Taitung & Goodbyes
July 25 & 26, 2015
My first year in Taiwan has come full circle and I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. The one-year anniversary has brought pride that I survived in a Chinese country for a whole year, but it also means saying goodbye to friends that have decided to not stay in Taiwan for another year. My friend Rachael, who I met at teacher training, decided to not stay in Taiwan another year and was going to go back to America. We planned a weekend trip in Taitung so that I could see her one last time before she left.
Rachael and her two friends, Nolene and Kimara, had taken the midnight train, but I took a train at 5:48am to Taitung. I had a seat the whole way and got to nap so I can’t complain too much about the 6 hour train ride. When I arrived to Taitung I waited for about an hour for them to get to the train station, we said our hellos and went to rent scooters. The first two shops that we stopped at were all booked up, but then one shop would rent to us, but only with a Taiwanese license. I was the only one with a license. I tried convincing her to rent me two but she wouldn’t, but she told me to rent a scooter here and then rent one at a different shop. We did exactly that! With one license I was able to rent two scooters. Legal? Hmm probably not.
We scooted into town looking for food. After driving awhile we realized the only options were Taiwanese so we eventually stopped at NUPasta and had a late lunch there. With full bellies we got on the scooters and started driving towards the balloon festival. I was so excited for this! I had heard about it from a couple people and only hoped that it looked as nice as it looked online. The drive to the Taitung Highlands was really easy and the festival was free. We spent a couple hours just chilling on the hill, watching them set-up and start blowing up the hot air balloons. This gave us plenty of time to take pictures. Kimara is the queen of selfies and was taking full advantage of the beautiful scenery we had before us. When we were just watching the balloons we had people approach us to take pictures. Later in the evening we moved closer to the balloons and when it got darker out they lit up the balloons by blasting their hot air torches for ten seconds. It was well worth the wait.
It was cold and dark by the time we left, but we made the trek from the highlands to our hostel on the coast within an hour. Rachael and I were driving really nice scooters so it was no problem for me.
In Doulan, we reached our hostel and then went to dinner at a Mexican Food Restaurant nearby. I had salsa and chips, a beef burrito, beef tacos, and a mango margarita. It was so much food, but all of it was really good.
We retired to our room and spent the rest of the night listening to music, playing cards and drinking small drinks. The hostel was quiet and very relaxed so I was able to fall asleep right away.
My alarm went off at 7:00am and we got out of bed at 7:20am. We slowly got ready and went to get coffee and breakfast. Then we took a very short scooter ride to the beach. It was a great morning spent on the beach enjoying the waves and a small attempt at burying Rachael in the sand. My skin got more than enough sun on the beach.
We went back to our hostel to shower and check-out. We then ate lunch at a little pizza shop called A-Jo Pizza. Both of the pizzas were very good and we ordered freshly squeezed juice to go along with our pizza. I got mango juice. Yummm! (I am always happy when it is mango season)
Next stop was the Sugar Factory located right in Doulan. When I heard sugar factory I thought of an actual sugar factory that has a section where visitors are allowed. How wrong I was! We arrived at the sugar factory and it was actually an old sugar factory building left behind. The factory building itself was closed off but you could walk around it. There were small buildings and shops all around the factory building, so we were able to do a little shopping. I got postcards, which the nerdy part of me always really likes.
With our small tour over we went back to our hostel to grab our things and drove back into Taitung. I had to return my rental scooters by 2:00pm, so we made it just in time and then just chilled at the train station until my 3:48pm train. I had to say goodbye to Rachael, which wasn’t fun, and get on the train for my 7-hour-train ride back to Fengyuan.
My first year in Taiwan has been so much fun, but now that the second year is starting to begin I realize the harsh realities that come with living abroad. Friends come and go, but the experiences with them never leave you. By having new people come in and out of my life I am able to learn new things constantly. I wish my dear friend all the best and look forward to what my second year in Taiwan has in store for me.