Friday, December 23, 2011

Taiwan Time

Taiwan was more than we expected. More beautiful, more industrialized, more unique, more expensive, and more difficult. The country is only a third the size of South Korea, but still managed to seem fairly big to us. We stayed on the east coast, dividing our time between Taipei, a remote island, and a truly spectacular gorge.

Green Island is a tiny little thing, a 10 minute plane ride from Taitung. We ventured there for two reasons--the island maintains some very authentic aspects of Taiwanese culture, and we'd never been to an island together before (save Jamaica). We had the island to ourselves, as the peak season was months ago. The weather was hit or miss, but we managed to get a few beautiful days out of it. We rented a scooter and putted along the only road on the island, stopping to hike into caves, find spiders as big as our hands, and watch beautiful sunsets. You can traverse the island on scooter in 30 minutes. The tourist center also had battery powered bicycles, which we used as well. One of the main draws to the island is that it boasts one of only 3 salt water hot springs in the world. Again, because tourist season was over, we were literally there with 4 other people.

Getting off the island proved difficult...there are only four 19 person flights a day, and ours was cancelled. We were forced to get on the ferry, which we'd heard was a harrowing, sickening experience. The waters between Taitung and Green Island are not kind. Fortunately, we made it without vomiting, apparently an amazing feat.

From there we went to Taroko Gorge, a really amazing crevice in Taiwan's topography. You could compare it to the grand canyon, although this one is narrower and greener. The water flowing through it is an amazing aquamarine doesn't look real. I've found that beauty like this is almost impossible to capture through pictures, so much so that I saw pictures of this place before we went and almost decided to skip it. I'm so glad we changed our minds.

This was a large pagoda that we could go inside of, on the side of a mountain.

I found this vixen in a natural hot spring, right next to the ice cold mountain stream. The water was almost too hot to get into.

After our time at the gorge, we traveled up to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Being that Taiwan is very close to Hong Kong, the city felt like it in many ways. Very efficient subway, large bustling streets, and plenty of neon. What we enjoyed the most there were the night markets. Loads of outdoor shopping, arcades, and carnival type games were all around. The food was of particular interest, and it was as varied as it was amazing. Fresh fruit smoothies, shrimp hibachi, giant oyster omelets, and stinky tofu.

Beth's favorite food, however, was the giant, pounded, deep-fried chicken breast. They flatten these things so their nearly the size of your head. The line was long, so we knew it must be something special.

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