Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Earthquakes and Fireworks - Team Taylor vs. Hualien (aka Taiwan Part III)...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. So first off, apologies for no blogs the last couple of days. We've had guests in town, and their tour of the Sing has been nothing shy of EPIC. However, that's another blog for another day (most likely tomorrow :-)). I know I've been drip feeding you Taiwan, so let's see what we can do to make amends, shall we?
Monday - Um, is that Wailua Wheat?
So Team Taylor rose about 8 AM on Monday morning, determined to grab a nice cup o' joe from the Q Mall in Taipei Main Station prior to departing on the Taroko Express for Hualien. We got shut down in that endeavor (the mall was closed - go figure), so we had to content ourselves with "City's Best" coffee, which is the "7-Eleven Select Brand" they serve at all their 49 BAGILLION stores on the island. We also tried (wait for it...) the "7-Eleven Select Brand" bread, which (dare I say) was indeed fresh and tasty. Oh, and did I mention that we picked up a few packs of (you'll never guess) "7-Eleven Select Brand" honey pork jerky for the road because, well, when you can't have meat on a stick, it's a close second.
The ride down was easy, and we had an AMAZING view of the ocean and the rocky beaches that are the staple landscape of the east coast (it's quite a popular biking area - there's a 3 day, 109 mile route that's pretty much the most famous on the island). Also, I got to experience peeing on an express train in Asia, which is a little difficult considering that it's designed for people 5'4" and below. Let's just say that was a rough ride to glory...Also, a very cool thing was that the ticket puncher dude BOWS TO THE ENTIRE CAR when he enters (hat off and everything).
We arrived in Hualien around 12:35, at which point we looked at the map in Lonely Planet, saw that we were just a half mile from our hotel, and started walking in FIVE TRILLION DEGREE HEAT. As fate would have it, LP's "map to scale" wasn't quuuuuuuite to scale, and so we ended up walking at least 2 miles before we arrived, as 2 sweaty messes, at the Quality Inn (not the chain in the US).
Our room wasn't ready, but we changed into shorts and wandered into the city, where we started trawling for food. After about 15 minutes, we located this HUGE line for dumplings, and so like lemmings off a cliff we joined the queue. Now don't get me wrong - dumpling cooking dudes get in NOOOOOOOO hurry preparing your food (it's steamed fresh), but given that we had fresh Mango and Kiwi juice in hand, we didn't mind the 20 minute wait. We got up there and, of course, could speak NOTHING to the guy, so I pointed at 8 HUGE Dumplings. He bags them (they are SCALDING HOT), and I hand him 200 Taiwan Dollars ($7 USD). He instantly hands me back 1 of the bills, and then he proceeds to give me change. The grand total for 8 HUGE dumplings that were a FULL MEAL for 2 people? $1.50 USD!!!!!!! Have I mentioned that I LOVE this country?
After that it was down to the beach, which according to the map was about 2 tenths of a mile away. In actual fact, it was pretty much in Mongolia, as we walked a good HOUR in the inferno. When we did get to the "Beach Park Connector," we consulted LP to find out that, "despite beginning and ending well, the bike trail runs through some fairly depressing industrial areas in the middle." As fate would have it, that is EXACTLY where we had landed. However, we did roll over to one of the beach parks, where we saw some MASSIVE waves and dudes surfing like something out of Point Break ("I caught my first tube this morning...sir...). When Jenny told me that those waves were nothing compared to the North Shore, that portion of Hawaii shot up on my travel list.
We walked about 3 KM along the path, and the sea was blocked by a HUGE concrete sea wall. Normally this wouldn't be exciting, but given that a storm was coming (the weather was beautiful, but the outer band of a typhoon was approaching the island), the waves were literally SLAMMING into the wall, kicking up the highest, most impressive spray that I've ever seen. I know it sounds rather ridiculous, but I spent a LOT of time watching this. Yes, yes - I am VERY cool.
After that, it was back toward the city, and we stopped a a 7-Eleven (who saw that comin'!) to get some water. Given that we were heading back to the room early as well, we decided to get some brewskis, and when I went to cooler, I almost fell to my knees and wept. What was there, you ask? Well, don't ask me how, but for some reason that STILL defies explanation, that ONE STORE IN THE WHOLE OF ASIA was selling one of mine and Jenny's FAVORITE beers - Kona Brewing's Wailua Wheat Ale!!!! Seriously - I almost wet my PANTS with excitement. Throw in Some Longboard Lager to boot, and you've got a recipe for a GREAT afternoon (which we spent playing Pai Gow and showering - Ogas, tell me you're not proud).
Dinner that night was an LP selection - Kamiyama. It's a Japanese BBQ where the food's brought to your table, but this place had menus in English AND had Orion on draft (that's the Okinawa National Beer). The food was egggggggggggggggggsellent, and we did have a random meeting of some artist lady and her 10 year old daughter. The woman was living in Taiwan for 4-5 months (2 weeks in each big city), and she was doing paintings in each spot. She tried to get us to travel with her to Taroko the next day, but we politely declined (TRANSLATION - SPAAAAAAACE CADET).
It was then home for bed, as Team Taylor had an early call. And all was going swimmingly in this regard until 10:15, at which point we heard quite the loud noise outside. Jenny thought it was gunfire or a muffler, but this trained redneck ear knew EXACTLY what it was - FIREWORKS, BABY!!!
That's right, for some reason there was this HUGE fireworks show over the water, and given the building heights in Hualien, we had an AMAZING view of them. Talk about cool! What was less cool, however, happened about 20 minutes later. Team Taylor is just settling down to bed when, faint but definitely there, the bed begins to move back and forth. At first we just think it's us getting comfortable, but then we realize - WE'RE IN AN EARTHQUAKE. Granted, it was a small one, and we just laughed it off as a funny story and a good "one time" experience. Ooooooh, famous last words...
That, however, will just have to wait for another blog...which I'm going to crack on right now! I'm going to keep breaking the days up so no one gets too bored of any article. Read as and when you like!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat very soon!
Sam and Jenny

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