Thursday, 28 July 2011

Walkin’ the waters of WUUUUUUUULAIIIIII!!!!!!! – Taiwan Part 2...


And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. That’s right – the Bull’s FINALLY back at home. We’re now to Sunday on the Taiwan trip, so let’s get back into it!
On Sunday the Bull and Striker got up early, as the featured destination was a bit of a trek outside of the city. The destination was a small village in the mountains called Wulai, and since I love the long “I” like any good Southerner (picture Wyatt screaming “KYYYYYYYYYYYLE!!!!), I always yelled out WUUUUUULAIIIIIIIIIII every time I saw it on a map. The result of this was a) Jenny getting quite annoyed with my acting like the typical tourist who can’t pronounce ANY SOUND CORRECTLY in Chinese, and b) lots of Taiwanese people looking at us funny and then scooting further down the train/bus/street.
The ride to the end of the metro was easy, but there was a bit of a flaw with the Lonely Planet book, as the bus numbers were NOT accurate. Consequently, Jenny and I found ourselves standing at a bus stop flagging them ALL down, and each time being dismissed (sound like Penang, anyone?). Basically I would get on the bus and yell “WUUUUUUUULAIIIIIII!!!!” and they would shake their heads and almost push me back to the curb.

Finally a shopkeeper noticed we’d been kicked off about 12 buses and stepped out to help us. I looked at him and yelled “WUUUUUUULAIIIIIIII” and he got us all sorted. 5 minutes later we were on bus 890, at which point we had a CLASSIC encounter.

So there’s this ang mo on there, and he asks us if we’re going to Wulai. Given that it’s the only destination for the bus and the ONLY reason to be on it, I assumed that was a given but confirmed for him all the same. He’s a really nice guy, and we find out that he and his wife (she’s Taiwanese) are looking to buy property in East Tennessee. And so I happen to drop the whole “I happen to know a GREAT realtor in TN – my mother” line and give him mum’s contact details. And guess what, sports fans – the guy has ALREADY CALLED. That’s right – Taylor Holdings And Moonshine Distilling PTE LLC is GOIN’ GLOBAL, BABY!!!!

After about an hour of the CURVIEST BUS RIDE EVER (we were standing the whole time, for the record), we showed up in Wulai. I was PUMPED, and we stepped out expecting a GREAT day outdoors. You see, Wulai is famous for its river tracing (aka – “walking up a freezing river” – but River Tracing sounds MUCH cooler), and this is THE SPOT to do it close to Taipei. We had actually looked into organized day trips for this, but as they were coming in at $276 a person, we thought we’d just pay the FIFTY CENTS and take the bus out there ourselves. Granted, that means we didn’t show up with life jackets or helmets, but details…

Our first stop was the famed “Wulai waterfall,” and I gotta tell ya – it was NOT worth the 1 mile slog uphill to see it. I’m really glad that we saw it, but it was just a bridal veil, and so I wasn’t really impressed. We then make the 2 mile trek to the Jing Jilao Stream trail, which is where you can truly “trace the river.” And so Jenny and I hopped in, having to be mindful of the camera that was in our backpack.

I have no lie to tell – it was fun, but not the life-changing experience I’d geared up for. Dad – “river tracing” up the Chimneys in Gatlinburg was WAY cooler (literally and figuratively) than this – the only thing different was the volume of Chinese people and the fact that I had clothes on. Details…
We spent about 2 hours in the water, and I even jumped off a dam! It wasn’t that high (call it 15-20 feet), but it was EXTRA AWESOME – highlight of the river trace for sure. Jenny didn’t really love it (in fact, after about 30 minutes, she had the great quote of “I think I’d rather just sit here on this rock while you go ahead”), and those rocks were bloody slippery. Normally that wouldn’t be so bad, but given that we had the backpack and had to keep that dry, it did make things a wee bit difficult.

We got back into the city about 5:30 PM, at which point we showered, changed, and then had one of the more EPIC Sam and Jenny adventures. Before getting to the room, however, we did stop at a 7-Eleven (because they are EVERYWHERE in Asia - there is seriously 1 on every block) for some brewskis. We picked up a few local bits, but my personal favorite was...wait for it...wait for it...7-ELVEN'S OWN BRAND OF BEER. Seriously - it's called "The Beer." It's funny, as they actually have a "gourmet" line of EVERYTHING - beer, bread, meat, you name it - HILARIOUS! And in case you're curious, the beer was AWFUL.
What was it, you ask? Team Taylor went to the end of the Blue Line, where we WENT SHRIMPIN’, BABY!!!!!

Seriously – this was an AMAZING find by Muffin Puffin in the Lonely Planet book. In one of the “blue boxes” in the book, there was a section entitled “If you love shrimp…” Well, since we do love shrimp, we rolled to this place, which was a combination concrete pond – local hangout – restaurant. And I gotta tell ya, it was a BLAST.
So here’s how this works. You show up and rent a fishing rod for a 2 hour period. When you select the rod, you can choose one of 2 concrete ponds (not joking, folks – picture 2 HUGE concrete swimming pools filled with dark, murky, VERY dirty water. In each pond, hidden somewhere underneath the murky blackness, are hundreds of shrimp – big, tasty, blue, hungry shrimp. So what do you do? You buy a pair of beers, thread some bait on the hook, sit down beside 20 of your closest friends who have NEVER SEEN A WHITE PERSON IN THIS PLACE EVER and commence to fishing.

For the first 10 minutes, NOTHING happened. We lost some bait, knew where those suckers were, and watched as other cats plucked monster blue shrimp after monster blue shrimp out of the water. In fact, I was already resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t catch anything when I looked over to see the guy across from us jerking his hand up and down. At first I had NO IDEA what he was doing, but then it hit me – WE GOT ONE, BABY!!!!

And so we jerked up, and lo and behold a shrimp popped up and went FLYING out of the water. I brought him over and went to put him into our little net, when suddenly the entire pond erupted with exasperated cries of “NO!!!!” And so the dude that helped us ran over and showed us that you have to unhook the poor guy first before you drop him in the bag. It should be noted that, whilst holding the shrimp, his scraggly little legs wrapped around the wrist of the poor guy helping us, and it looked PAINFUL. Consequently, I no longer wanted to shrimp, as I KNEW that I was gonna have to do that for the next one.
And then, 15 minutes later, with Muffin Puffin at the helm, we got another one. She yanked that puppy up, and it came flying toward us. I realized that this was the moment of truth, and I was NOT gonna look like a girly man in the face of my new fishing brethren. Consequently, when the shrimp came my way, I LATCHED onto that guy and squeezed him so tight I feared his head might pop off of his body. All in all, I was proud, as I felt I’d slayed the dragon. But the problem was that now I couldn’t get the damn hook off the guy! Sure enough, another cat had to come over and show me that what I THOUGHT was the hook and the mouth wasn’t actually the right spot, and so he cleared the hook for me. So there I was, 0 for 2, but at least I hadn’t been eaten by one of these creatures from the black lagoon.

No reason to sugar coat it – Jenny and I SUCKED at this. However, we did both catch a shrimp. Yes, that’s right – 80 minutes of shrimpin’ yielded TWO SHRIMP. The joker beside me pulled in about 17,000 in 45 minutes. You see, the theory is that you catch them and then have the on-site restaurant grill them for you. However, as we didn’t even get enough for a shrimp cocktail, we just gave them to one of the dudes who had helped us earlier and headed off for dinner elsewhere.
We found a Japanese BBQ joint near the shrimpin’ place. Japanese BBQ’s are AWESOME because you pick your meat and it comes out INSTANTLY. It’s a lot like the Melting Pot, as you cook your meat at the table (it’s sliced very thin, so it cooks quickly). Price – you would have LOVED to have seen the look on my face when the food came out, as one of them was chicken, and it was RAW. And it wasn’t until I’d eaten a few pieces that Jenny made the observation “we should probably be using different chopsticks to pick up the raw chicken.” DUDE I ALMOST STARTED FREAKING OUT. But I just stuck the chopsticks in the boiling water for 30 seconds and hoped for the best. I’m still alive, so all in all I’m assuming we’re in the clear.
The place spoke NO English, and the menus were ONLY in Chinese. However, Tiffanie, Adeline, and Nancy to the rescue again! I whipped out the “food list,” and coupled with some barnyard animal noises (like “bak-bak” – mom, I did think of you), we managed to get a FEAST brought to our table. It was then home, as we had another early call the following day. That story, however, will just have to wait.
Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Sam and Jenny

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