About Me

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Tainan, Taiwan
I'm an ESL teacher from Colorado. I worked in Taipei in 2000 for over a year, paid off my undergrad loans, traveled, saved $ to travel some more. So when I got pregnant in grad school I thought I could return to Taiwan, be economically self sufficient while my daughter masters Mandarin.We came to Tainan when she was 2. Taiwan is an excellent base to explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety and 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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dragon Boat Festival in Kenting

The past year or so every Saturday, I'd invite my daughter's swimming coach Ivy's daughter Maggie to come over and spend the day with us while her Mom worked full-time at our gym. Ivy is also a single mom.  Ivy taught Z to swim several years ago when E-Power moved into the basement of these condos' pools.(We actually lived on the 17th floor of one of those condos when we first arrived from the States). Our daughters became instant buddies, fast friends, and played together when I took a yoga or kickboxing class. Those Saturdays were a  win-win situation for both of us; Z had a companion her own age, so I'd just bring us to the park, do some yoga or reading while they adventured on in their imaginary worlds.

Ivy and me catching the sunset
After the Anping branch of E-power closed, Ivy took a new job as a swim coach in Kaohsiung. One Saturday we came to pick up Maggie as usual and the staff told us they had moved to Kaohsiung, my daughter was gutted. We called them to wish them the best of luck with their new life and tell them we will miss them.

I was surprised when Ivy called me out of the blue and invited us to spend the Dragon Boat 3 day weekend with them in Kenting  (墾丁). I've been to Kenting maybe four or five times, and think its a bit overrated. Still, I wouldn't not think of declining such an invitation, my daughter was stoked. Her cousin Benson would join us. He happens to be fluent in English (and Afrikaans, Taiwanese, Mandarin) having grown up in S. Africa. He certainly helped when my poor Mandarin and Ivy's poor English didn't connect.


On the drive down to Kenting we stopped at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung. Sure we have been there four times, but each time Z a little older and we are with different company, so although we know where each exhibit is, its still altogether a new experience. We saw the penguin feeding this time which was a first. There we were, two strapping single mom's with our daughters on our shoulders so they could look over everyone's heads. 



 





We decided to save some money and camp it the first night. We found a campground south of the city center with a view of the beach, but alas we got there too late for prime viewing tent sites. After we set up camp we found dinner run by the French chef at Chez Papa. After our yummy dinner we drank a few beers and played cards but no one but the kids got any sleep. It was much too hot in the tents and in typical Taiwanese campgrounds, its much too loud too late. Thankfully there was no KTV, as I've experienced camping in Taiwan before, but drunk dudes did come back in the middle of the night, immune to the volume of their own voices and there were people setting up camp at 3 am next to us. With the heat, we were pretty blood shot come morning. There were quite a few foreign dudes from Tainan. I recognized their voices bright and early also complaining of the early heat. One guy, packed up and returned to the AC of his apartment back in Tainan. We fortunately booked a room in a hotel the next night, otherwise I might have joined him.


Early we left for breakfast and drove outside of Kenting to where there were some reefs. Ivy brought us all snorkel gear and the girls had life vests. It was nice to snorkel on our own terms, the way its supposed to be done and not how the locals do here, wet suits, vests, a whole group of them tied to a rope and kicking each other's masks off with their fins. It was a perfect, if not scorching day to snorkel. I was vigilant about covering up my kid most of the time, the sun was so strong. By the end of the day I was the one with a sunburned back, but the coral was lovely, I was surprised having scuba dived here before. I didn't see anything "big", just trumpet fish, parrot fish, but it was still so peaceful.



For dinner that night we hit the strip for something cheap and found a burrito stand. Of course it was burritos for a Taiwanese palate and more of a snack, than a meal, but I appreciated the effort. How nice to sleep on a bed with AC and avoid the crowded strip which was right outside our doorstep. That strip was like a glorified night market with scantily clad young Taiwanese women, the crowd moving along like a serpent at a snail's pace.

Ivy, Z and Maggie
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and then decided to do some 4 wheeling. It was pretty mellow, not a dangerous dirt track with hills, small jumps and sharp turns. It was exhilarating catching some air. Then we hit a different track for some go-carting. Now that was worth the 20 minute wait! All the penned up aggression and road rage from 5 years of risking my life driving the "mean" streets of Tainan on scooter came spilling out. I ran people off the track into walls, spun a few out, finding satisfaction in passing people. I even rammed a dude who nicked my bumper. Every time we cut in front of someone, Z and I giggled wickedly. I highly recommend go-carting in Taiwan for therapeutic it's purposes.

Post 4-wheeling

Speed Racers
On our way back we stopped for lunch somewhere off the road at some restaurant that made their own mango ice-creams We dropped off Benson at his place in Pingtung and then we continued to the beach near my place in Anping. We met my friend with his paddle boards and relished the end of our amazing weekend with more time in the water. I felt so grateful paddle boarding into the majestic pink and lavender sunset. There must of been some kind of magic in the air that eve, because Ivy and my paddle board friend hit it off and they've been keeping good company ever since.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Little Gems and Surprising Possibilities: Yilan


Wai-ao 外澳 Beach, Toucheng, Yilan County
My former coworker told me about a job opening at his bilingual elementary school in Yilan 宜蘭 and before I knew it, I took Friday off, pulled my daughter out of school and boarded an early High-speed Train to Taipei. We took an 8 am train, then a Kamalan bus to Yilan and arrived at the school by lunchtime. I was happily surprised that the 2 demos were unlike my previous experiences, quite enjoyable, as was catching up with my old friend, his wife and new baby (which was no surprise).

Mr. Balagove Cafe Entrance
We had dinner at the amazing Ukrainian owned Ukrainian Restaurant, Mr. Balagov  Cafe. What an unexpected gem of a place in Yilan! The restaurant looks like a country cottage, very out of place at the end of this dingy parking lot, but once you cross the threshold into his lush garden, with geese walking around and a small brook, its apparent, that one has arrived into a little sanctuary of nature and natural food. While we waited for our food we drank a glass of Kvass. For my dinner,  I had homemade borscht, rye bread and a beef stew. My daughter had a sandwich with homemade sausage on rye with potato salad. For dessert I had apple cake and she had homemade blueberry ice-cream. It was unbelievable and such a treat to eat "real" western food, let alone authentic Ukrainian cuisine, as opposed to the plastic tasting imitations.


Homemade rye and sausage with a glass of Kvass
 I told them if I got the job I'd definitely be buying a loaf of rye and a bottle of  Kvass "bread cider" every week. (Kvass is a fermented rye drink full of probiotics and enzymes, that boosts energy, detoxifies the blood and liver and aids in all around radiant health.)




The next day after breakfast we said our goodbyes to my friend's wife and baby daughter and he drove us to Jiaoxi to see the amazing Wufengchi 五峰旗瀑布  waterfalls. (I was actually here in 2001, but it was so long ago). It was warm, there were "Beware Cobra" signs everywhere which we have never seen in Taiwan before. It takes about 5 minutes to the first falls and 5 or 10 minutes more  to the final falls.




We easily could of swam in the first falls, there was a nice pool, but we knew we'd soon be the subject of everyone's clicking camera, "look at the foreigners swim!" and to take our dip in the river near the parking lot. As we left the trail coming down, numerous tour buses and their hordes had arrived, so it was perfect timing. We left for a fish foot spa.



My friend took us to a nice hotel with indoor pools, full of what looked like your common goldfish. With classical music playing in the background, we had the dead skin on our feet nibbled off. At first it tickled, but then it was relaxing. I had wanted to do this the many times we went to Malaysia but never did. I think here in Taiwan it was cheaper at only 100NT for half an hour.

Jiaoxi Public Hot springs Park
After our fish foot treatment we said our goodbyes, my friend dropped us off near the Jiaoxi Public Hot springs, at the top of the hill was the Japanese style private hot springs 森林風呂露天溫泉 - 礁溪溫泉公園. It was less than 300NT for both me and my daughter. It was beautiful and large, mostly outside looking at trees, with bamboo enclosures and 4-5 hot pools of varying degrees, ending with one freezing pool. I have been to dozens of hot springs, and outdoor ones, and this was the best outdoor nude one. They were separated by gender and unlike most nude hot springs, you could really be outside. The other ones I've been to have walls so high and enclosed, all you see is the sky if you crane your head straight up. It was relaxing to just look at greenery. I met a nice Spanish woman who was traveling around Taiwan with her husband.



When I had enough of water, because my daughter could easily spend all day there, we walked to my friend's recommended noodle shop and then had some spicy icecream for dessert at the Jiaoxi Chili pepper shop 辣椒文創館. The flavors range in chili pepper degrees of spiciness. Having grown up eating different chilis and of course being a big fan of ice-cream, it was, um different.


From Jiaoxi we took a train to Toucheng, stayed a night in a hard to find minsu and road a bike to Wai-ao beach 外澳. It was crowded, but long enough of a stretch of black sand to accommodate the hordes which clung together, so we had some space to play in the waves and relax.

The next afternoon we took a train to Taipei (which is longer than the bus) and then THSR (High Speed Rail) back to Tainan Sunday in time for dinner. Did I get the job? YES! I start August 1st and am starting to pack right now. I still haven't found an apartment, having gone looking last weekend, with 2 different agents, but I'm planning on renting a blue truck and driving everything to Yilan next weekend, but thats another story.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Congrats to me! I'm Legal!

After 5 years of legitimate, tax paying work, a foreigner can apply for their much coveted APRC (Alien Permanent Resident Card). The benefit being I can work anywhere, like a Taiwanese person without being a slave to a school for their sponsoring my ARC (Alien Resident Card) and reapplying every year. I could of applied in September 2013, but I was saving for our visas and plane ticket to Myanmar the beginning of 2014 for Chinese New Year and simply didn't have the extra 10,000NT ($340 USD) lying around. My Chinese teacher Kevin couldn't stand it anymore and in March lend me the money which I quickly paid back. Then in April I was finally holding my APRC in my hand. I have the option of going home right now and coming back in 183 days without changing my legal, working status. I can also apply for a 2 year leave and return with the same status.

The morning I received my APRC
The story doesn't end there. Immigration didn't tell me, but through friends I learned I still wasn't "legal", I had to apply for a Work Permit, that fortunately only cost me 100NT. It was easy, I could apply from Tainan and send everything to Taipei. My work permit just came in yesterday! It took 2 working weeks to process.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

April in Taipei: Demos, Tung Blossoms and a Light House

Tung mountain flower festival, Sanzhi 三芝.


At the end of April it was that time of year to start looking at job prospects, especially since now I have my coveted, long awaited APRC (Alien Permanent Resident Card) . So I took a Friday off work, got my daughter out of school and jumped on an early High-speed train to Taipei. I met Kite from Take your Time guesthouse (see post, "Catching Up on East Coast"), they were in Taipei and she took Z swimming with her boys while I had my demo/interview.

I was late of course.

The school is a private bilingual elementary school, with borders, in Sanxia 三峽區. It didn't matter I was late, they had no idea until I told them. They were busy interviewing my competitor, an Irishman married to a local. They gave the job to him. It was weird,strange doing a demo for 3 adults, pretending they were a classroom of 12 year olds; my icebreaker, a game of "Snowballs" throwing crumpled paper balls at each other, fell flat. Two of them were Taiwanese, the other was the head teacher, an American, with wife, kids, very sympathetic, he made me feel at ease. We "shot the shit" about raising kids here. I don't think I knocked their socks off with my demo, but I wasn't bummed.  I looked at it as a learning experience, I really haven't done many demos. All these little baby steps to step out, are stepping stones to somewhere, destination unknown. On the taxi ride back to the MRT, I kept on reading signs, "Enjoy your trip", "Relax", and I felt like High Powers wanted me to just enjoy my weekend in Taipei above all else, which I did.

At Da-an Park, MRT

I picked up Z from Kite and met another friend I recently met in Taitung, at Da-an Park, where she and I caught up and watched Z get dirty in the sandbox. Then I met one of my oldest friends Alisse for a hotpot dinner and went back to her house for the night. She and I go back to my Tamsui days when I worked in ChuWei, she dated my then housemate. That was 14 years ago. She came to see me 9 years ago in York, when I was in grad school in England, pregnant and breaking up with my daughter's father. (Which is to say perfect timing for a true friend).

Familiar View, Chu Wei, Tamsui

I imagined how life in Sanxia would be. It was more developed than I had imagined. The mountains were beautiful, but I couldnt really see them with the all the eye sore apartment building blocking my views.  In the morning we said goodbyes and met my friend Sherry at Chu Wei MRT who picked us up with one of her older students and drove us all to north of Tamsui to Sanzhi 三芝 for the mountain flower festival.


Tung flower 油桐 Festival

I could totally live here! I could live in this mountain village so close to the sea and just a bus and MRT away from the city! Sanzhi 三芝was what I thought Sanxia 三峽 would be (minus the sea). I was kind of relieved that Sanxia didn't work out even more now. I felt like it was a positive confirmation that Sanxia wasn't right anyway, but something good was around the corner, if I waited.




It was that the end of April that time of year for the Tung flower 油桐  to bloom. (Hsinchu is better known for them, Z and I got to see them when we went there a few years ago for another job interview that didn't work out, I turned it down). After a sweaty hike up the river along unkempt fields,  small plots and gardens, shrines and a dead dog drowned in the river, finally we reached the wooded and shaded "mountain" where the white flowers blossoms littered the grounds. There were centipedes and butterflies galore.



As far as Tung Flowers go, Hsinchu's are vast, rolling hills of it and in cooler weather, its bloom there being a month earlier. Sanzhi's little plot is small and I regretted not bringing a hat, the sun was brutal even at the end of April. But it was good to walk, enjoy the coming of summer in good company.

Rear View from 25 Seconds, Sanzhi
By lunch, we had worked up a healthy appetite from our morning excursion and met former coworkers (that I forgot, shame, shame) at 25 Second, a pasta and pizza place on the coast with gorgeous views from its rear seaside promenade. Z and I shared a pizza, which was more than enough. I didnt like the crust, it was too thick and starchy and tasted like it came from a Buttermilk Biscuit already made, add the water dough from a box. The topping was also a white sauce obviously not handmade, covered in layers of processed cheese, with carrots and peas (from a frozen bag) under the goo.The plates were overpriced.

Rear View from 25 Seconds, Sanzhi

The dessert redeemed the place. Had I known, I would of just had my dessert for lunch. My cappuccino was perfect and the cheesecake was the best Ive had in Taiwan. Most cheesecakes all taste the same here, even Starbuck's which I always hoped would taste better. We were stuffed and passed some time outside playing in the shade of tall trees overlooking a boardwalk. Then we continued north to Dongmen.



Dongmen was more sublime and picturesque than Sanzhi, as if my day couldn't get any better, it did. We went to visit Sherry's brother Michael, also an old friend. He's a realtor who just has this side business at the Dongmen Fish Market beside the harbor. Its all frontside seafood restaurants and cooks from Taipei who come here for the freshest catch. The roof of the fish market is surreal, even Gaudi like. It looks like someone sawed off the tops of two dozen gigantic wine bottles and stuck them on this roof.

Dongmen Fish Market
We said our hellos and continued to walk up the road, on the most magnificent little coastal path along the Fugui Cape 富貴角. It was still sunny but the fresh sea breeze licked our sweat off immediately. In our view was this bleached white, octogonal Lighthouse set on a verdant hill jeweled with wild lilies and large, bizarre shaped rocks that were spit out of ancient volcanos,  while waves crashed below.  I spotted a few places I could practice yoga and we followed the path around and overlooked a green algae beach that extended for some time, with a blue mountain in the background. Small orange, ground level flowers were everywhere. It was a lovely walk.

Wild lilies on the field, Fugui Cape

I really didnt' want to leave. But it was getting late and we had to get back to Tainan. Sherry dropped us off at Tamsui MRT around 6 and we went to Taipei Main station waited in line forever for High-speed ticket back to Tainan, running into my friend Monica (also a former coworker from Chu Wei, we both worked under Sherry, she and her husband Roger and son also lived in Tainan a few years ago). Monica and Roger were protesting around the corner against president Ma's nuclear power policy, during the political fast by 72 year old Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) (read, "When the Wind Blows"). They were bummed we were leaving, they wanted to take us out to dinner. I was bummed too, oh the world for an extra few hours. I regretted not getting home a little later and dining together anyways, but I was so tired.

Fugui Cape overlooking the green algae beach

The entire time we walked on the cape, I kept on hearing the same tune in my head, "Lilies" by Bat for Lashes from the album The Haunted Man (2013).




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Yoginis in the Castle Park



Within the last year or two, it seems Tainan has been blessed with more foreign women, than previous years. Or maybe its because suddenly I met up with ladies who love yoga as much as I do. Whatever the case we have this good thing going for us. We meet Saturday mornings in the park for yoga.





You are all welcomed to join us. We meet around 10, end around 12 inside the Eternal Golden Castle (Yìzǎi Jīn Chéng 億載金城)If you are a Tainan resident, entrance is free with an ID card, or pay the 50NT entrance fee. After you enter, go through the tunnel, turn left, keeping walking until you see the stairs. There is a flat, cemented surface where we practice. As the days get longer, the shadow of the trees is bigger on the grass in front of this and we have been there as of late.



Its pleasant from that spot, the view of the moat, the sun on the water, surrounded by so many trees. We see cranes and the black swans while we practice. Tourists walk by and  leave us alone. It doesn't ever seem to be crowded despite the tour buses parked out front.


Two of us are certified Yoga Instructors and two of us are getting certification this summer. We usually go with the flow. Someone might make suggestions, we chat before see what we want to work on, where we are at that morning. We share leading flows, we have followed flows online from Kino or Do Yoga With Me. We have done Ashtanga to Kundalini and usually we end with some acroyoga and just play around.  Its joyful when the bugs don't bite, so if you join us, bring a mat and repellent!






Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Predictable and Mostly Pleasant Adjournment

A week ago today came the formalities of meeting with my daughter's principals, Taiwanese language teacher, and Teacher Brian, the goto translator. I had hoped to conclude this "learning experience". 

Actually the principals and I are old friends. I helped the school start their morning extracurricular English program for the students with already a high level of English in grades 3-5. I helped them pick the first textbooks and found them North American teachers. This was a year or two ago. We had lunch meetings several times in that process, so it wasn't at all uncomfortable or intimidating meeting them again, even for a transgression on their part.

When I first sat down the principal told me , "How black" my skin became  since last we met, which I could of taken as a slight, but I didn't. (White skin is culturally considered more beautiful, more white collar.) I suppose she opened with that line as a test. I replied," Yes I exercise outside." After a few minutes of small chat, they read my recommendations (see post: "Towards Resolution"), and we began.


They were all apologies, the Taiwanese teacher is truly provincial, the principal related as a mom, which unless you aren't, you really can't relate (Dads ok). I got a hat and T-shirt with the school logo. I wish the anchingban had been there,  and the homeroom teacher, because they passed the buck of not following the missing kid protocol onto them. In fact there is no protocol the anchingban, or any of the anchingbans there are aware of. There is definitely no existing formal protocol between the school and anchingbans on missing children besides calling the parent. The security guard certainly cant use the MC to call out children, like the principals told me, as anchingban tried to do.


The teacher denied Z was pressured to participate and said she was smart enough to merit being in the Taiwanese language film. Principal still shrugged it off as Z is super cute and smart. At the end it came down to them changing their policy from oral to written consent-which I suppose is a very minuscule victory for me. They said they will change this policy for young kids under 10, and I'm like no, " If they are under 18, they still need parental consent" (for whereabouts or participating in a film), but like most of my suggestions (drills for missing kid) I just got lots of smiling. Just about as much as I expected.


I think them apologizing is about the only admittance of guilt, responsibility I was going to get. I honestly didn't expect anymore. On Monday I let the anchingban owner know what they said about them not following missing child protocol,(ie,basically same as my suggestion for anchingban). They basically were adamant (by repeating) that their protocol for missing children is already in place and hence fool proof and this was a mistake of miscommunication and no written permission slip. They definitely see no need to adapt my suggestions, other than "consider them".


 I'm thinking of letting local city council know, not out of any sense of spite or vengeance, I just think my suggestions to improve student safety are the very basic standards of 21st century schools. They drill for earthquakes and fires, but what about a weirdo with a sword, gun, or a film crew. I suggested they do a missing child drill and test how long it takes for a response with their very "in place" system. They smiled.


Obviously no one really gives a crap about what one foreign mom's negative experience at their school. But as some of my Taiwanese friends suggested, they do agree Taiwanese parents would also have a problem with their kid missing for 10 minutes (being filmed without consent is definitely NOT an issue for them). If there is going to be any systematic change it has to be local by parents whose voice matters. As it happens, my friends are a part of the PTA board. I haven't told them about what happened, as I wanted to try and handle it myself first. Now I think I've done about all I can do, short of pressing kidnapping charges. I will let PTA know and I hope they pressure the school and local gov't to adapt some of my suggestions.


Letting local media know what happened and how it was handled is definitely still on the table. Just for the sheer fact that perhaps other parents might feel the same way as me, and that might possibly make the school improve its student safety policy and relationships with the community.--which is all I ever wanted. As if anything could possibly repay me for those 10 eternal minutes of utter terror, other than reunitng with her safe and sound.



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Catching Up on the East Coast


East Coast Highway 11 just north of Taimali

I was otherwise engaged for 2013 and thus neglected my posts. So here's to catching up on a few trips we took to the East Coast. I cant go to the East Coast without enjoying the water, either hot springs or trying to surf.


 Last time I posted about Taitung was when I was interviewing at Junyi Bilingual Elementary ("Tantalizing Taitung"). The new semester was about to start, so I went back to Junyi  for a demo and another interview in July 2013 . This time I brought Z, we stayed at Take Your Time guesthouse  (台東市 慢慢來民宿) and did some surfing. The guesthouse owners Kite and Mark and their 2 surfing sons were helpful hosts. Kite watched my daughter during my interview while she played with the boys. They winded up being my good friends and we have gone back for more surfing. Kite and Mark were once high rollers, professionals in Shanghai, he was a corporate attorney, she in advertising, but when they had kids it was time for them to return to Taiwan (her home) and surfing (Mark's "home" he's been surfing  in NZ since a kid). They decided to open up a guesthouse that teaches surfing in Taitung. They have a bit of land and will soon expand into a surfing camp.


At 台東市 慢慢來民宿 we take the blue room



I can definitely see the allure to the sport. Z and I were pretty much convinced we should move to Taitung and surf everyday. Well I tried, but I never did get that job. They gave it to an Englishman who was married to a local and already settled in Taitung.

Outside Taimali

DOUBLE TEN HOLIDAY

 For the Double Ten Holiday 10/10/2013 weekend we returned and explored Jinfong, Taimali and Jhiben before meeting up with a friend in Taitung and heading to Green Island. This time we didn't stay in Taitung but at a small aboriginal village between Taimali and Jinfong. We rented a scooter and hit the 11 highway free birds looking for hot springs. My daughter and I are happiest in the water. I didn't find the hot springs I was looking for, (those I went to later in February 2014), but we did happen upon an aboriginal festival and up the mountain road stopped at Dainty Hot Springs. .

Dainty Hot Springs, Jinfong

 The Paiwan and Rukei (排魯運動會) tribes were having a contest at the elementary school (賓茂國小) in Jinfeng. There were no Chinese people let alone foreigners, so I felt privileged to witness authentic aboriginal culture and not the tourist dances they put on in Taitung. Z was happy playing in the inflatable bouncy castle with the local kids while I checked out the local wares.



Happened upon an annual sport game between two tribes (Paiwan and Rukai 排魯運動會) taken place at elementary school(賓茂國小) in the hot spring village of Jinfeng.

Precious Millet
  


Next to my minsu was a pole construction for swinging

The Little Town we stayed at from highway

Before we headed back to Taitung, we decided to go to Jhiben Hot Springs. The drive along the coast was sublime.


We went up the only road to Jihben , hotels with pools and private baths dotted the road. We quickly found the Dong Tair Spa Hotel. To walk to the changing rooms down these stairs you passed the large, theme park like outdoor pools in the front and then the covered spa with different bubbles. The space was large and covered by palm trees which kept on breaking off in the breeze, making huge crashing sounds on the roofs. One of those giant palm leaves could do us some damage falling from their heights and the local groundskeeper was quickly trying to rake down branches and leaves hanging by  their threads. We pretty much had the place thankfully to ourselves.

The covered spa pools, Dong Tair Resort, Jhiben
The pools like most I go to on the East Coast are pretty devoid of bathers, even during busy holiday weekends which is part of the attraction.

The outdoor theme park pools, Dong Tair Resort, Jhiben
We ended our Double Ten weekend meeting up with a friend and spending two nights on Green Island. We didn't make any reservations. The first night we stayed at a hotel on the main strip, a concrete block with zero charm or customer service. The second night we stayed at Jack's Inn.  We took room 107, the biggest one downstairs on the ground floor with a double and single and french doors opening onto the lawn where Z played with sparklers at night. The beds were so cozy we were almost tempted to stay in. The sporadic rain would of been a good excuse, but rain never stuck, the sea breezes blew them out quick enough and left the island quite refreshed.




Of course there was more to explore, even if we had been here before (in 2011 On Cloud 9), now was different weather, company, accomodations. This time around we dismissed camping for comfort and went to the Zhaori Hot Springs at night under stars, at times in the storms with gusts and scattered rains, that kept us in the boiling springs longer than we wanted. It was easy enough to cool off and go back in. Unlike last time's scorching July sun we had storms that quickly blew out and in and made for spectacular clouds and colors. We took some hikes and hit 2 trails we missed the first time with even more stunning views.










The wildlife was abundant and revealing her hidden treasures. We saw an enormous beetle, poisonous green snake and a wily lizard who bit my companion (good laugh).

 



My fondest memory of that holiday, maybe of Green Island was getting stuck in this storm from atop one of the highest points on the island. (I even wrote a poem about it, "We Three Birds of Prey").  From the highest veranda, out of nowhere we watched this rain approaching like this mercurial laser sheet upon the blue globe. We were high enough we could see the earth was round, about a ten minute straight up walk from the scooters, on a wooden staircase. We could count down when it would hit us, so clear was its approach. We sat and watched it coming, inevitable for a good five minutes. It seemed pointless to run down to the scooter for a raincoat. Watching it coming, its blessing of torrents, licking the horizon like a royal seal, we stayed, anticipating being apart of that. There was another family with us, they huddled on one corner and us on the other. The rain slapped us, we were drenched and laughing.

Here comes the rain













2/28 HOLIDAY WEEKEND

 In February 2014 some friends and I took the train to Taitung, rented a car and explored Jinluan, the Rift Valley and the eastern end of the South Cross Highway at the Wulu Gorge.We ran into my daughter's home room teacher and her sister on the same train, small world. We passed the time together chatting, playing cards. Upon arrival in Taitung, we went straight to the hot springs in Jinluan, at the East Sun Spa Spring Hotel whose numerous outdoor pools overlooked the Pacific. The place was surprisingly empty. We all vowed to return and stay a night here, next trip.




East Sun Spa Spring Hotel

We didn't make reservations at Take Your Time Guesthouse when we stayed in Taitung, as we were just "winging it". We ended up our first night at a cheap mom and pop hotel around the corner, across the street from Subway for 800NT a double with TV. In the morning we left early for a bike ride along the coast. I was attacked by swarms of midges, called "little black mosquitos" here, but they are a million times more itchier. My legs and arms were covered in excruciating welts, as I get a reaction to them. Bugs and me don't really mix. So we drove north to Dulan, checked out the Sugar Mill galleries and ate pizza for lunch. I was going to have us drive to Wulu Gorge from there, but my friend used his smart phone and suggested it would be faster if we returned to Taitung and used the South Rift Valley Highway 9.


Dulan Sugar Mill Galleries

First stop was the 2nd largest suspension bridge, the Heavenly Dragon Bridge, behind the Chief Spa Hotel. We walked the trail up a few minutes from the other side of the bridge, then headed back to the spring pools. For dinner we just ate the left over pizza from Dulan. Like the other springs, this was relatively empty. We checked prices for the rooms but what was available was beyond our budget.


The Heavenly Dragon Bridge, Wulu Gorge.





Chief Spa Pools,Wulu Gorge

I had made a reservation by phone at a Bunyun aboriginal minsu in Lidao (tel.089-938067), so when it was well into the night we headed there, stopped at the only mom and pop store/restaurant in town and they called our minsu to confirm our reservation. It was cold, we warmed ourselves by the fire, the owner and another man were drunk and Z was frightened, so we just headed to bed. The plan was to hike to the Lisong Hot Springs in the morning.These springs were my raison d'etre, as far as this weekend for me was concerned.


Our  Bunyun minsu in Lidau

Bright and early I made us coffee and the owner had our breakfast. One of the aboriginals was a tour guide taking a group of Taiwanese to the elusive Lisong Springs and he said he we could follow as its kind of hard to see the back road from the main swerving mt road. When we found it, it was pretty much dirt, rocks, one lane on the edge of a precipice. It was foggy, tree branches obscured our vision. The little road ended at a flat plateau, there were several cars parked and tents. This was the hardcore bunch. The trail to the river started here and was a steep hour descent to the ground.

 The man gave us each a pair of work gloves as the entire path was roped on both sides and we seriously held on for dear life. The trail was wet, slippery, full of roots and thus slow going. I felt invigorated, an early morning hike. For Z it wasn't easy or that fun, but she could still do it. Because of her slow pace, time was a factor. Would we have time to even enjoy the hot springs before turning around and hiking the mostly vertical ascent and make our 1 pm train to Tainan? It wasn't looking that way. Suddenly the trail just abruptly ended and the rope hung from a rock and you had to go down 30 feet or so on just a rope. Z was terrified and the whole experience wasn't fun anymore. If she was to fall, we had to carry her up the difficult trail and even at the car we were far away from help. It didn't seem worth the risk. We all headed back to the car. I secretly vowed to return and see these evasive Lisong Hot Springs someday soon.



On our way down the South Cross Highway, down the Wulu Gorge towards Taitung, we stopped at roadside public baths for a foot soak. And just outside of Taitung, we found some new springs, Mountains of the Moon and had a well deserved soak before returning the rental car and making our train back to Tainan. Charmed again, we had the pools to ourselves.


Mountains of the Moon Shot Springs, Hongye
Mountains of the Moon Shot Springs, Hongye

CHILDREN'S DAY/TOMB FESTIVAL WEEKEND


The last time we were in Taitung was in April this year for more surfing and biking. We stayed at Take Your Time, made some new friends, ate dinner at the Night Market, even did a little KTV.

Taitung in April 2014