Through Monday’s fun-filled day, I met the most interesting and amazing Taiwanese boys & girls around my age. I don’t meet too many Taiwanese back home, and most the Asians I know that grew up around me barely have the interest to travel. These were 30 people who all shared the same interest as me, of traveling & entertainment.
One of which was David, a 28 year old with a PHD in Neuroscience- Tolerance & Morphine, grew up in Taiwan til 8 and the whole family moved to New Zealand. He’s visiting for the week & had free time so we decided to meet at 8 am to board a train to Hua-lien.
Hua-lien is Taiwan’s main tourist attraction, to visit “Toroko Gorge” – a Huge national park with beautiful mountains, marbled canyons, dozens hikes for all levels (1 hour hikes up to days of hiking). Hua-lien is on the east, along the coast. Talk about Mountain to shining Sea! The town is not very populated, slower pace of life. It would be considered the Countryside and the locals here you can definitely tell a major difference from the people of Taipei. Eastern coast of Taiwan has the highest concentration of Aborigines and Tribal people (Atayal Tribe). Having a darker complexion in Taiwan usually means your family has been here longer, but obviously there are factors such as coming from other countries. People here are incredibly warm, always there to answer questions about directions, asking questions about your upbringing when in restaurants. They find being an American such an envious matter and wish they could speak English.
David & I Met at the Taipei Main Station by the Train station. In Taiwan there is the ‘jieh-yun’ (MRT) which is a fast subway to get to all the main points in Taipei, within a 10 minute fast ride to the next neighborhood. Then there’s the train which is slower but can take you throughout the country. We took a train which cost 20$ for round trip and boarded on the 3 hour train ride down the beautiful green coast, through mountains and beaches.
We arrived around 11:30 am, and it took a bit of getting lost and asking many locals for direction before we found 1 of 2 hostels we found in Lonely Planet to stay at. LOVE THIS PLACE! Reminds me of hostels in Costa Rica. It’s called Backpacker’s hostel. 12$ a night for a bed in the Dorm room with 3 bunk beds. My room had 3 other Taiwanese college boys. The hostel is run by a 30 year old Taiwanese girl who surfs and travels around the world. I loved the atmosphere and would definitely recommend it to anyone passing through.
I had the brilliant idea of renting a motorbike for the day. At first each of us were gonna get one, but my practice round halfway around the block proved that I wasn’t cut out to be a biker chick. I’ve never even ridden one. So we shared one. We went to 2 shops and were rejected because we didn’t have a Taiwan Drivers license. So the guy pointed us to a shadier shop across the street he said most likely will allow us to. gagagagaga, so we went, and indeed, he pulled us in and allowed us to rent one for the day for 10$.
We road along the highway & then up the mountain for about 30 minutes to get to there.
It sprinkled a bit, couldn’t find the hiking entrance, so decided to ride some more around the national park. BEAUTIIFULL!!!! Loved it! Blasting my i-pod. It started to rain pretty hard so we head back after 2 hours. I drove down the mountain, which probably wasn’t the best idea, but we managed to get down alive. Then it stopped raining once we got back around our hostel at 5. It was still bright out, so we road down the beach coast, stopped by a 7-11 and got some snacks. I got dried seaweed, 2 tea-brewed eggs and some dried cuttlefish. Only in Taiwan would you find such snacks.
We got back by sunset, showered, internet, then wandered the streets for food. Found a Tepanyaki place. It was whatever tasting, it reminded me of why your best bet isn’t always restaurants in Taiwan, but street stalls instead.
Next order of agenda was to find a bar. For ‘A’ drink. There were 2 bars we had passed by earlier, Crazy Bar & Feeling Bar. Crazy bar wasn’t opened yet at 8:30 so we went to Feeling bar. Oh the beauty of spontaneous unplanned nights.
Hangin with the locals:
The grungy local bar was empty except the owner lady who welcomed us in, her waitress and the town drunk. It was the owners birthday, who claimed to be turning 42, had owned the bar for 10 years and was a tough business woman. You could tell she was a hottie in her earlier days and was in entertainment. The town drunk was a 60 some year old scrawny local who’s face told the story of a depressed individual with a failed past. Details we never got into, but when the subject of marriage was mentioned, he answered “been married a few times”, subject of children? “I don’t want to talk about it..” and stumbles back to his table with a sad face for 8 minutes until he hit the bottle again.
We had the intention of staying there for half an hour for ‘A’ drink. I was exhausted from the day adventure. The owner sold the alcohol ‘Gau-Liang’ – Taiwan/China’s popular 58% liquor, by the bottle. We insisted on just buying a glass and got our way. She handed us the microphones, gave us the 4 short pages of Karaoke songs and turned on the Kareoke machine. We selected 5 classic songs “I just called to say I love you”, “Power of Love”, “Don’t stop Believing”.. you get the point. They were incredibly envious of our English-speaking abilities, and were dancing behind us trying to learn the songs. We belched out and acted out as if we were performing at an Olympics game.
As they started to ask us questions, David began to fib. I’m a pro at this, so we bounced off each other. He was my student, I came to Taiwan to teach English. He’s in love with me, but I have a boyfriend back home I’m unsure about. His mother’s Japanese. I’m a celebrity at home. Blah blah blah. The drunkard and the dragon lady owner started to consult our lives. “Well he’s so handsome! Give him a chance! Look at the way he sings, it’s so passionate towards you!” “Wow! You teach English here?? And you’re Chinese is so good!” I tell them he’s my Chinese teacher. It’s fun to make up imaginary stories.
2 more locals came in who looked as if they were stuck in the 60s. One man had an Afro, corduroy pants and an old polo shirt, who reminded me of that famous Asia cartoon dog with the rainbow Afro for some reason. They were the nicest people I had ever met. Together, the whole bar of 7 of us became a family. The other guy wrote down places for us to visit, and vented to me about the corrupt government and how hard it is to get a job as an Aborigine. I was able to slip in without seeming too intrusive by asking if he had a college education. Because he reminded me of the minimum wage workers in US who complain about America’s discrimination because of their race, their status, blah blah, when an easy factor could just be that they don’t have a degree or didn’t work creatively enough to get them out of the rut. But these are also things that build up from a family foundation & society. Also, race & color will always be an issue, even centuries from now. In Asian countries, the lighter you are, the higher class they see you. That’s why you see advertisements of skin-whitening lotion everywhere (MJ heaven), and no tannin salons. Tell the Asians you pay to get dark, they’ll have a heart-attack. Talking to him also reminded me of how similar every society is.
We called it a night before midnight, 3 hours later, almost a bottle done. Waved goodbye to our new friends we’d probably never see again & stumbled back to the hostel.