It’s been almost a year since I’ve returned home and I’m embarrassed I haven’t motivated myself to finish writing my adventures. Now as I begin to plan my next big, rendezvous, it’s time to share the rest of my stories.
Last I was in beautiful Bali on my way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for my third time to meet up with one of my favorite Coq coworkers, Chris. A handsome Brit who quickly became a great friend to me. He wanted to hit up Taiwan before heading home so I decided to join him. After a drunk reunion celebrating 4th of July we flew to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.
I honestly knew nothing about this country other than it’s an island off the coast of China. We arrived late, hopped on a bus in search of the cheapest hostel. After wandering the streets for a good hour, we found the place. Fully booked of course. 2am and no energy to hit the streets again, we close to nap on the common room couches.
The next day we threw our packs back on and hit the pavement to find a new home in the old district of Ximen. We quickly fell for this part of the city. It was like the Times Square of Taipei. Alive with young Taiwanese, street performers, and loads of great shopping. In the alley of our hostel we ran into a Chinese Buddhist celebration. Kids killing it on the drums, dragons dancing, and entire neighborhood there to support. I immediately thanked Chris for bringing to a place that was never on my radar. We went out and shared some of Taiwan’s finest lager of course called Taiwan beer.
The next morning we began our lap around the country. First stop, Hualien (pictured above), a seaside city famous for its Taroko National Park. We rented a scooter and took off to explore the gorgeous Taroko Gorge. Upon reaching the entrance up, we learned we would have to wait an hour until the road opened up (due to monsoon season, excessive water). Chris and I decided to drive back a bit to explore other areas to kill time. It was then when I experienced my first injury of my entire trip.
While attempting a yogi pose on a suspended bridge, I quickly lost my balance and my head hit gravel in seconds. We walked over to a temple where we washed the cut and decided to drive back down to the town to find some antiseptic and bandaids. Lucky enough a nurse happen to be in the convenience store when Chris and I were trying to explain the situation in broken English (the Taiwanese were some of the friendliest Asians and although not the best at English, they’d do anything to help). This nurse checked out my cut and took me across the street to a clinic where I learned for the first time in my life, I would get stitches. Laying face down on a table in this little doctor’s office in the middle of Taiwan I squeezed Chris’s hand as the needle sewed up my head. Before they stitched me the nurse stuck a piece of tape on my head with my name on it and snapped a picture which Chris said if you didn’t know you’d think I was dead. $30 later, prescription pain relievers (aspirin is not over the counter in this country!!), and a laughable experience Chris and I hopped back on the scooter to journey through the gorge. It was breathtaking and worth it. We winded around the mountain, reaching higher and higher in to the clouds. A memorable day for sure that will always make me laugh when I touch the tiny scar.
The next morning we caught a beautiful sunrise overlooking early morning fisherman and took a scenic cruise along the eastern coast. We hopped back on the train heading south to wrap around the island and jumping off on the west coast town of Chiayi. Here we bordered a bus to head for higher altitude to the Alishan National Park. Chris had heard about their famous ‘Sea of Clouds’ sunrise when the clouds move in to a basin between mountains and it can resemble the sea.
We reached the top and quickly realized we didn’t plan for the temperature change. Chris and I are also super stingy when traveling together and will do anything to save a buck. Taiwan was a bit more pricey then the rest of Southeast Asia and we planned to stick to our budgets so knowingly we didn’t book accommodation for the night. We’d find somewhere to rest, why pay for a room that we would leave at 4am to catch an epic sunrise? After exploring the park and it’s ancient 3,000 year old trees, we scoured the area for cheap accommodation. It was cold. I already had a cold and didn’t want to risk getting sicker. We begged, pleaded, and finally bargained for a nice warm room for a price we weren’t allowed to share with anyone else 🙂 For dinner we went to grab steamed rice to go (again being the cheap asses we are) when a group of families invited us to join their meal. They were finished a family style dinner when they saw us buying rice to go. “We have so much leftover good, please join us.” So for the next hour we laughed, ate, and shared our experiences with some wonderful Taiwanese. The hospitality made filled my heart as well as my belly and I climbed in to my warm bed smiling and exhausted. The next day we took the slow train up to the top for the sunrise. Watching the sun rise with a group of anxious tourists, cameras ready, is always an interesting experience to me. As the sun rose, the people cheered, the tour guide yelled on about the history, and slowly the clouds seeped in through the mountain peaks. We hung out snapping pictures and made the long walk back to the hotel where we napped before heading back down to Chiayi. Explored the city that night looking for any kind of fun, walked in to some weird bars, karaoke clubs and even a place where you can fish out of a pool. The next day we headed back to Taipei where our trip started.
We chose a different hostel in a new area to explore. I absolutely love Taipei for it’s night markets. Everywhere the streets flood with vendors of all types, mix in cute Asian retail, and stinky tofu. We then learned a typhoon was on it’s way. The night I planned to fly to Singapore would actually be a night stuck inside a hostel drinking with a bunch of Americans. They were on holiday from the teaching English positions and had plans to visit an island that wouldn’t be happening anymore either. We grabbed booze from 7-11 and ended up spending the night playing drinking games and running outside to play in the rain. The weather was pretty crazy and the locals laughed at us running around in bathing suits as everyone else hid for shelter. The next day the weather was clear and I was sending Chris off to India. Another sad g’bye but glad it happened and then it was just me in Taipei. And the Americans. We decided to go clubbing that night, had a fun alcohol-fueled evening, that resulted in me wandering the streets near our hostel. I went home early. Alone. And the cab driver didn’t understand my directions. I made it home safe. Glad to have been in a safe city and thankful for my directional sense getting me there. The next day I was off to Manila to run around the Philippines with my favorite North Carolina boys.
Taiwan. One week. Well worth it. Scenic views. Stitches to the head. And a great trip with a great mate.