Wednesday, October 30, 2013


10/27/13 Taipei

The morning I was to leave Hualien, Sunny, my host, took me around the city itself, which I had not yet previously explored. We first had breakfast with her parents aft a cafe, where I demolished a rather decent eggs Benedict, before hopping on her scooter and getting on our way. We first visited an old train yard turned cultural park. A very small cultural park.

There were some restored Japanese Colonial Era structures containing historical displays, surrounding a small square where some aborigines were holding some kind of event. While that was going on, I investigated the structures. The displays were quite interesting, one of pre-metal civilization artifacts, one of colonial era china, one was a smithy, and the last was a pair of holding cells for drunks.

Our next stop was a still standing neighborhood of Japanese era residences, though for some of them, standing was about all they could handle. A few of them were in good condition, solely for tourism purposes.

We finished our morning at the Pine Garden, a structure on the heights overlooking Hualien's harbor. Unsurprisingly, it used to be the headquarters of the Japanese Navy in the area. A few snapshots later, we went to lunch(steamed buns), returned to her house to pick up my pack(where her parents presented me with honey cakes for omiyage), and she dropped my off at the station to catch my 1300hrs train. All in all, I endjoyed my trip to Hualien. I didn't get cuddled or laid, but that was already unlikely.

Getting off the train 3 hrs later in Taipei, I immediately hopped on the MRT to meet my cousin in Ximen, where we watched Gravity in IMAX 3D. Exciting and beautiful. We had dinner at his place, and I caught the MRT home afterwards.

10/26/13 Hualien

We went to Taroko Gorge today, Sindy, Sunny, and me. I had visited there once before many years ago, but my memories of that trip are more than fuzzy, so this trip was both welcome and fresh. I had breakfast twice this morning, once being turnip cake with Sunny's grandparents, once being bread and gyoza with the rest of Sunny's family.

My host and I left son after our morning meal, meeting Sindy on a taxi to the train station, where we bought day tickets for the Taroko bus line. We rode the bus to the end of the line, determined to make our way back along the line.

At our first stop, again, the end of the line, there was supposed to be some kind of Catholic church or something to hike to. After hiking in a big circle, we found a not so impressive building with extremely deceptive steeple. Disappointing, to say the least.

Our second stop was lunch, followed by a longer hike(3km) along the river gorge. The water was a beautiful shade of bluegreen, much different from when last I came. Then, it was just after some heavy rainfall, causing dirt and other particles to muddy the water, so today was a welcome change.

Our last stop on the Taroko line was a beach, with seriously strong waves. As opposed to most beaches I've been to, this one consisted mostly of pebbles, as opposed to sand, so it wasn't at all annoying.

Returning to Hualien proper, we had dinner with Sunny's family at her home. Eight people around the dinner table makes for a more raucous dinner than I'm used to, but it as enjoyable. We took a short ride to the local nightmarket afterwards, again meeting up with Sindy's mother, before we headed home and bunked down for the night.

10/25/13 Hualien

Currently staying at a friend's house in Hualien, after taking a three hour train ride south east of Taipei. the odd thing is apparently, there's a faster train, but it's not like I'm in a rush. Still, while I've plenty of time to spare this go around, it's useful information for the next time I come back.

My friend, Sunny, who I met over the summer, has been most gracious in inviting me to visit her hometown of Hualien. Suuny, her boyfriend(name loosely translated as Champion), and our other friend Sindy ferried me around on scooters all day. I'm not sure on exact locations, but after a quick lunch of wontons, we visited a new residential development, part of which is being build alongside an artificial lake. The water was a very turquoise blue for some reason, butt there were many tourists around checking out the development. This was a first for me, as I've never seen a normal residential development be used as a tourist attraction before.

This was followed by a visit to an old sugar factory, where we ran into another friend, Uncle Sam, our bus driver and tour guide from our trip during the summer. He refused to take a picture with us, so we had to console ourselves with ice cream. It was starting to get dark, so we got back on the scooters and set off for dinner, that being hot pot.

We spent the rest of the evening at Starbucks chatting after being joined by Sindy's mother. Conversation was easy and contained very few awkward silences.

Scooter backseat riding was today's new experience, and learning that Hualien county is long and thin, some 200km long so I hear tell, is today's fact of the day.

10/24/13 Taipei

I'm sitting in yet another cafe in Taipei, this one much newer than the one I last went to, being a chain store with franchise standards. I've been back a day, this being the second, having slept most of the first away. I was woken up pretty early by my dearest grandmother, who now sits next to me while we wait for breakfast. What's for breakfast? Hot dog, spaghetti, and a mango slush. Really. She got salad, bread, and coffee. These were the breakfast specials.

I now know how to take the bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei, which will undoubtedly prove useful in the coming weeks. especially since I'll be flying in and out of the country so goddamn often. It'll save my uncle some time.

Final thoughts on the trip to Czech and Austria: Over all a very good experience, despite not understanding what the tour guide and other participants said half the time, speaking Taiwanese(which I do not understand) instead of Mandarin(which I do understand). I still saw a lot and experienced a lot. Given a chance, I would certainly come back. Prague is a more culturally interesting city than Vienna, even with Vienna's sauna clubs giving it a boost in my mental ratings.

Speaking of which, if I do go back to a club, I'll need to bring something to occupy myself during downtimes. If I go with friends, maybe I'll bring cards or portable Catan or some other board games. And a lot more money.
Assuming I even decide to go back. We'll see how desperate the situation is in my own bed when the time comes.

Cesky Krumlov is a very picturesque spot, but could do with more of a night life, lack of said night life being its biggest flaw. I hope to get up that tower next time I come. Of Salzburg, I didn't really get to see the salt mines, so I could do that next time. Point is, there's still so much for me to see and experience, and I'll be sure to come back again. Life is short, but it ain't that short.

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