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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Family's First Visit to Formosa: Su-hua Highway and Taroko National Park

Su'hua Highway Blues
No trip to Taiwan is done without a trip to Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) -- its the Grand Canyon of Taiwan. As we were admiring the park, it reminded all of us of Colorado, just different trees (and whole lot more humidity), those rocky canyons seemed all too familiar. They were all homesick.

Having been to Taroko before, I was more excited about the drive there from Yilan down the Su-hua Highway (蘇花公路)It was definitely beautiful, majestic turquoise waters, but I still think the coastal highways around Taitung  (especially around Taimali) are just as beautiful. My folks were more concerned about making the drive alive, they were unprepared for the reckless drivers overtaking each other along cliffs and the sharp mountain switchbacks.

More Su'hua Highway Blues

We stopped for lunch at some hole in the wall, mom and pop roadside diner, a pizza place with free WiFi, that was totally empty. My mom wanted fried rice, having warned her fried rice is pretty much the same everywhere, she still wanted to know what was in it....so she tried it, ate it all, but I think none of them were too impressed. Z and I were stoked to get some semblance of a pizza, corn and all. Food was one area of anxiety for my mom, everything had gluten and too much sugar-and that's all too true, but I it fell on deaf ears to just let it go for just a few weeks. I didn't even tell her, out of pity, that everything was probably loaded with MSG.

We arrived at Taroko too late to really explore it, just a day trip with the usual walks, no real hikes. They weren't up for anything athletic anyways, so at their pace we admired the natural beauty. Things got pretty exciting when a big tourist bus hogged the small mountain road and forced my Dad to reverse into the taxi behind us. There was no harm done, no car damage, so I told him to not worry about it and the taxi driver seemed pretty nonchalant, but it did make a great memory, "Remember the time that Chinese tourist bus..."

Mom and Dad crossing the bridge
My daughter was in heaven pretending to be our tour guide and spending time with her favorite Uncle.I had fun with him on some of the suspensions bridges, making it jump, us giggling like children.

Ed, me and Z at the Eternal Spring Shrine

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yilan or Bust, Moving House

At the end of July while I worked my last week, my mom and daughter helped pack boxes. The whole month I was giving away and throwing away bags of clothes, toys, books. And I wouldn't consider myself materialistic or a pack rat, so I'm not sure what happened except six years with a kid at the same place  I had amassed a whole lot of crap.
AJ, Andrew and my Mom

When it was time to move my friend AJ and I rented a truck (he has a local driver's license) and together with one of his friends Andrew, they quickly and efficiently packed. I went to get some lunch and drinks for everyone, I was gone maybe 15 minutes and was astounded to find they were nearly done when I returned. What a strange coincidental blessing that Andrew for one miserable summer, worked as a professional mover, so he pretty much managed the whole packing of the truck. All 6 years of my life took an hour and a lot of sweat to pack into one truck.

Renting the truck was probably the easiest part of the whole move. Unfortunately the company is located in Yongkong district, but the man Yo-yo spoke perfect English and they were all very fast, efficient and professional. (Tainan Car Plus rental offvce in Yongkang 06-243-6655, No 169, Zhongzheng N. Rd, Yongkang 71081). It cost around 3,200 to rent the truck for 24 hours and after so many miles it was 4 nt a mile that added up, plus all the tolls that are automatically scanned by blue lights, that added up to 800. All in all, it was significantly cheaper to do it ourselves. (A moving company would be around 15,000 or more).

I'm very thankful for my dear friend AJ, who significantly helped be there to pack, move, get boxes, drive the truck, which wasn't easy. We played good music and were following this double rainbow between Chiayi and Chunghua, were caught in a thunderstorm around Miaoli, and stuck in Friday eve traffic between Hsinchu and Taipei. We arrived in Yilan around 830 pm but lost didn't find the new apartment until 9:30. It was a long day. My friend Steve who helped find me a temporary place was there with my new landlady and we all busted ass for twenty minutes  until our little studio was filled with boxes.

The next day bright and early AJ and I gassed up the truck and head back to Tainan to drop off the truck and the following day bring my mom to the airport. As you can see from the above map, Yilan at the northeast is in the exact opposite direction of Tainan in the southwest. It took about 6 hours one way.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The 7 Worst Mistakes People Make In Their 30's

This is in response to an article I read online and being 39 and a half years old, I decided to see if what they considered a mistake was also one of mine. The thirties are the new twenties, n'est pas? Not that I compare myself to what mass media considers success, but it did give me a moment to reflect on the past 10 years and be grateful.

I think my ideas of mistakes in my 30's would of been a little different from the article's. For example, I would have included something about breaking free from past internal scripts given to us in childhood, and neglecting a spiritual life (not already having some kind of spiritual habit or relationship with a higher power, ie (daily prayer, meditation).

The 7 Mistakes of that article are:

1. They abandon their loftier aspirations: Yes I definitely do identify with this mistake, although I havent abandoned as much as re-prioritized.. I had dreams of changing the world, working for an NGO or being apart of a peace process that includes the participation of women and caretakers. I dreamed about writing that screen play or a book of short stories, or publishing a book of poetry. Yet I'm not gutted or regretful right now, motherhood has temporarily filled this space. I think I'm still relatively young, there is still time. Being a working single mom in a foreign country is exhaustive, at the end of the day I'm pretty brainless and ambition-less. I definitely settled for job security over satisfaction- not to say I don't enjoy teaching, I do, its challenging, I grow constantly, but its not my passion. Of course there are those single moms who somehow find the time, energy and stamina to do their passions along with motherhood, my hats off to them. For now my energy is going into teaching and motherhood.

2. They put their career above friends and family: Having boundaries between work and home is very vital in Taiwan, or at least at my previous job because there is a social pressure to self sacrifice family time for boss brown nosing, and I refuse to play that game. At the same time I have been reflective enough to admit that I probably have more patience as a teacher than as a mother. At the end of the day,after  repeating myself to a class of 4 year olds (or 12 year olds) I am done. This is where I rely on Grace. I do make the most of my time with my daughter, long bedtime routines, after-school activities together (like biking), weekend trips, and international travel during holiday time.

3.They neglect their health: I think I have given more thought, energy and priority to my health during my 30's than my 20's. Being a working single mom I have had to learn to be efficient and frugal when it comes to eating clean and working out smart. I don't have a Hollywood body-type, I mean I enjoy eating, I regularly splurge on chocolate, wine, beer, etc, but I definitely do not neglect my health. Perhaps my sleep has been less during the majority of my 30's, 6-7 hours a night (but since moving to Yilan I have been getting more than 8 hours of sleep). I think I am more healthy and stronger in my 30's.

My 39th birthday lunch, Pequ Division, Myanmar

4. They miss the chance to have kids: Another mistake I did not make. Also not having kids is only a mistake if you really wanted them, and even then, women are still having babies in their early 40's, so if someone chooses not to have children there is no mistake in that.

5. They don't spend enough time with their aging parents: During my first 2 years of my 30's I lived with my folks when I got pregnant and had my baby, so I think those two years alone was a concentrated amount of time to have spent with them! Having said that, we do Skype each other weekly, I go home every year and a half and they just recently just visited me in Taiwan. They are aging so gracefully I don't feel like I am missing any chances to spend time with them, but I do feel like my daughter is missing a chance to spend time with her grandparents.

6. They don't set up financial foundations for the future: Ok I have my cousin Ben and father to thank for establishing a monthly setup where 25 bucks a month goes into some kind of fund which grows, is protected from market ups and downs and will be available in 25 years. I don't think I voluntarily would have set this up. Thanks guys! I suppose this is an area I can still learn more about though.

7. They stop having fun: Sometimes I feel like a bitch when I have to discipline my kid, repeat myself, etc and that's definitely no fun. Its a burden to be the sole disciplinarian, when I'm fun loving by nature. So I try do fun activities with my kid, play the games she likes, etc and find that balance with what I think is fun. A few times a year I really let my hair down, but generally fun for me is doing something outdoors with my daughter.

Z applying thenaka paste to my face, 39th birthday

My 30's can be summed up best by my 39th birthday. I was in Myanmar waking up at 4:30 am, drinking coffee, hopped in the back of an open pickup truck, huddled under blankets, watching the sunrise with my daughter and a French woman. We were going to the end of a teak plantation (Pequ division) to see some elephants and their handlers temporarily damn a rain forest stream for the elephants, while they camped there for the next few weeks.

My 39th Birthday Elephant Adventure

We got to hang out with the handlers and their wives and children and then we hopped on some elephants while we watched their work elephants make the damn. The animals worked hard, uprooting old, majestic trees and dragging it back.  The nursing mother was allowed to take a break during the duration of her nursing baby elephant (several years). It was an amazing experience to watch how they worked with elephants, how this has been going on for thousands of years. The handlers were not cruel, they were very poor and got a small cut of the government fee we had paid. We emptied our purses and bags of pencils, earrings, lips balm to give their wives as we left.

French traveler with Z

As if our day couldn't get any better, it did. We had an outstanding lunch that my daughter was allowed to "help" prepare. The little floor-less roadside cafe was across from the only school, a bamboo hut separated into three classes by age. There were no books, three teachers and three blackboards. It was humbling as a teacher from Taiwan, who teaches privileged students from wealthy families in a private school. My heart was bursting in my chest. Anything that can humble me with love, without criticism is a gift. This experience was an unforgettable day for me and my daughter, a memorable birthday that summarizes my 30's that were full of favor, blessing, and adventure.

School children, Pequ Division, Myanmar, my 39th birthday
If you would like to make a donation to this school, please send pencils, paper, crayons, markers, notebooks, etc to:
 Township Education Officer Oaktwin 
Pequ Division, Myanmar
c/o Daw Myat Myat See
Mile (20) B.E.H.S. Oaktwin

School children, Pequ Division, Myanmar, my 39th birthday

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Family's First Visit to Formosa: Waterfalls and Dolphins

After Taipei, we quickly left the busy city for some slow paced, nature time in Yilan County.

A bunch of goofballs,Wofongci Waterfalls

We arrived in Jiaoxi (礁溪) and took a taxi to our guesthouse called Atayal Xiang, which was just around the corner. In the stifling heat with all their luggage, taking a taxi from the bus depot was the only option. There are really no side-walks on the main road.

Double room at Atayal Xiang

The owner Paul is an aboriginal (Atayal tribe) and very welcoming, helpful, knowledgeable and his place is clean, comfortable and well located. He was able to book us the boat tour to Turtle Island and rent a car to drive to Taroko, among regularly surprising us with delectable trays of exotic fruits and teas.

Dolphin watching tour, Turtle island in the background

There was a typhoon stalking our itinerary. I was a bit worried we would be stuck indoors as the tropical storm approached Yilan and was growing into a massive typhoon. Fortunately for us it changed direction and hit Okinawa severely, sadly peopled died there. For us it meant our afternoon boat and island tour to Turtle (Guishan) Island (龜山島) was rescheduled from 1pm to the morning, and we wouldn't be disembarking. On the way to the boat docks we stopped for some motion sickness pills, my daughter who gets sea-sick, staunchly refused to take them and later suffered.

It didn't take long for us to be surrounded by a large pod of dolphins. There were dozens on either side of the boat, babies with their mothers. Some of the show-offs did amazing leap displays. My camera phone couldn't catch a decent shot, so I had to just enjoy it in the imprints of my memories. It was a beautiful trip, but most all the Taiwanese were getting sick, the back of the boat was one large group puke fest and my stubborn daughter was among them, she didn't get to enjoy the dolphins at all. I was pretty disappointed we didn't get explore the island, but after 2 hours on the boat, I couldn't imagine the others having the stamina for the real tour. My folks and brother were relieved to be on dry land.

Back in Jiaoxi, we had some noodles, chili ice-cream and took a taxi to the Wofongci Waterfalls (五峰旗瀑布). It was an easy enough walk, 10 minutes to the first set of falls, maybe ten more to the top and most impressive of the falls, but the humidity took its toll on my family and they dragged their feet. Z and I made the most of their slow pace by frolicking in the cold mountain pools.

 We returned to Atayal Xiang exhausted, everyone took a pre-dinner siesta. I had to convince my mom to come experience the Japanese style hot springs.

Grandmother and granddaughter admiring the falls

I was uber-excited for my mom to experience the tranquility of an outdoor hot springs with the Japanese bamboo setting. It was our second time at these springs, but being nude in a public bath (separated by gender of course) was inhibiting for her. After a while, the soothing waters and natural setting worked their magic. She explored the different temperature pools and we returned to our guest house in a light rain which cooled the evening off. Everyone slept well that night.

We spent 2 nights and 3 days in Jiaoxi. I had to go apartment hunting in Yilan one afternoon with a new coworker and a couple of real estate agents, but came up empty handed. In my absence my family went to the fish foot spas and returned with many jokes of their experience.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Family's First Visit to Formosa: Taipei

My Family, Chiang Kai Shek Entrance Gate

It took them six years but they made it to Taiwan, finally. I really didn't expect them to. I figured my brother when he and his Korean wife moved back to Seoul, he would be the first family member to come visit. My Mom couldn't fathom sitting on a plane so long, my Dad is still working and my brother Ed suffers from seizures which are exacerbated by stresses, spikes in his blood sugar (as well as gluten). Then out of the blue about a year ago during one of our weekly Skype sessions my mom revealed she voluntarily wanted to fly out and see is. It was nothing short of a miracle.

My Dad sent me a message from Narita airport their plane would be delayed one hour, it wasn't. And I didn't know which airline they flew, so didn't know which terminal they were. Anyways, after some time, I found them, exhausted of course and quickly bought bus tickets to Banciao and got off at Fujong. I booked  two nights at the Jade Hotel. It actually was harder to book tickets for all of us because I didn't want my bro to sleep alone (in case of seizures) and I wanted my folks to have a room to themselves, which seems easy enough, but most all the available places charged an 8 year child as an adult and wouldn't allow to add an extra bed. The Jade Hotel has kids under 12 free and also could add an extra bed. The rooms were smaller than the photos, but it was clean, staff was nice and it was conveniently located near the Fujong MRT station. It was next to a large EsLite Bookstore with shopping and places to eat everywhere.

Night Market adjacent to Jade Hotel and Eslite Bookstore

The Jade Hotel is within walking distance (about 10 minutes) to the sublime Lin Family Mansion and Gardens (林本源園邸)That day and the next happened to be record breaking high temperatures in all of Taiwan and the highest was where we were at in Banciao. It showed. All of us were sweating buckets, my folks were in shock: culture shock, climate shock coupled with jet lag. They dragged their feet the whole time but were happy troopers. 

Family Portrait, Lin Family Mansion
We spent a good hour and half walking the mansion grounds, it was a photographer's paradise and my Dad thoroughly enjoyed himself snapping away. My brother Ed despite his disabilities somehow can take these amazing shots with his I-phone. Even my mom was inspired to try and take a photo with my Dad's camera. There were many nooks and crannies, pathways, moats, ponds, shrines, groves, ducks, sitting pagodas where one could rest, find respite, gather ones thoughts or watch them melt away. If I lived in the area, I'd be there regularly, sketch book, diary, yoga mat. It is Taiwan's most intact surviving example of traditional Chinese architecture, a detailed explanation is found here.

Me with my daughter, Lin Family Mansion

After the heat and hunger made us restless, we walked back to the Hotel via the traditional market. My mom bought a hat, my Dad an umbrella and each of us a sweat handkerchief. Z and I pointed out various foods an by the end of it they had a couple of bags of apples, mangos and lunch boxes. My father spoiled my daughter, carrying her on his sweaty shoulders. We were turning heads wherever we went.

Ed watching my Dad carry Z in the market

We returned to the cool of our air conditioned hotel rooms for a shower and rest and then regrouped for a flash tour of Taipei City. They had told me museums were not a priority, which was a shame because they all have A.C. It was totally new for my Mom and brother, navigating the MRT, but my Dad was a little more quick to catch on, having been on London's tube before. We got out at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, and walked the grounds admired Taipei 101 in the backdrop and were walking to catch a taxi to Elephant Mountain, when my my mom fell. We were walking under the trees, when I heard my daughter scream, I turned around and my Mom was on the ground, my Dad and brother rushed to her, she sat up slowly and just stayed there. It was frightening for a second. I assumed the heat and humidity and jet lag got to be too much for her. But it was just the uneven sidewalks of Taiwan, she tripped and landed on her beautiful cheekbone. I bought her an iced water from a vending machine to apply to her cheekbone and we opted to take the rocket elevator to the top of Taipei 101, rather than take a short hike to view it from Elephant Mountain. It was more waiting in lines, but they prefered to be inside with air conditioning.

  On the way back to Jade Hotel we got off to see the square at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial  (中正紀念堂)  so by time we arrived at Fulong station it was dinner time. Finding food everyone liked proved tricky. My brother is on a gluten free, low-glycemic diet to help control his seizures (a modified Ketogenic Diet) which means even white rice will spike his blood sugar. As for my mom, she too is gluten free, but as a lifestyle choice and even tho they wanted western food, it was all wheat of course and thus impossible. Z and I thought Sushi Express would be a safe bet. My mom just had the miso, Ed just had a plate of broccoli and my Dad just had the tea, so dinner that night was not a success, but they were all good sports. I think they were too jet lagged and dehydrated for any kind of appetite, so they just had fruit in their hotel.

My Dad observing, Sushi Express

I promised them Tainan would have more food options. The next day we took our time checking out, made it to Taipei Main Station and took the lunchtime Kavalan bus to Jiaoxi, Yilan County.

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.