Our last day in Taiwan. Shuwen’s sister Jane accompanied us to the Wednesday market in Nantou. It’s a traditional market where all kinds of goods are offered – clothes, cooked food and small snacks, vegetables, fruits, random cooking ingredients, as well as raw meats. There’s not much to say really, it was fun to just snap some photos with the camera in JPEG/black&white mode while walking around this visually incredibly rich environment, so check out the gallery below. 🙂
I want to begin this post with some words about breakfast. It is obviously very different from both American and German breakfast. While coffee seems to continue it’s triumphant procession throughout the world and was available everywhere, the food itself offered for breakfast is quite different in Taiwan. I mentioned the steamed buns before (one of my favorites), and in general, breakfast is more hearty, with eggs, rice porridge, pan-fried cabbage & bean curd, that sort of thing.
The forest recreation areas of Shan Lin Xi and Xi Tou are very close to each other, and we picked Shan Lin Xi (that somehow becomes “Sun Link Sea” on some the signs, an obvious malapropism that I simply refuse to use;) to be first destination – it is the higher one of the two as well, and the winding road that leads up there has 12 switchbacks that are named after the Chinese zodiac signs – rabbit, snake, dragon, and so on. The rat became mouse, because it’s cuter apparently. 🙂
All the recreation areas in these higher areas are quite popular because of the cooler temperatures, and the entrance fees are rather low. That means busloads of people of course – and buses on the winding road up there. Thanks to some l33t German driving skillz 😉 we managed to pass them… only to run into yet more buses at the big parking lot behind the entrance – one unloading a large group of nuns, all dressed in grey and wearing straw hats! What a sight.
Shuwen’s father needed the car in the morning because he went to do some services for the deceased/ancestors (I hope I got that right) so we took it easy and re-packed our luggage for the coming two days (which we would spend in Nantou County’s higher regions, near the Lugu Township – in the forest parks of Shan Lin Xi and Xi Tou, to be precise), had breakfast in town, hung out in the couch catching up on Facebook, and were pretty lazy.
When Shuwen’s dad came back we had lunch together with the family and then began the (relatively short) drive to the bed & breakfast that we had booked in advance. As we drove up higher the temperatures became more pleasant, and the humidity tolerable. 🙂
We had stayed at another motel for the night, because I had a certain longing for a softer mattress but we weren’t as lucky this time… the motel was older, and while the room was clean, the furniture and appliances were somewhat shabby and run-down. That’s not so bad per se (one could say it had character;-) but what was really terrible was the smell of cigarettes that seemed to come straight out of the walls, the curtains, the AC, everywhere. It felt like smoking passively. :-/
And, just like some nights before at lower elevations, it was warm and humid so there was no sleep to be found without AC, and due to the noise, there was no sleep to be found with the AC, either. 😛
The next day promised to be relaxing though, because our friends Caroline and Benson picked us up after breakfast (which we had at my favorite Baozi place, once more) and took us out for the entire day, all around Taichung County.
On our 10th day in Taiwan, we met an old friend of Shuwen, Yvonne. She used to live and study in the United States, but returned to Taiwan later. Driving down from the higher elevations of Qing Jing Farms to the lower elevations and into the bustling city of Taichung (a city at Taiwan’s west coast), the humidity had us back, and after picking up Yvonne from her parents home (where she stayed for the night to meet us, because she actually lives in Taipei), we were glad to enter a fine restaurant with a wonderful A/C.
Our next stop after Sun Moon Lake was Qing Jing Farms, which is a little settlement along the road that leads all the way up to Mount Hehuan (Hehuan Shan, and shan obviously means mountain). The road is quite narrow and winding, and after the earthquakes of September 21st, 1999 destroyed the trans-island road that connected the west and east coast of Taiwan, it remains the only west/east connection via Taiwan’s central mountain range – there’s trucks and buses crawling and climbing up that narrow, winding road. It’s crazy.
In the evening of day 6 we made plans for the next day. We wanted to drive all around Sun Moon Lake, and used the map to find spots along the way that would be interesting to us.
The next two days brought us back to Sun Moon Lake, where we had been before with Shuwen’s sister Jane, and her mother. I know, that sounds kinda weird, but the decision to take her mother to Sun Moon Lake was a spontaneous one, while our 2-day stay was planned ahead and we booked the B&B way in advance.
Besides that, we only did the boat tour and ropeway ride (do you “ride” a cablecar? Or what is it called?) on our first visit, plus the visit to Wenwu temple. While that reduced the number of things we wanted to do during our 2 days somewhat (no need to do the boat stuff twice), with that little winding road going all around the lake, there was still plenty left to do.
Returning to the car after my sweaty hike at the Tianzhong Forest Trail I met with Shuwen and we continued to a motel that we had booked spontaneously. And I want to tell you about motels in Taiwan. Because it’s nothing like motels in the US. Motels in Taiwan are all about privacy, because it’s the place you’re going to when you’re having an affair. Seriously!