Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hǎiyáng (Ocean!)

First things first... I am so grateful for an experienced, talented bus driver! In the past, I have had some pretty risky, an-inch-from-the-edge-of-a-cliff drives, but never in a 50 passenger tour bus. Hopefully we will be in just as good of hands for the rest of the trip!

We have been to some awesome places while traveling outside of Taipei. The first day outside of the city, we visited the gold ecological park, where I didn't realize that gold and coal were such a huge industries here in Taiwan several decades ago. We also went to the touristy town of  Jiufen and stayed in the town of Shifen that is famous for its floating lanterns. That evening we got to make our own and send them off to the sky with our wishes written on them. It was so beautiful, and our lanterns looked like stars, something I haven't seen since being home! Some of the lanterns in the distance had firecrackers on the end of them, which seemed very appropriate and nolstalgic for the Americans, since it was July 4th! But we just got to celebrate it a little differently this year.

The next day we listened to a lecture and visited King Car Orchid Park, another huge industry here in Taiwan. While in the US, orchids can cost around $40 a plant, and here they are only about $3! I was considering buying some seeds to take home with me and starting my own business and droping out of college, but I'm fairly sure that's illegal, and it is extremely difficult to raise them. It was a good try though. They were very beautiful flowers, and I was hoping we would be able to see the species that cost around $200,000 a plant! I still don't understand how a flower can cost that much.

We have seen some gorgeous coastline views that are breath-taking along the way to our different stops! The east coast is rocky with tall cliffs that drop right into the ocean, while the west coast, which we won't be visiting, is flat with sandier beaches. That afternoon we stopped at Cingshui Cliff, which had a rocky beach with stones that were so flat and colorful I wish I could have taken them all home with me. However, the next day may be another favorite of mine. We went to Taroko National Park, where we hiked a trail beside the most bright blue river I have ever seen. It gets its color from a certain mineral in the sediment, but I can't remember what it is. We found a spot that yet again satisfied my climbing needs even more so than any of the other places I have been to! And I was so happy when many others joined me this time. I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun climbing rocks, and that's saying alot! It was sad when we had to leave for Taipei for the night, but I am certain we will still find some great places. I am now at Meifang farm, where we will be staying for three nights before moving on. We will not get back to Taipei for I think 10 more days.

Of course all great times never come without a price, right? Well the other night while in the town of Hualian, I really needed some medicine for my stomach issues that have never completely gone away. I was hoping to just get some medicine, but here going to the doctor is so cheap that everyone goes to see them for just about everything, even for just a common cold or sore throat. So I decided that I might as well just see a doctor. So my coordinator Jack and another girl from NTU came with me to find a "clinic", and we found one, but we walked right past it not even realizing what it was. Not a good first sign. According to Jack, it looked very "traditional" which is not always a word I have learned to like here. Carolina, the girl who came with me, went to look at the doctor there, which was her way of deciding whether we should stay or go. She came right back and said "Let's go." Then we finally managed to find a real hospital that looked a little more like something at home to me. It was a Buddhist hospital that we believed would surely have English-speaking doctors, as they are pretty much all required to speak English anymore. But with my luck, did mine? Of course not! I felt so so terrible for Carolina, but she had to translate for me for everything! She is such an angel. I owe her so much. Now I have some medicine and will hopefully be feeling better soon. What an experience!

I also got my first taste of some KTV (karoke) today, however, it was on the bus ride. It was one of the funniest things I've seen in awhile. They are obsessed with it here. The cheesy music videos and 80's Chinese love songs are hilarious. I am excited to go to a real KTV when we get back to Taipei, where big groups of people will rent their own rooms for karoke parties that last all night. It will be interesting; I'll be warming up my vocal cords until then...

Only 2 more weeks left, and I will finally be home! I had my first real American-like dinner the other night- seafood spaghetti with tomato sauce, if you can call the American, or Western. And it even came with a fork. I never knew I would appreciate efficient silverware so much! Hoping for some pizza, macaroni and cheese, or mashed potatoes in my near future.... I better stop now...

Going into the gold mine

This place is literally called Pregnant Lady Mountain- can you see her?

Flora and I with our lantern!

Orchid Farm- cha-ching

At Cingchui Cliff

Taroko National Park

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