Tag Archives: Taiwan

Day 9 – Hong Kong to Taipei

Packed upon getting up. Made sure I had all the right tickets and instructions on how to get to Ola’s place (the next couch surfer I was staying with). Said goodbye to Kate and her parents, and headed off. Got a little worried when the bus didn’t immediately go to the terminal, but after a while it did. Got off at a weird entrance to the terminal, which I found out was actually the emergency exit, but apparently some people used it to get into the terminal. Not really any signs to tell me that. Got my ticket and got to the gate. Hong Kong airport is absolutely huge. I had to take a train to get to my gate, which was 60. And I wanted to use the rest of my HK money, so I bought another Micro-SD card at an electronics stand and some water and snacks at the market shop near the gate.

The EVA flight was actually one of the best flights I’ve ever had. I sat at the very front of the plane, I guess because it had multiple floors and economy class was on the second floor. The food was great, a simple chicken and rice with a weird salad on the side. And they served both coffee and tea. There was plenty of leg room. The flight attendants were all friendly good looking Asian women in uniform. And the view out the window was nice as well. I’d love to fly them again to see if it was just a fluke or that really is their typical service.

Landed. Went through Customs. Got on a bus and headed off through Taipei. From what I could tell, it was another large city. Lots of buildings, lots of shops, lots of people, nothing too special about it. I found Ola’s place without too much trouble, though I was nervous about ringing the right bell because I was trying to match up the Chinese characters on the instructions she gave me with those on the door.

Got in, and relaxed at the place. Chatted with Ola for a while. She was Polish, and teaching English over here in Taipei. Didn’t go out for food because I wasn’t that hungry, and instead just slept fairly early.

Day 10 – Taipei

I got up, and when Ola got up we both set off. Although she was taking the bus, and I had decided to walk the city. So we split off, and I walked. I walked and walked and walked. Started out heading west to get to the Forest Garden, but when I came across Daan Street I saw that there was a path through this small section of trees headed up through the middle of the street. I figured that Taiwanese may just have a weird concept of what a park is, and started walking up that. After a while I realized that I was just on a side street and I actually needed to walk another two or so blocks more West for the park. I caught this by the time I was North enough to the top of the park, and so I walked West again and took a short detour through the park. I found a large building, the CKS Memorial Hall, which was kind of excessively gigantic. Reminded me a bit of Paris, with huge buildings somewhat in walking distance of each other, and urban sprawl filling in the between sections.

The main museum wasn’t yet open, but I didn’t feel like waiting 2 minutes, so I walked around and up this large stairway. That was lucky because they opened up the section on top and there were some guards there doing some choreographed marching. They were impressively good with twirling around their guns. They were standing in front of this large brass guy sitting on a throne, much like the Lincoln memorial. I assume that guy was CKS.

From there I walked to the National Theater, another large building, but couldn’t go in. And then walked up to the Peace Park, which was a small walk. They had a small section with these stones sticking up out of the ground, this was for walking over for foot therapy. I decided I didn’t really need to. The National Museum at the top of the park was closed until 10, so I skipped that. Walked to the area with the Red Theater, which was the Ximen area, although I didn’t go through the major section of Ximen. Instead I found some Pearl milk tea and continued walking.

Got to the Longshan Temple, which was a huge temple and it was very very crowded. I still don’t understand what exactly is going on with Asian religion, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way. As it has been explained to me, I’m under the impression that praying is much more about asking for good fortune, as opposed to a way of giving thanks (which seems to be more of a Judeo-Christian thing).

So I walked around a bit more, but decided to go to the Snake alley a bit later, since it was the morning and surely nothing would really be happening. I took the MTR (the subway) up to the northern area of Taipei. From there I visited the Confucious Temple and the Taoist Temple. I couldn’t really tell any difference between the two, which confused me. I also didn’t really find anything relating to the Tao Te Ching which I read in high school. A little disappointed, I decided to continue walking. I wanted to get up to the riverside so I could take a picture of the Grand Hotel, but it was just a huge failure. No matter where I walked, it seemed to be either blocked off or under construction, or just some sort of dead end. Walked past the art museum but had no interesting in going in. Somehow I even passed a taxi resting station, which must be where all the taxis go when they sleep. The park was under construction too, so I couldn’t walk through it.

Eventually I found myself on the map and I headed east to where a Tourism Beauro was on the map. I went in and talked to this guy about where the typhoon hit, and about how to get to the various places I was taking day trips too, and how I would go about renting a scooter to get to Hualien. He suggested I take the bus or train down to Hualien and rent the scooter there, and that seemed like a much better plan. And because the typhoon had hit only below Taitung, I wasn’t going to drive further south than there. He gave me a million maps, which was nice but added a lot of weight to my pack. Then I decided to take the station over to the Shilin night market area. I wanted to try to get to the Grand Hotel again, so went up a secret pathway with signs to the hotel. I think it was the servants’ pathway because I ended up in some back area of the hotel. Walked around front and inside and took a bunch of pictures. From what I hear this place is actually restricted and unless you have a reservation you are not supposed to be there, and the only people who can get reservations are either rich, politicians, celebrities or all of the above. But I looked like I knew what I was doing and no one stopped me.

Headed back down and went to the food square of the night market. Walked around for a while because I was undecided on where to eat, but finally stopped somewhere. Got some kind of “BBQ” beef with some other stuff grilled on a huge flat grill in front of me, very much like Benihanas. It was alright. And Taiwan beer doesn’t have much to be said for.

I Headed back. It was dusk, so I wanted to go to Taiwan 101, the very large building. While on the way, I was walking behind this modest looking girl with plain glasses and a nice blue dress with a simple floral pattern on it. Suddenly there was a large gust of wind and it blew up her dress to reveal some very sexy black underwear. That was a bit interesting.

Anyhow, I got to the building, and though it was a bit pricey I went up anyway. I had missed the sunset but got some dusk photos, and stayed up there until there were lots of lights and I took some great long exposure shots using my camera and the small tripod gizmo I had with me. I spent a long time doing this, and noticed that actually in some of the shots it was blurry because the actual building moved slightly.

After I was satisfied I saw the big counterbalance, and then walked back to the apartment. On the way back, I started to notice people either moving away from me or holding their hand up to their nose. Maybe I was paranoid and just noticing this, or maybe people were concerned about catching H1N1 from foreigners, but I started to think I smelled pretty bad, which was probably true but I couldn’t really tell. Anyhow, went back and took a shower.

Day 11 – Taipei

Since Ola had returned very late from visiting her friend last night, I decided to update my journal once I got up in the morning. After a while I wanted to start my day, so instead of waking her up to say I was heading out I left a note saying where I was and telling her to email me what time I should be back by.

I took the MTR up to Danshui, which was a long trip and I think I took a small nap on the way. When I got up there, my plan was to rent a bike and head around by that method. But even after asking an info desk, I wasn’t able to find the bike rental and was distracted by all the street activity. So I walked up and down the main market streets there, where there were lots of food stands. I walked around until I had a good idea of my options and then tried the omelete balls, which were not so good because I don’t like the taste of egg yolk. Same thing with the blackened eggs. Tried a little of the Almond drink too. Then I tried the stinky tofu, and that was… well… Ok I’ll try it once, but I don’t think I’ll ever have it again. It tastes like feet.

After I was done with Danshui, I went down to Ximen. This is a big trendy area with lots of kids showing off their styles and subcultures. I didn’t really see too many crazy subcultures, but there were all sorts of high end stores. I went into a Studio A store, which is pretty much an Apple Store, and set up very similar to one of the miniature stores I worked in. Talked to one of the employees there, Edick, and borrowed their wifi for a while.

After that I headed over to Snake Alley, which was a bit disappointing because there wasn’t as many snakes as I thought there would be. In fact, there were probably two stores I saw that had snakes out front, and it didn’t look like they had English menus. Whatever. After watching the snakes for a little bit I didn’t really feel like eating them.

I continued walking down the alley, and soon found myself out of the food area and into the prostitute area. I noticed this when some woman offered me something I couldn’t understand. And so I headed back the other way. I thought it was about time to go to Din Tai Fung, which was amazing. It took a little while to find, but it was such good food once I did. After I left, I was so happy and full of food. I walked comfortably over to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial and watched people practicing dance routines and capoeira. And after I was satisfied with that I headed back to the apartment.

One of the things I noticed that day was that so many people stayed in their shops for the entire day. They must get pretty bored… or develop some kind of hobbies while they are there waiting for customers. I couldn’t do that.

Day 12 – Taipei – Yelhiu and Jiofen

When I left in the morning , the brown line of the MTR was closed so I took a free bus to the place where I needed to pick up the other bus. I managed to find the right place with the help of someone there, and managed to get there at just the right time because the bus arrived at that moment.

My first stop was Yehliu, and another helpful person touristing from Hong Kong helped let me know which was the correct shop. It was just a short walk from where the bus dropped me off, and I finally got there. The stone formation in the Yehliu geo park were pretty interesting. It was quite surreal, despite the thousands of tourists walking around. There were rocks in all sorts of shapes, mushrooms, eggs, fungus, checkerboards, all things.

After walking around the main area, I started down some mysterious path. It went up and up and up for a long time. But instead of turning back I was committed to finding out where it ended. Passed by some kind of weird spooky restroom with no water. I got pretty sweaty, but eventually was rewarded with a scenic outlook with a very nice consistent windy gust that dried off all the sweat. I spent a little time there, and then headed back a route that passed by some weird tower. Came back and spent a bit more time walking around the stone formations and then headed back to the bus.

I still had plenty of time, so I decided to try for Jiofen. After talking to a nice lady with a very helpful piece of paper at the Yehliu information center, I was on my way to Jiofen. Because it was early in the day, I don’t think it was as pretty, so I was determined to stay there until the lanterns went on. So I walked around the town. There were many many stairs as this place was built on a hill. Also the lanes were very narrow, so whenever someone stopped to look into a store the whole line behind them was also halted. This made it very annoying and I didn’t really like the whole scene. I walked and walked, pretty much everywhere in Jiofen. I even found the two secret pathways that cut corners. Somehow I even found myself at the base of a huge cemetery. The Asian graves seem to be a lot more interesting than Western graves.

Found some dinner at a random place, and they had a very engrish menu with items that just didn’t make sense. I ordered the most intriguing of the items, and it turned out to be the wild card! I got a bowl full of pretty much every type of meat, and a full whole shrimp (head and everything).

Eventually the sun was setting so I got to a nice scenic lookout and took a nice picture, except the sun went behind some clouds before it completely set. Oh well. I walked around some more until the lantern lights turned on. Took the good pictures of Jiofen, and I was pretty much straight onto the bus back to Taipei.

From what I remember, I went straight back to the apartment from there.

Day 13 – Taipei – Wulai

Today I decided to go to Wulai. Wulai is a hot springs spot. It’s a few minutes south of Taipei, so I started my day by going up to the bus stop and, with the help of friendly Taiwanese, finding my way onto the bus. The bus ride wasn’t all that long.

When I got there I walked along the main street area. This was a lot better set up than Joifen, mainly because the street was very wide and not clogged up with people. This allowed me to walk at a brisk pace, but to stop and check something out if it looked interesting. That’s how it should be.

Walked over a bridge, and down a long path I think was called the Lover’s Path. There was another small town at the end with a few aboriginal restaurants and a waterfall. I went to the aboriginal restaurant, and after staring at the menu for a long time I got the bamboo rice. I wanted to order something else, but I think they misunderstood, and I just had the rice. It was good though! I quickly visited the visitor’s center, and then headed back down Lover’s path.

I stopped at a hot spring spa, and after asking if they had some kind of English menu they got some really lovely woman to help me out. She spoke really good English and actually didn’t work at the hotel. Her mother worked at some place around the area and she just visited that spa now and then. She was also married to a Canadian guy, and was pregnant. Oddly enough, I did not even notice she was pregnant until she mentioned it. So she showed me all the various rooms the spa had and told me what costs each of them were. She also gave me some suggestions for what to eat in the area, as well as where the public hot springs were. I thanked her, and headed off in the direction she pointed to the public hot springs.

This turned out to be such a great place. I went to the hot springs, and since I didn’t really have a bathing suit I just took off my pants in the changing area and was in my boxers (which look like a black bathing suit anyway). I started to get into the hot springs, but an old man pointed to the rinsing station. I then recalled that some guides I had read told me that you were supposed to rinse yourself off before entering the hot spring. So I did so. They had these empty laundry detergent bottles that you could scoop the warm water up and pour it onto yourself. One of the nicest baths I’ve had. Finally I started to get into the water, but once again the old man told me through a system of pointing that I should drink some tea before getting in. So I went to the tea station, where I just guess the tea was free and available to all. A guy poured me a few cups, and upon learning I could only speak English they called over one woman out of the whole site to come over and chat with me. She was a very nice lady who could speak alright. She had a son in Memphis, and a daughter in New York, or maybe it was the other way around. Anyhow, we chatted and drank tea for a while. Some cute girl who kept eyeing me brought over some very strange fruits that were bitter but very watery, and sort of pear like in texture. (She was too young to hit on).

Then I got into the hot springs. It was so warm and relaxing. The old men tried to get me to go into the REALLY hot pool, which I dipped my foot into but it was so hot I had to go back to the medium heated pool. I don’t even know how they could stand being in that kind of heat. I got out now and then and watched people swimming in the river, and diving from a platform. Down the way a bit there was a place to easily get in and out of the river with a kind of hot spring showers at the entrance. I saw some guy who was from Virginia and he commented that between the two of us we had more hair on our chest than the whole town combined, which was probably true.

After a while I was satisfied and happy. I walked around the streets again, and went down to the river edge to skip some rocks for a while. Got some sticky rice cake with honey on it, which was stretchy and weird but tasted good. I also got some dinner of wild vegetables and wild meat of some sort. It was alright. Bought some millet wine as well as these small flavored gummy treats.

Took the bus back to Taipei. I pretty much went right back to Ola’s place because it was late, and I shared my millet wine and gummy treats with her.

Day 14 – Taipei – National Palace Museum

Got up this morning fairly late, and decided to use it to go visit the National Palace Museum. This supposedly was one of the top four museums in the world, so I guess it was hyped up a bit.

Took the bus over, nothing too interesting there.

Plain and simply, the museum was a huge bore. There were two exhibits worth seeing, one was a room full of artwork by this artist who did some interesting Asian styled contemporary paintings. His artwork would be on scrolls, and at the top of the scroll was usually some kind of scene with a sun and then as the painted went down it changed perspectives to look down on the scene, like in a bird’s eye view, and then at the bottom was an upside down landscape similar to the one on top but at night with a moon. It was interesting, though I liked his other works where he portrayed animals and scenes with extremely simplified strokes of a brush.

The other interesting exhibit was with a bunch of carved precious stones as jewelery. There was a famous vegetable carving, which was famous because the coloring matched the vegetable? It was kind of a lettuce, with a cricket on top.

Everything else in the museum was pottery or small trinkets or scriptures written by people ages ago. It might have been more interesting if any of it was in English, but rarely was there any sign that explained what something was in English. All together I did not think it was any better than most of the museums I’ve visited in the past. I left somewhat disappointed.

Went to a nearby cafe and had a small lunch. Then I wanted to go visit the garden because it looked quite beautiful from the palace steps, but when I went around to the entrance it said it was closed on Mondays. Unfortunately it was a Monday. Damn.

So I had the rest of the day left, and I went to the train station to figure out times to head down to Hualien. Saw a fish tank with a huge fish on one side and lots of little fish on the other side. That was a bit amusing. So figured out the right times but didn’t buy tickets because I was meanwhile trying to plan how I would spend the next few days with Tiffany, my old high school friend who coincidentally was going to be in the area.

And from what I can remember, there wasn’t much that happened the rest of that day. I went over to a hostel to see if there was a room available, and they didn’t have one, so I went to another and they did, and reserved a room for the night after this day’s.

Day 15 – Taipei – Down day

This day I decided just to have a chill day not doing very much. Ola was getting a new couch surfer that day so I headed out to the hostel I had reserved a room at. The room wasn’t going to be ready for a while, so I just waited in the lobby and caught up with some things.

I did laundry, which required doing it by hand. I’d never done that before, so I tried to mimick what I had seen in movies or where-ever. Seemed to work out fine! And laundry detergent was $5.

I worked for a while in the lobby next to this very cute polish girl with short blond hair. Her name was Magda, short for Magdalena, which I thought was a strange nickname I’d never heard. We both were a bit hungry and decided to go out together to get food. We made our way to Snake Alley, wandering our way through Ximen and the streets over that way. We got a little lost but got back on track when we asked someone. The whole time it seemed we were paying little attention to what was going on around us and just talking a whole lot about our travels and interests and all that.

We actually weren’t as hungry as we thought, and just kind of bought a snack or two here and there. At one point we passed this night market stand playing some kind of childrens’ learning program on a television, and she started singing and dancing along with it. Very cute.

Headed back to the hostel. A little strange saying goodbye to her since we had made such a connection, and I kinda liked her and wanted to hang out more. But then went to sleep instead.

Day 16 – Taipei – First day with Tiffany

Today Tiffany was arriving from the States with her family, and soon after they landed she contacted me through facebook. We agreed to meet at the City Hall station, and at that time we did!

It was great to see her, since it had been a long time since we last talked. She looked and acted pretty much how I remembered her. Caught up on what each other had been doing. She apparently is now dating Ivan, another character from high school that seemed to drop off the map after graduation.

First we went to get some food in the nearby food court. Can’t remember what sort of food we got. But then we headed to the bookstore up a few levels. I think we played the part of obnoxious American tourists because we were very loud and had people looking at us, but we were catching up on old times and talking of all sorts of things.

After the bookstore, Tif had to do something with her relatives so we split up and decided to possibly meet up later. It turned out that they were just so tired from the trip that we cancelled the later meeting, but scheduled to hang out the next day on a bus tour that her family was doing.

I think I went out just for a quick meal that night, but nothing too special.

Day 17 – Taipei – Bus to Taiping National Park

So the tour bus was leaving for Taiping National Park early in the morning, so I had to get up at around 5 to head out. I made my way to the meeting spot that Tif had sent me, and I got to the exact point maybe 15 minutes early, so pretty good. But it took a while for any of the others to show up. Finally got onto the right tour bus and headed off. Strangely, the bus completely circled the block about 3 times (felt like 5) before we headed off. I don’t know exactly why it did this, and it was a bit strange, but whatever.

It was a long bus ride. It was made even longer because it was a kareoke bus, and filled with old Chinese tourists who all wanted to sing their beloved romantic midi sequencer songs. This was pretty awful, and the television screens in the bus displayed a randomly selected extremely cheesy generic music video to each song. These videos usually involved a couple either fighting or frolicking around. The microphone would occasionally have feedback that startled everyone, just to make sure they were awake and listening to the old dreary voices and high trebble midi. In Italian, it is called sdolcinato.

The natural setting outside the bus was alright, but a bit bleak. We passed by all of these dried up riverbeds. It was dusty and grey everywhere, but mixed in with tropical patches of palm trees and forest. The bus also stopped every couple minutes for a rest room break, which I suppose was for the old people.

Eventually made it to the park. We walked up a set of stairs and took a cute little train. It went a few kilometers, and dropped us off in the middle of a series of paths. There were signs warning of snakes and bees, but the sign could have meant there were snake-bees roaming the forest, flying in and stinging their prey. Kyle, Tif’s brother, kept claiming everything was haunted.

Tiffany and I sort of split off from the others and hiked around, but very quickly realized that all the paths were very short, and not that interesting. The basic trails made a kind of 8 shape, and there were three other main trails off of it, but all three of the main trails were closed due to damage done by the recent typhoon. Iiii wasn’t so sure about that, and Tif and I were going to get bored soon if we didn’t go somewhere, so we crossed over the do not cross line, and started down a trail. It was a pretty trail and seemed to have not been walked all that often. We got down a ways and looked at the time, and figured if we headed back up we would catch the train back at the right time and the bus.

Luckily we timed it exactly and just got back onto the train that took us to the main area. We meandered around there, and got back onto the bus. Travelled back in a very similar way to the travel there, with the kareoke blaring. Stopped at some kind of food place and bought these weird flat crackers which tasted alright but didn’t really satisfy our hunger.

Once we got back to Taipei it was fairly dark, and we decided we would try to meet up for the Shilin night market.

I went back to the hostel to relax for a bit, and realized I would also have time to go back to Ola’s place because I forgot my sandals. So after a while I headed over there, and realized I had actually less time than I thought I did, so I rushed over to grab my sandals. Luckily she had just gotten there at the same time I got to her place as well, so I got the shoes, had a quick glass of apple juice because I was really exhausted, and continued my running to the night market. My luck continued as I just barely managed to make a few trains, and got to the station 15 or 20 minutes later than Tif and I had agreed upon. Once again, luckily we just saw each other as I got there. Because the trains shut down at 12:30, we actually didn’t have too much time to get around the Shilin night market, but we saw a bit and we stopped for this really great shaved ice dessert. It wasn’t crushed ice, but rather something like a block of milky flavored ice that they spun around and shaved off flakes into a bowl. It tasted like a weirdly textured ice cream. I got the coffee flavored one and it was excellent.

Then we said goodnight and I went back to the hostel for sleep.

Day 18 – Taipei – Another Day with Tiffany

Woke up and handwashed my clothes. Getting a bit better at it, and I know what to do. After got all my morning through, I went to meet Tiffany and company at the Ximen station at 1 o’clock. We went to get beef noodles at a nearby place that was apparently famous. Tif’s mother ordered for us, which was very convenient. It was delicious.

After that we walked to the book store area. There was this whole block of a street that had tons and tons of bookstores, filled with who knows how many books. Of course none of them were in English, so it was a little strange of me to be there. A little ironic, a non-Chinese speaking person being in a store full of Chinese. But they did have chapter 54 of One Piece! Of course as I said, I wasn’t able to read it, although it wasn’t readable anyway because it was covered with shrink wrap. I think to prevent people from reading the comics there in the store.

Also this was the first time for me using a squat toilet. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I started by putting the things in my pocket into my day pack so they wouldn’t fall out onto the floor. It seemed very awkward, and of course there wasn’t toilet paper, so I was very lucky I had anticipated that situation and saved some tissues from two weeks ago that I got in Hong Kong. Personally, I prefer Western toilets.

Then we went back to Ximen for some walking around. I thought I knew where I was going, but not really. Eventually we got some more of the shaved ice cream we loved so much, although Tif’s dad got the wrong one, he got the crushed ice with bananas on top, instead of the shaved ice. Apparently it’s a one word difference.

Then we went to City Hall for a snack, and walked to Tif’s fencing practice. Apparently she’s still very into the sport, and had heard of some club there in Taipei that she could practice with. It was a very interesting set up, and I watched people spar. She was pretty good, though she only had practice with the sabre style of fencing and not the styles that they typically used. She played. Tif’s dad and brother and I took pictures and played with our cameras. After a long time we came back and had a quick and sudden goodbye in the station while switching subway trains, and I just went back to the hostel.

Luckily my clothes had dried completely!

Then I met a guy named Nick in the hostel. He had grown up in Kyoto, but he looked and sounded American. He said something like his parents were teachers there. Very international guy, and we got along very well. He dropped his computer, which was fairly tragic… but no worries. We were both hungry so we went out to get an excellent Hot Pot dinner. I hadn’t had a true hot pot before, so this was a great experience. The sauce I made was just a little too spicy, but it worked out and was delicious. I didn’t have much cash with me, so I owed him some money. We went to 7-11 for the ATM but it was out of order, and they also didn’t take card, so that sucked and I still owe him approximately 3 dollars, but I have no idea how to contact him to repay my debt.

We came back to the hostel and met a Swiss girl in our room, I think her name was Muriel, and she looked exactly like my old friend Michelle Lauris. For the next banana bunch of hours we talked and talked in the kitchen of the hostel. And it was all the usual conversations that hostel people have about life and traveling and laws and governments and what not. It was 4 in the morning before we quit and retired for bed.

Day 19 – Taipei to Hualien

Even though I had set the alarm on my iPod for early o’clock, I hadn’t raised the volume on the device. Thus I found myself waking up at 7:30, just about the time that my train was leaving the station. I turned off the very quiet alarm in my pocket and packed up a small bag very quickly.

My idea here was to pack my small day pack with all the necessary items to use over the next 6 or 7 days. It was kind of an experiment to see if I could live out of such a small amount of things, plus I didn’t want to be traveling around down south with a gigantic backpack especially on a scooter. I tried to scrap together the essentials – Toothbrush, shirt, maps, etc. And then I stored my large back at the hostel (which was a very cheap rate per day) and headed out.

I went to the MRT and realized I still didn’t have any cash, and it turned out the ATMs at the station did not accept my cards, which was unexpected. I needed a ticket, and the station attendant was just so nice he bought me a ticket. It was one stop away and not too much of a sacrifice, but it was still an incredibly nice gesture I’ve come to see all over Taiwan.

I went to the station and showed them that I was late for my train and got a ticket for the next one for only $101 NTD (about $3 USD). The next train was at 8:15, so I really only lost 45 minutes. I was tired due to lack of sleep, but I wanted to watch the countryside, so over the next amount of time I switched between napping and pressing my face against the window like a little kid. It was also the first train experience I had in Asia, and it was much like the European trains I took over there. Not really a surprise.

Got to Hualien with three things on my mind – money, hostel, scooter. Teh tourism office was able to quickly and pleasantly answer all these questions. I got to a 7-11 to get some money, then walked a short distance to the Amigos hostel. I got there right as the lady, Chi I think her name is, was about to leave. I was pretty lucky since it was just before their afternoon break.

She helped me out with all sorts of things and knowledge. She rented me a bike for only $150 and I headed out into the world. First off I went to the coast, and headed a bit south. I found these abandoned-looking areas all over with statues and stuff. I stumbled upon some kind of open theater, but it was covered in all this grafitti, most of which was in awesome Engrish. It looked like something out of The Warriors, but even more greek like there should be urban gladiators fighting in the center area. I took a few pictures and then headed North along the bike path. The path was very very long and I passed by all sorts of things. Beaches, fishermen, wharfs, buildings.

At a wharf I was passing by some sort of shop out of a hanger and heard some barking. Suddenly these two very excited dogs darted out of the hanger and start chasing my bike. The adrenaline shot through my body and at first I was kind of afraid they would bite me, but a sudden inspiration caused me to stop the bike and bark loudly back at the dogs. They were completely surprised by this and immediately turned tail and scampered back to their hide out. I think they were so frightened that they ran faster away from me than to me. I’m glad I can at least speak Dog, if not Chinese.

Saw these factories with huge blocks of various types of stone, which looked so cool and got me a bit excited. I’m into stone carving for those who don’t know, and I just wanted one of those blocks to myself to mess around with for a whole year.

I continued up, past a garbage dump, and some old turret stations that I’m guessing were leftover from a war. Then I got to some park. No one was there, and there were crumbling ruins everywhere which made it just a little spooky. I tried to climb one because I thought it would be cool to stand on the top, but once I got up it seemed just a little more dangerous than I had thought and instead of risking jumping to the other platform, I went back down.

Biked back, and on the way figured that the Stone Museum was nearby. Except from where I was on the bike path, the stone museum was up a big hill, so instead of biking around I just picked up my bike and walked up the nearby stairs. I actually was not too far off, maybe a block or two, so I continued there.

I was quite sweaty and tired when I got to the museum, so I was determined to spend my time there. The entry fee was prety cheap, but only after I paid did I realize that half of the museum was actually closed for renovation! The contemporary sculpture part was open so I walked around there. It wasn’t so much sculpture, but rather very interesting stones with multiple veins and marbleization that was cut in such a way to create beautiful swirles. There were weird color variations and with the help of the brain’s pattern recognition, you could just make out entire scenic landscapes with trees, lakes, boats, fishermen, all of that.

Because the rest of the museum was under construction I went outside to a small sculpture park out back and looked around there for a bit. Had a quick conversation with some guy who was probably just practicing his English. Then from there I biked to the Pine Park, which supposedly had 60 something pine trees but it looked like it only had about 10. I just couldn’t figure out the purpose of the place. I mean… it wasn’t exciting. There seemed to be a little history behind the place, but I couldn’t figure that out. It was just a few pine trees. It wasn’t even much of a park either. There was a small glass sculpture exhibit, but that wasn’t too large or exciting. I just couldn’t figure out why that place of all the places I went to seemed to have the most amount of tourists.

Well anyway. Then I headed back to the hostel to relax for a while. Talked to Chi about all sorts of stuff, like why it seemed there was a complete lack of people around. It apparently was a combination of a bunch of factors: the school’s break was just ending, some other things, and also it was “Ghost Month” when people who were superstitious don’t really go outside because bad things are more likely to happen. We also talked about some of the Taiwanese traditions. I found out the hostel is right next to a brothel disguised as a spa, but as I knew this is pretty common throughout Taiwan. After a while I left to check out the Stone crafts street. It was a bit difficult to find, but eventually I did. It seemed more like a jewelery market than stone sculptures, but it was alright. It was just a long string of shops that all sold similar things. There were a few very cool sculptures that I may have bought if I were rich.

Then I headed to the bus station, where there was a free shuttle to Liyu Lake. It was the last night of a large aboriginal water festival. When I got there, I encountered a gigantic crowd of thousands of people all lining up along the shore of this lake trying to get a good view of the show. It was difficult to find a spot with a clrew view of the performance stage. Luckily I found a raised ground under a tree that was actually pretty good. The performance was pretty cool with lit up water spraying everywhere and dancers in aboriginal costumes doing a choreographed dance depicting scenes from aboriginal life. It kind of remineded me of Native American dances and costumes. After the show I walked along the nearby street which was full of street food. I got some lamb bits on a stick, and also some kind of ice cream burrito with shaved peanut candy in it. Oh it was good.

Another performance followed shortly, though it was the same one as before. The only difference was that this one had fireworks, and I think it was their last show of the night. Since I had seen the dancing before I just watched a few of the fireworks while heading to the busses. I took the bus back and biked back to the hostel, where I took a shower and called it a night.

Day 20 – Hualien – Taroko Gorge

Got up and took another shower. On my way back from the shower I met some other hostellers who were also going to rent scooters and go to Taroko. So instead of heading out early on my own, I waited for them to be ready and went with them to rent the scooters. I was really lucky I decided to do that. Mind you, I’ve never been on a scooter before, though I took motorcycle lessons at one time a long time ago. Thankfully scooters are automatics! I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t rent to me, but I think because I went with a group and we had a girl who spoke Chinese, they rented to me without much trouble at all. Gettinging out of the parking lot, I wasn’t used to the sensitivity of the gas or turning, so I shot out into the road and managed to stop before hitting a taxi heading the other way, and the bike fell over. Never the less, I picked it up, dusted myself off, and headed off. We went to the nearest gas station, because they rent out the scooters without any in them to start, and after that we were on our way.

Soon we were traveling at incredible speeds towards Taroko Gorge. I was so excited being on the scooter. This is exactly one of the things I was looking forward to in my trip. Just getting on something new and zooming off. It was a pretty quick learning curve, so I had a handle of my machine fairly fast. I really don’t know the order that we saw the sights in because I was just following my new friends and they knew the way. Taroko Gorge was like a huge fairy land version of the Grand Canyon. It was huge and full of greenery and waterfalls and rock tunnels and a beautiful river going right through it. We saw Swallow’s Grotto, the Tunnel of 9 Turns, and drove the scooter all the way to Tiansiang, which is pretty far down the road. There were all sorts of great beautiful things. Supposedly it was even deeper than the Grand Canyon. We went on a small hike that required helmets due to occasional falling rocks. The hike was very pleasant.

When we were leaving the trail head with our scooters, I was still not used to starting up the scooter while making a sharp turn. I started to leave the parking space, but suddenly noticed I wasn’t making a sharp enough turn and was headed straight for a parked car. In a panic, I pulled on the gas and the bike shot out very fast, so I tried to pull it down to the ground before it hit the car. Things happened fast, but when all the motion stopped I was relieved to find that the car was untouched. The scooter on the other hand was a bit beat up. The front sheild’s plastic had broken up a little piece, and the headlights had been knocked off their plastic holders so were drooping a little. But the bike still worked, and I had a great scrape as a trophy on my arm. I tucked the piece of plastic into a pocket on the scooter. and we continued on our way.

While scootering, we would occasionally stop along the cliffs to take pictures and gaze down the beautiful valley. Then we went to a pagoda several stories high, which gave us a beautiful view. And we stopped for some pork fried rice at a nearby food place. Filled up to the brim and went on.

We went down to what I think was the Shakadang Trail to go swimming. We walked along a short while and found a place where everyone was. It was past a “Do Not Enter” area, but it seems all Taiwanese love to ignore those signs. We went swimming in the beautiful river. You could see the rocks on the ground under the water clearly. It was cool and refreshing, and we had a great time playing around, throwing rocks at a water bottle, and I skipped rocks for a while. We also found some “jade” which was really just a very green rock that seemed to be all over the place. Then we dried off and headed back. We made a quick stop to look at the Eternal Spring Shrine, which was a temple along the path with a waterfall.

We scootered back to the hostel, and asked Chi about a good place to eat. She also gave some good advice on the scooter ordeal. She said we should go to a repair shop she knew and get a quote on what the cost to fix it would be, and then either fix it or give the rental place the money equal to the quote. We did just that, and the repair man said to bring it in the next morning when the parts shop was open and he could give a more accurate quote.

We went to dinner at some Mexican restaurant. I didn’t see a single piece of decor to suggest it was actually Mexican. But the food was good enough. After that we went to the night market near the beach where we bought beer and fireworks. We also bought one of those paper lanterns that you paint, and then light up and they float away into the night. We drew our names, wishes and a naked lady on ours. We let it go and tried to watch it until it went out of view, which was quite a long ways. Then we spent the next two or so hours shooting off bottle rockets and whistlers. We tried to create all sorts of science experiments with the ways of setting off the fireworks. Sometimes we’d put them in bags, or in bottles, or set two off tied to each other, or sett off a whistler and a bottle rocket tied together, it was so great and we started to name our different experiments, and we just drank a whole bunch while doing this. It was such a wonderful day.

After a while we ran out of rockets so we went back to the hostel. None of the clubs were really happening so we just went to the lobby of Amigos, played UNO and drank. And after a very long day we all went to sleep.

Day 21 – Highway 11

Got up early because we needed to go to the repair shop to get the bike fixed. It was $2800 NTD and all I had on me was $2400, so while he was fixing it we went on a quest to find an ATM. The problem was that all the ones we found didn’t work with my card! After going around a bit we finally made it to a 7-11 that worked. That was a relief. And the guy managed to fix the bike in 30 minutes, which was awesome. I was impressed. You don’t get that kind of service for that cheap in the US. So we returned the bikes and the person didn’t notice anything. I remember there was a moment where she went around and closely examined all of the bikes, and by the time she got to mine she just kind of approved and didn’t notice anything different.

The others left to go back to the hostel and I negotiated the rental of the bike for 4 more days. She actually gave me the bike for a lower price, $350 a day, I’m guessing because it was for a long amount of time. That’s a pretty sweet deal, $10 US for a scooter per day? You could just rent it permanently at that rate. No problems. I actually switched to another scooter because the oil was low in that one.

Went back to the hostel and hung out with the group for a few more moments before I left. Once I was out on the scooter, everything was gold. I was so incredibly happy, cruising down the road along the coast. I just couldn’t get over the excitement and I truly felt so peaceful and content. I stopped at the Visitor Center for the coastal road, and no one was there. The place was really beautiful too. There was a huge pond with a pleasant path around it, and lillies and dragonflies. There was one person at the desk in the center who attempted to help me out. She didn’t speak much English, but she gave me tons of maps, and tried to call her friend to help me with English, though that wasn’t so successful. The visitor center had a huge diorama room that was very detailed and well done.

I had this recurring thought throughout Eastern Taiwan: There is this incredibly beautiful place with so much effort put into designs, parks, etc, yet there were almost no other tourists enjoying it with me. Like it was my own private heaven.

Down the coast I stopped at a place named Baci, which was just a scenic view, and close by was a beach named Jici. This place was absolutely deserted. Except for two teenagers who were at the admission counter. Wait, what? I needed to pay for access to the beach? Bullshit. I decided not to pay. Instead I went on a short hiking path nearby. Got a nice view in return for climbing a million stairs. Then got on my scooter and continued south. I realized along the way that there were tons of other beaches that were actually free to access, so paying for Jici beach would have been stupid.

I stopped for a picture of Shitty Fishing Harbor, or rather Shitih.

I stopped for a slurpie at 7-11. There was a dragonfly caught in the store, which was a little strange for me to see.

Then I continued to Shinsantai. I still don’t know how to spell it correctly. First I went to the Visitor Center, which though it also had an incredible diorama, it also lacked someone who could understand English. Anyhow, started out on my adventure to the Island of the Three Immortals. I was not expecting the incredible adventure awaiting me.

The place was basically some very eroded islands connected to the land with a pedestrian bridge which was made up by 8 humps you would walk up and down. As always there was a group of Chinese tourist fresh off the bus, viewing the bridge and islands from a distance. I headed out onto the bridge, which felt kind of like what I thing a miniature golf ball would feel like on one of those hilly courses. After that I was put onto a long wooden pathway with no shade. The sun was relentless, so I took a long break in the shelter at the end of the wooden pathway. Then I headed down one of the paths, and after a bit the path completely disappeared. I could not see any sign of where it continued. So I walked around this very rocky and surreal area full of strange formations. I almost walked into this water area, but I’m glad I didn’t because after looking around I saw some snakes chilling in the water. They had black and white strips, and later I looked up the snakes and found out they were very poisonous. I didn’t really want to disturb them so I continued.

Then I walked over the rocky landscape until I somehow refound a trail. this one led to a tunnel that went through the island, but it was pitch dark. I had left my flashlight behind at the scooter, and because I was a little freaked out by the snakes I decided to get through the tunnel by using the flash on my camera. So I took a few pictures and just managed to see that the path was clear and what direction it went, and then I quickly jogged down the path until I managed to see the light out the other end of the tunnel. Although once I got out of the tunnel, the pathway quickly disappeared again and once again I was free to roam.

I started walking clockwise around the island, climbing up and down dangerous rocky formations. Eventually I came to a watery moat that blocked my way. Yet I could see a hint of another path on the top of the cliffs on the other side. So Not being able to go that way, I had to walk all the way back around and through the tunnel and went the direction of the path I saw.

Sure enough, saw a weird mysterious white building and the start of another path. These were some steps that led up the island. I started up, and saw a lighthouse at the top. I wondered if another path connected to the lighthouse that went down the other side of the island. The answer was no, and nothing was around the lighthouse except a small rocky path that headed up to the tip top of the island. I took that path and there was even a rope to help me up and down. Once I got to the top I was rewarded with an incredible view of the entire set of islands and the Eastern coast I had driven down. It was fantastic. Even a dragonfly friend came up to join me .

After a breath I backtracked all the way back to the rest spot at the end of the wooden pathway, and then not being done I took an alternative pathway wondering where it went since I didn’t see the end of it in my explorations. This actually led to another disappearing path, although this one you could faintly make out where people had walked, and it actually took me to the exit of the tunnel I went to earlier. If I had just gone counter clockwise after exiting the tunnel, I would have returned just fine. But then I would have never had that other adventure. Walking around this place was very much like the video game Myst, except no puzzles to solve.

So I returned slowly on the familiar wooden pathway being beaten mercilessly by the sun. When I got back to the entrance area, I immediately bought a huge water bottle and promptly drank about a fourth of it. That was good. After asking some cute girls advertizing a hotel how to get to the nearest gas station, I headed there, filled up, and continued down South. One thing I’ve noticed about traveling by scooter is that when you reach a city’s limits, you actually get to the city long afterwards. That confused me a bit when I got to Taitung.

Once I got there it was already dark and the visitor center was closed, so I parked and wandered around looking for hostels and food. I found some good food that was also really cheap, but I had a really difficult time finding a place to stay. I asked a hotel how much it was for the night and he said $600. Mind you, the English here was little to nothing. I used my iPod divining rod trick and found a coffee shop with wifi, so I got some coffee and tried to connect to their wireless but with no success. Then I finally found some kind of video game shop with wifi and figured out where the hostel was. Went there and found out it was $650! More than the hotel. I started to leave but the receptionist called me back and said her manager said $600 was OK. When I got to the room I realized this was no hostel at all but just a hotel in disguise. But they provided me with lots of stuff like a razor, 2 toothbrushes, a comb, etc. I stole all of it except one toothbrush.

I washed my clothes in the bathtub and took a bath while I was at it. Then watched a bit of television about some people raising bears, and something about Pakistan, before heading to sleep. Long day.

Day 22 – Highway 9

I woke up and decided to relax at the park, catching up on my journal. I drove up to this Forest Park, which was very peaceful except for the military jets flying overhead about once every 10 minutes. I sat on a bench at a table under some overhang for shade, and alternated between writing in my journal and napping. I also watched a trail of ants trying to carry two small dead catepillars up a pillar. This was the most unorganized team of ants, because over the entire time I was there, there was absolutely no progress in bringing the meal up the pilar. Actually I couldn’t even tell if they were bringing it up or down the pillar, but they certainly were fighting gravity. They seriously needed better management.

I walked around the park a bit before leaving. It was truly a nice park, and a shame that not many people were there.

I went to the Visitor Center after that. Of course the lady there didn’t speak English so I had a difficult time trying to communicate that I was looking for a hotel and a place to eat. And like many visitor centers, she called up her friend that knew a bit of English for me to talk to over the phone. I left with no real answers, even after following some woman on a scooter who pointed to some generic hotel.

Instead of going to the hotel she pointed to I just kind of continued on my way. Found a place near a market to park my bike, and then I spent the next bit of time walking around the market. I picked up some bananas and an orange for breakfast and lunch. Then deciding I was done with Taitung and its lack of English speaking people, I figured I would leave early and head back up North.

This time I was going to use Route 9, which is the East Valley Scenic route. Actually, come to think of it, California is very similar. Highway 1 goes down the coast, and Highway 101 goes up the valley area. It wasn’t as good as the coastal route in my opinion, but it was still very pretty. I drove for a while, but then noticed that the oil “light” (more of just a piece of plastic that rolled from green to red) was now in the red. Hm. I decided to ignore it for the time and head for Liushidan Mountain (Sixty Stone Mt). This was quite a steep slope to climb and I wasn’t sure about the capabilities of my scooter, so now and then I would pull over and let my scooter rest for a minute or two.

Finally made it to the top, and it was all I could have expected. Matching all the photos I saw, the mountain was covered in orange daylilly flowers. It was absolutely beautiful, and there were workers picking the flowers which to be used by several shops along the mountain road. These shops used the flowers as spices, tea, soups, and also exported it dried I suppose to the rest of Taiwan. They would dry the flowers out on huge tarps spreading over their homes and roads, or they also pickled it in some kind of solution. I went to a central pavilion that looked out on the fields and ate some very mushy fruits for lunch. It was messy and unsatisfying. I went down to a food stand and was loitering around looking at what they had to offer, and tried to ask them if the drink they had was made with the flowers. A family that was there actually helped me out with their weak English. They told me the shop down the road had flower tea and other things. I mentioned to them I was a little hungry, so suddenly the mother of the family rushed to their car and returned with a whole bag ful of all sorts of goodies. Candy, some kind of sheet tablet, a crispy milk cake, and a ready-to-eat can of… congee… something. I thanked them as much as I could and said farewell. Taiwanese people are so nice.

I walked around some more. Actually I went to one of the stores and despite being showered with food I wanted to try the flower tea (which turned out to be free) and the chicken flower soup ($50, very cheap). It was alright. The flowers tasted a little strange, and after the meal my mouth felt tingly for some reason. I walked around a little more because it was so peaceful there. Then got on my scooter and headed back down the mountain. Managed to avoid pulling on the throttle at all the entire way down.

After getting down the mountain I continued up the coast. I was concerned about the oil light by now so I decided to stop at the next major town to get it fixed. I had been told it was cheap to get the oil replaced, so I was not so concerned about the price. I stopped at a repair place in Yuli, and pointed to the light. I learned it was called “Jia” or something of that sort, and the place I needed to go was more downtown. I headed back asking all who I could “Jia?” and following pointed fingers. I saw someone walk out of a 7-11 with a “Wisconson” shirt on and asked him. This guy actually had studied English, so I was saved! His name was Liu, and he took some time out of his day to guide me to the oil place. He was actually from Taipei but down there visiting his mother. After asking a few people we were at the oil place. He stayed there and we chatted while the young mechanic did his magic. It only cost $200 ($6 US) and I said goodbye to my savior and continued North. Finally after much driving I was back in Hualien, saying hello to the hostel owners.

I was tired and hungry so I went to a nearby Chinese buffet that was recommended. It was disgusting with a whole bunch of mystery foods, but filling. I accidentally mixed the soup into my tea cup because they were in the same area… Anyhow.

Went back to the hostel and despite exhaustion, stayed up talking to some travellers. I must have passed out because I don’t even remember falling asleep.

Day 23 – Scenic Coast and Goat Milk

This was a designated relax day for me. After all that driving of the scooter I needed a bit of chill. In the morning I took the scooter up the coast, along almost the same path I had taken my bike the first day in Hualien. It was logically a lot easier and faster to take the scooter.

So I drove all the way up the coast to the scenic view. It was quite a beautiful view of the ocean, but it kind of was just a view of the ocean with a beach and bike path. It was also very overcast and sprinkling rain here and there. It was also a little difficult to figure out the tourist map markers telling me where I was, but I got there. Drove past the sculpture park but it didn’t actually look worth stopping for.

The small town up that way was cute, and I decided to find the famed restaurant that serves goat milk in things. In order to find this I decided to not depend on words and waving hands, but rather drew a picture of a goat with an udder, and a cup of tea, and an arrow going from the goat udder into the cup. This seemed to work beautifully because I showed it to some guy at a bike shop and he pointed me in the right direction.

The restaurant itself was actually a lot higher class than I imagined. It had a beautiful view of the ocean, looking out into a stormy world of clouds and sounds of thunder. There was a nice girl who spoke intermediate English and she helped me order. I got a coffee with goat milk in it, and while sipping on that I wrote in my journal. Also came with a little bite of cheesecake. It was all very relaxing. After I finished the coffee I got up to leave because I didn’t have more cash, but when they said they took card and when I saw it was raining a little more I decided to stay for another drink. Had some honey tea with goat milk.

Goat milk is a culinary curiosity. Too many times I’ve poured milk into a cup of tea where the specific tea included some kind of citrus element, and the curdled milk tasted just awful. But putting goat milk into tea seems to give it a sour but soft taste, so it’s kind of like a way of getting around the issue of milk curdling in sour drinks.

I spent some time there just writing, and then headed back down the coast on my scooter again. I headed back to the hostel and relaxed there. Took a nap. Then in the evening I got up, went out to the night market and spent about an hour walking around looking for the perfect cheap replacement sandals. Did I mention that my sandals broke? Ah no. When I came back from the aboriginal festival, I stopped my bike for something near the bus terminal in Hualien, and that seemed to be the final straw for that pair of sandals. They carried me all the way through Europe, and finally broke in Taiwan. Anyhow. After scouring the night market I found a cheap $150 replacement. And when I was leaving I grabbed four pork buns they were selling on the corner for very cheap. Went back to the hostel and ate those, and they were absolutely delicious.

Contented I went to bed.

Day 24 – Mata’ian Wetlands and Sugar Factory

This day I headed out on the scooter to the Mataian Wetlands. It was a little difficult to find, but after scootering around the general area I managed to match up the Chinese characters with the ones on my map and got to the area. I found a place to park by a restaurant, which I decided to visit when coming back. Walked around the area, but the pathways were a little confusing and I seemed to continually run into dead ends and backtrack to where I started. That was a little annoying, but in general the place was very peaceful and quiet. There were large ponds full of lotus plants, but the flowers weren’t really in season so only saw a few of them. The wooden pathway through the area was kind of cool, and there were tons of dragonflies all over the place.

After satisfying my walk around and seeing what I could, I went into the restaurant I parked next to. This supposedly served aboriginal food, so I ordered a plate. It actually turned out to be a really interesting set of different foods and tasted great. I even had some ferns in my salad.

Afterwards I scootered over to the Sugar Factory on the other side. The area confused me because there didn’t seem to be a main building to go into, and I didn’t really see any signs to go to any factory. I apparently looked confused enough for some kind Chinese tourist to come up to me and he helped explain to me that the place was actually just a historical dedication to a factory that used to be there, and really the only thing left was the ice cream. So I went into a store nearby and bought some sugar ice pops. These were “sucrose” flavored.

I ate the popsicle next to this large pond with lots of fish, and all the fish slowly started to congregate near me expecting me to throw something in. When I was done with the popsicle, I let some of the melted sugar drip into the pond and suddenly the fish made a huge fish mob.

Then I went to another ice cream place and got a vanilla and chocolate double scoop in a cone. It was pretty good. Got on my scooter and headed back to the hostel.

Chilled at the hostel for a while, and met Anna, an Australian. We went to dinner nearby, which was delicious, and while eating we had a long philosophical talk about life and all stuff related. Talked about religion a lot. She worked in a place that organized Missionaries so I think she had an interesting perspective on the matter.

Came back and went to sleep.

Day 25 – Hualien to Taipei

Got up early in the morning and left. I had a late train, and checked to see if I could get it sooner and I could so I switched my ticket. Returned the scooter to the rental shop with no problems. Then I embarked on a quest to find postcards for Hualien, but no matter how many shops I went to I couldn’t find any. Finally after a while I went to the Visitor Center that had some crappy artistic postcards, but when I was asking about them the woman behind the desk produced a packet of wonderful postcards that were exactly what I was looking for, and then she gave them to me for free! How awesome is that.

I got on the train and went back to the hostel. I relaxed at the hostel while doing a little bit of laundry to have fresh clothes before leaving. I tried going out into Ximen to find food, but I wasn’t very successful. I even went to the beef noodle place that I had gone to with Tiffany but because I didn’t have anyone to help me order I was too afraid to go inside. Might have settled on some snack from 7-11 in the end, but I don’t remember.

I came back to the hostel and went to sleep. The room was a bit uncomfortable though because the guys sleeping in the bunks next to me were very smelly.

My Journey From Taipei To Northern Japan

3/4/2012 – I found a journal that I wrote trying to recover some missing information since my laptop was later stolen. I only wrote up this section of the trip so I’m going to transcribe it here as I had written it down. I will add to the information after the post.

This journal is being written because my laptop with my notes on previous days was stolen. This means that many of my memories of these places will forever be lost, as I am no good at remembering details unless they are written down. My usual style of writing will also have to change. Because it will be too hard to remember days sequentially, I will record my memories by sequential cities, and whatever I can remember in a varied amount of detail. Hopefully this journal will not be lost or stolen like the last one. But just in case, if you find this journal, send it to the address on the opposite page. – Ben Douglas

My Journey From Taipei To Northern Japan

The flight to Japan was unremarkable. Getting to the Taipei airport was a very long trip and I demand that they place the airport closer to the city next time. I unfortunately flew in to Tokyo during the evening, so I could not compare the actual overview of the city with all the models I saw in Godzilla films. After a quick visit to the tourist center, and purchasing the appropriate train ticket, I was leaving TOkyo northbound on the famed Shikansen type train. Once again, unfortunately it was evening so I did not get a good sense of how fast I was traveling. After a few stations a man came to the seat next to me. He was wearing the Japanese geta, which are wooden sandals, and this completely surprised me. I had no idea that people actually wore those things! Well, we did not speak each others language, but managed to “talk” to each other just a bit during the ride. Suddenly he gave me two pictures he had taken of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Very odd… Anyway, he got off at his city and I continued up North. I ha not exactly planned how I would continue my trip, which led to my next adventure. Upon leaving the train in Aomori, it was pretty clear I could not continue my trip until the next day. Also unfortunate, the information center had closed and the guard to the place didn’t speak enough English. He did give me a sort of “menu” of hotels in the area, but they were all way too expensive. Finding no other choice, I resolved to sleep in the city. I tossed my bags into the coin lockers, and started walking. It got later and later, and I got fairly familiar with the downtown area of Aomori. The city is next to the water, but since it was early September the weather was still pretty warm. I found a nice bench right on the seaside, laid out and tried to sleep. Needless to sy it was pretty hard, and I only got a few hours of sleep before I had to get up and walk around some more. THankfully there are stores open 24 hours. After going around, I found another bench next to this small children’s playground. It was a bit easier to sleep at since there was less wind, but once again I only got a few hours of sleep. I woke up and decided I had slept enough. ZBut as I was leaving my improvised bedroom, I noticed that I actually had been sleeping right behind a police station!


Got in to Sapporo, and went to the hostel. This was the first actual place I stayed in Japan, andI was a little surprised at how extremely polite and courteous the hostel staff was. In the evening I went out to a small alleyway filled with Ramen shops. After meandering a while, I chose a random one that turned out to be alright. The owner bought me a beer because my birthday was coming up and we had a small chat about American movies we liked, many starring Steve McQueen. I went back to the hostel and had a nice chat with a man missing a few teeth. In the morning, I wanted to explore Sapporo before leaving, so a Canadian named Terrence and I set out into the city. It was a very nice city, despite some pretty lame tourist attractions like a clock tower and a European style building and a small TV tower. Our last stop was the Sapporo Brewery, which is really the main attraction there. The place had some cute displays and the beers we tried there were fairly good. We mixed a few of the different ones together trying to make better tasting combos. Got a little tipsy and hungry so we made our way to a less than satisfactory food court. After this I realized the time my train was leaving was closer than I expected, so we hurried back to the hostel. What I hadn’t accounted for was a gigantic shopping mall maze that was between the train’s subway stop and the train station. So I missed my train. No worries though, I caught the next one and just called Sean, the guy hosting me in Saroma my next stop, to tell him I would be late.