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Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese New Year - Green Island

Warning!  This post is going to be quite a beast to read!  It's very long.  So, in Taiwan, the biggest holiday of the year is Chinese New Year.   It's a big long event that is celebrated over a few weeks in January and February.  This year we got about 6 days off of work and decided to go to Green Island!  Actually, deciding where to go was really difficult because during Chinese New Year the trains are completely packed and so are all the touristy spots.  Our first choice was to take a bike trip down the East coast, from Hualien to Taidong.  But it because impossible due to everything being overbooked.  Green Island proved a bit easier.  It also ended up being very fortunate that we didn't try to go biking down the island, because I ended up being pretty sick.  Sick as I was though, Green Island was very easy to enjoy.

So, on day 1 we took a train to Taidong, which is on the South Eastern coast.  The trains were packed, so we got a ticket but no seat and stood in the area at the end of the car the whole 3 or 4 hour trip.  Woohoo!  It was an adventure.  We were also super tired.

Once in Taidong we had a few hours before our ferry, so we chilled at the train station, then took a bus to the dock and chilled some more.  Here are some picture I took while walking around at the dock.

There are LOTS of stray dogs in Taiwan.  Though not as many as in Romania.  I think that's what happens when everyone lives in apartments.
The next couple are from the ferry ride.  Wow, that ferry ride was horrible.  We knew it was rough from the report in the guidebook, but I thought, "hey, I've got a pretty strong stomach, I'll be fine."  I threw up whiiiile I was talking to a perfect stranger and when I told Tom about it he just laughed.  No sympathy.  Also, the next photo is one of a series of really really bad photos we took of ourselves during the trip.  Usually I don't share those, but this one was so hideous it was funny.

All the foreigners were outside.  It was strange to see some many.

Before we left, we'd had someone at work make a reservation at a hostel for us.  However, once we got off the ferry they were supposed to be there waiting for us.  We waited til everyone else had left and still no one came forward to claim us.  So, of course, we just started walking!  It was pretty slow going as we had all our luggage, but we figured that at some point we'd come across the visitors center and could make other arrangements.  Before we got there though, a lady on a scooter pulled up next to us and offered us a room at her hostel.  We checked it out, it looked fine, and was even cheaper (abt. $25 for a private room) than the other place, so we took it!  

We dropped our stuff off in the room, rented a scooter from the same lady ($10 a day, no paperwork, license, nothing) and set off around the island.  It was GORGEOUS.  Clear water, lots of greenery, and great beaches.  It reminded us a lot of Kauai, except smaller and less populated.  But it was nice because there were very few tourists there and we really felt like we'd gotten away.

We later went snorkeling here.  We just walked to the end and jumped in.

After driving down roughly one side of the island we got to this spot.  There was a big hill your could walk up and then there was a great big flat area with fabulous views.  Right below this hill is where the hots springs were, which I'll talk about later.

This is Tom and our backpack.

This is a horrible picture, but I was trying to take it of these goat/sheep things  that were running around. 

That's me at the end there.

One part of the view

The stairs that went partway up the hill.
After the hill we just kept on driving.  But at this point I get really confused about the timeline.  I know these pictures are chronological, but I can't remember what day they happened on.  We were on the island for 3 or 4 days. 

The 2nd or 3rd day we decided to take a hike.  They only have a couple little trails, but it ended up being quite nice.   Right at the beginning we were walking along and suddenly noticed that there was a huuuuge animal that looked like maybe a water buffalo in the foliage to our left.  It was just staring at us. So scary.  We just gingerly turned the other way and kept walking.

At one point we came to a spot where there were tons of these cute little yellow birds, just flitting all around us.  They were so happy.

On the other hand, it was also the same spot where I saw this humongous, nasty spider.  It was about the size of a softball.  I've since seen much bigger ones.

I am ridiculously afraid of spiders.  I've tried all kinds of things to get over it (including taking photos of them so I could see them as beautiful), but nothing has worked.  They make me get all jittery and irrational.  Poor Tom.  After this I was noticing spiders everywhere and getting crazy, so we had to go back down.  Here I am, far behind Tom (because I was walking all funny from looking cautiously at everything). 

There were lots of beautiful butterflies.

This crab was right on the path.
 Everyday, we'd wake up around 7 or 8, read in bed and leisurely get ready.  We'd get some breakfast and eat it on a bench looking over the ocean.  Then we'd start driving around the island and just stop at new places along the way.  Sometime around two or so we'd take a siesta and nap for a few hours.  Then we'd get some dinner and either go out again (to the hot springs maybe) or just read inside.  A lot of these pictures are just from the drives.

On one of the days, we stopped at this area that had some old abandoned houses from an earlier civilization.  They were pretty cool and we had fun imagining what they were like and what living there was like.  The area was also very pretty, and was right on the beach, so we walked around for a while.  Eventually, we crossed a bunch of rocks and found an opening that led to a gorgeous little private beach You had to go through this pretty obscure opening to get there and there was no one there.  It was one of those "wow" moments.

This is right after we crossed through the opening.

Can you see me?  I did a little bouldering on this rock face.

We sat on a rock for a while and just watched the water fill up and go back down and the tide came and went .

On our last full day we rented some snorkeling gear and headed out to that spot I mentioned earlier.  It was a bit rough because the waves were strong and the coral was hard to avoid, but the views were spectacular!!!  There were so many fish and they were all just swarming around us.  Not only were they plentiful, but they were VERY colorful as well.  I couldn't believe how bright they were.  We even saw some long clear ones.  They looked like clear eels.  It was great and well worth it, despite the extreme effort it took.

I had to take some photos of our room at the hostel.

Note the lambs and fence above the bed.  So Taiwanese.

Love the shower / toilet combo bathrooms where the water gets all over everything. 

Our view was a nice green hill and the shack in the background had a bunch of geese penned up who insured our early rising.
 The last day we went the opposite way around the island and decided to check out the lighthouse and prison.  The island, gorgeous as it is, used to house political prisoners.  I also made sure to take some pics of the town.  There's only one road that just goes all the way around the island and there's only shops and houses maybe 1/4 of the way and in one spot.

These are of the prison.  There's a little museum there now.  Very interesting.  Probably not the BEST thing to end the trip on, but whatever.

This is the view from the prison entrance.
The next to are the hostel lobby, then the front of the hostel. 

And, of course, the ferry back to the mainland, with Green island behind us.

After taking the ferry back to Taidong, we took a taxi to the train station.  The trains were still full, so we got another standup train ride.  This one was way worse.  Beside the fact that we were more exhausted this time, it was also more packed.  We had, like 15 people crammed in in this tiny area by the bathroom.    And every minute or so someone would either come through to use the bathroom, come through with a big food cart, or come through just to annoy us and we'd all have to shuffle around and smash ourselves up against the wall.  It was part hilarious and part maddening, especially after 4 hours.  Oh, and they only had a train that went as far as Kaohsiung.  Luckily, once we got to Kaohsiung, we got an actual SEAT on a train the Tainan (which is only about 30 min.).  We were so happy to be home once we got there, but it was a great trip!

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, I am so jealous. If only we didn't have those rotten kids dragging us down. Why did we have them again? Oh, yeah, I guess they are adorable and perfect in every way, but still!! They are keeping us from amazing adventures like you are taking!! So. Jealous.