. The crowds thin out so that you can actually hike instead of tripping on families who feel the need to block the whole path. The gorgeous scenery continues though. I took the path another kilometer or so past an "aqueduct" that looked a lot more like a pipe than a stucture to me to a "dam" that I'm not sure actually did anything.
Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge


At this point, I took a break at one of the seating areas. A group of guys were having a picnic. It featured a steaming pot of tea. He had lugged some sort of gas heater and fancy teacups all the way out here, just so that he could have hot tea in the "wilderness." He was nice enough to offer me some. I don't like tea and the caffeine makes me wild, but I just couldn't resist drinking hot tea out of a tiny china teacup in the forest. It was a surreal tea party.
DSCN8864- forest tea party

DSCN8864- forest tea party


On the way back, I stopped at the cabin ending point of the recommended trail. Of course, several people had set up shop there. One sold meat on a stick. The next was weaving a bracelet and had several woven items on sale. I believe she probably makes them all herself as she waits for customers- impressive. She said that they were native patterns.

The last had bananas. I didn't really care how much they cost. I wanted one. She kept trying to sell me two. In the end, I paid about a quarter. I'm not really sure if that was the price for one or two, but I only took one. I suspect it was the price for two based on the lady's body movements, but I was only in need of one banana.

I also suspect that these vendors are local aboriginals. The signage all over the park denotes areas that are reservations for the aboriginal people, and maybe some of them make money selling to tourists.

Instead of heading back to the visitor's center, I headed to the next trail up the park. To get there, I first had to climb a bridge pylon to get to the road. It looked huge, but was less than 100 stairs. I walked through a car tunnel, but the park planners were smart, and put a well-lit pedestrian area in the tunnel. I walked through some pretty rock arches, althouh the pedestran path under these was less great than the tunnel one.

Finally, I arrived at the entrance to the entrance to the eternal spring path. I walked a short distance up a very steep hill to arrive to the real trail head. A bright temple sits at the trailhead- I guess you can pray for good luck on your hike.
Changuang Temple

Changuang Temple


The park service put up an extremely helpful sign at the trailhead. It not only had a map of the trail, the distance, and time to completion, but they had even updated it with a note saying that the trail was only open to the bell tower, and then was closed the rest of the way.

The first part of the trail is a suspension bridge. It's pretty long, and sways/bounces as you walk across it. The weight limit is 5 people. I enjoyed crossing it, as the view was amazing, but some people might want to pass on that.
Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge


On the other side, I started up the path. It wasn't a path so much as a staircase with all of the qualities of a path- uneven, rocky, and somewhat treacherous. I was ready to turn back, but a couple I passed insisted that it was worth it,even just to the closure point. I lumbered on, hauling myself up more steps than I could bother to count.

The couple was correct- the top has a great view. And anybody who gets there can ring the bell- there are no restrictions. The little lookout tower was decorated beautifully and was a site in its own right.
Bell Tower

Bell Tower


Temple from Bell Tower

Temple from Bell Tower


I climbed back down, which was much easier and faster, and returned to the bus station for the first trail. The bus does a sort of circle, and the stop by the temple was for the bus headed in the wrong direction.
Waterfalls

Waterfalls


Toroko Gorge

Toroko Gorge


Next stop was Buluowan. This stop doesn't have so much to do. A hotel overlooks the gorge, but the trails are all very short- some less than a kilometer. Compared to the hours of hiking I had put in elsewhere, that doesn't even count, even with the many stairs one had. I hiked them before the next bus came to that stop. They did have a small museum that depicted abiriginal life. It was interesting,but very small. I'm not sure that I really understand their culture based on a short display about facial tattoos and weaving patterns.
Culture Center

Culture Center


I had seen a ton of beautiful waterfalls, a clear river, and colorful rocks. The last inward-bound bus of the day came, and I took it to the end, Twhatsit stop.

This stop has a 7 eleven (of course) as well as a few other shops. The bathrooms had run out of water- toilets wouldn't flush and sinks didn't turn on. I guess the end of the day is not the time to be here.

The view was as good as everywhere else though. I marveled at the scenery as I snacked and waited for the bus driver to reopen the bus. Just as we were riding back through the park, night fell. The mountain clouds and walls of the gorges prevented us from seeing any sort of sunset. It just started getting blue out. Then bluer. Then it was nighttime.

The bus took me back all the way to the Hualien train station, but it was running a few minutes late. I am really glad that I got the second-to-last bus both because I didn't need to see a dark park, but also because the later bus may have been too late for me to make my train. I'm also really glad that I didn't get the train tickets I wanted yesterday. I wouldn't have had nearly as much time in the park.

I also noticed that this side of the train station is very different. Yesterday and this morning, I saw a quiet, residential area that reminded me of a sleepy beach town in winter. The only bright lights bonged to the requisite 7 eleven. That is the city out the "rear" side of the station.

The front side of the station faces shops and neon lights and a 7 eleven, just like any other Taiwanese city. Plenty of souvenir shops offered local Hualien goods- mostly mochi and pineapple cake. The signs for several small eateries lit up the night, trying to pull in customers. This side is not as quiet as the other.

The ride back to Hsinchu was uneventful- train to Taipei, high speed rail to Hsinchu. I got back to the hotel just before midnight after a really long day, but it was totally worth it. Today made my trip!

Posted by spsadventures 10:49 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Taiwan, Part 2

Hsinchu, Taiwan

I got sent back to Taiwan.

The first several days here were pretty much work, eat, work some more, and then sleep. I didn't get to really see anything new, although I ate some new things.

Last time I was here, we passed a place that advertised vegan eel burgers. I didn't get a chance to get there because they always closed 15 minutes before I arrived. But my curiosity was certainly piqued. This time, I finally made it. Unfortunately, they happened to be out of vegan eel that night, so I ended up with a vegan pork burger and vegan pineapple shrimp. Neither were impressive.

I also broke down one night and tried the Chinese restaurant in the hotel. I just didn't have the energy to leave the building. It was also not impressive.

What was impressive was the Malaysian restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. The food there was quite spicy compared to the bland food I had everywhere else. I also really enjoyed Iroha Ramen, and not just because it was clearly named after an Avatar the Last Airbender character. The eggs were in this odd state where the yolks weren't runny, but also weren't quite solid. They were amazing.
Malaysian Food

Malaysian Food


Hsinchu also has an amazing lego store where you can buy legos by the kilo or buy specific pieces.
Lego Store

Lego Store


My other new experience was Taiwan in the rain. It wasn't heavy, but even a light rain made things interesting. Over half of the vehicles on the road here are scooters or motorcycles. They are cheaper, get better gas milage, get to move up to the front of the line waiting at a red light, and are easy to find parking for. In the rain, still more than half the vehicles on the road are motorbikes. Some people just put on normal jackets and let their pants and shoes still get wet. Others got creative with ponchos or had full-body rain jackets. Some of the jackets looked like plastic furniture covers that people use to protect their deck furniture in off-season. Even though the human furniture looked funny, if they were dry at the end of their commute, they were the smart ones.

The other "looks stupid but seems to work" thing is how they take care of trash. There are no public trash cans anywhere. The wind doesn't have an opportuniy to scatter trash from the cans, and people don't aim for bins and miss. They just take their trash home. The lack of dumpsters means there is nothing to attract scavenging wildlife and no major eyesores to hide. The city is actually quite clean-looking. So how does the trash get removed?

The ice cream man.

Well, that's what I thought it was. A truck drives very slowly down the streets, blasting the same kid-friendly tune as an ice cream truck. Except this truck is not telling the neighborhood kids to come get a sweet treat. This truck is letting the adults know that they can bring out their trash. The truck collects it and continues on its merry way.

Posted by spsadventures 10:33 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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