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Sun, 19 Aug 2012
day 16 in taiwan (0 comments)
so today today was our bus tour in the hualien area. after getting on a small bus, since our tour group was around ten people, we had our first stop at liyu lake[001-012], a lake that has loads of carps, and also - according to our guide - resembles the shape of a carp. by guide i mean our lonelyplanet by the way, as there was no english guide on the bus. just us, and luckily a lady that translated the most important stuff the bus driver said for us (that was when to be where to continue the tour). we had a stop for about 40 minutes there. not enough time to walk around the lake, but to have fun with a little lizard [006-010]. nice scenery, but again it was very very hot, so we had enjoyed the shadow and kept walking to a minimum.
next stop was the "butterfly valley resort"[021-053] that had - as the name implies - loads of butterflies, and also poisonous snakes, plants and wasps. the perfect place for tourists like us. the driver gave us a map of the resort, and we had about one and a half hour to walk around the park. so we chose two of the trails through the area. snakes and wasps we did not encounter, but there was one particular place where there were loads of butterflies[045-047]. unfortunately you don't see them on the picture, but believe me, there were butterflies everywhere. really lovely.
time for some lunch, so our driver stopped at a little restaurant, picked up several biandangs[057] (that's the taiwanese version of the japanese bento boxes), put them in the back of the bus, and drove on to the "pastureland resort experience area"[056-072]. now it gets a bit crazy and kinda WTFed. the resort (or what we saw of it, as we actually just stopped there to occupy the benches and tables there) offers a little shop all around the local heroes, namely the black and white spotted cows. parents can buy their kids grass to feed it to the cows. also one can buy all kinds of milk-related edible products[058-060]. and, once customers are convinced that cows are cool and milk is awesome, one can buy all kind of merchandise stuff at the local souvenir shop[063]. this experienced lasted around one hour. got milk?
but it would get even weirder. next stop was the "hualien sugar factory[076-081]". if you expect some presentation of the sugar processing business, you were wrong - just as we were in believing so. what we got was... hm... hard to describe. loads of shops, loud music, and a huge crowd of people[077-078] buying all kind of stuff offered there, ranging from candies and sweets (of course) to clothes, which we bought there. nina got a cute dress, i got a nice t-shirt. after 20 minutes we entered the bus, which was hard to find due to all the other buses that parked there too, and drove on. puh, that was a little disturbing, and way too loud to us. but - according to our guidebook chinese people love that. noise and a crowd makes them feel cosy and happy. whatever floats their boat. next stuff was nice again, namely the "lintiansuan historical studio", where we spent one hour. it is some kind of an open air exhibition, showing how logs were transported and processed in the last century. so they had the old tracks from the train transporting the logs, and other nice stuff. but what caught our attention was something that all the other visitors ignored. we found an old abandoned house[096-120], and we were the only ones there. in an exhibition hall they showed amazing wood carvings[122-131]. carved out of one huge trunk they created wonderful sculptures.
according to the schedule we got handed out when we booked the trip, this would have been the last stop. but the bus driver had a nice surprise for us. he brought us to a bamboo charcoal "factory"[142-146]. they made bamboo charcoal their, showing how efficiently it can filter water (and indeed it went from brown to pure), how one can use it for fabrics, how one can use it as an edible coating for peanuts (that really tasted awesome!), and how conductivity of the bamboo is achieved by turning it into charcoal. really impressive stuff this bamboo tree. also they had a little cafe right there, where they sold the civet cat coffee[144]. though not the original "kopi luwak", this was coffee beans digested by the local civet species, the formosan masked civet. so cat poo-poo coffee for me - yippieh! but i will have one back home, as the package only includes six sachets for quite a high price. after 20 minutes we left the place and went on to another unscheduled stop. and it seems the bus driver has saved the craziest sh** until last. we stopped in front of the "jota food company"[150-154]. right after getting of the bus loud music was all around again, several girls dressed as aboriginal women made some additional noise, and showed us the way. inside tons of people, little room, no turning back, always straight on with the other visitors. the first 50 metres were dedicated to the history of the jota food company and their products. the remaining 200 metres were all dedicated to sweets and food. all the other guests there seemed to be on some kind of a shopping spree and bought tons of sweets, while we seemed to be immune to all this candy madness. all we did was try some provided samples and bought a soy ice-cream[150-151], since it was still hot. we were happy to get out of this jota hell again. in the shadow we enjoyed our pineapple and peanut ice.
all in all a good choice to take such a day tour, since one gets to see a lot, without the need of a car or scooter rental. also we got a little more insight of the chinese idea of recreation and leisure time activities. back at the tourist information, we booked a whale watching tour, so we finally get to see one - hopefully. we already failed at spotting whales in iceland and new zealand. let's see if we are lucky this time. also back to our hotel we decided to book a hotel in the taroko gorge online (after the fiasco on little luichiu island). this turned out to become quite a challenge, because, although the taroko gorge homepage is available in english(!), the booking site was not. but thanks to the google translate service, we managed to find out what the form fields were all about. once i got to the site with the credit card payment, visa decided that i need to be "Verified by Visa" on the spot. so no booking until i had undergone the initial process to be visa verified. but about one hour and several grrrrrs later, we had our double room booked. so far the most expensive hotel, but it seemed pretty fancy, and besides there's not much choice when it comes to accommodation in this national park. track: day 16

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