A Travellerspoint blog

HW 11

Today we wake up early in the morning to drive down the coast and get the bike back before 12:30. Its like California's HW 1 we are told, so here it is, Japan's HW 11:

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This is the one time Joe let us have a break since we were short on time, so I hurried up in the bathroom

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and got out first to get this shot:

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Then, back on the scooter!

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Joe was kinda unimpressed since the road didn't wind around curves as much as in California, so we turned around after this point.

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(Always a different view on the way back.)

We just barley made it back to the scooter place on time. The rest of the day we spent basking in our air conditioned private Japanese style room watching Castle and Burn Notice episodes and taking naps while the other used the internet.

Then, Mochan emailed me back!

Dear Vanessa (Rain),

Thank you very much for sending me the e-mail.
You are welcome to join our trip.
It would be helpful to send e-mail via CS for me.
I may not response you soon now, coz I am in PERU.
And I will come back on 22th May.
After that, I can send you back soon.
By the way, which JHT are you guys thinking to join us?
Let's enjoy together when you guys join it!
sincerely
mochan

Joe gave me the nod of approval, and I ran out to the nearest 7-11 and called customer service for our flight with EVA. They were extremely helpful, and quick about it. "Hi, can I switch my flight to the 25th from the 27th?" "Yes, do you want the same flight? There is one on the 25th leaving at the same time, with the same flight layout." "Yes, that is the one I want." "Okay, here is your flight number, and your conformation number:" and that was it. No money, no hassle, just leaving 2 days early for Tokyo! Amazing!

For dinner we walked downtown back to this restaurant kiosk that Joe fell in love with where they make this cube omelet around a block of shredded cabbage and chicken with all sorts of sauces and vegetable toppings. To find this place, however, we had to wander through the streets downtown, get lost, then find it by accident just like last time.

Posted by - Rain 06:16 Comments (0)

Taroko Gorge

In the morning we packed up our things out of the dorm and were taken to our private room. It was absolutely amazing! No locks unfortunately, and the walls were literally made out of Japanese papper, but the fungsue was fantastic! The wonderfully comfortable futon bed (in Japan futons are on the ground, not on metal sofas) that had a white misquote net around it like a princess bed (more for decoration than something you'd see out of a jungle hospital), and carved wooden hangings, and japanese paintings, and woven chairs, and above all else, air conditioning! The dorm was not air conditioned, and it was a miserable kind of muggy hot.

After moving all our stuff Yachen, the hostel owner, told us that we could rent scooters hassle free and with a discount at the shop she is affiliated with, so this morning we got up fairly early to explore the city a bit on the way to rent a motor scooter!

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It was pretty much ridiculously easy to rent the scooter. Origionally I said I wanted my own to drive since it was only going to cost about $14 for 24 hours, but then the shock on Joe's face and the short questioning he gave me totally mad me not want to. He kept asking me if I wanted to drive first, and so I just started walking with my helmet to the gas station where we had to fill the tank up. Thats the one thing they are sticklers about in Taiwan, everyone has helmets. At the station I explained that maybe I'd drive later, and we left it at that, or at least I thought we did.

On the scooter ride to Taroko Gorge!

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That building is either the Buddhist hospital or college. They are right next to each other, so its hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure I saw the Kanji for college on a sign outside the building, but we were on a bike at the time.

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As we left the city Joe decided that we needed sunglasses for protection. So he pulls into a gas station and I practically have to drag him away from the shop door trying to explain to him that it wasn't a convenience store. He was convinced that he could just take a look, but the guy was in a business suit and had no merchandise in his store whatsoever. This, started the griping. Then we went to the next place where he thought goggles might be sold, and it was just a car repair shop. They said to head back into town, or at least thats what we inferred since we saw the point, but didn't understand the words. Finally, I'm about to cry with how much Joe is pulling me around about this sun glass thing. “Joe! The guy said that there are no shops this way, can we please just go!” We had already gotten a really late start, it was already almost 1pm. I didn't want to fuck around anylonger when he finally found a store with sunglasses (right next to the car repair shop, but in the opposite way the guy pointed). So we bought our sunglasses, and we were once again on the road, but this time, I had no hopes of ever getting ot the gorge.

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This is Joe's favorite factory, like something out of a Final Fantasy video game.

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Entrance to the Gorge, I guess we made it. And I also guess that Joe would say that we made it there because I stopped desiring the outcome and simply let what happens happen. Sad, that I have to let go of hope before I can achieve any goal or aspiration. But, moving on.

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It was seriously the craziest beautiful blue we had ever seen in nature.

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We parked the bike at the tourist center under construction and decided to do a quick hike up the first part of the trail b/c Joe really wanted to go over this rope bridge:

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This is the tourist center:

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And this is our first stop on the hike, the Bell Tower:

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Then we went a little further to try and see a waterfall next to a temple. But the next temple we made it to wasn't the one with the waterfall, and according to the map we would have a long ways to go if we wanted to walk to the waterfall temple, if the waterfall temple was on this hike at all, so we turned back and hopped on the bike. Joe kept insisting that I drive, and I kept asking him if he disliked it. “No, I love it.” He would tell me. And so I would respond, “Then since you love it, and I don't want to do it, why don't we just keep things the way they are?” He didn't want me to feel trapped again like I did on the continental US trip and hate him for always driving me around. I had to enplane to him that it wan't the motorcycle, it was him. ; ) Well, I think it goes without saying, but I'll write it anyways, that there is a big difference between riding for months on the back of a motorcycle into the middle of nowhere and taking a day trip into the gorge before heading back into town. Also, I wanted to point out, the best time for me to take a try at it was not in the windy roads of a national park folloing the curvature of the mountains as they flow into the gorge. To top it off, we were going down a really steep hill to get back to the main road from the tourist center and that pretty much sealed the no for me.

The next stop on our journey, was the waterfall temple! We weren't at it, but across the gorge from is, which may have been the better spot to appreciate the temple anyways.

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Then we noticed people crossing a bride and walking in tunnels along the rocks near the temple, so we followed in suit.

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This shrine was made for all the people who lost their life building the roads through the gorge. It was done as a military effort while the Japanese were occupying the island, and many many people were killed by rockslides, floods, and tunnel cave-ins.

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An unnatural looking mouth to a fresh water spring:

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This is the fresh water spring that feeds the waterfall from behind the temple:

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Remember in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when the German boy drinks from the lake and then falls in and gets sucked into the tubes?
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And in the pagoda next to the temple Joe and I did the first 8 sides of the circular Shokaimin from Master Yang taught to us. We have no video of this because we did it together very quickly trying to avoid becoming a tourist attraction. Near the end I saw a few people get some still shots off, but other than that, we were in the clear. Then we kinda rushed out of there and hopped back on the bike.

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Joe was disappointed here b/c the rope bridge was closed. Moving forward some more, the dangerous driving habits the busses have of going in your lane when they go around a curve, got worse. Now we were down to only one lane around some pretty scary looking curves protected by those circular mirrors that let you know when death was approaching. Joe thought it would be a good idea for a Taiwanese horror film to be based on when the busses become possessed and come after you. Everyone would know what we were talking about. And that only makes it scarier the next time they are on the road an a bus tries to run into them or run them off the road. At one point Joe even had to slam on the breaks and lean us into the guard rail as the bus drove almost straight into us. I was really thinking that the tail end of the bus was going to at least brush up against us, but thankfully Joe stopped before we got any further into the turn. BTW, heres a video of us driving through the gorge:

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Joe loved this pillar and thought of a world some day in the future when all the metal has been stripped away from the bridges and all that is left are these cracked and plant decorated pillars standing for unknown reasons in the midst of the rushing river gorge.

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It began to rain, and steadily that rain got harder, so we booked it home as fast as we could. At the hostel we noticed that our shirts and faces were covered in a layer of black. Gross, it was time for a shower.

The rain had stopped so for dinner we thought we would try and find the fruit and vegetable market. We got lost several times and ended up driving all the way to the park on the coast that had some really cool statues light up and people breakdancing out in the square just next to a line of carnival booths where you can play arcade games or shoot balloons for prizes and get carrni food. Joe played 3 games of shoot the balloons, 2 times with the rifle, and once with the hand gun. I think he switched to the hand gun only because the Taiwanese kid next to us was hitting every balloon with his hand gun, and Joe was getting about 75%. Joe ended up winning a set of Pikachu pockets on a string that you can hang on you wall and put small trinkets inside. He said that he won them for me, but I wasn't in the “win something for me at the carnival” mood, so I told him that I didn't like Pikachu. It was a dick move, I know. But it just drives me crazy how we can fight all week, then one night in a natural hot spring and everything is okay again. I agree that we had fun at the time, and we shouldn't let our bickering get in the way of the hot spring, but I just thought that the carnival was the wrong setting for us, and it made me more irritable than I should have been.

Posted by - Rain 05:48 Comments (2)

Who Alien?

pronounced Hua - lien

Another day spent in the flat with one person getting some outside time, and the other person hanging out to let them back in. Today, taking in all the suggestions I had been given about where to visit in Taiwan, researched into them and decided on taking Ashley's advice and going to Hualien next to the Taroko Gorge. Joe was giving the phone one last go, but I had already surrendered the idea of meeting p with Master Yang's Kung Fu brothers.

There were only 5 Couchsurfers in all of Hualien, and one of them was freaky religious (Christian style), so with only 4 choices, and none of them with great response percentages, I went with the one who said she also ran a hostel. I booked 2 nights in the private Japanese style room for the only 2 nights the private room was available (for 2 people it cost almost the same as a dorm), and then on my break to go outside I called the Formosa Backpackers Hostel and booked us for our first night in the 6 person dorm. I wanted to make sure that I reserved the private room right away since they seemed to be going fast, but the dorms were pretty empty and I wanted to make sure that they knew when we would be arriving so that we could get the free pick up from the train station (always a plus).

I also did some Couchsurfing in Japan, and I found the most amazing guy!

http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/mochi/

NARA-KYOTO-OSAKA & Mt.Fuji TRIP"

MAY 26 : Welcome meeting (SHIMIZU)
MAY 27 : Mt.Fuji / SAKE factory (SHIMIZU)
MAY 28 : NARA (NARA)
MAY 29 : OSAKA (KYOTO)
MAY 30 : KYOTO (KYOTO)
MAY 31 : KYOTO (KYOTO)
JUN 01 : KINOSAKI Onsen (HYOGO)*
JUN 02 : AMA-NO-HASHIDATE (HYOGO)*
JUN 03 : Tea ceremony (SHIMIZU)
JUN 04 : TOKYO Tsukiji market?

I immediately emailed him, even though he said he was in Peru, and asked him if I should switch my flight from the 27th to the 25th so that we could go on this trip with him around Japan!

That night we went out to Indian food with Ashley and her blond friend who was on the hike with me... Did anyone notice a blond guy on the trip? Maybe the French guy? We took a short bus to the Shida night market (Ashley lived pretty close to Channa) and walked around until we found this guy from the hike:

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“You don't have blond hair.” Was the fisrt ting I said to hm, pretty absolutely. He said that he guessed he didn't either, and Ashley defended herself as being a ABT (American Born Taiwanese, BTW, that was my nickname for her, not hers; she hadn't even herd of the term ABC before I introduced it to her... see, aren't I culturally intelligent?) We also talked about going to Japan b/c Ashley was leaving for Japan on Friday! She told us about this thing called a JR pass (Japan Rail Pass). It is a really cheap way to tour around Japan on their Bullet Trains, Express Trains, and some Buses and Ferries. Once you buy the ticket you had unlimited rides for the time period you pay for. The trick is you can only buy one out of the country and you can only get it validated if you have a tourist visa to Japan. We had the tourist visa (in Japan all you need to do is go there and your passport is stamped with a tourist visa), but buying these passes before we were in Japan was cutting it close. So that night I got on line and bought Joe a 2 week pass, and myself a 3 week pass, totaling about $1,000 (not cheap, but neither are the fairs to travel in Japan). This ended up being really complicated in the end because Joe's ticket I sent to my mom in the USA like you're supposed to. Mine, however, I had the great idea of sending them to Shelly, Belia's sister in law in Japan. This fiasco, to be continued.

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Ashley's place:

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(I love the statue, thats not just the light hitting it, it was pre shadowed, and I don't know why, but I thought it was really cool. Like something out of an anime (a well painted anime). It always looks better when the shadowing is handled as if you took a picture of the object with the perfect lighting, but you get to see the statue like that no matter how crappy your lams are. Also, the circular handle to the right of the tv is an actual old coffee grinder. Ashley can come and decorate my place anytime. Only, no mirrors (you can already see on replicating the white soffa... they are everywhere!)

Outside Ashley's place:

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Joe liked the BaGua symbol put outside the green apartment (can you find it?), and I liked how in Taiwan everyone has balcony plants like in those Italian paintings of cobblestone paths through narrow and windy streets with cafes and bicycle shops.

To the metro!

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Do you see that tall looking bamboo shaped building between the 2 closer ones? That is 101, the place everyone keeps asking us if we have been there yet. It is the tallest building in the world! Except for possibly this one in Dubai that Ashley doesn't really count, not because she is having any sort of Taiwan patriotism, she is after all American (ABT), but because Dubai is a scary and unnatural place that is going to crumble into the ocean some day, and their building is only the tallest because they purposefully made the top of it extendable, and they won't disclose how high it can extend just so that it can always be the tallest. Dubai is weird.

To the train!

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If you notice I got a picture of the strange statue that had water running our to the circular head, with a Taiwanese girl taking a picture of it. Yeah, I don't know why I was so excited about it either.

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Joe's favorite handicap ramp system. This one, maybe tied with the one at our apartment we got in China. Oh, what? I haven't told you that we had an apartment together in China for one month while we lived as the Chinese lived, ate as the Chinese ate (grant it, more like the Chinese children than the adults), and worked as the Chinese worked (but with about 1/10th the hours), and practiced like the Chinese practiced? Well, now you know.

To Hualien!

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(Joe just took a shot of wasabi, so yeah, if you think his is high and cray in this picture, he is.)

Pass Yilan!

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To the coast!

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But I was sitting on the mountain side of the train!

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Exit, Hualien!

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We got picked up at the train station pretty easily (you don't need the other person to hold a sign up with your name on it when they can easily distinguish you as the only Americans). We got set up at her hostel, and then we hit the town looking for the river, and possibly the fruit market.

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This one is a pretty cool topper to one of those waist high pillars that keep cars from driving up walking streets.

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And this etherial looking pond is part of the hotel right next to our hostel (same with the christmas tree).

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And here is our hostel:

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Yay travel!

At the hostel we got the computer from the safe under the bar (we have a bar at the hostel, our host is a surfer girl and she likes the mix). Joe wanted me to go and retrieve the plug from the dorm, and there I ran into a girl from Sydney. We talked for about an hour or two before Joe came into the dorm with the computer and a look that said “Its okay that you forgot about me, but come on, for 2 hours?” But again, this blog, case in point. I like to talk to strangers about traveling, especially ones from countries I plan to go to.

Posted by - Rain 05:08 Comments (0)

Kicking it Like Old Times with a Twist

this time we did the smart thing and got some friggin alone time

Today, Joe and I spent the day trading off who stayed inside Channa's apartment, and who went outside to run errands (mostly involving finding internet, and calling Master Yangs's contacts). Channa told me about the cafe Insomnia, so I spent the first part of the day there Couchsurfing b/c Channa could only host us on the weekdays, not the weekends. Her roommates like to party on the weekends, so their couch is not the best place to try and crash. Problem: the weekend started on Friday. Today, was friday. We needed a new place to crash, and I couldn't get a hold of the 2 Couchsurfers who said that they could have us over on the weekend. Then I called my mom and tried to get some info on Master Yang's contacts, but it ended up with me just calling a different Kung Fu brother, me attempting to speak to him in Chinese, and then being hung up on. Joe spent his time out doing Kung Fu in the park of course, and he also tried his hand at the phone callings, and then wondered around the city looking for the Elephant Hostel or something like that. He never ended up finding it, so when it was my turn to go out back into the city, I walked down the street to the main road, checked all the light up signs for what I thought was the Kanji for hotel, and then I saw one that said “HOTEL” Yeah, I went straight over and asked how much. It was expensive (or at least from what I am used to with Chinese pricing), and came out to about 70 USD. I attempted to ask if there were any cheeper hotels, but the woman said that she didn't know of any around here. I told her to hold the room for one hour, and then I'd be back with more money and my boyfriend.

When we checked in they gave us coupons for breakfast, and then the nicest, softest bed and pillow set we had laid eyes on in over 3 months! The room was small, and the bed took up pretty much the whole space, but that was all we wanted. That, and the beautiful bathroom with a bade and a shower in separate compartments (meaning there was a shower door)! To top it off we had wifi and a huge flat screen tv that Joe sat up most of the night watching the Discovery channel. “I never knew the Discovery channel actually had interesting and amazing looking shows!” He had only watched the Discovery channel in school, and he thought it was always about some bug crawling in the Amazon or some animals mating in the Savanna. Now that we had wifi I finally got messages back from the Couchsurfers, and it turned out that Friday night was not good for one of them, and that he, Rudi, had already told another person they could stay with them. Another person also replied to me and invited us to go on a hike tomorrow, and said that we could stay with her on the weekend. I really wanted to go, but Joe's hip and ankle were now bothering him, and he needed to give them a rest. I got a hold of Rudi on the phone and explained that we didn't have internet at our other Couchsurfer, and that we ended up getting a hotel, but if he was free tomorrow we still needed a place for the weekend. I also told him that we wanted to go on this hike with other Couchsurfers, and he said that he had other plans, and invited me to go along with him instead. I hopped on facebook and saw that his rockclimbing event looked a little too much for a beginner like me, and it was on Sunday, not Saturday. So, thanking me for not letting him go to the rock climb a day early, said that he maybe up for the hike, and that it was okay for us to crash with him for about 4 days. That being taken care of, I turned off the computer, and forced Joe to turn off the tv. Joe attempted to use this “quality time” to ourselves, but I got in the way of that. And yeah, I said the bestest, most ultimate line, right above I have to wash my hair... I said was tired, and then added that I wanted to maximize the time I got to sleep in a nice bed. I guess we have 2 different opinions of whats important.

The next morning I called Rudi after breakfast and asked him if it was okay for us to drop our things off at his place, and then head out for the hike. He told me that he didn't think we had time to make the hike today since it would take longer than I thought to get to his place. I hung up with him and discussed it with Joe, saying that since he didn't want to hike anyways, that maybe it was okay that we were going to miss it. But Joe said that he could just stay with the stuff where the bus drops us off for the hike and do Tai Chi, and I could go on the hike with everyone else. I tried to call Rudi back and explain that we wouldn't be coming right now after all, and that we would come over after the hike, but after 3 tries on his cell phone, I gave up. We left the hotel and took the metro to the McDonalds near the Taipei station ( this was the meeting location for the hike). When we got there we were told that we would not be returning to the same location as we started, so Joe would have to take all the bags back into Taipei on his own. They suggested that we get lockers at the metro station, so we ran, got a locker, and then ran back to the McDonalds. Then we all headed to the bus station.

At the bus we borrowed someone's cell phone and gave Rudi a call letting him know that we just went straight to the hike and would come over afterwards. He was furious. Joe tried to explain to him that we tried to call earlier, but he didn't pick up, and we didn't have a cell phone until just now. He didn't care, and told us that letting him wait for us for almost an hour was unacceptable, and that we were no longer welcome at his place. This left both of us feeling really on edge. We didn't mean to be rude, but we already spent about $3 trying to call him on the hotel phone, and he wasn't answering. Now we had really pissed someone off, and we were out of a place to stay for the evening. We noticed that the girl who told us about the hike wasn't there, so we gave her a quick call too. It turned out that she decided to go on a different hike later with some of her friends she was meeting for breakfast and ran late. However, we could still crash with her that night.

This at least calmed my nerves about where I was going to sleep, but I physically felt my face blush for the next few hours as I ran just the Joe half of his phone conversation with Rudi through my head, over and over, not trying to beat myself up, but accidentally allowing the thought to keep reoccurring. No matter. At least I can move on in my writing.

The bus took us into the forests of the local mountain range, up some pretty steep climbs, and then past a waterfall! It wasn't very big, but it was tall. Joe was upset that he didn't jump out there to do his Tai Chi, but he rode up the street a bit further to get off the bus with us. We were told on the facebook event notice that we would be dropped off near the waterfall, so he was hoping that this next one may be better.

Cliff!
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Unfortunately, the next waterfall was a little hike up the ways, but we dropped Joe off at the area where the water crashed down some rocks.

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(Lucy Liu in pink is our translator for the mountain guy in blue)

Starting up the path there were a lot of stairs, but then it leveled off at a cool little canal. The guy leading the hike was an actual mountain dweller near the fishing village, so he knew all the best spots to take us, unfortunately he didn't speak any English. So his friend who organized the hike translated for us that the villagers built this carnal to transport fresh fish across the mountains to the other villages (really neat and simple concept. I approve).

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Moving on we passed by more waterfalls than I had seen in all of China (Joe! You should have come! The 60 yr old guy came in flip flops b/c his foot was too swollen for anything else! BTW, he has no idea why his foot began to swell a few days ago...)

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Then we trudged through the narrowest paths being sliced by sharp long blades of grass that hung off bushes like leaves. Our guide said that these paths weren't kept up b/c technically we weren't allowed to be walking on them. Oh... I guess that makes it okay then. When we finally made it to the open clearing we all sat down to take a break and wash out our woods.

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Than it was back into the brush!

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Thats me, and this is Elena:

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a primary school teacher who I've been talking with for about the past hour about our travels. She offered for Joe and I to sleep in her school on the weekend and she could bring some blankets. I thought it would be awesome to sleep in a school over night, but I told her that we were staying with Ashley, so we should be set for now. (Remember when we did that in junior high? That was a fucking blast! My junior high had a sleepover on the weekend this one time and they had the cafeteria open all night for you to get snacks and drinks and bakery made by the moms bake sale style, and then they had all the classrooms set up with different activities like poker and PlayStaiton and board games. They also had the gym open with scheduled times for games, and you would just show up if you wanted to play volleyball and the teachers would get everyone on teems and we would play until it was time for the next sport. Then they had one hallway set up for girls, and the other for boys, and the different genders weren't allowed into the others hallway, but that was pretty much expected, and avoided by some of the “cool kids.” Basically the night was set up by the Panda group, People Against Narcotics and Drug Abuse... maybe, but anyway anti drug group showing kids all the different things they could do to have fun without shooting up. But, I digress.) Turns out that she knew Ashley, and so did most of the people on the hike (CSers stick together). They all called her a bum for not coming and told me to pass it along. I would.

This next time when we came out of the brush we were hit by the smell of rotting eggs.

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The Taiwanese government didn't keep up the paths here because they deemed these sulfuric fumes to be too dangerous for the public.

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So obviously, the French guy had to check it out.

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And I did too. (But I didn't take the sulfur rock he was handing me. I thought that may be crossing some sort of chemical line).

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Amanda and her dad, the 60 yr old who had been to pretty much every country in all of Asia:

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The chickens:

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The rock that reminds me of a radio active Pizza the Hut from Space Balls:

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Then we hiked our way into a dark poets dream land:

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We lost some of the older women along the way because there was a longer path up the mountain, but not a steep, so they broke off from us. While we waited for them at the top there was a bus station (so we didn't have to walk back down) and a small snack store where we all bought hot chocolate.

The bus ride down:

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This picture has caused some commotion with my Uncle Tony, so I thought I would explain the photo before you get the wrong idea. The French guy is her boyfriend, and he was actually really cutely sleeping against her while she occasionally closed her eyes and leaned her head back... until someone pointed out why he got to sleep on her shoulder, and shouldn't it be the other way around. He woke up for that and explained with a heaver French accent than usual, “I would get more sleep at night if she did not snore like a pig!” She gave him a good slap to his chest, and that is what put a blissful smile across his face.

Speed of light bus ride through Taipei (it only looks like this b/c I don't know how to work the camera)

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After we got dropped off we crossed the street to the night market for some dinner. I was supposed to meet Joe back at the Taipei station at 7:30, so I had about an hour before I needed to head out.

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These photos were everything I thought China was going to be.

At dinner we sat down at a curry place and were almost immediately attacked by these school girls! It was part of their school assignment to talk to some foreigners and then get their picture taken with them. Luckily I somehow ended up on the Taiwanese side of the table, so I was spared. They also gave us a present for answering their questions.

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I had to cut out kinda early to go and meet Joe, but all and all it was a nice long day of fun hiking and meeting new people. I was getting tired, so I was just about ready for another long and strenuous work out getting lost trying to find our Couchsurfer after dark.

Joe made me wash the mud off my legs when he saw me at the train station, and then we had to fork over an extra few dollars b/c we left the luggage in there too long, but then we were able to get Ashley on the phone and got some pretty simple directions and we headed out. She was still at dinner, so we told her no rush, and we would pick up a few things along the way too (I didn't really get to eat too much because I had questions about traveling for most of the dinner, and thats a subject you really don't want to get me started on if your not interested, this blog, case in point.)

I get my own bed! Joe and I didn't really have time today to smooth over how rejected he has been feeling lately, so when he noticed that the sofa was more comfy that the guest bed, he took up camp in the living room. Ashley didn't mind because she had the nicest, biggest flat (covered in mirrors rather than wallpaper... kinda strange). She wasn't a fan of the mirror thing too, but she said you get used to it.

The next morning after sunrise (he tries to wake up before sunrise to commune with the trees) Joe crawled into the guest bed with me (hard not to notice since it really only was for one person), and I fell back asleep in his arms. This is my favorite way to make up, but it is also the most sweep under the rug way as well. Don't worry, it catches up to me in the end. Or maybe, that will make you worry more.

Posted by - Rain 04:17 Comments (1)

Belia is a Coffee Goddess

We slept in pretty late, so by the time we were both ready to go out, it was just about time to meet with Belia. She picked us up at the subway station near Channa's place, and then drove us outside of Taipei (she really didn't like being in the city, but had to come in for her work today) to her hometown of Yilan. This was a small city just off the coast and before the mountains, and the drive from Taipei was ridiculously reminiscent of the drive from Honolulu to Kailua. I couldn't believe how much this place looked almost exactly like Hawaii, and I couldn't have been more happy to be back in such a place (sorry China, but I may rag on you a bit from this point onward...)

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When we finally hit Yilan (about the same time it took us from Honolulu to Kailua actually) I couldn't believe how green and beautiful it was! They had actual houses scattered about, and in China the only houses we ever saw were like houses made of straw and dirt. These houses were actual modern houses, not just apartment complexes, and then spacing between the houses ws not more dirt and grime (sorry China, I really kinda am at this point), but rice fields that reminded me of the bright green fields of grass you can see only in Easter baskets. (I love Taiwan!)

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Then we made first stop at a Taiwanese cultural museum that Belia had taken Irine (~5yr) and Sheryl (~7yr) (her nieces who live next door to my mom). Inside we weren't allowed to take photos, but it was interesting to look at the costumes, jewelry, art, and wooden carvings just like you would expect out of any well designed museum. Waling through you weren't faced with just boxed room after room of glassed cased items, but you were wound through a maze of rectangular our circular rooms that had the artifacts set up almost like decorations that made the inside beautiful and welcoming with the walls usually painted a deep maroon or red color to give you the feel that you weren't inside a white cube like so many museums.

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Then outside they had a shopping area set up in replication of an actual old road in Taiwan.

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First we stopped at the Kiosk and we got Taiwanese milky sherbert ice cream (really good). Then we wondered from store to store eating samples of authentic Taiwanese sweets and bakery and looking at the really cool hand made crafts and souvenirs. I really liked the paper shop where they made lamps and clocks all out of folded paper, and Joe liked, but thought he could do better, the wooden store where they could burn chinese symbols into small circular cut tree trunks. Joe mentioned that he made art using a soldering gun on wood too, and the woman in the store tried to shove the gun into his hand so he can make his own keychain (but he smiled and refused b/c their prices were really quite high, even if he made his won).

Crazy puppet shop:
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There was also a temple at the end of the street, but Joe wasn't impressed b/c it was new, and he only likes old looking temples. But I really liked it and feel that if you never build anything new, then all you will have in a thousand years will be only foundations of older things. So what we build new today, will be the old looking thing for people to enjoy in the future.

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Then we looked through some cafes and restaurants,

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and then headed back down the street on the other side, moving between shops without having to go back to the road, just crossing though the connecting doors; and at one point Belia got really far ahead of us, and we couldn't pass up shops quickly like you can on the street, because the cool things are right there in front of you, and you have to touch them, and browse though the shelves. So when we finally caught back up with her we discovered why she had run ahead:

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She bought us cotton candy and a bubble maker.

“Americans like sweet things, right?” She asked us. “Yes, we do...” I answered ashamedly. But I was too shy to walk around with the huge thing of cotton candy, especially when Joe kept repeating that line from Super Troupers, “Hey buddy! If you don't get this cotton candy out of my face!” Anyways, I guess you had to be there, or have seen the movie (watch it, its good). Belia kept trying to make the bubbles, and told us that it was the biggest thing when she was a child, but she couldn't quite get it working. I tried, and it was really hard to get the pressure to start a bubble from the straw with this plastic goo on the end, but Joe seemed to master it, so it all worked out.

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We both agreed that Belia may have gotten us confused with entertaining Irene and Sheryl, but in the end it was really fun to be treated like a kid from time to time.

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Then we headed to Belia's apartment to get some soap and towels for the Onsen (Japanese hot spring) she was going to take us to after a quick visit to her office.

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Yeah, her office is a coffee office. The first floor was basically bags and bags of coffee beans, and then the second floor was a surprisingly huge and nice flat! She had a coffee bar set up on one side, then chairs and her collection of coffee cups from around the world in a glass cased shelf on the other, then on the far side of the room she had sofas and a real authentically old fashioned yet new looking audio system next to her dvd screen projected from the celling.

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Then she sat us down at the bar and showed us how the rest of the world makes coffee (its like she's a mad scientist!)

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(I am getting one when I have my own place)

And, taste test later, it was the best coffee! Maybe I'm just deprived from being in China for so long (sorry China! But really, you had it coming by only having instant coffee everywhere). Then she also made a late, and Joe was shocked to learn how people steam milk (we had a real milk steamer on my espresso machine, but I was always getting it wrong, so I gave up on trying... after tasting how real steamed (orgainic) soy milk is in her kenyan coffee (fresh ground) tasted... I'm sorry I didn't have more persistence).

For dinner Belia took us to this really great vegan restaurant that Joe decided that we needed to make a special trip back out to Yilan at least one more time so we could go here again. They had the best vegan meat food I've ever had, and all of their food was orgainic and whole grain! (Joe's head explodes). The prices were really reasonable too, but that didn't matter too much, because as with China, my money was no good.

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At the Onsen Belia told us that we would have an hour to ourselves in a private bath for the 2 of us, and we could come and meet her at the foot massage place near where she parked the car. Inside they had buckets for washing your bodies off before getting into the hot spring, and then you just hop in! This onsen had the hot spring pipped into the different stone baths, so you could control how much hotspring water or how much cold spring water you had filling the pool, and then when the water was to he brim, it would just spillover into the shower area and drain out there. Belia told us to constantly keep letting the pool over flow so you always have fresh spring water flowing around you, and so we turned the hot on full bast. After about 20 minutes of that, I couldn't take it any more, and then we herd knocking on our door. It truned out that it wasn't 20 minutes at all, but it had been 50 minutes, and we only had 10 minutes left (thats how you know your relaxed, when time ceases to be calculable).

We met Belia just as she was finishing up soaking her feet in the hot spring that ran in a river through the massage pagoda building, and then we walked through the free hot spring river park where they had wooden benches set up next to or inside the river where people could soak their feet for free. This area was beautifully lite with lights at the water and behind the well landscaped gardens. They also had free public showers in a building next to the hot spring, but they were co-ed, so mostly they were just for men.

At the end of the park was the road for the bus that would take us back to Taipei, and then we saw the bus pass us by! So the 3 of us ran for the bus stop, Joe in the lead, follows by me and then Belia (he was really running, but we only were jogging because we figured he could hold the bus). But the bus turned out to be waiting there for a particular time, so we ended up sitting on the bus for about 15 minutes before they left anyways. (Oh well, at lest this wasn't one of those times when we have to run with all our gear. We only had to run with my purse and Belia's bag she gave us with 2 towels and a bar aof soap... which we still had). But Belia had said that she has time to hang out with us again our last week in Taiwan (we are only here for 2), so we figured we could give them back to her then (a little foreshadowing here but, yeah, we are in a rush the last time we saw her too, so we also forgot then. But Belia was almost complaining about how many towels she gets from expensive onsens she goes to, so Joe convinced me that she would be glad to help us out with our lack of having out own towel situation.)

Posted by - Rain 05:49 Comments (0)

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