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.

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

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