June 2015, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan.
We started of from Taipei at a Saturday morning, squeezing ourselves onto a bus and joining the big crowd leaving the Taiwanese capital. The weather was good, almost too good, and everyone wanted to enjoy a nice day away from the city.
As soon as we got of the bus we found this volcanic area. The smell of sulfur was really strong and not too nice, but I loved the view. I am not sure if I have seen volcanic activity live before.
I realized that there was an excellent walking path starting from where we were standing, and I got excited for climbing up the mountain. That was when I realized that my travel mates never planned we would actually go hiking. After some discussion we decided to give the mountain a try, and after buying a couple liters of water and applying sun lotion we started the hike.
It was warm, just as warm as Taiwan can be on a sunny April day. The sunshine came right from over our heads and the low bushes around us did not provide any shade. One of the friend immediately opened his sun-umbrella, and I could not keep myself from laughing and making jokes.
As we kept on walking my skin became more and more burnt. Maybe it was stupid to only buy a cream with sun factor 15, but in Sweden I think that is enough for me. In Taiwan? I guess at least a 30 would be needed for me here!
The intense of the sunshine, the lack of protection for my sore skin and the very heat of the day – soon we were all hiding under the same umbrella. He who laughs last, laughs best – so much for my umbrella jokes!
We met two old ladies who were looking for herbs along the trail. They had easier taken a course in Chinese Medicine, and a guide had taken them here to find different medicinal plants. Now they came back trying to see how much they could remember. They talked happily to us and showed us some of the leaves next to where we were standing.
An Indian Forest Skink was enjoying some sunshine. As long as we only say skinks and not poisonous snakes, I was very happy.
The top of the Yangming Mountain was very busy. There was people everywhere, and the air was full of huge butterflies. We were trying to sit all of us under the umbrella and wondering how we could decide to go for such a long hike without bringing anything to eat.
Korean food, especially the BBQ, is popular in Taiwan. We went to a Taipei restaurant one day to see what it was like.
It was quite fun actually. The restaurant offered an unlimited number of free side dishes to go with the food. We went to pick up more small bowls as often as we dared to (which was very often) and filled the table with peanuts, kimchi and veggies. The meat came in raw on big plates, and we were to fry it ourselves on the table. It kept the conversation going and we competed in who could fry the most tasty pieces. (The other side of the table came up with marinating their meat in sauce before frying it and probably won)
In the middle of the meal a lady sitting to the left on me called for my attention. She was at another table, and a total stranger to me, the restaurant was so crowded she was not more than a few inches from me. “Excuse me, don’t hold you hand like that when you are eating. Hold it like this, around the plate”
I heard her voice, but I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, in a foreign country, eating Asian food with chopsticks together with my Asian friends. Am I not adjusting enough for you? Does my not-native-yet looks bother you? Or was it actually an attempt to be friendly and teach the poor foreigner how to eat properly?
After that I tried to ask a couple of friend how I am supposed to hold my (left) hand while eating with chopsticks (with the right hand). I am not sure what they told me, maybe it was impolite to keep my hand under the table while eating? In that case it’s just another cultural faux pas, in Europe it is rude to rest your hands on table!
Did you ever see a hostel in Taiwan?
No, I guess you didn’t. Because they are impossible to find! (Or because most of my readers are living overseas, haha)
Just as an example: look at this small place. At a street somewhere in Taipei our friends found this impossibly small door. The door lead up to a private staircase all the way to the second floor (or third if you count floors in Taiwanese way) where the small hostel was placed.
When trying to find the hostel I booked I mostly find myself walking around the streets , with a gp in hand, and still not finding the right place. Once I found that I passed right outside the door a couple of times already. Another time we came to a door with no name or number at all. Someone on the street told us to knock at it, and voila, it swung open and we found our place to stay. Why are the hostels in Taiwan always hidden in such a subtle way?
This spring we went to Keelung. Or Geelung, as I thought it was to be pronounced. Taiwan is so confusing: most of the cities have names that doesn’t help you to know how to actually say the name. Taipei is to be read as “Taibei”, Kaohsiung becomes “Gaoxiong”, and Hsinchu is actually Xinzhu. Now when reading Wikipedia I realize that the name of Keelung is actually to be read “Jīlóng“. Even though older written names like Chi-lung still seems to be around. Conclusion: Does writing Chinese with Latin alphabet really has to be this complex?
Keelung is a city on the north tip on Taiwan, a small distance from the city you can find Yehliu Geopark.
The Geopark of Yehliu is famous for stone formations. The geological conditions made the soft stones shaped by weather and wind, and looking like all kinds of funny figures. Above you can see the “tofu” stones, and below one of the higher structures.
The most famous (and crowded are) was at “the queens head”. Once upon the time the stone might have looked like a proud females head. But today the surface of the stone has lost so much the head is almost unrecognizable. Nature is creating it’s own live art, under constant reconstruction.
We did not really know where the path was taking us, we just kept walking higher and more far away. But when we reached the end point it was like someone had planned it perfectly for us: we got to a small pavilion just to enjoy a dramatic sunset. Can you see the man finishing on (the second picture) below?