Taiwan is a warm, tropical world, and southern Taiwan is especially so. This week, we have experienced its harsher side, being baked for hours on end in the strong sunlight, and also its more softer side, in the humid and slightly cooler nighttime. On Sunday evening, we arrived in Taitung, our first excursion on this visit to the eastern coast of Taiwan. The city of Taitung itself lies in the giant East Rift Valley, and brilliant mountain scenery surrounds it.
On our first night, we went to Siwei Night Market, which was quoted on Tripadvisor as being “a more rustic night market”. What they mean by that is that it’s decidedly for locals. Many night markets more renowned in bigger Taiwanese cities have stands which boast neon signs, each more garish than its neighbor’s, and often feature a flat screen TV that loops a news segment about the stand. Siwei Night Market had almost none of that. We did get a delicious crepe stuffed with smoked chicken and vegetables for Steve and a bowl of steaming hot spicy stinky tofu for me (it tastes much better than it sounds!). We also watched several men at open-air karaoke, which seems to be a pursuit for the 50 and above, not that it’s easy to tell the age of Asian men. But they had just set up along one of the aisles of the night market, and were warbling songs in Taiwanese into a microphone which reverberated around it. Steve and I watched for several minutes, entranced. Continue reading Summer on the East Coast of Taiwan.→
Written on the 781
Sunday, July 27, 6:13 pm
It is the evening, and we are seeing our first sunset over the mountains. We’re most of the way through our rail journey from Kaohsiung to Taitung, winding a slow counter-clockwise arc around the southern tip of the island and emerging on the eastern side of Taiwan. Many of our evenings in Taichung and Kaohsiung on the west coast have featured splendid sunsets over the water and a city, but in Taitung and Dulan on the east coast, we will be chasing sunrises over the water and sunsets over the mountains.
The hillsides here are fairly rugged, and the train zips long much closer to the water. For some parts of our trip, we were darting through mountain tunnels to emerge on a narrow railway with the water and a precipitous drop on one side and on the other high mountains that we had to lift our faces to greet. The view is definitely worth it. On the right, the sky fades from a pale distant blue to light pink clouds, and then back to the blue-grey of the ocean. On the left, mountains barely a dozen meters from our left will loom close, and then give way suddenly to large expansive green valleys. Deep in the heart of the valley, we can see the lighter and mistier shapes of more distant mountains, and finally beyond that, the clouds themselves, gilded and illuminated with a deeper richer tone by the sunlight that has already sunk beneath the mountains. It is really strikingly lovely. Continue reading A happy return to Kaohsiung.→
Written on the 513 train Taichung to Kaohsiung Tuesday, July 21, 3:45 pm
The slow train south just pulled in to Changhua, just south of Taichung. We’re on our way back to Kaohsiung, a city that we haven’t seen since we stayed there for three months in 2013-2014 and left in the (relative) cold of Taiwan winter. It’s the middle of summer now, and Kaohsiung will undoubtedly be warm, but we’re excited nonetheless to revisit the place and continue our vacation! As of this past Friday, July 17, I finished my internship, and now for the next month, Steve and I are involved in the serious business of enjoying ourselves.
Our vacation from this summer started on Saturday, when we sold all of our belongings in Taichung and took a bus from the train station to Sun Moon Lake. Last time we were in Taiwan, we made a brief overnight trip to Sun Moon Lake, and found it lovely but the experience lacking, the entire time being quite a rainy misty mess. This time, I booked us three nights in a hostel on the south side of the lake in a smaller town called Ita Thao, mainly inhabited by Taiwanese aboriginals of the Thao tribe. The result was a very relaxing and satisfying vacation. We arrived on Saturday, and collapsed into our hostel for a nap before emerging to make sense of the street food situation. For dinner, we had a guabao each, a sandwich of slices of mountain boar with pickled vegetables and fine julienned cucumbers, all in a fluffy white bun, and a deep-fried pasty with cheese and more mountain boar meat. We enjoyed our dinner with beers out on the pier, watching the mist-cloaked lake. From our vantage point, the mountains that surround the lake were no more than outlined in varying shades of monochrome blue. Continue reading Hiking Sun Moon Lake.→
Come Saturday, we’re saying goodbye to Taichung, our home for the past two months, which is yet another amazing place in Taiwan. We were cautious when we first came – people didn’t have the most effusive things to say about Taichung – it lacked an MRT or subway system, wasn’t either the capital of the south or the north, was full of triads and Taiwanese gang activity (this is still true), and when we came in 2013, we had a bad experience here with a hostel which wasn’t really a hostel. Despite all these things, we actually found plenty to enjoy around the city. It has changed a lot in the past few years, and the public transit is no disappointment. It also has lovely parks, cheap fresh fruit, a lot of great dogs and people, and of course, delicious restaurants which we’ve gone back to time after time. Without a kitchen, we end up eating out for pretty much every meal, and I think I’d like to write about these and record these in our memory. I’ve also attached prices and locations in case people wander onto this page and want to visit.
Ryan introduced us to A-Gen on our very first morning in Taichung. We’ve been familiar with egg pancakes (蛋餅) since we last visited Taiwan, but instead of being soft and oily pancakes, these are crispy, delicious, pancakes with an egg scrambled on the other side. Our favorite ones come with bacon and American cheese, and a light sprinkling of chopped green onions. AMAZING for just 40 NT (~$1.30 USD). We will have to hit them up before leaving the city. A-Gen is located on Meicun, two blocks south of Gongyi, and tends to accumulate a 10-minute line by 9 am, but as I have to get to work by 8 am, that suits us just fine. Continue reading Ode to food.→
This is the hundredth post we’ve made on our circumnavacation blog! Kudos to me and Steve. Steve for writing three of those, and me for writing the rest, a number which shall only be known to those who can do subtraction. A mystery, in other words. *wink*
This summer in Taiwan has gone far too fast! Let me try to recap what’s been going on in the past few weeks, what we’re doing right now, and what we’re up to in the next month or so.
The last time we saw our brave heroes, they were being reunited in Taichung… Steve and I missed each other a lot when I was in Taipei for two weeks, but it also had its perks. He used a lot more Chinese while I was gone, and people here do treat a white man differently when he’s not being accompanied by an Asian woman. He gets a lot more “Hello”s on the street, among other things. I on the other hand got to visit lots of cat cafés, ha! I think I got the better end of the bargain. Since I came back to Taichung, we’ve been doing more of the usual things, trying to explore more of the city, and paying more attention to our individual projects. I have a lot of ambitious plans for the second year of grad school, and some of it needs planning and attention now. Steve is also doing several freelance projects involving building apps and websites, and it’s consuming a lot of his attention. Continue reading Circumnavacation hits 100, and the summer is flying by.→