We were complacent. We thought we had this living in Taiwan thing nailed. Turns out what we had nailed was just going around our small circuit of familiar places.
Exploring new parts of Taiwan was more tiring than we thought it would be. Everywhere we went we had to figure out what was a hotel and what the road signs said and where to eat. There are fewer national chains here than in the US so there was less that looked familiar. We couldn’t recognize the signs that mean “good food here.” Once we got to the east coast, there was very little catering to westerners. There were fewer people who were willing to try out their English.
We hadn’t fully realized how easy Taichung and the school made it for us. Every day on the road was a new challenge in figuring out where to get what we needed – food, lodging, tea. Some of that is exciting and fascinating. Too much is exhausting.
This road trip was intended as a full circle of the island. But when we got close to Taichung we made a beeline for home. Ostensibly this was to check on the cats. In reality, it was an excuse to crash on our own bed and eat our own food for a day or two.
Yesterday we napped with the cats all day long, then ate spaghetti and watched American TV (Big Bang Theory). Today we ate at the most American restaurant we know (Early Bird Diner) and shopped at Costco. I’m hoping the culture shock is out of our systems now. We plan some day trips in the next couple of days and then will hit the road to explore the northeast coast before school starts again.
Every day we venture outside our familiar path we are getting a little more comfortable with the new and different world we live in. But sometimes, we need to step back and regroup before we venture out again.
It’s been challenging finding good information about Taiwan in English. One of the best sources we’ve found is the Travel in Taiwan magazine from the tourist bureau. Their website looks good as well. http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0000203
We just found a website of factory tourism. We like factories. http://www.taiwanplace21.org/en/index.htm
The best map we found is the Taiwan Farm one I picked up somewhere. There is a version in English that is very clear. The website is less clear, but may still be useful if you are looking for something in particular. http://www.taiwanfarm.org.tw/com/index.php/en/farmgps/lohas-taiwan.html
The hotel last night said they had parking “in the building.” Dan had to back the car through the lobby and behind a curtain to the parking spot.
Taiwan is full of these mechanical flagmen. The arms wave up and down. They work surprisingly well – just enough lifelike detail to get the drivers’ attention.
The marble sidewalks are found all over Hualien. I like guessing what the rest of the marble was made into.
I have a reputation in my family for sniffing out great little restaurants in any city. Today we found a tasty curry place in Hualien. We were starving after the long drive to Taroko Gorge. Driving down highway 9 to Hualien we spied a busy restaurant. Since it was after the lunch hour we figured a busy restaurant was a good bet. We were right.
I would have gotten you a picture of the food but it was good and we were hungry so we ate it before we thought about you. You’ll have to come here on your own. Jia Curry has several kinds of curry and tasty milk tea. We tried the chicken curry and beef curry. Next time we’ll take the owner’s recommendation for fish curry and vegetable curry. Yum.
We got talking to the owner and found that he also runs a backpacker’s hotel in the center of town. He bought and renovated a floor of an older hotel and turned it into Realive. We liked the way he ran Jia Curry so took a chance on Realive. We’re staying here tonight and it looks like a great choice. It’s clean and very comfortable. We have plans to stay here again on the way back later in the week.
Now Dan needs to talk this entrepreneur into speaking to his business students.
1. Two way roads that are more than one lane wide. Much of highway 14 and 8 is narrower than that. Fortunately it was a weekday in the off season so traffic was relatively scarce. And everyone was appropriately cautious and polite. Please note that this photo is of a two way road. It was really exciting when the road was wide enough for a stripe to be painted in the middle.
2. Tunnels that are more than one lane wide. One lane tunnels are scary.
3. Tunnels with lights inside. Dark twisty one lane tunnels are really scary.
4. Guardrails. I really like guardrails. It’s a long, long, long drop off the side of the road. Parts of the road had guardrails on both sides. And needed it.
5. Stunning views. Oh. My. Amazing. Well worth the drive. We grinned the whole way. Even through the scary bits. Breathtaking views. (the pictures really don’t do it justice)
6. Fresh, cold, mountain air. It smelled like the top of Baldy at Sun Valley. Made me cry.
7. Well maintained roads. Thank you highway people. These roads are very well maintained which is a wonder considering what it takes to move construction equipment up there and that the road is constantly slumping. Really not much land for the road to hang on to.
8. Clouds that boil up from the valley below but do not cover the roadway. The clouds boiling up were very impressive. Until we dropped a little lower into the valleys and the clouds covered the road. That was more challenging.
What an amazing day. The scariest drive of my life. And well worth it.