Well… 3 weeks on the island of Taiwan flew by. Too quickly.
And honestly… now that we’ve arrived in the busy, dirty city of Hong Kong I miss the place immediately..
But I’ll come back to drawing comparisons. First things first!
The events of our last week in Taiwan:
We split the last few days between 3 cities – Hualien, Taipei and Hsinchu.
Hualien was a necessary stop because it is home to the beautiful Taroko Gorge. But we also found a pretty good night market there, and a beautiful area full of glowing lanterns!
And actually I think the lanterns were one of my favourite sights from the whole trip.. They were just so darn pretty! And there were so many of them.. Like, Hundreds of these things, which were made of cardboard and had been decorated and coloured in by school children were strung along streets and throughout parks in the city. And they all hung from various heights and glowed from bulbs that were fixed within – so they appeared to be floating, in a wobbly, lazy kind of manner..
But also, of course the Gorge was no disappointment. It too provided a few gorgeous sights to behold. Quite a number actually…
And to view them all we hired yet another scooter – opting against a tour bus – so that we could take our own sweet time absorbing the multitude of viewpoints and caves that the Gorge supplied. And I believe that this was absolutely the right choice (it was both cheaper and more leisurely than a tour bus. But also, driving a scooter is fun…so… why wouldn’t you?).
And the Gorge was filled with both natural and human architectural beauties. With miles of thick green bush hiding the occasional adorable little pagoda, Chinese temple or giant Bodhisattva statue along the way.
So pretty much.. you drive through this massive valley, and as you do so through there’s lots of stop-off points along the route that mark out and show case these little temples or maybe a walking trail or a cave or a suspension bridge for you.. And in one day… we did a damn good job at seeing the majority of these stops!
One stop which was particualrly cool was “Swallow Grove” – which was a cliff side full of holes and dents, where swallows enjoyed to nest and play and fly and flit about. So you could stand there; on the cliff side and watch the little birds put on some awesome aerobatic displays.
And also another highlight was the “Waterfall Curtain Cave” – which was a short cave you could walk in to that had a waterfall within it that you could shower under.. Which was perfect on a hot day ( and all of the days here are hot..).
But of course we climbed mountain side, walked trails and explored temples which were all beautiful as well.
Actually, I suppose the real fascination for me here, was that Taiwan has such a huge population and such a small land area.. that it’s quite unbelievable and really… quite magnificent that these vast spaces of virtually untouched natural mountain landscape can still be found.. And its not like this was a small spot or a little park in the middle of an otherwise concrete city.. These areas are big areas.
And they are beautiful.
I love it.
All in all our time in hualien was well spent in awe, and silence, with nature.
Our time in Taipei on the other hand.. was less calm and outdoorsy.. It was time spent more spent on tasks such as drinking, smoking shisha, dancing and partying – during a bender which lasted until 6am.. and which required a full days recovery (indoors) afterward.
Here we met up again with Sam’s engineering friends to attend a pool party with 2 hours of free beer to kick it all off.. It was a party full of western tourists/backpackers which began at mid day. And although it actually rained for most of that day.. like, monsoon style rains… the fact that every one was wet and had come with their togs anyway helped to pretty fairly eliminate weather woes. Oh.. and of course.. the alcohol probably helped with that too..
And only much later, as dinner time fell, and after we’d had a full days worth of wetness did we move on… to a club.. where spent the whole night and half of the next morning having a brilliant time lazing about in a big sofa-lined booth, smoking shisha, drinking beer, eating fried chips and intermittently.. dancing manically.
And not until the last song had played and we had danced as passionately as we could to its tune… did we start to consider the delirious, early morning walk back to the train station..
And actually we also spent 2 full days in Taipei waiting around in the hospital to get travel vaccinations before we touched down in the real ruggedness of South East Asia – in Thailand.
And finally, just before we left Taiwan a visit to Hsinchu was necessary so that Sam could bid final farewells to his engineering pals and so that I could see the place which had been his home and his workspace for the long 6 months of his internship before I my arrival.
So we had one final night of banter and light drinking with the engineering boys… And then, we ran away to catch our flight to Hong Kong.