About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dog Daze: Canine Lovers and Puppy Love in Yilan

Up the road, morning bike ride

Even as we were negotiating with our now landlady, we were planning to finally get a dog (or two.) It really didn't seem like a feasible idea living in an apartment. Once we got the house, it was just natural. As my friend Chris was walking around Taiwan (Footprints) raising money for one of the many dog shelter/orgs for strays, he picked up Gina, a stray who followed him on his journey. They came by as they passed through Yilan in July and Chris basically gave me his blessing that we could take her. For a month as we were settling in she stayed with friends in Taipei.

During our first month settling in, we contacted Jenny from the French bakery for another stray. Far be it for her to not only be a business entrepreneur with her French husband, but she dedicates all her free time, feeding, caring for strays and finding them owners. She knows the ins and outs of various local shelters, dog "farms" and vets (She uses and recommends 開口笑寵物精品店). It was through her that we got Zarkon our German Shepherd/Taiwan Mountain dog mix. He maybe is 6 months, no one is sure. He spent 2 months on a farm after he was found and was just annoyingly LOUD, that the neighbors would throw firecrackers at him to scare him quiet. His bark is pretty loud, but his first few days here were quiet. Thanks to Jenny, Zarkon came to us already fixed, chipped and vaccinated. (Its the law here for all pets to be chipped to keep from owners abandoning their pets, although pet stores don't sell them chipped.)

It was a week after we got Zarkon that Chris' friends from Taipei drove Gina over. (Their son was one of the boys who walked around Taiwan with Chris.) Fantastic people. I was worried Gina and Zarkon wouldn't get along as Zarkon was jealous and territorial, but they're the best of buds now. Zarkon is a big bully/baby, but Gina knows how to wind him up and she's much faster.

Gina post fixin'

Gina was already vaccinated when the Taipei clan brought her so we just got her fixed and chipped like two days ago for free.The only 2 places to get a pet spayed or neutered for free in Yilan (normally costs around 4000 NT) is either the Yilan Animal shelter, a reputed hideous place or the kind people in Dongshan's  湖光動物醫院 - 宜蘭分院. My car was in the shop and Jenny got some of her dog volunteers to drive Gina to Dongshan to get fixed. I ended up paying 1800 for her and Zarkon's ear mites drops, meds for her skin allergy and meds for her wound to not get infected. I'm very thankful I didn't have to pay for her getting fixed because that money went to fixing my car!

I grew up with a husky but I don't remember it being so tiresome. Taking care of my dogs is exhausting. Now I see why childless people refer to them as their children. I am up every morning between 5:30-6:15 and take them for a run (while I bike) usually before I have coffee and definitely before I eat. I love that time of day, especially where I live and lead them along the river, deeper into the mountains. I was until, we had a run in with a troupe of Macaques two weeks ago.

Around seven or more of them started to cross our path, about 30 meters away, and Gina takes off as she does full speed into the forest, while Zarkon is barking like a nutter and I have him on leash, waiting for them to all cross. There were infants, a few adolescents , the bigger ones were Zarkon's size but heavier. I was flipping scared, utterly defenseless. The troupe had crossed, but their alpha was holding the line as they escaped into the forest. He was barking at us, like ten feet above us, and not liking Zarkon barking at him at all. The branches under him were heaving, leaves were falling, I feared being mauled and jumped on my bike, leaving Gina hidden in the trees and yelled at Zarkon to, "GO!" We made it home and I was just about to get on my scooter and return to for Gina when she comes trotting along from the back way. What a relief, I literally wept from relief.

I haven't been down that bit since, which is a shame because its my home road, just up the mountain and very pretty. I debated getting pepper spray and I'm looking for an air horn (like in basketball) which is harder to find than I thought, so I can just scare any monkeys away. These aren't your friendly, tamed, Kaohsiung monkey mountain sort. They are here almost every morning, this is there territory. So I go downriver where the mountain is further in land behind the many BnBs, far from monkeys. Its still pretty, but not my first choice.

Zarkon and Gina are hard work, but give us a lot of joy and entertainment (watching them play is therapeutic).  Besides taking them for a run in the mornings, I come home during my lunch break to take them for a quick walk and pee, and then rush home to do the same thing after I clock out.   My kid helps when she can, like in the evenings. In the mornings I feed them dry food from Carrefore and in the evenings mix it up with gourmet wet food from Cookie and Cream a pet store owned by my friend (my former trainer and meat head) who lived in NZ. All his food is high quality, he won't sell animals and he takes in strays too. His big canned wet food is imported from NZ and has clean ingredients, like lamb, pumpkin, chickpeas (and is cheaper than Wonder Pet in front of Luna Plaza).

Sometimes I give them raw, but not everyday its just too expensive buying at the supermarket. My former housemate 17 years ago from my Tamsui days, has a house in Hsinchu and adopted 2 strays herself. Her dogs are on a raw diet and she buys the scraps from the traditional market, costing them 200 NT a week for 2 dogs. Going to the local butchers at the traditional market is next on my to do list. My friend in Dongshan has 12 dogs all on a raw diet which just blows my mind, the expense, the time, the personal sacrifice. Respect.

Its easy to think Taiwan isn't a pleasant place to be a dog.  When I was first in Taiwan 17 years ago (I worked in Tamsui for a year and a half before traveling, going back to school, etc.) it seemed like everyone hated dogs. Then when I returned with my kid in 2008, it appeared like a kind of fad that people have dogs (the little toy ones or an exotic Husky). The problem is people would get a dog and realize how much work they are and then drive out to the countryside, like Yilan and abandon their pooch. My neighborhood in Yuanshan is rife with street dogs, mostly because the farmers don't spay or neuter. Its one of the reasons driving a scooter here is dangerous at night (that and the old people.) Nevertheless, there are just as many people in Taiwan (expats and locals) who are also working tirelessly on the behalf of animal rights, or are responsible dog owners themselves. Recently, Taiwan became the first Asian country to officially ban dog and cat meat for human consumption- yes that's a thing.

If you are in Yilan and want to help, you can go to the Boulangerie Française bakery, ask for Jenny. She is very transparent with her doggie bills and you can be one of those people who monthly helps her pay for taking care for all the strays' food and medial expenses. Likewise, you can visit the kind people at 莉丰慧民V  臉書官網 and buy some of their products that also goes into taking care of strays. Or if you have the space and time, you can just take home a stray.

Next month are 2 holidays weekends (10/10 and Moon Festival) and any other time I'd be planning a short stint somewhere, Japan, Korea like last year. Now, having these wild dogs, who love chasing flying squirrels and scaring wild pheasants, these dogs have domesticated me. I'm more of a homebody now than ever.

List of animal shelters in Taiwan
AIR 宜蘭縣動物權利
Humane Yilan
莉丰慧民V  臉書官網
Taiwan Unofficial Animal Shelter List

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Art of Summer

Over the summer we were fortunate enough to catch a couple of world class exhibitions as well as our local gallery.
"Day Walker" at the Yilan Museum of Art, mid June

I waited patiently for summer vacation and the end of school to take my kid to the National Palace Museum to catch the Musee D’orsay exhibit in July. We went during the work week but it was still so crowded. Tickets were about 700 NT  total and afterwards we walked around the adjacent garden and then had pizza near Shilin MRT station. It was a rare Taipei day trip.

Musee D'orsay exhibit at the Nat'l Palace Museum

The exhibit from the infamous French museum included 69 iconic masterpieces from artists such as Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Millet, Renoir and Gauguin. The most moving works for me were Renoir's "Young Girls at the Piano" as it reminded me of my recently deceased niece with my daughter. The painting always did remind me of them, even when they were just toddlers at my parents' piano (my daughter was blond then). My daughter mentioned it, she knew. 

In my mid 20's living in Capitol Hill Denver I had this calendar of these same masterpieces that I framed and hung around my apartment. I've been to the famous museums of Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, to the Louvre, but that was so long ago, when I was 18 or 20 years old. I was so grateful to bend the knee to these classics in person, especially Millet's Shepherdess which was always a personal favorite. The colors in person, the lighting can't be appreciated in a replica photograph.

First installation of the Imaginarium exhibit

When we were in Singapore in early July, we enjoyed a guided tour with a Swedish expat who had been in Singapore for 25+ years at the Singapore Art Museum. They were having an exhibit called "Imaginarium" featuring several up and coming SE Asian artists which were quite interactive. My kid liked the remote control wheeled paintbrushes that were linked up with students all over the world.

Last room of the Imaginarium
It was because of our Swedish guide that we just happenstanced upon the "Life is a Heart of a Rainbow"exhibit from Yayoi Kasuma at the National Gallery Singapore. I had no idea she was in town. We changed plans and headed there on foot immediately.

The queen of avant-garde had this all encompassing, colossal exhibition spanning 70 years from her post WW2 early works until recent pieces/installations from this year. It was astounding. It was multiple mixed medias, film, video, sculpture, lighting, music, she even recorded some haunting song she sung in Japanese, playing over and over in a video room.  We enjoyed several of the interactive installations where you'd have to stick your head into a cube and using mirrors, see yourself inside these psychedelic kaleidoscopes. Of course I knew Kasuma's circle obsessions, her spotty universe, and those gigantic canvasses were just brilliant. Yet I really loved her pumpkins and her phallic fascination as a women, trying to make sense of that in a political and intimate way. There was a room for adults only during her 1960's anti -war, nude photographs. My kid indignantly waited outside, craning a neck out of curiosity.

 We waited in line for about twenty minutes,  two by two to go into the Infinity Mirrored Room's Gleaming Light of the Souls installation. They kicked us out after a minute, but it was basically imagining what it would be like to be in Kasuma's brain. It was dark and spotted colored lights absolutely floating all around us. I felt dizzy. 

We had a little time to kill before our High Tea at the Raffles Hotel and admired the permanent exhibits on the first floor of Singaporean artists from the past. It was excellent. It was better than a history book to see life under British colonialism from the point of view of the Chinese.

Kasuma in person

I'd like to think the summer had some kind of positive influence on me. I recently bought some art supplies and started sketching landscapes of my new living quarters and will work up the nerve to delve in watercolors which had always been so scary for me. There was a time I used to draw and paint and I miss it. Beholding these masters' treasures filled the void. 

Yilan Museum of Art in June

In the meantime, (of working up the nerve to paint again) the Yilan Museum of Art as of today began a new exhibit, "The Landscape of Taiwan," ink paintings by the educator/politician Huang Kuang-Nan 黃光男. Admission is free for Yilan residents and the adjacent cafe sells decent tea and sparse lunch dishes.

In June we caught the local exhibit, "Day Walker" at the Yilan Museum of Art across from Luna Plaza. The large blue landscapes, the rich verdent green trees on gigantic canvasses were my favorites. It was all mostly mountains which is my familiar safe place, my reoccurring childhood dream. I love to see artists sketchbooks, and they had several of the artist's (Li Zanheng) encased in glass. This museum is so underrated and never cited in the English speaking newspapers art exhibition weekly sections.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Home Run! Moving House in a Typhoon

My kid and I's dream of a mountain manor where we can have chickens and a goat, providentially came true! Its a funny story how we found this place. I was late paying my water bill, so I went to the water department in Yuanshan (near my work, it was my lunch break) to pay it. They insisted I could pay at 7-11, but I was doubtful, only because whenever I am late with my Chunghua Telecom bills (phone, internet, cable), 7-11 doesn't work I need to pay at their offices.

In another example of Taiwanese kindness, the one lady insisted on driving me down the road to 7-11. I was perfectly capable of going there myself, but whatever, I was open, and then we started to talk. She grew up here, she went to the same little mountain school as my kid and her childhood classmate, still one of her friends, had this little house available to rent. Now this was back in February right after CNY and it was only abundant Grace that kept this house from getting snatched up until our lease ended in July.


 We moved out of our Yilan City apartment the end of July during this crazy weekend of an approaching typhoon and my friends visiting from Tainan. We decided to have the movers move the big furniture on Friday instead of Sunday because of the typhoon. It took them 2 trips in their blue truck, which cost me 4000 NT (132 USD). We sat out the storm in our Yilan City Apartment with our guests.

 My friend Chris Knight, a walker (he once walked the entire Ganges River), traveler, disaster manager, and animal lover was now walking around Taiwan with 2 boys, one an old friend of ours who is 12 (who also walked the Camino de Santiago with his mom last year) and his Taipei friend who is 14. They had been camping, sleeping at police stations, walking days, raising money for homeless dogs. Admire and marvel at their incredible journey at Footprints of Formosa.

One sweet dog Jiji had adopted Chris and was traveling with them (Z and I hope to adopt her the end of August). All four of them crashed with us for two nights during the typhoon, in the middle of my moving house, with most of my towels, bedding, and no refrigerator, but they were the easiest of guests. We ate at Balagov's, swam at the cold springs in Yuanshan, waiting for typhoon Nesat to pass. My kid thoroughly enjoyed having cool kids her age to play with and I enjoyed having some adult conversation!

Checking out political art while waiting for Nesat to strike
Yuanshan Coldsprings

Nesat hit fast and hard, all the windows flooded except the kitchen (balcony). We survived, our guests walked the next day from my house to Taipei 101 (nuts!) as we were hustling to clean my old place, which was a mess from the typhoon waters, trying to get our security deposit back (which we did). Then I was engrossed unpacking into our new, mountain abode.

Nesat destroyed the banana field in front of the house

Ah the house, its spanking new, no one has lived in it. Its in the middle of a tea farm, a tea field beside us, and tea behind us on the mt in the distance, my other neighbor has a ginger farm. The banana field (owned by my landlord) in front of us got completely destroyed from the typhoon, half of their pomelos that border the tea field and our house were on the ground, but the jackfruit survived unscathed. The landlady's mother has a vegetable garden beside us and if we don't pick the sweet potato leaves, okra, gourds, en choy ourselves, she molests us with bags of the stuff. We have been having en choy or potato leaf omelettes for breakfast almost daily.

Digging holes for flowers! "Mom I'm gonna dig a hole all the way to America!" When I was a kid we tried to dig holes to China😅.
The benefit of our new abode besides the quiet, the views, fresh air and proximity to my work and my kid's school, is that water is free. It just comes from the mountain. Another benefit is this place is made for bike riding. The roads here are small lanes, that circle in and out of the orchard farms, perfect for a late afternoon leisure ride when the day's heat subsides. The last benefit is we are gardening. I'm not sure how long we will stay here or in Taiwan, but for sure this is our last and final homestead. We have planted yellow and orange hibiscus, lotus, some flowering bushes I don't know they names of, garden herbs, dragon eye tree, lychee tree, and a cherry tree (which the monkeys prefer over the riper pomelos). I imagine how handsome it will be in 5 years, 10 years. It's peachy keen if we aren't here to enjoy it then, as I see it already in my mind's eye. For now we enjoy caring for them. The ground is unforgiving rocky, I broke one of the old lady's tools, digging out the stones and it was back breaking work digging those holes. The road to our home has this natural compost of fallen tree leaves on the road that have never been swept or cleaned, so we scraped 3 inches of the finest, blackest jungle humus and added it to our plants. So far so good.

 I tell people I live in Yuanshan because thats basically were we are, except because I live on the other side of a river I technically live in Jiaoxi! My address on Google map sends everyone down the road and lost, its mid August and I still haven't received any mail. I'm still waiting for my landlady to fix my mailbox that was blown away during Nesat, but still no green mailman on his motorcycle around these parts looking for us.

Adjusting wasn't hard, even with Chunghua taking 20 days to install cable and internet (we played lots of chess). The exception is getting used to the critters,  but so far no snakes. There are macaques behind our house in the mornings and evenings, they stole one of  my kid's shoes and sometimes are on the roof right after dawn. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a side-widing centipede in my living room, which I wasn't able to catch and then 2 more in the shower. I located which farmer's supply store sell DE (Diatomaceous Earth) and sprinkled it around the outside perimeter and inside where I think critters would hide. It apparently keeps snakes away from the chickens, which is good to know, as we plan on getting chickens and a dog the end of the month.

Yet I was in a dilemma, a traveler's dilemma. I had the money, I found the cheap flights and guesthouse, we could of gone to Jeju Island- today in fact. (We could go there still). Twice I was this close to finalizing the payments of the air tickets and then I closed the window.  I think its a combination of being tired of blowing what little I have in the bank and starting from zero the next month (that was us after last month's Singapore trip) and wanting to take it easy. There are activities to enjoy here, we have yet to surf this year which is a sorry state since its now August (but the sun is so abhorrently strong), we could go diving here too. Mostly I didn't buy those tickets to Jeju because our home is so dang relaxing. I have the month off and our home is a sanctuary, and with my easy schedule, I cherish everyday being like a Saturday. I don't desire to be anywhere than where I am. Contentedness is highly underrated.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Slip Away from SE Asia: Saying Goodbyes to Sydney

My friend Sydney was finally leaving KL and I just had to see her and say goodbye. We met in Northern Sumatra (Pulau Weh an island off of Banda Ache) five years ago and have been friends ever since. She hails from North Carolina, but probably feels more at home living simply in her ashram in India. We went to KL last year to see her, but her mother was dying and she had to return to the States so we stayed alone in her fantastic apartment (Setia Sky Residence), which was a bit dour and contemplative without her (See Back to Borneo).

 The other time before that, when we visited her, she was beginning to help in the creation of a gigantic silver chariot used for the festival of Thaipusam and the infamous Hindu procession to the Batu Caves with local Hindu artisans from Sri Ganesh Jewelry. My daughter and I were walking around their workshop admiring the little intricate pieces they would eventually meld together in a 6 meter tall chariot. Sydney was honored to be the first woman to ever work on such a holy relic.

She is an incredible woman. Sydney is an artisan, jewelry maker, using jewels, and precious metals (gold mostly), specializing in enameling. Her finest pieces cost about 8,000-10,000 USD. She started a NGO in Cambodia teaching former sex trafficking victims how to make jewelry and provide for themselves (The Alchemy Project). Just her personal drama of being an older woman in a conservative, patriarchal Muslim society and establishment of Raffles College is quite the story. The hardships she endured for her the love of teaching her art, has made her a heroine of mine (and her students).

We have gone to KL several times, mostly in transit to other parts of Malaysia and I think we saw most of the popular tourist destinations: the Bird Park, Little India, China Town, Petronas Towers, Batu Caves.

This time we returned to Little India for our maandi (henna tattoo), relaxed by the pool, ate more delicious Middle Eastern and Indian Food (at different restaurants) and had some white wine at Marini's' rooftop bar, with it's towering view overlooking the Petrona's sky bridge as well as the whole city. Using an Uber like app called Grab was the only way to get around. Much cheaper than taxis -or Uber. (If only Taiwan had Grab I'd never drive again.)

View from Marini's
Sydney was busy packing and finishing last minute details, so we didn't want to be in the way too long. We left her place, with a DVD player, a picture frame, a bag of peanuts, a book, little gifts for Z, and a table clothe to add to our backpacks. As the elevator door of her apartment closed, my daughter asked me, "Will we ever see her again?" I hope so! She's just one of those kindred spirits, ageless, a profound person with an enormous, generous heart.

So on the 4th of July we slipped away on a bus to Singapore.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dragon Boat Weekend in Shoufeng 壽豐鄉

Just a 2 hour train away from Yilan is the Rift Valley town of Shoufeng. It has what is said, to have the most beautiful University campus in Taiwan (National Donghwa University 國立東華大學), which I only admired from the road. The area is breathtaking and only a 15 minute drive away, in the same township is the Pacific coast.
View from our window Sea Hi BnB
We stayed at the Sea Hi BnB for 2 nights, which included breakfast.  The grounds were beautiful and out of our window was a view of the green garden and sea. We could hear the lazy, lapping waves. The quirky owner (who speaks no English) has all kind of Roman statues of gods and goddesses, and guests have signed and graffitied his rock collection. There's all kind of nooks and crannies to sit and read a book, play cards, throw down a yoga mat.
View from our window Sea Hi BnB

My coworker who teaches environmental science lives on a farm in Shoufeng. She was visiting family in Tainan for the weekend and gave me an extra set of keys to her jeep which was parked and waiting for us at Shoufeng station. What a luxury! After we filled up the tank, we headed to Liyu Lake. I always wanted to go there. The weather looked like it would rain, but we just went for it. My kid insisted on going on a swan paddleboat (I'd prefer the kayak). But it was fun, we paddled to the other side and back in 30 minutes (300NT an hour), and then went to a cafe with rooms (looked like a nice place to stay for next time) on the edge of the lake on our way to the bike rentals. After over priced coffee we rented bikes and enjoyed a wiz around the lake. We spotted several hiking trail heads for next time. About halfway around the lake it started pouring so we just finished our loop and returned the bikes.

One more stop before we checked in, the Taiwan Jade Workshop. They had DIY which my kid loves, and it being a a now rainy afternoon, not much else to do. It was in fact, very interesting. I still do not understand the process so much even after making our necklaces.

100% Concentration

My daughter had the fantastic idea of making a necklace for each other. We chose a template shape and jade color and then passed through 6 stations of sanding, water, shaping and buffing before choosing our string. I made her a pink dove and she made me a green leaf.

We were starving by now so I thought we could eat some fish at the Lichuan Fishmarket. It turned out to be a tourist trap, catered to big groups and families, my Z was not impressed. So we googled places to eat and I saw Ian's Table which was open. I am familiar with his food column in the Taipei Times, and he was literally 5 minutes away. Unfortunately google was wrong he wasn't opened, reservations were required and it was too pricey, 1200NT a head for a 4 course Mediterranean meal. Maybe next time. I headed to our BnB hoping they could whip us something. We ended up walking 3 minutes down the road to the famous 055 Lobster Seafood Restaurant . It was pricey, but there were budget options. We had a simple dinner of lobster miso soup  with a side of greens, a large plate of fried clams, beer (for me) and 2 small bowls of rice for 600NT. The place was packed so we dined al fresco in company with the Pacific, which for me was the best table in (well outside) the house .

Chilling at SeaHi

I was surprised to find out the closest convenience store was 50 km away, so the next day when we did pass a 7-11 on our road trip, I was sure to stop for beer and snacks.

The full day of our road trip we planned on hitting the beaches and testing out our new full face snorkels for a friend who sells them online. First, we drove down to Ciji beach. There was someone camping in the parking lot with a gorgeous view of the Pacific. Unfortunately, the beach is fenced off with an admissions gate! It looked closed.


Bummed we drove down to the Tropic of Cancer Marker, bought some fruit and ice cream and turned the jeep around, heading north again. We stopped at some beautiful beaches along the way. A private one with camping and a simple cafe, we lunched on smoked wild boar and smoked flying fish (sold everywhere down the East Coast highway). The fish was great if not bony. The rocks made a natural pool, but it being a private beach , they didn't allow us to swim there.

So we  went to the geological wonder of Shitiping 石梯坪. The view of the lush mountains encamped with white clouds besides the aquamarine waters was breathtaking. It seemed crowded, but there was parking. People crawled around the rocks like little ants. We went as high as we could go over looking from the precipice into the breaking foam.

 It was hot, the water was too enticing but even in the shallow pools no one was swimming. My kid couldn't stand not being in the water but she was self conscious, knowing everyone holding their cameras would eventually turn their attention to the lone foreigner- swimming. We were wearing our swim suits anyways, so what the hell?! Once in the water, it began to rain, but that didn't matter either. Freedom washed over us as the crowds scrambled away.

View from Dashibi Hill
Making our way northward to our BnB we stopped for a quick hike at Dashibi Hill (大石鼻山). The very last stretch of the walk was roped off and the 7 or so people in front of us just sort of congregated under the pavilion besides the roped trail. Undaunted we just walked over the rope and continued to the top to enjoy a gorgeous view of Ciji Beach.

Ciji Beach was opened and they didn't charge us any entrance ticket, but alas, once again we weren't allowed to swim! We snacked on cold mung bean soup and bought some meat rice buns for dinner. We checked out the camping spots which were both covered and uncovered and had a BBQ grill at every tent site. It looked amazing. Tragically they had the whole beach roped off! I was tired of breaking rules, and yet we did dodge a rope and was about to walk on the beach when my kid's eagle eyes spotted a used hypodermic needle and syringe besides my foot. We were both too disgusted and just went back to the car. Our day was basically over anyways.  We used our last hour of sunlight playing cards at one of the little nooks on the green grounds of our BnB.

The next day we ate breakfast at 7, checked out early, returned the car at Shoufeng station and took the 8:30 train to Hualien. We were meeting the Dolphin Watching tour group for their  second morning tour, before heading back to Yilan. We had a somewhat uninteresting meeting before heading to the boats. What was clear was the dude can speak English and seemed to care about not disturbing the dolphins so much. They had seen sharks the tour before us, so I was hopeful. Please note that our BnB was literally 5 minutes away from the Farglory Ocean Park 遠雄海洋公園, which had tempting amusement park rides, and also dolphin shows. Z and I talked about how supporting the park would be supporting the capture and abuse of dolphins and both of us made the joint decision to see dolphins in the wild.

The Turtle Island dolphin tour we did the summer we moved to Yilan (when my family visited) was much better. We did see dolphins this time too, some of them doing tricks, but they were breeding and my operator was rightly not wanting to disturb them (unlike the other tour company). Still it was relaxing to be on the boat and spend time with my kid. The view of Hualien and the mountains was nothing short of stunning.

We returned to the train station and luckily caught the next train to Yilan. We didn't have seats, but we had a comfortable nook next to a wheel chair. It was a relief to be back home, but I was grateful for our mini Dragon boat adventure.

Things to Do/See/
Lao River/Cha Creek
Baibao River Bikeway
National Donghwa University 國立東華大學
Jiqi Beach: In Jiqi Bay Cape there is a Dashibi Hill Trail, visitors can observe the flora and fauna with the trail and and appreciate the terrain landscape. It is a natural ecological trail for families."
Shitiping Beach Going south: Follow Highway 11 to Taitung, pass Jingpu. At the 65 marker, you will see Shihtiping.Shitiping is a great place to observe intertidal ecology and an excellent place for diving. Shiti Level Ground has a well-equipped campground. Stay here and enjoy the sound of the waves on a starry night. It offers a wonderful experience."
1.Shitiping no shading facilities, beach, sunlight intensity, and equipment to complete, in addition to Sun Hat, pants, long-sleeved, thirst-quenching water more indispensable.
2.The initial visit, we recommend that you walk along a wooden plank road, from the first wooden Pavilion next to a stone walkway, about 2 km long, you can see the sea, you can also see the coastal plants .

Sand Po  Shabao Water Source:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yilan County Weekend Warriors

Yilan's weather gets a bad rap. Most times the sky is overcast grey and thus its perfect for a bike ride or hike. When its blazing sun of course cold springs or beach are the best choice. However, the weather is a bit of a gamble. Rule of thumb is, if its raining in the morning, it will clear in the afternoon and vice versa, but then we get these rains that can stay for a few days (or weeks) in which case check out my Rainy Day Suggestions.

Travel Suggestions

This is my list of spots near us, and we have been to most of them (some more than once). Still, there are a few I hope to cross off this summer.

Local Microbrewery in Yuanshan

2.    Long Men Bikeway

Yuemeikeng waterfall.

Assuming you already checked out some of the hotsprings, Wufangchi Waterfalls and, Linmei Shihpan Trail, then check out:

5.    Eagle Rock Tip
6.    Lanyang Museum
7. Yuemeikeng waterfall.

Yongzhen Beach Park 永鎮海濱公園.

9.    Wang Long Bi There are several trails to appreciate the lake from above, as well as walking through beetlenut hills. The lake itself has a few shops that sell snacks, a cafe and a pizza place. Local farmers sell their fruits from their orchards.
13.  Bee Museum, The Honey House right next to the Jim and Dad's brewery
14.Jim and Dad's Brewery

Plum Blossom Lake

18. Jiuzize Hot Spring
19. Jiouliao Waterfall- turn off right beside the gas station.  Trail takes about 40 minutes, to falls with a small rope bridge. There's some simple places to buy dumplings and drink homegrown oolong tea, right across from parking lot. Becoming more popular with tourists buses on their way to Taipingshan.
20. Syano Campgrounds- Opened June  2016 
21. River Creek Sihumut Campground 溪河木露營區- Opening now
22. Mu Ye Camping in Mingchi National Forest Rec Area
23. Taipingshan
24. Fanfan Hotsprings

32. Shyang Yeu organic Farm (picking tea leaves)+
33. Dongfong Farm (camping)
34.Happiness 20 Farm (not many animals, pizza DIY)
35. Dajin Organic Farm
Aohua, Nanao

Nan'ao/ Su'ao/Nanfangao
    36. Aohua Waterfall
    37. Su'au Cold Springs
    38. Nanfang'ao Harbor
    39. Neipi Beach/Yilan Lover's Bay

    Zhuangwei (also spelled Jhuangwe, right east of Yilan City)
    41. Yongzhen Beach Park Coastal Bike Trail