Scooping up the field mice…

It’s a beautiful morning.  Still warm, but comfortable now.  The sun is shining through the banana tree leaves, and the clouds are fluffy and gorgeous.

002

As we were driving home the other day through similar lovely weather, Dan mentioned that he had an idea for his Chinese name.  We have a friend who chose a name which translates to Handsome Dragon Dragon.  It raises some eyebrows, but he figures it’s his choice and that’s who he wants to be.

Dan wants his Chinese name to be Little Bunny Foo Foo.

(All together now…Little bunny foo foo, hopping through the forest…)

269

Advertisements

Waiting for the Typhoon

Typhoon Matmo is headed straight for us.  While that sounds dire, Taichung is actually pretty well protected. Most typhoons sweep in from the Pacific Ocean and hit the east coast and mountains in the center of Taiwan before eventually dumping rain on Taichung.  Even so, we are looking forward to the Taichung equivalent of a snow day.  The big billboards around town are furled in readiness for the storm.

045

It gives quite a different look to the place.

Don’t you want gravy with that?

Once (in a previous work life), I was on a business trip to India for three weeks.  As one does on a business trip, I got very tired of the room service food. I love Indian food, but the same thing every day for three weeks was too much of a good thing.  All of the food was soupy..  Every dish had a sauce and all of the ingredients were cooked to mush.  It was tasty.  But eventually the consistency was too much of a sameness.  One night I ordered the only things on the menu that did not come with sauce.  I ordered two or three dishes that didn’t come with sauce.  The room service operator was stunned.  “You didn’t order gravy.  Don’t you want gravy?”  No. I don’t want gravy.

The same thing happened today at the Bicycle Café (officially known as Warehouse 185).  The rooftop garden at this café is my favorite place in Taichung. The weather was beautiful today – fluffy clouds and blue sky.  We told the cashier that we would be on the roof.  “But the air conditioning isn’t on inside on that floor.”  Uh. yeah.  That’s why we will be outside.

We had a lovely meal.

019

Weekend in Hualien

(note: this is a long post because it was a packed tight weekend.  Vickey is now an honorary Norton for her adventurous spirit, detailed planning, love of good food and ability to laugh in the pouring rain.)

hualien 029

Vickey had a last minute space on a fast weekend trip she planned to Hualien and Taroko Gorge.  It sounded like great fun so of course I jumped on board.  Vickey had planned travel train through Taipei to Hualien and back, a whale watching tour, a bus tour of Taroko Gorge, and a splurge on a seaside hotel.  it was so nice to have someone else do such a thorough job of planning. All I needed to do was show up ridiculously early Saturday morning with my overnight bag in hand.

We weren’t able to get on the fast train but I think the slow train was in some ways better.  We had a much better view when the landscape wasn’t whizzing by.  Plus it gave us time to grade papers and get our homework out of the way before the weekend began.

One of the owners of the hotel, Juan, met us at the train station in Hualien.  Wow – this hotel (Hotel Bayview) exceeded our expectations!  The room was beautiful and comfortable with a great view. There was a nice dining area with always available tea, coffee, and cookies.  The breakfast buffet the next morning was enough to keep us going all day – good food and a good variety.  This is definitely on my list of hotels to stay at in the future.

Juan assisted us out with all the tour arrangements.  His English is perfect which was very helpful for us.  There had been landslides recently in Taroko Gorge so some of the tour arrangements had changed.  This was shoulder season so some things were still “getting ready for the real tourists” as we say in our family.

We settled on whale watching on Saturday afternoon and a shorter Taroko Gorge tour on Sunday before catching the train home.

Whale watching turned out to be … interesting.  It had been raining on and off all day. We assumed that of course the whale watching boats wouldn’t go out if the water was too rough.  Wrong.  Or maybe we were all wimps.  Once we got past the breakwater the rain was pouring down, the spray (the saltiest water I’ve tasted) was slapping in our faces, and the boat was bouncing.  A lot.  We saw dolphins jumping and that was pretty cool, but what we are most proud of on this trip was that neither of us got sick.  Unlike at least a third of the boatload of tourists.  The trip was shorter than advertised but no one was complaining.  It was a pretty quiet and queasy group that made it back to the dock.

hualien 045

After we got back to the hotel we took a short walk on the bike path by the ocean to clear our heads.  In the hotel room we showered off the salt spray, changed to dry clothes, and  headed out to dinner.  I dragged Vickey to our favorite restaurant in Hualien (Jia Curry).  Fortunately she loved it.

We thought about going to the stone market but instead wound up at a used bookstore.  A used bookstore in a converted house with English language novels, nooks and crannies with armchairs, quirky drawings, a coffee bar, three cats, and a sleepy dog.  Heaven!

Sunday morning we tried a little bit of everything at the breakfast buffet.

hualien 102

Then we went for a longer walk on the bike path before the Taroko tour.  The bike paths in Hualien are great – long stretches of smooth pavement and wonderful views.

hualien 120

We had tried to get an English language taxi driver for our tour but the usual people were not available.  Instead we joined a Chinese language tour.  Fortunately several people on the tour spoke excellent English and could tell us the key points.  We also got to know a nice American woman on vacation from her job in China.

The rain was pouring down by this point in the day.  The one thing I forgot to pack was any sort of raincoat.  Or an umbrella.  The hotel gave me one of those ubiquitous disposable raincoats which ultimately meant that I was wet on the outside from the rain and inside from my sweat.

But oh, the view!  When Dan and I drove through Taroko Gorge I was so ready to be done with the drive that we didn’t’ explore much.  Now I know that there are some great paths I would love to explore further.  What a wonderful place.

hualien 202

I guess the tour time needed to be padded out so it ended up on a beach just down from our hotel (where we had already spent plenty of time exploring the beach).  Vickey tried to just stay put in the nice dry bus, but it was “all tourists off the bus” so she had to stand in the rain with the rest of us until they let us back on.

hualien 285

One quick weekend, a whole lot of rain, a long train ride, a queasy boat trip,  and a tour in a foreign language – we had a great time.

hualien 260

Mountains in the Mist

My family loves being in the mountains.  We particularly feel at home when we are in the clouds (rain) in the mountains.

lion head mountain 074

Last Sunday we had perfect mountain weather.  This was one day when we got out the warm coats, sweaters, hats, and even gloves.  We headed north for a change and found ourselves at Lion’s Head Mountain (also known as Mt. Shitou).  First we explored the path to Shueilian Cave.  Lots of stairs so I only went part way. But it was beautiful and peaceful.

lion head mountain 088

Then we moved on the visitor’s center where there was a very helpful man who told us to be sure to visit Cyuanhua Temple.  Partway up the long, long stairs to the temple there was an urn of free hot tea – quite welcome on a chilly, rainy day.

lion head mountain 161

Once we got up to the temple there were some hopeful folks staffing an admissions desk (with a steep admission price) but we bypassed that and found just as interesting things at the lower entrance.  This area is clearly set up for much larger crowds but the day we visited it was practically empty.

lion head mountain 225

We finished the day driving along part of the least inviting seashore ever.  (That’s concrete, not beach.)

lion head mountain 257

I’ll stick with the mountains.
lion head mountain 151

Parks and Recreation

There seem to be parks everywhere in Taichung.  Quite a few of the parks aren’t even on the maps.  We’ve found some good ones recently but one of my favorites is still the little park a few blocks from our apartment.  I took a walk this afternoon to return some library books to the English language children’s library in the park and to stroll along the paths.

042

In addition to the library, this park has exercise equipment, plenty of space for evening dance groups, walking paths, and ponds.

050

And today there was a roller skating class.

043