We spent the first day getting up really early in the morning to catch an 8 o'clock train from Kaohsiung to Hualien. It took about four and a half hours to get to Hualien. When we got there, we headed straight for Taroko Gorge National Park. It was lightly raining the first day and we were only able to finish about half the national park in half a day. So, we decided to finish the rest of the National Park the next day and head to the beach for the rest of the evening. You can find some amazing beach jumping pictures at the end of this blog entry.
View of Taroko Gorge from a bridge
On the second day, we got up around 8 o'clock to go hiking in Taroko National Park. we came across a beautiful bridge with lots of different looking lion heads. You can see the pictures in this photo album-- Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2. After that, we went hiking along another trail and came across beautiful landscapes. There were clouds that floated amidst the mountains that made you feel so cool and calm. It was breathtaking and a worthwhile experience for anybody visiting Taiwan.
View of the gorge along one of the trails
There were many hiking trails in Taroko National Park and the trails were not too difficult either so you could enjoy the scenery and not be entirely focused on where next to put your feet. The views were spectacular as you'll find out in these photo albums:
Taiwan Photo Set 42: Hualien Trip Day 1
Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2
Taiwan Photo Set 44: Hualien Trip Day 3
Scenic view from climbing to the pagoda
After hiking on many trails in Taroko Gorge National Park and visiting the Buddhist shrines and pagodas nestled in the mountains, we headed for Guan Shan and Taidong for the last two parts of our trip.
Biking in Guan Shan
When we got to Guan Shan by train, we used some bikes at the hotel we were staying at to bike around the town. It was nearing sunset so I got some beautiful pictures of the landscape. You may be wondering how I managed to take pictures on my bike. Well, I rode a two person bike and I was on the back so I didn't have to steer, but merely peddle.
When we finished the bike ride, it was merely the end of Day 2. we still had a whole Day 3 ahead of us.
Enjoying ice cream in Taidong, Taiwan
For Day 3, we headed to Taidong, Taiwan to visit a ranch where you can feed cows, ride horses, and eat/drink fresh yogurt or yogurt ice cream/milk. It was quite an adventure and it was a very relaxing way to finish our 3 day trip to eastern Taiwan.
Thank you Joyce for taking us on such a delightful trip! We had a really fun time and can't wait until our next adventure. This was a great final trip in Taiwan before I left for America.
Jumping pictures from our trip to the beach on the first day to Hualien
The tea house from outside
When we finished eating dinner and watched the firework display, we headed to Jiu Fen, which used to be an old coal/gold mine and the surrounding area has different colored water shaped in a yin-yang. Unfortunately, it was already 9pm at that time so we were not able to see the different depths of water that cause the change in color at this place. However, we were able to go to Ah Mei Cha, a tea house that they used as the model for the tea house in the movie, Spirited Away. We stayed there until about 11pm and then headed back to Keelung.
At the Evergreen hotel after breakfast
The next day, we got up to go have breakfast at the Evergreen Hotel. You'll notice that this was not our first time staying in one of their hotels. Last time we went to Taipei to see Lang Lang play piano, we also stayed at the Evergreen hotel.
After breakfast, we went hiking on Wang Yo Gu mountain. Wang Yo Gu literally means "forget [your] worr[ies'] valley." Whoever named the mountain wanted you to know that when you stand on the mountain, you will forget everything unpleasant. It was a nice hike, but it was really hot.
After our hike, one of the taxi drivers told us to go to another mountain for a hike. So, after lunch we asked another taxi driver to take us there. It turns out, it was the same mountain, but instead of hiking to the top, you drive to the top! It was a good laugh. We decided to go back to Chia-Ling's office to rest and later hike on a trail around her university. The last hike in Keelung, I got tons of mosquito bites!
You can find more pictures HERE.
It was a great trip and I really thank my host family for taking me. It was really nice to see my other co-teacher who will be leaving for England in a few weeks to defend her PhD dissertation (It's her second PhD). Congratulations, Chia-Ling & good luck!
Some of us in the hot springs
At Ruesuei, we stayed at a hot springs hotel where they had three outdoor springs at different temperatures--cold, warm, and hot. It was very soothing. Ruesuei is known for its "rustic" hot springs, as my guidebook tells me, so I'm glad we got to experience that. The hotel is nestled at the top of a mountain so it was quiet and secluded.
The next day, we got up early to go rafting in another part of Ruesuei. The rafting company we chose had rather old gear (old lifejackets, old rafting boats, old spongy helmets), but they saved us at least NT$300. We rafted for five hours, going over 23 rapids, and over a distance of 25 kilometers. A few of us fell out of the raft a couple of times, but nobody got hurt. We also had some pretty excellent water battles with neighboring rafts, where we used water buckets to throw water at each other. Of course, we're not supposed to do that, but it was still pretty fun because it turned into a battle between the Taiwanese and Americans; the Taiwanese would yell "Welcome to Taiwan!!" And then they would throw some water at us while we would yell back "No honor! You just said 'Peace'!!" It was a good time. This rafting trip would not have been possible without Gered & Rebekah, two of our Fulbright ETAs, organizing it, so a big shout out to both of you! Thank you for organizing the trip!
Click to enlarge the above pictures
After a day of rafting, we went to Tai-Dong in the evening by train. There, we stayed a night at the aboriginal culture hotel. We didn't do too much exploring in Tai-Dong because we arrived so late. The next morning, we went to Green Island (Ludao), an island off of Taiwan.
At the 'Little Great Wall' on Green Island (Ludao)
We took the ferry to go to Green Island and unfortunately, I threw up multiple times. I don't usually get seasick, but this ride was 40 minutes long and I already had a slight headache in the morning. So, the combination of those factors culminated in a not-so-pleasant experience. Anyway, I digress. When we finally arrived on Green Island, we realized that we couldn't take a tour with the glass-bottomed boat like we originally planned because it wasn't running on that day, which happened to be a Sunday. At that point, we had to decide if we wanted to ride golf carts around Green Island, which is only 6 sq miles, or 16 sq kilometers around, or rent a car for about $30 for three hours. We chose the latter.
Green Island was formed after a volcanic explosion. It is famous for many things including oddly shaped volcanic rocks, a prison for political dissidents (or that's what I hear), and lush green mountains. We saw all of that and much more in the span of three hours. We were very efficient with our two rented cars.
All in all, it was an excellent trip and I'm glad I got to see eastern Taiwan. You should check out more pictures in Taiwan Photo Set 35!
We stopped by a coffee shop on the way to Wan Shou Shan. The entire shop was nestled in the forest; you can see a picture of it to the left.
It was a great trip and we hope to go hiking up monkey mountain before I leave Taiwan in July.
At Alishan, we also saw lots of gigantic trees. The picture to the left is a red cypress about 2,000 years old! When we went to Alishan, the weather was fantastic, clear skies and very warm. We hiked the trails up the mountain and then came back down on the train. Most people took the train up, but the line was too long at the bottom of the mountain so we decided to just walk up.
Be sure to check out photos here! There are lots of jumping photos of me and my host family.
You can find more pictures from today in this album: Taiwan Photo Set 30.
When we got to Taipei, we walked around a lot because we got there super early. The outdoor concert started at 7pm; we got there at 6pm. It was also lightly raining in Taipei and it was much colder than Kaohsiung. The wind chill is not as awful as Iowa winter weather, but it was colder than the 70 degree weather in Kaohsiung. I borrowed Chia-Ling's coat because I didn't bring any real winter clothes because I thought this tiny little island wouldn't be cold. Well, I sure was proven wrong when I got a cold last month during the weather change. Anyway, thank you Chia-Ling for letting me borrow your coat; it kept me very warm =D.
When the concert started at 7pm, it was pretty cool because Kate, Chao-Wei, and I got pretty good spots considering we were so early. There were many famous singers at the concert, but I don't really remember their names. However, I did see S.H.E. sing several songs, this guy from Tainan who wore cool glasses (see pictures below), and I really wanted to see MayDay (Wu Yue Tian) sing, but they were last. We left our good spot in front of the concert early because we wanted to be near the MRT to beat the mad rush home after the fireworks. I was really grateful that did that because we got to where we were staying at 1:30am and not 2 or 3 am.
The Famous Singers at the Outdoor Concert (at least up until we left for a closer location near the MRT)...
Click to enlarge the pictures
The next day, I was very tired, but I had an excellent breakfast to start the New Year. Check it out:
We met up with some of Chao-Wei's friends in Taipei and we had lunch at Din Tai Feng. After lunch, we headed to the biggest night market in Taipei, Shi Lin Yie Shi. Lots of fun! You can see lots of photos in Taiwan Photo Set 27.
At the end of the concert, Lang Lang did TWO encores!! The audience was so surprised and we couldn't stop clapping. During the second encore, Scarlet and my host dad left to stand in line to get Lang Lang's signature. So, when Tai-Shia (my host mom) and I came out of the concert, Scarlet was already in line and I just took the place of my host dad. When we were waiting to get the signature, I realized I had nothing but a scrappy piece of paper for Lang Lang to sign. When I approached the signing table, Lang Lang looked at me funny and asked me what this was in Chinese and I told him I didn't have anything else. He looked at me funny again and signed it. When I got out of line with Scarlet, we were some of the first people he signed, I snapped a few pictures of Lang Lang, then got back in line. Why you ask? Because my host mom bought me a program booklet for Lang Lang to sign properly. This time, though, I was at the very end and I had to kindly ask the security guards to even let me back in line. So, I got Lang Lang's signature TWICE! The picture above is Lang Lang's signature in the program booklet. The scrappy piece of paper just didn't make the cut =D.
When we got back to the Evergreen Hotel after the Lang Lang concert, Scarlet decided that we would visit the Evergreen Maritime Museum the next day. What a good decision that was because when we went to the museum we learned so much about ships, their history, and their operation. The museum director even gave us a personal tour of the museum! (See picture below).
After that, all of us (Chia-Ling and my host family) went to Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming Mountain) to hike. It was breathtaking and you can find pictures here in Taiwan Photo Set 26.
You'll find in the same photo album that I like to jump and take pictures a lot, especially if there's a bridge. Check out Scarlet and I jumping, teehee. Click to enlarge the photos.
From left, the family of my host mom's colleague (whose son also happens to be my student!), me, co-teacher Chia-Ling, and my host family
After we played with the swing, all of the ETAs, LETs, and host families went to make clay pottery. Last time I went to Meinung, I made a cup, remember? This time, I made a wall decoration (see picture below). I had my host family and co-teachers sign it. The top two holes are for stringing ribbon through so it will hang. The bottom hole is for me to hang a picture of my host family and co-teachers.
There are lots and lots of pictures of this trip here. Be sure to check it out!
The stone marker at the most Southern tip of Taiwan (above)
When we were at the most Southern tip of Taiwan, two bikers stopped and gave Tai-shia beetlnut. In the picture to the left, you can see me chewing on beetlenut. Apparently you put a white powder on it and it tastes like cocaine. But, rest assured, beetlenut is legal in Taiwan and when you chew it and suck on the juice, you spit out this red colored pulp. It's rather yucky when you see a person's mouth all red, but lots of elderlypeople in Taiwan and some young people like to chew on beetlenut. After I stopped to try some of this beetlenut, which I found rather spicy, we headed back to Cesar Hotel with our bikes.
I was surprised, Scarlet was not tired at all! She rode with such vigor and enthusiasm =D. We rode for about 2 or 3 hours and it started to rain on our way back. But, the rain stopped and the sun came back out so we still had a great bike ride. Later, when we got back, we went to the private beach owned by the resort. It was absolutely beautiful! I was going to go for a swim in the ocean, but the waves were so strong the lifeguard did not allow anyone to go into the water. So, I swam in the swimming pool at the resort.
We also saw lots of very colorful insects and huge spiders on the hike. See this album. Afterwards, we went to Hengchun to visit famous film spots from the movie, Cape No. 7. I already went to many of them last Sunday, so we went to Chateaux, the hotel where the movie was filmed. It was absolutely beautiful! The view of the beach was spectacular.
Please check out all the photos in this album: Taiwan Photo Set 23.
All the teachers on the graduation field trip
The amusement park was awesome! There were so many spectacular, and scary, rides. I rode the ride pictured to the right, whose horizontal track turns vertical 180 degrees and then drops you straight down into lots of upside down turns. Chia-Ling and I rode it twice! You would think I would be scared, but I wasn't because of the following story I'm going to tell you:
The ride was so much fun. I'm sitting in the very front with Watson and we both have our hands up. It was exhilarating and we all got very wet. After the ride, we got out to get our stuff, but when I looked around, my backpack was missing!
We saw all sorts of creatures, but the white rhinosaurus was everywhere! The picture to the right is a pretty good shot of the white rhino. We had a lot of fun at the zoo and the class I toured with was pretty photogenic so we took lots of photos. So many photos in fact, that we were late in meeting back up with the rest of the school. Oh well. When the other classes were waiting for us, they enjoyed McFlurries from McDonald's while we took pictures =D
After we spent about an hour and a half at the zoo, we went to the harbor. On the way to the harbor, we visited the house of Dr. Mackey, a Canadian minister who was famous for establishing a hospital in Taiwan. He was also famous for something else...Chia-Ling will have to fill me in on the story again. In the photo to the left is a picture of me and a teacher in front of a Dr. Mackey statue head.
When we went to the harbor in Taipei, which is called Danshui, we headed to "Old Street." There they sold lots of "Pi-Dan," or what literally translates into "leather eggs." The eggs are black, small, and the outer layer is very thick and leathery, hence the name. It tasted, different. Anyway, those eggs were very popular amongst the students and teachers; everybody bought a bag. After visiting old street and eating some dessert, we took a a boat to a nearby island (again, the name is in Chinese and my Chinese isn't that advanced).
Check out one of my students enjoying the boat ride to the left. The boat was pretty neat and we all got sprayed by the water (See pictures here). When we got to the harbor, there was an amazing bridge called "Lover's Bridge" that was for pedestrians only. It was huge and beautiful! Check out the architecture in the picture below.
The 6th graders in the picture above is the class I toured with the entire three days. Chia-Ling, Tsui-Zhu (another teacher), and I walked the bridge. It curved so beautifully. Since coming to Taiwan, every single bridge I've been on (two in total so far, hehe), I've jumped on. So, here's a shot of me jumping (see below). The other bridge I jumped on was in Sandimen's aboriginal park. You'll have to look for that picture in one of the photo albums.
After walking the bridge and boardwalk, we headed to a five-star hotel in Taoyuan, the Howard Hotel. It was amazing. They had a swimming pool, game room, sauna/jacuzzi, beautiful view above a reservoir, workout room, game room complete with a mini golf course for children, ping pong tables, pool tables, a nice restaurant and lots of other stuff. I was so exhausted from the day that I headed straight to bed at 10:30pm. Once my head hit the table, I fell asleep.
Later, I also rode a camel with a fellow teacher who was just as daring as me! See picture below.
In the photo above, we were just about to head into the Western Cowboy and Indian themed park. There, Chia-Ling and I rode a roller coaster ride called the Screaming Condor. It was pretty crazy because the ride was very very high and it twisted. We also rode something like the Tower of Doom back in Denver, a normal vertical drop with no twists and spirals. Lots of fun, but only some of the teachers joined us because the others were too scared =D.
In the photos above (from left to right) you can see wax fruit (Lein Wu, my new favorite fruit), rice millet wine, and all sorts of duck/chicken eggs. Wax fruit tastes a bit like apple, except sweeter, juicer, and not as dense.
A map of all the film spots in Hengchun that was displayed outside of Aga's house
After visiting the film spots, we went to several scenic spots including Nanwan (pictured below).
We only spent one day in Kending, but I have over 200 pictures that you can view here. Just a warning, it's a long album...
You can find the photo album for this day, here. We walked around the shops, saw the beautifully painted umbrellas, and then...made our own pottery! You won't get to see the grand masterpiece that I made until the end of this month when they send it to me. So, sit tight, and I'll post again when my hand-crafted artifact comes in =D. After making pottery, we had lunch and picked lemons at Patty's lemon farm.
Also, the announcements on the MRT are in Taiwanese, Mandarin, Hakka, and English. Quite impressive.
The entire complex was very beautiful. We went with a tour guide and she told us all about the significance of the architecture and explained the placement of the plaques in honor of Confucius and his forefathers.
For example, a post office where students can play with the environment and speak.
The Fulbright English Teaching Assistants created station games in addition to a dialog station at English Village to help the students practice more English. English Villages, or simulated environments, were built in many Kaohsiung Elementary Schools. However, we are only running three English Villages this semester. Fifth graders from all over Kaohsiung go to one English Village once a year. We prepared for English Village on Monday, but it does not officially start until Tuesday (Sept. 9). On Monday, I just finished up last minute touch-ups to the station games to get ready for Tuesday's opening ceremony and full run through of English Village. Though, every Monday I will spend the morning at Ling Zhou English Village. In the afternoon, I go to my school, Hua Shan Elementary School by walking from Ling Zhou Elementary school to the MRT, take the MRT to the last station on the red line (Xiao Gang), and then bike to my school for about 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
After the flag ceremony, I taught my three classes for the day. Just to give you a snapshot of the classes I co-teach, let me tell you which grades I co-teach and on what days. On Mondays, I co-teach one fifth grade class and two fourth grade classes. On Tuesdays, I co-teach two fifth grade classes and one sixth grade class. On Wednesday, I co-teach first graders, a sixth grade class, and a fifth grade class. On Thursday, I co-teach two fourth grade classes, a third grade class, and a sixth grade class. Finally, on Friday, I co-teach English Club with Ashley and co-teach second graders, and two sixth grade classes. It's a very busy week. But, if you think this is busy, just wait 'till next week when I add my Chinese classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. My schedule will be booked with Monday being the busiest where I travel to three different locations (Ling Zhou in the morning, Hua Shan in the afternoon, and San Min Elementary School in the evening for Chinese classes).
Look at how windy it was up on Pineapple Mountain!
Later that evening, we barbecued and ate lots of moon cakes. A fellow teacher at school told me that the reason why barbecuing now occurs in Taiwan is because a very popular television commercial showed people barbecuing with soy sauce and ever since then, people wanted to cook this special way on Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. I don't know if this is true, but it's very interesting. I only stayed for some of the barbecue because it was a fellow English Teaching Assistant (ETA) and Local English Teacher (LET)'s birthday so I went to celebrate with them later that evening.
The HSR only takes about an hour and a half to get from Kaohsiung to Taipei. When I arrived, I checked into a hotel and later toured the Chang Kai Shek Memorial. You can find pictures here. The conference was a lot of fun and I met a lot of different researchers. Some were doing research on identity, China-Taiwan politics, mental illness, Buddhism and Chinese medicine. My hope is that when I travel around Taiwan, I can visit all the researchers and the researchers will visit me in Kaohsiung.
Kate climbing the rope
After we climbed up Guan Yin Shan, Patty took us to eat Sushi Bar. It was very delicious and with our stomachs full, we headed to Crystal Clear Lake (Chengqing Hu). We saw a bee farm, a nine-cornered bridge, and a 7-level pagoda there. You'll see all of these pictures in Taiwan Photo Album 5. We also saw a really interesting fish in the aquarium at Crystal Clear Lake. The fish looked like it had a brain.
Visiting Hua Shan Elementary School with the other ETAs (English Teaching Assistants)
Hua Shan Elementary School is South of where I live. It is near the airport and I will be taking the MRT and riding a bike to get to the school. Ashley is going to take
Me and Ashley!
The program administrators announced the matching of the local English teachers (LETs) and the English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) today. The pairing was based on the LETs rankings of who they wanted and also on the ETAs' preferences. After they announced the pairings, we all headed to lunch. After lunch, the Fulbright program coordinators planned Karaoke (KTV- Karaoke Television) for us! Ashley drove me to lunch and to KTV on her scooter. This was my first time on a scooter and I held onto Ashley so tight. I think she could tell I was a bit nervous because I kept on saying, "Woah! We're going so fast. Woah! Woah!"
This was my second time in Taiwan singing karaoke. Ashley and I sang, "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion... Check out our pose =D
Karaoke was a lot of fun. Oh, I almost forgot. Hua Shan elementary school also has an arcade room with pool table, ping pong table, basketball-shooting arcade, and many other fun games. It's known as the fun room and it's open to both teachers and students. Isn't that great? I can have fun with the students inside and outside the classroom.
The next day, we rested and took a boat tour on the "Love River" and went to Qijin island. It was incredibly fun and I got to see much of Taiwan. On the boat tour, I saw the Hong Kong Navy (I'm not too sure why it was there), and an oil rig. When we arrived at Qijin, a group of us decided to hike to the top of the lighthouse on Qijin island. The lighthouse was closed, but the scenic overlooks were absolutely beautiful. I had yummy barbecued squid for dinner later that day at Qijin. There was also a Taiwanese boy band playing in the open space at Qijin island. You'll see in the pictures a group dancing and holding a boat on top of their heads.
During the next few days, we applied for our ARCs (Alien Resident Certificate) visited Xiziwan Beach, visited English Village (a place where 5th graders and other students can come practice prearranged English dialogs), and ate/shopped at the night markets (specifically Liuhe Yeshi and Zhong Xiao).
I am now in Hong Kong. I arrived the day before yesterday after 23 hours of grueling travel. I traveled from Denver to Los Angeles International Airport and then to Taipei, Taiwan before finally arriving in Hong Kong. It certainly wasn't the most comfortable trip, but I did find some movies enjoyable. I was especially moved by this Chinese documentary on young Chinese children training at Li Xiaoshuang Gymnastics School. You can watch the entire film on YouTube. It's a very sad story of the hardships the the toddlers and families go through in pining for glory in gymnastics. It was especially wrenching when I heard the kids explain why they wanted to pursue gymnastics. I will not ruin the movie for you here, but I do suggest watching this film and discussing it with friends and family.