Sunday, May 13, 2012

Taipei, Hualien, and Kenting, Taiwan

In Japan at the beginning of May, a series of national holidays align to create two really long weekends.  It's called "Golden Week" because for those who can take paid leave, taking two days off during the week can create a 9-10 day vacation.  Perfect for traveling!

Last year, I used Golden Week to go home and visit my family.  This year - being that it is my last year in Japan - I wanted to use this time to visit a different Asian country while I have the convenience of being in Asia.  I want to visit so many different countries that I had a hard time deciding where to go.  So, I visited SkyScanner and looked for the cheapest direct flights from Sapporo-Chitose to any other country in the world.  Predictably, South Korea and Taiwan came up.  South Korea became my spring break trip, and Taiwan became my Golden Week vacation.

We started by flying into Taipei and visiting some local monuments, temples, and nightmarkets.  Two days later, we took a 3-4 hour train ride circling through the north part of Taiwan to end up on the east side in Hualien. From Hualien, we (Brian, Miriam, and I) spent a day exploring Taroko Gorge.  The next day we rose bright and early to get a 3 hour train ride and a 2 hour bus ride to Kenting in Southern Taipei.  We arrived early enough in Kenting to explore the area and local beaches.  For our first full day in Kenting we rented little motorbikes and cruised up and down the coast in Kenting National Park.  The second full day in Kenting started off rainy, but cleared up enough that we could make it to the beach one last time. 

From Kenting, we took a cramped taxi to Kaohsiung where we caught the high-speed train back to Taipei.  We spent one last night exploring the local night markets - sipping bubble tea, which I highly recommend - and tried to sleep early.  Miriam and Brian left early on Saturday, but I didn't leave until Sunday, so I caught up with a friend who is teaching English in Taiwan for the time being and his host family for an afternoon in the beautiful mountain area of Beitou.

Here are some photos from Taiwan and short descriptions of them below. Enjoy! 

Taipei, Taiwan - CKS Memorial Hall and National Theater

Chenghuang Temple

Because Japan doesn't Western-styled breakfasts well at all, we sought out - and found! - a sweet breakfast spot in Taipei. 

Taroko Gorge

Eluanbi Lighthouse

Our motorbikes in Kenting - I'm all about safety! 

Sail Rock

Fresh catches from the day at a local fish market.  Note the shark with the fins cut off. :(

While we explored on our motorbikes, we stopped by at the Kenting Beach.  It was packed full of young college or high school boys doing some beach dodge-ball tournament.  It is also oddly located right next to a nuclear reactor. 

Spicy and salty snails!  It's probably the most exotic thing I ate on the trip.  Considering what we saw in the night markets, that's pretty tame. 

Enjoying a sunny day at a different beach (not the one next to the nuclear reactor) 

Playing in the waves at the beach near our hostel. 

We thought this hat was hilarious.  I've commented a lot on the bad English in Japan, but this is the first time I've seen bad Japanese in a different country. We couldn't understand it, and then we asked a Japanese man we met and he said he thought it was nonsense.  

Miriam with the bubble milk tea - Black tea with sugar and milk, plus some really delicious tapioca balls.

I spent some time exploring a day market where the locals go grocery shopping on Saturday after Miriam and Brian left. 

Interesting street vendor stand at the market.  It goes against what I consider sanitary methods of handling meat, but it was really busy. 

Lilly fields near Beitou just outside of Taipei. 

Lilly stand! 

Just a local farmer going about his business in Beitou. 

My first baseball game in Asia! Taipei Elephants vs. Tainan Tigers. 

This sign was inside my bus on the way to the airport. 

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