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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

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