Happy New Year!

Trip Start Sep 10, 2007
Trip End Sep 09, 2008

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hi everyone!
I haven't used this site in awhile. It's much easier to just blast emails out to everyone, but when you have multiple photos to post, this is more convenient.

So...Ling and I headed up to Taipei Monday evening. She had to work fairly late, so we didn't climb onto the bus until 7:30. That put us into the big city until around 10:00.

Elbert Yu, the gentleman hosting us, is a hotel manager in that area. I had been under the impression that his hotel was in downtown Taipei, but it's actually about 45 minutes northeast, in Wanli Township . Wanli is right on the coast and is most well known for its natural hot springs.

Elbert, Angela (his girlfriend and Ling's best friend), Ling and myself were driving through Taipei when the clock struck midnight. Off in the distance was Taipei 101, now the world's second tallest building. We must have been five or six miles away at the time, but all of a sudden the entire building seemed to explode in a shower of multi-colored fireworks. For almost five minutes the entire sky was lit up. Think of a 1,500-foot-tall Roman candle. It was pretty cool. Leaving the city, there were smaller fireworks shows lighting up the sky in every direction.

We had a small dinner after arriving at Elbert's place. The next morning, he had to go to work for a few hours. Angela, Ling and I decided to walk around town and do some exploring. There really isn't much to say about Wanli. From what I've been told and have read, it's a pretty typical coastal town. The first thing you notice is how dirty the beaches are. The second thing you notice are all the surfers out in the water. It was cold and windy, but there must have been fifteen or twenty guys bobbing around in the waves. A few westerners had a little campsite set up for themselves on the beach...tent, campfire, etc.

We had lunch in a little seafood restaurant right across the street from the water. If there was one thing that redeemed the shabbiness of Wanli, it was that meal. Oh My God. Tiger prawns...sushi...sushimi as think as a deck of playing cards...oysters...fish intestines (disgusting to think about but really outstanding!)...etc. It was a typical mishmash of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese cuisine. Afterwards, Elbert asked if I'd like to take advantage of the local hot springs. Who was I to say no?

He escorted me over there and proceeded to speak to the man behind the counter. I handed over my shoes and socks and was shown back. The springs are outside with several pools to chose from. Everything was very elegant, from the simple decor to the soothing music playing in the background. There were only a few other people out there enjoying the water. As the only westerner, I got more than a few stares... but one gets used to that after walking the streets of Taiwan every day. By the time I met everyone out front forty five minutes later, I could barely stand. Shockingly hot water and a belly full of seafood will do that to a person.

After a much deserved nap, we all drove back into Taipei. We had an early dinner at a popular restaurant close to the bus/train station. More fantastic food. Orange chicken...crab in chili sauce...candied sweet potatoes...steamed eggplant...tofu cubes with a creamy center...beef lung and stomach. Yeah...I thought you'd like the last one. I certainly did.

Over the course of the entire day, Elbert refused to let us pay for anything. Taiwanese custom dictates that you offer to pay not once, but twice:
(Michael): "Please, let me get this..."
(Elbert): "No no no..."
(Michael, reaching for wallet): "Please, it's my pleasure!"
(Elbert): No.

If you take it past the second offer, it's often considered rude. I really wanted to do something for him, but Ling said several times that he might become offended if I pushed it. He's really quite a nice guy.

After dinner they dropped us off at the bus station. The tickets back to Taichung were really cheap (only abut US$6 apiece), but we had to stand around for about ninety minutes. Being the only westerner in a bus depot filled with hundreds of Taiwanese is still a strange feeling, but it really makes it infinitely more bearable when you have a nice person standing next to you.

I didn't get home until about 12:00 last night.

So, that was my Monday/Tuesday. I hope that you all enjoyed a fantastic New Years.

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