Part 1: Taiwan Staycation

To make up for my long leave of absence from blogging I promise to do this next part in three separate installments. Partially to make up for the near month long break I took and partially because it would be impossible to convey everything that has happened in one post.

I took this break because of the Chinese New Year holiday, we had winter vacation from school and would be traveling to Thailand for two weeks. The week previous to the vacation my friend from home was coming to visit Taiwan for a week for the end of his winter vacation and to help kick mine off in Thailand.

Matt arrived on Monday the 20th around 9 PM. It was the longest Monday of my entire life. I had my sixth graders two class periods in a row right at the end of the day. I don’t know who ran out of the classroom faster, them or me. I caught the bus to the airport shortly after work to pick him up. Ignoring the fact that he was extremely jet lagged I woke him up early the next morning. We were headed to the Wulai for the day. So it was bus to Taipei, Taipei MRT to the end of the IDK line, where we took the bus to Wulai. Wulai is famous (hen you ming) for it’s hot springs, and cherry blossoms, in the winter season, and aboriginal culture. We arrived around eleven, it was a dreary Tuesday morning, the shops and food stands were just starting to open, very few people were around it was perfect.

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We walked through old street and got some hot almond milk tea to warm us up for the walk to the waterfall. The walk there is called Lover’s Walk and is lined with cherry trees, about halfway you can see the waterfall in the distance. The cherry trees were just starting to bloom, so it was not the stunning view I pictured, but still beautiful as the raindrops clung to the cherry buds with the gray sky in the background.

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We saw the waterfall and warriors square,

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then followed one of the walking paths out of town away from the waterfall and discovered a little park and continuous paths. We followed until our stomachs made us turn around. We went to old street for some Hakka street food. The traditional rice steamed in bamboo was his favorite while I liked the sweet potatoes. We geared up to get into the public hot springs on the side of the river only to discover that it was closed. Not too disappointed we caught the bus back to Taipei.

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In Taipei we stopped at Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall.

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and ended our night at the Shilin night market.

Wednesday we got up early again and headed to the Taipei Zoo to see Yuan Zai and take the Moakong Gondola. We had to get a special ticket with a specific viewing time to see her. We checked out the formosan animals section before our allotted time then went to stand in line. We waited for about 20 minutes then got shuffled through with a million people for a 20 second view.

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We saw the reptile house then took the gondola from the Zoo South Station to the top of Moakong. The Maokong district is known for tea farming, we walked around and got some local tea and had to head back so I could make it to work.

After work we took a stroll through the ever exhilarating Nankan and I brought him to my favorite dumpling restaurant to play match the Chinese characters, (AKA trying to order on a real takeout form without pointing).

Thursday morning I worked K-classes while Matt was still working off the jet lag. It was a really beautiful day so he met me on my lunch break and we went hiking to the old temple. That afternoon he joined me for my last class. We played a sentence making game where I made him be the judge.

Right after work we went to the train station in Taoyuan.

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We made it to Khaosiung by 12 and got a cab to Kenting right away arriving around 2 AM. Tired and exhausted we set up our tents. The campsite was right on the ocean! There was about a 30 meter (I’m trying to convert myself to metric) expanse of rocky coral between us and the ocean, it was a breexy night, and we could actually see the stars! We didn’t even notice how hard the wooden platforms were that first night because we were so tired.

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The next morning we got up and explored the tide pools left in the rocks before breakfast.

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It was breakfast and the beach for the rest of the day. I haven’t been in the ocean since Nic died, that first day I wasn’t quite ready to make my peace with mother nature. I knew I had to do it before Thailand so the next afternoon, after another morning of tide pools and Chinese pancakes it was time. Saturday was a perfect day. It was clear and sunny, too hot to stay out of the water, she was calling me. I went to the edge and stuck my toes in, then my feet, slowly, when I got in up to my ankles I felt the pull of the undertow and immediately got out. It took a few tries but I eventually worked my way in up to my chest and swam over to Matt. With him present I felt comfortable enough to go underwater. I held my breath for as long as I could and let her surround me, then floated to the surface and rolled onto my back and let her hold me up.

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I swam for the rest of day.

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Each night we walked around the night market for dinner each night then went back to our campsite for a fire and beers. On Saturday we got fireworks and I got to light one off for the new year!

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I loved absolutely fell in love with Kending. I made my peace with the ocean and found the place I may want to reside in the near future. It was so nice having someone from home to experience my life here. We got back from Kending late Sunday night. Enough time for a quick pack and we were off to Thailand at 10AM the next morning!

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