April 4-6, 2015
Due to Children’s Day and Tomb Sweeping Day falling on the same weekend we were given a four-day weekend. I had originally planned on going down to Kaohsiung by myself, but then my friend Alex said she wanted to join me. Actually, we have been doing a lot together during the holidays, so she phrased it as: “What are we doing next weekend? We are doing something, right?”. It was a pretty awesome moment. I did some maneuvering around and was able to book a cheap hotel for us.
I spent Friday chilling with my friend Laura. We ate at a restaurant in Taichung called, Uptowner. In the restaurant description it said that the original Uptowner was created in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is near where I lived in Minnesota. It was like a little piece of home had found me in Taiwan. I got to spend the rest of my Friday lounging and finishing a tutoring session.
On Saturday morning, we grabbed breakfast and left Fengyuan at 10:00am for the Taichung HSR Station. It took us 40-45 minutes thanks to the usual local train delays. We arrived at the HSR station, bought our tickets, 860NT (28USD), walked up to the platform, and got onto the HSR train. Getting to Zouying only took about an hour. Although it cost almost double what the TRA train would have cost, we got there in half the time.
After asking the Visitor Information desk how we can get to Lotus Pond we put our bags in a locker and waited for Bus 35 for what seemed like forever. The bus finally arrived and we got off at a stop right next to the pond. For the next couple of hours we went around Lotus Pond looking at all the pagodas and statues that are scattered around the pond. We first saw the Dragon Tiger Tower. When you visit this tower you are supposed to enter the dragon and exit the tiger for good luck. The Spring and Autumn Pagodas with the Wuli Arbor were next. We spent awhile just sitting and enjoying the clear, sunny day and lovely breeze while sipping on our milk teas. Next, the Yuandi Temple and Beiji Pavilion. We saw the outsides of both the Confucian Temple and Chouchai Temple, but didn’t really feel like going in. By this time we had walked all the way around the pond and were back at the bus stop. This was where we waited for forever for the bus again, and finally hailed a cab when the bus didn’t show up.
Back at the HSR station we grabbed our bags and headed towards the Kaohsiung MRT station. For some reason the KMRT doesn’t use the EasyCard like all other forms of public transportation in Taiwan. You have to buy an IPass card for 100NT (3USD). I found this rather annoying, but you have to do what you have to do to get around on public transportation. We then took the MRT to Yanchengpu Station and walked the rest of the way to our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of our hotel for almost 1,000NT (30USD) a night. We were joking on the way to the hotel about how we may be sleeping in a scary love motel. We got to the hotel and it was nice and decent with two large beds. After spending most of the day in the heat we just chilled on our beds for an hour or so before venturing out for food.
I had discovered a Thai restaurant located near our hotel. It was delicious! We bought some beers, green curry fried rice, pineapple and beef coconut milk curry, pineapple and chicken green curry, and Thai beef lettuce wraps for 800NT (26USD). It was delicious! I haven’t had that great of Thai food since I was in Thailand in 2013. We had very full bellies so we just sat and chatted until the restaurant asked us to leave because there were people waiting for tables. (It seems to be a very American thing to do while most Taiwanese people just get up and leave after they are finished with their meal.) The restaurant deserved the good reviews it has on Google. It had a chill atmosphere and legit Thailand artifacts.
After dinner we were walking around and ended up at the MRT station, so I suggested we just go to one of the most popular night markets in Kaohsiung. Two stops later we were at the Liuhe Night Market. There was so much seafood and other good night market food (including the stinky tofu!). Alex looked at some clothes and I bought a strawberry milk drink. Once we had gotten to the end of the night market we decided to walk around it to avoid the stuffy, hot atmosphere. We took the MRT back to the wharf area and went to our hotel. We spent the rest of the night relaxing and enjoying the air conditioning.
Sunday morning meant it was Easter in the United States, but without our families neither Alex nor I were celebrating. Instead we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out to do more things in Kaohsiung. Our plan was to find a hiking area known as Monkey Mountain. We got on a bus and were at Shoushan Forest Area in a very short amount of time. We walked into the hiking area and just started walking. There were warnings about being careful around the Taiwan Macaques, more specifically warnings about feeding them. All I could think about in my head is how much scarier monkeys are when there isn’t a cage to separate you from them. Alex and I continued onto the paths. After a bit we were confused as to where all the monkeys were. It wasn’t long until our question was answered. We started seeing monkeys in the trees and eventually there were monkeys blocking our path so we had to walk around them. We hiked around the area for about three hours. It was very hot so we were sweating the entire time and eventually ran out of water. At one stopping point there were huge cans of water and Oolong Tea. Well a monkey tipped over one of the jugs of water and the other jug of water was nearly empty. That asshole monkey! All the cans had removable spouts. A man told us that was so the monkeys wouldn’t just turn on the water and the tea and let the jugs drain. Clever! The hike gave us a nice view of the city, but there wasn’t much to see in the forested area besides the monkeys. The stopping points were labeled pavilion or bridge, but in reality it was just a shelter to rest at and some wooden steps. Once we had walked around enough we decided it was time to go back. While walking down one of the paths we heard a strange call from one of the monkeys, then a whole bunch of monkeys were running our way. Alex and I kind of freaked out for a minute thinking they were going to attack us. Instead, the monkeys were just headed towards another monkey that was misbehaving. I felt like we were Simba in the Lion King, and that we were going to get stampeded by a pack of monkeys! When we were back at the entrance we waited for the bus.
Alex wanted to see the ocean so we got on the MRT that could take us to the closest beach. First, we needed to eat lunch. I found this place on Google Maps and we went and enjoyed Mixed –Berry Smoothies and Vegetable Chicken Pitas. They were both delicious and afterwards the owner took a Polaroid of us to hang on the restaurant wall along with all the others.
With full bellies we walked around the harbor and eventually ended up “trespassing” onto a cement wall that was fenced off. There were other people out there already fishing, so we figured it would be okay if we walked along and joined them. After a while we heard some whistling. It was police officers getting everyone off the wall because the tide was coming in. It was very strange because one of the police officers was getting people to leave and the other was holding a video camera, taping us while we left. We were wondering if they were going to do video recognition to try to fine us, which is probably very unlikely. When we were walking back and making our way off the wall I noticed a small beach almost right next to the barge type wall we were on. We walked over to it and immediately took off our socks and shoes and stepped into the water. What a great feeling on our feet after a lot of walking. We walked the rest of the beach with the sand in between our toes and the warm ocean water covering them. I had made a goal when I came to Taiwan to visit all four sides of Taiwan and step into the ocean on all four sides. I haven’t really made my way south, and this was the closest I had gotten. Does it count?
We reluctantly put our shoes back on and walked back to the MRT and made our way back to our hotel. First, we stopped at a tea shop called, Stupid Tea. It was fun to turn to Alex and say, “Hey, do you want to get some stupid tea?”. It almost felt like swearing. How could I speak about tea in such a rude way? If you are wondering the tea was good. We were feeling pretty grimy after a whole day of hiking, walking, and sweating. All showered and clean we left the hotel to eat dinner at a restaurant called, Teresa’s Spanish. There we enjoyed some empanadas, a cheese quesadilla, and our own dishes. To top it all off there were Caipirinhas on the menu. This is a Brazilian alcoholic drink that is very tasty. I was so excited to see them on the menu. When you move to another country you have to part with some of your favorite foods because they just aren’t available. It is just an acceptance level one has to admit to. Then when you finally get to eat that food it becomes that much better and more exciting. We toasted to a good long weekend and a good meal. I had to send a picture of my drink to my friend Alfredo, who introduced me to the drink. We ate the rest of the meal and then ventured back to our hotel. It had been a long day of walking so we were glad to be back and just spent the rest of the evening relaxing. I think our legs were happy to be resting after a whole day of walking.
Monday morning Alex and I got up and were checked out of our hotel by 10:00am. We walked over to a breakfast restaurant that I had found on Google Maps, but were disappointed when we found that the place was not open yet. Spotting a breakfast place nearby we walked in and were immediately seated. Alex and I spent the next hour eating a good breakfast and drinking our iced lattes. We were enjoying the last day of break before we had to be back at work the next day.
Alex wanted to find some gifts for her co-workers, but not really seeing a shop that had what she needed we went and got on the MRT. We took the MRT to the Zouying HSR station, purchased our tickets, and were on the next train to Taichung. Back in Taichung we got immediately got onto a local train and then we were home.
It is always great to have plans change for the better. I had a great weekend with Alex and look forward to many more fun weekends as we travel Taiwan together.