Northern Taiwan Tour
Well, today was certainly an alright day. Long day touring Taiwan, but not so bad. We got picked up by a tour operator at our hotel. Small group of us, just six. The guide was supposed to have spoken English, but spoke next to none. He really just drove us around and dropped us off everywhere, told us to be back by certain times. This is actually my preference, though. We were fortunate that we had an American kid who spoke Chinese on the tour, so he did most of the translating. Shoulda gotten paid. There was also a girl here on work travel who extended her stay. She was doing a product build for Harley Davidson… in Taiwan. Not so American-made.
Our first stop was Yehliu Geopark on the north coast. It’s a bunch of bizarre rock formations on the beach. The pictures make it look like you can just walk around on some sandy beaches, but it’s actually a whole attraction with entry fees and walkways. There are lights installed around all the formations and big red lines painted on the rocks to tell you where not to go. It was also insanely crowded.
All the people in the world with zero spatial awareness banded together at Yehliu Geopark for the day, stopping to take selfies at the most inconvenient of spots. An Italian guy on our tour said Europeans were crazy with selfies, but they might be worse in Asia. It was tough to get any decent shots and the Queen’s Head, the “featured rock” if you will, was not at all impressive. The fun part of the sight was hearing security yell at all the idiots who were crossing the red lines for photos or climbing around on top of the rocks.
A Food Market & The Golden Sea
Had my first experience with a hole-in-the-ground toilet at the park. I think this one was a nice one because it was a sort of installed urinal with a pedal you stepped on to flush. I’d actually brought lady part wipes in the event I got stuck with one that didn’t have any tissue. Good call.
At any rate, Jeff and I finished the walk early and hit up a little food market across the street. Lots of dried fish products and all the vendors offered samples. After our incident in Iceland when we ate a dried fish sample at the market, I’ll have to pass. Couldn’t get that flavor out of my mouth for hours.
At some point, I accidentally butt-FaceTime’d my aunt. She tried to call back, but I’m not picking up in Asia (sorry!). Got a follow-up text with a request for my current view, which I happily sent!
Stopped for a few minutes at the Golden Sea, followed by a small waterfall. The Golden Sea is pretty trashy, unfortunately (in the literal sense), but the sea water changes color from blue further out to yellow closer in. There’s a mining town above and the mineral oxidization causes the water to turn yellow.
Jiufen, A Foodie’s Paradise
Next up was Jiufen, which actually surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it to be what it was. Lots of stray dogs, some healthier looking than others, and tiny winding roads that massive buses maneuvered. I thought it was an ancient village, and maybe it was, but it was a massive maze of a food market. The funny thing was we got dropped off in front of a temple and were told to go to the entrance next to a 7-11. We were like—um… okay. And it seemed like a whole lot of nothing. But we discovered the market entrance when we got there, and it went on and on and on.
It’s a foodie’s paradise. Tons of samples, all different kinds of food. Supposedly famous for their taro soup. A lady trying to give us samples yelled, “Shrimp ball, yummy, yummy!” This has now become a random statement Jeff makes. Jeff nor I are huge foodies and my stomach has been in a very careful place, but Jeff did have some spicy beef noodles that I tested out. Pretty tasty.
Drove a little more and were dropped off at Shifen Waterfall. So many stairs to get there, and a suspension bridge. Probably also ancient. People thought it was hilarious to make it swing, but I think those people were dicks. It. Was. Not. Fun. For. Me!!! And what about children and the elderly? In the end, the waterfall was alright. Lots of people again. A bunch of different viewing areas with a bagilliondy stairs to get to each.
At this point, our Chinese American friend was actively texting our driver whenever we all finished early, so that was convenient. I asked if they were Facebook friends yet. A true indication of friendship, you know.
Shifen Village & The Lanterns
The village of Shifen was much more interesting to me. A small village situated right on some railroad tracks, it’s famous for releasing lanterns into the sky for good luck. People freely crossed the tracks and set off lanterns in the middle of them, but it was indeed an active track. Security would periodically run out whistling whistles and shooing everyone away. Among the interesting things we saw was a kid writing on his lantern that he wanted to ride a pony to work. With pony spelled “poney.” We also saw a woman rolling up used lanterns. I guess they get paid $10 Taiwanese for every lantern they recycle, which is like $3 USD.
Oh! We also saw that someone had built a house for a pet squirrel with a caged tunnel circling all the way around their house. If there was any animal that could survive all on its own, I’d think it’d be this poor squirrel, but nope. Someone decided he would be a kept squirrel.
Once the sun started setting, you could see all the lanterns floating way up into the sky… and then you could see them go up in flames and fall back down to the ground. There go everyone’s hopes and dreams!
Winding Down For The Day
It was nice to get outside the city for a bit, but I was running out of steam towards the end of the day and happy to head back. We’ve been going to bed at, like, 7 thinking it’s 10 o’clock at night. Like old people. We discovered Taiwan Uber Eats, which was perfect for this particular evening.
After a day with sunscreen, my burn is now a tan. This would be great, but for the fact it’s only on my face, neck, and lower arms. Also happy to say that a blister I’ve had on my toe is finally healing. It started in Hong Kong and, since we’ve been doing so much walking, hasn’t had a fair chance at going away. We’re all good now, though.
Before we left, Jeff asked if we should bring band-aids and I was like, “no, we don’t need them, just extra stuff…” Blah, blah, blah. So now I get to live that down. He also started making fun of the lump under my t-shirt that’s actually my pants drawstring, asking me if this was my colostomy bag. I told him the bag is for traveling convenience; in fact, I’m using it right now and he doesn’t even know it.
Debating on going to Wulai tomorrow, a small riverside town with hot springs. It’s a whole thing to get there, with multiple modes of transportation. We’ll probably just keep it simple and go to Taipei 101. I think we could use a down day, do some laundry with the awesome washing machine in our apart-hotel. Finished the day under 6 miles. Still covered in sweat. Seoul will be a nice reprieve from the heat when we get there.
Our Last Taipei Day
Yup. Total down day if there ever was one. Slept in until, like, 7. Blogged, watched some TV, showered. Got some coffee. Can I just say that I hate Nescafé machines? They’re the norm outside of the US and they are always a major pain in my ass. The order of actions you have to take doesn’t seem intuitive, the machines are all different from country to country, and they sound like rocket launchers, which is the last thing you want to hear first thing in the morning. I usually have to fumble my way through the process and then the water will start running without the pod in it or when I don’t have the cup underneath. It’s a mess.
Stopped by this little bakery on the corner and got some breakfast. They didn’t have any available seats, so we actually just ended up going and sitting in the hotel library/sitting area to eat. After that, we taxi’ed to Taipei 101. On our way, we passed what looked like a hip hop festival, sort of near the 1914 Creative Park, where they have really nice basketball courts underneath some viaducts. Everything’s painted and happy, not your typical highway overpass. The music was loud, especially for 10 or 11 in the morning and a bunch of kids (a bunch) were breakdancing. The driver just said, “Young kids.” Then added that entry was free. Not sure this is our scene, buddy. But it would be funny to go.
Taipei 101 had poor visibility, so we didn’t pay to go to the top. 106 floors, I think. You couldn’t even see the top from outside, so… Would be another Hong Kong Peak experience. It’s actually the first day of our vacation that it’s been even a little rainy; we’ve been pretty lucky thus far. It says it’s going to have thunderstorms every day, but that’s a lie. All lies.
Taipei 101’s first several floors are actually a super ritzy mall. We walked around for a bit, but—lady talk here—I was having really bad cramps. Like, really bad. I’m just happy that I remembered to check I was going to have my cycle while I was away and brought feminine products from home. I went through a few vacations in a town where I didn’t think of it and ended up having to buy stuff on the road.
There was Japan, where they don’t often wear tampons, so I had to buy “slim fluffy” pads and walk around all day. Eventually found tampons, but they had no applicators. Merrr. There was also Greece, where I had to walk with my dad down the street at midnight to buy products at a store that was clearly owned by men and had the most random selection you’ve ever seen. So, really, this isn’t so bad all things considered.
We were sitting in the mall area and a family walked up to us. They (or their kid, anyway) were doing a scavenger hunt and needed to find foreigners to interview. Jeff was kind enough to go along with it and the little kid asked him in English how he was enjoying Taiwan. “It’s lovely.” And it really is.
While waiting on an Uber in front of 101, some guy walked past us and said, “Hi, white people.” It was a small group of Caucasian tourists and, apparently, one of the girls was just saying how she’d seen zero white folks here… and then we walked by. It was funny enough. I wanted to say, “We’re all here!” Because we really haven’t seen many foreigners either. Jeff and I keep referring to ourselves as “gaijin,” the Japanese word for foreigner, since we have no idea what the same word is in Chinese.
a Taiwanese 2-In-1 Washing Machine
Ended up heading back to our hotel and chilling. Had loose plans to see Snake Alley at the Huaxin Night Market, but that fell through. I wouldn’t have minded getting up and going, but… I think we just got lazy. I was taking a nap when the phone started ringing. It was the front desk asking if we wanted housekeeping. No, we don’t. I never do housekeeping anymore after I got a bunch of medication stolen in Hawaii and I even make use of the in-room safes. But the front desk has been dutifully calling us about housekeeping. Every day. Even though we have our little sign up on the door.
We did another snack run and watched a movie on one of our three channels. None of the channels are technically in English, but you can get lucky with English-speaking movies where they have Chinese subtitles. Watched “Ocean’s 8” or something stupid. Funny enough, “Walter Mitty” played right after that!
A note that everything is pretty cheap here. Two waters and a coke will run you $2.50 American, something like that. This last time we stopped at 7-11, they gave us some kind of stickers with Winnie the Pooh on them. Maybe something like the Safeway Monopoly game? Or maybe just—you guys have been here enough the last couple of days, here’s some free stickers.
We had the pleasure of figuring out how to use our 2-in-1 washing machine/dryer at the hotel. It was a whole thing. Jeff and I sat there with Chinese directions and Google Translate trying to figure this thing out. We YouTube’d videos. It’s not your usual washer and has, like, 20 settings in one. We successfully got the thing running with our first load of laundry (small load), but evidently, didn’t select the setting with drying. Found out you can’t just dry on this machine, so we had to run it again with the dryer setting included. Did two loads, though, and didn’t damage any property. Ours or theirs. *Winning.* The washer was an unexpected, but welcome surprise. We pack light, and some of our clothes were, um… not the nicest with the humidity.
More Taiwan, Please!
Tomorrow, we’ll be catching a flight to Seoul to begin our whole Korean experience. This will be country #51 for me! We’ve got a DMZ tour lined up, God help me. Jeff’s already started saying scary things, like, “Hope we don’t get shot down on the way over.” Like I need any help at all being panic-stricken. I’m generally panic-stricken most of the time.
I’d’ve liked more time in Taiwan to explore some different parts of the island, but happy to have seen what I did. It’s a really nice country. The people are so nice and there’s zero litter. You can’t find trash cans anywhere. And there’s still no litter. Feel a little bad not making more use of today, but we’ve been going for a week straight now, so I suppose one day is okay. Until tomorrow…
Today’s featured photo: The Shifen village train tracks in Taiwan.
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