Hsinchu: The Windy City
September 13-14th, 2014
As promised I visited the “Windy City” of Hsinchu where my roommate from training, Pasqualle, lives and works. Originally, I thought it was going to be awhile before I visited but it just worked out that we both had the weekend free so I planned accordingly. Hsinchu is about an hour and a half away from Fengyuan, so on Saturday I purchased a local train ticket for 106NT (3.50USD) and was in Hsinchu around 1:30pm. Now Pasqualle does not have a scooter yet, so we walked everywhere (emphasis on the everywhere part). We strolled along the canal first, passed through East Gate, strolled around the clothes market, and then just walked around. Along the way we found one of the bigger temples in Hsinchu and 3 different churches. Churches are a rarity here or just difficult to spot unless you see a random cross somewhere. You will usually see several temples in Taiwan before you will see a church. Now Pasqualle will be the first to admit that her sense of direction is not the best so after awhile we were lost. Thanks to the good ol’ GPS I was able to direct us back to her apartment and out of the heat.
Having walked a majority of Hsinchu Pasqualle made plans with her co-workers to meet up at a Japanese grill for dinner. The grill was pretty tasty with a variety of meat and vegetable options. At the grill you pick the skewers of meat or veggies that you want and then give them your table number. They grill your items for you and bring them out with your bill total. Our group of 4 grilled two baskets of food and thanks to Hans we drank several Taiwanese beers. After dividing the bill up the total came to 500NT (16.67USD) per person. This is definitely a more expensive meal in Taiwanese standards, but I am sure if Hans had not ordered so much beer the price wouldn’t have been that bad.
Our group then ventured over to another of Pasqualle’s co-workers apartment. The NST that owned the apartment was also from South Dakota so we chatted over small things that no one really understands or gets unless they are from South Dakota. “Oh you are from East river…you can’t be trusted”. A few more beers later we were off to a bar that is frequented by foreigners. You could actually smoke in this bar so I was not a fan, and was not very disappointed when we left. We couldn’t go home until we ate some type of “late-night-drinking” person food. Pasqualle showed the way to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that makes good fried pork rice. With full bellies we went to sleep.
The next day we got up promptly at 10:00am only to discover that our friend Oliver had arrived to Hsinchu early so we had to go pick him up. Within an hour we were back at the train/bus station waiting for Bus 15. It only took an hour, and some food, later to discover we were at the wrong portion of the bus stop and needed to be a block over. Finally on the bus we arrived at the Nanliao Fishing Port 30 minutes later.
Nanliao Fishing Port is the home to a sprawling area of flying kites, a harbor with many boats, and a Seafood Market (would you like your seafood dead or alive?). Pasqualle does not like seafood so walking through the fish market was free entertainment for me!
Our mission was to find a bike rental shop, which we found quickly thanks to a local. We rented our bikes for 5 hours for the price of only 150NT (5USD). Off we went! The bike trail is 18km, and Oliver believes we biked about 11km of the trail, making round-trip a total of 22km. Biking along the Taiwan Strait (aka ocean) was so refreshing. Despite the wind and the oppressively hot sun it was an enjoyable bike ride. I of course needed to put my feet in the water even if that meant more sand in my face and dirty feet. I am also very proud of Pasqualle because she is new at riding a bike and she made it the whole way. All of the Taiwanese people along the bike trail took every opportunity to say “Hello” and any other words they knew in English. While this may seem annoying it is actually really delightful and kind of entertaining.
After a great bike ride we boarded the bus back to Hsinchu and then saw Oliver off at the train station. Pasqualle and I proceeded to shower off the sweat and dust of the day. She then took me to a restaurant called Table Joe’s where we shared an excellent margarita burger and pesto burger. On the way back to her apartment we stopped at a tea shop called Diagon Alley (as in Harry Potter. Yeah, talk about awesome!). I ordered a Potted Milk Tea. It was adorable, but there was so much sugar in the milk tea I couldn’t finish it all.
I boarded the train and I swear the wind from Hsinchu blew me back to Fengyuan. Good weekend accomplished!