A big fun evening at a brewpub, spotting a large reindeer on the MRT, and time to hit the pause button on Asian Rambles.

Day 263: Taipei, Taiwan. It rained heavily all night, and all through the day. Which gave us a good opportunity to catch up with planning and admin.

Late afternoon, as we were starting to get a little stir crazy with being stuck indoors, we headed out to a secondhand book shop just outside Shilin MRT station. Lil had a pile of paperbacks she needed to offload, then we headed off across town in search of some craft beers.

We’d read about a small brewpub called Kikeriki that’s run by a Taiwanese guy who trained in Germany, and now brews a great range of German style beers locally.

The girl serving us was really lovely and chatted with us about our time in Taiwan, and the places she hopes to travel one day. Then she introduced us to William, the brewer and owner of the bar, who was very happy to hear we were so impressed with his beers.

He asked if we’d had Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor in Taiwan, and when we said no (we’d never heard of it, to be honest), he got one of the staff to dig out a bottle from under the counter so we could try it. It was pretty potent at 53%, tasted a little like some rice wines we’ve had in the past, and was really good. Jim braved a second glass, but Lil worried she might wobble off her bar stool.

William then brought us a plate of apple slices with mullet fish roe – Lil wasn’t a fan, particularly once she realised what it was, and wrinkled her nose, nudging Jim to discreetly eat the entire plate by himself.

As the evening went on, the bar got busier – impressive for a Sunday evening. One guy who clearly knows exactly what he wants came in and leaned over bar to enter his own order into the register. Gotta love it.

A couple of kids came in with their parents, and sat drawing at one of the tables. At one point they went outside to light some sparklers on the street, which was fun to watch.

A sign in the bathroom says last beer is served at 12.20am, then they clean the beer lines, and the bar closes at 1am. The sign asks people to get home safely and rest well, so they can face their daily life and challenges with full energy. Wise words indeed.

We said our thanks for the great drinks and fabulous hospitality, then headed off to catch the MRT home, leaving the children still in the bar at nearly midnight. Jim couldn’t resist posing with some Chinese New Year rat characters – possibly the last we’ll see for now.

On the MRT a guy was carrying a huge reindeer – perhaps to mark the 53rd day of Christmas.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Europe for the next chapter of our adventures. We’ve absolutely loved our time in Taiwan – it’s an awesome country, with heaps to do, amazing hiking and food, and the people here are just lovely.

So this is our last Asian Rambles blog, until we return at some point in the future. It’s 9 months today since we set off from Sydney on our Asian adventures and experiences; we’ve had a heap of fun, and created millions of happy memories. After this we’ll be switching to a ‘blogette’ called Euro Escapades, which we’ll post directly on Facebook every day.

Cheers for now.

Jim poses with a reindeer and a toilet, it’s all about poo at the zoo, and feeling the earth move.

Day 262: Taipei, Taiwan. We decided on a trip to Taipei zoo today; while neither of us are big on zoos (mostly we steer clear of them), Taipei zoo is well respected and does a lot of great work around animal conservation.

Jim’s latest breakfast fad is duck eggs preserved in salt, which Lil (not surprisingly) has added to the ‘weird foods’ category.

As we walked to the MRT station, Jim had the opportunity to pose with a Christmas deer which was positioned next to a toilet in a bathroom store. And if our calculations are right, it’s now the 52nd day of Christmas).

Our trip on the MRT included another trip on the driverless train (and another opportunity to play big kids). We’ve used the MRT system extensively while we’ve been here; this city really knows how to do public transport (in fact the whole country does) – the network has been one of the best we’ve experienced anywhere.

Entering the zoo was easy too – despite it being Saturday afternoon, there were no queues and we were quickly able to purchase tickets using our EasyCards at one of the kiosks.

We had a fabulous afternoon, though we found two and a half hours wasn’t quite enough to get around everything comfortably. The zoo is huge, with a zone for each continent, and we were sprinting towards the end to try and pack everything in.

Amongst the usual zoo animals, there are a couple of stand-out exhibits. The rain forest dome, which is full of exotic plants, butterflies, marmosets, scarlet ibis, and fish all under the same roof was particularly spectacular. The poison-dart frogs exhibits were also great – the zoo obviously has a bit of a thing for them, as they were on display in several locations.

The zoo seems to have a bit of a fetish for animal poo. There are lots of signs about animal asses, and apparently there are special daily poo exhibits, which sadly we missed.

After dinner in a nearby eatery, we headed home for a quiet Saturday night in. While we were typing today’s blog post, the room started shaking – our first experience of a Taiwan earthquake. The epicentre was down the east coast, south of Hualien. It was reported at 5.7 but only mild (2.0) in Taipei. It was Lil’s second experience of an earthquake, and Jim’s first – we’ll be very happy if we don’t experience any more.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Taiwan; we have lots of planning to do for the upcoming Greek trip, and we’ll venture out for a last wander about the city at some stage, ideally to find somewhere to offload some of Lil’s growing library of books. And hopefully we won’t feel the earth shaking again.

More then.

A cheese-eating rat floating over a cat, a 5 minute dash around cherry blossoms, and a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner.

Day 261: Taipei, Taiwan. We had an easy day today; no long walks or climbing up hills or steps. We worked on finalising our travel insurance for Europe (some things take way longer than they should), read our books for a bit, then headed out to visit a cherry blossom festival.

Walking to the MRT, we spotted a giant fluffy cat statue, which is part of the Taipei City 2020 Lantern Festival. It’s titled ‘Hike and Seek’ and depicts a rat munching on cheese floating over a dreaming cat.

In an online article, the designer for the cat and rat duo explains that the holes in the cheese represent the underground passages between Ximending and Nangang MRT stations. And the cheese is circular to reflect the tapioca pearls found in Taiwan bubble tea. We were also pleased to read that the cat and the rat are good friends.

Afterwards we caught the MRT to Donghu to view the 2020 Cherry Blossom Festival at Lohas Park. A local news article indicated that it’s a pretty major event, which lasts for the entire month of February. Our expectations were perhaps a little high; it turned out to be a small park with a strip of cherry blossom trees, a wicker statue and a mini flower garden with wooden houses. It was also raining, which didn’t help the ambiance. It took us about 5 minutes to see the entire thing, including posing for a couple of pics. It was lovely, but probably not worth the MRT trip.

A couple of fluffy pooches in a pram seemed to be getting more out of the festival more than us.

Then we headed back towards home, sitting at the front of the brown MRT line, which is the driverless train that we still get way too excited about.

Our Valentine’s Dinner was big bowls of noodle soup with bean sprouts and leeks, with some Taiwan beer. And it was absolutely perfect.

Tomorrow we’ll see what the weather is doing – if it’s dry we may have a wander about the zoo. And we’ll keep our expectations low, just in case.

More then.

A challenging hike up and down hills; searching for an elusive earth god; and temples, temples everywhere.

Day 260: Taipei, Taiwan. Today we went for a very long walk – and one which turned out to be a little more challenging than we’d originally envisaged.

A 13km hike is usually a decent but not overly taxing distance. But throw in countless ascents and descents, rickety stone steps and muddy slopes, and suddenly ‘easy enough’ becomes pretty arduous. But it was fun, and a good challenge.

The hike was a circular loop walk, starting and finishing at Nanshijiao MRT station. And of course it started – as much hikes here seem to – by climbing lots and lots of steps.

The trail rises to a ridge on Nanshijiao mountain and rounds the head of the valley before returning down the other side. There are panoramic views of the whole city from the south looking north over Yangmingshan mountains beyond.

Cherry blossoms were out in force, as were dozens of squirrels.

The route description we were following mentioned there were lots of temples along the way, and they weren’t joking. From small shrines built into open fronted sheds with corrugated roofs, to opulent large temples with ornate gold interiors. We tried – and failed – to visit a huge Earth God, Fude Jhengshen, which is also Taiwan’s largest. It was tucked on a hillside underneath a large temple, and we couldn’t work out how to get there from our trail.

Outside one temple was a basket full of water with a note saying ‘Have some water, please’ and a sketch of a hiker. So we did – very thoughtful of whoever put them there.

Further along there was a small stand with a teapot and cups – again for hikers (though the teapot was empty today).

We stopped in a clearing with huge rocks, to eat our packed lunch. After wolfing sandwiches and bananas, Jim tucked into a packet of cream corn soup flavor crackers. Weirder than weird.

After lunch, Jim made a quick call to his insurance company (we’re still working on getting our insurance cover extended for Europe). Thankfully mobile reception has been excellent through the island, even in forests and on hill tops.

A little later we passed a huge rock with a table and chair, including a plastic tablecloth. A lovely place to sit (even if it’s just for one person).

We finished the walk late afternoon, just as it was starting to rain. We had a quick coffee in Xingnan, then sprinted to the MRT station as the heavens opened.

Tomorrow we’re having an easier day – probably a trip to Decathlon sports store, followed by a visit to a park to see lots more cherry blossoms in bloom. And wherever we go, hopefully we won’t have to traipse up and down more steps.

More then.

Watching people balancing on the train, a long afternoon with ancient exhibits, and Lil practises being an eagle.

Day 259: Taipei, Taiwan. Today we decided to tick off one of the ‘must see’ items off our list – the National Palace Museum.

We’ve been putting this one off a little, knowing it would take a decent amount of time (and the right mindset) to trawl around the huge collection of exhibits.

The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of Ming and Qing dynasty pottery, bronze and jade work, and some people say they have spent an entire day walking around.

We caught the MRT to Shilin, amused to watch so many people trying to stand upright on the train and escalators without holding onto rails, presumably concerned that they might contract the Coronavirus.

At Shilin, Lil spotted a book shop and bought yet another book – she now has six paperbacks in tow. She’s decided she needs to pop back to one of the bookshops to either sell them the books she’s read, or simply hand them over if needs be.

We walked the remaining few kilometres to the National Palace Museum. It was a glorious sunny day, with spring showing signs of springing already. Trees are just starting to blossom and leaves are budding out. We also saw some cute topiary birds on the edge of a park.

We arrived at the museum and were happy to find it wasn’t too busy. We put our bags into the locker room (even that was themed with flowers to fit in with the overall branding of the museum), and headed into our first exhibit.

The exhibitions are split across three floors, with each room numbered and containing different artifacts. Most of the exhibits come from China’s Forbidden City in Beijing. In the early 20th Century, there was a concern that the Imperial Japanese would invade and plunder the wealth, so everything was shipped to various locations around mainland China.

In 1948 there was more concern about civil war in China, and about 20% of it – some 3,000 crates containing 700,000 pieces of pottery and other artifacts – were shipped off to Taiwan. The story is fascinating and given how many times everything was moved or stored in a railway siding, it’s amazing none of it was broken, lost, or stolen.

We started with the orientation area, where Jim had a lot of fun poking at the touchscreen to reveal more info about each of the thousands of pictures, He joked that we could just stay there and not bother going around the exhibits at all.

We started with some royal ornaments and furniture, moved on to the pottery, and finally on to the bronze and jade. There were thousands of exhibits, and you really would need a whole day to read about each and every item. We didn’t even venture into the calligraphy and literature areas.

In one room there was a multimedia game, where you can pretend you’re an eagle flying over an ancient Chinese town. This time it was Lil who wanted to play.

We were blown away at being able to view artifacts that date back hundreds of years (14th-19th century for most of the pottery), and in the case of some jade arrowheads, up to 8,000 years.

We were unlucky and missed seeing the Jadeite Cabbage which is a crowd favourite exhibit – it’s currently on display at the sister museum in Chiayi, but we were lucky enough to see the ‘Jade Meat-Shaped Stone’ (which looked like a piece of pork belly).

When we’d finished at the museum, with our brains fizzing with so much information, we headed outside to have a look at the terrace and gardens. There were fabulous views across the hills, where we should probably have been walking in the sun today.

We had a coffee on the way back to the MRT, had dinner and then headed home to sort out our next lot of travel insurance and some other planning.

Tomorrow we may well pack in a long walk – hopefully the weather will be good again. And perhaps we’ll practice being able to stand on the MRT without holding on.

More then.

Jim goes back and forth on the train, shelves of pink stuff at the local store, and Lil gets lucky with her dinner choice.

Day 258: Yilan & Taipei, Taiwan. This morning we packed up and set off for the station, to catch a train from Yilan back to Taipei. We’ve one more week in Taipei before we exit Asia and head to Europe.

On the train to Taipei, Lil got a message from the hotel in Yilan saying ‘You have a writing board lost on hotel’. We pondered what it might mean for a bit; Lil carries a couple of paper notebooks, also some large white card which she uses for travel planning, but she was fairly confident she’d packed everything. Then Jim realised what it meant – he’d left behind his much used Kindle reader. A very large sigh.

We arrived in Taipei and stopped for a quick caffeine hit at a local Familymart. There were shelves full of pink items on sale for Valentine’s Day later this week – everything from strawberry and cream chips (urgh), to strawberry Pocky sticks and Oreos, and even strawberry cream ale (admittedly, there’s a good chance we’ll try the ale at some point).

Once we got settled into our airbnb, Jim headed off to the station to catch the train back to Yilan to rescue his Kindle. While he was on his mission, Lil went shopping to see if she could find a large map of Greece that she could use for travel planning. She forgot her face mask, so had to use the last fresh one in her bag; we’ve been using masks sparingly as we can’t get any more here – they’re limited to two per person per week – but only if you’re a member of the national health care system.

Lil’s quest for a Greek map was unsuccessful – she tried a book store called Eslite about 1.5km away, one of a chain of stores. This particular one takes up a large chunk of the underground area of a railway station – it stretches along a corridor for hundreds of metres. Despite the millions of books, they only had a small selection of maps, and none of them covered Greece. Afterwards she walked north of the city to another bookshop, but no luck there either.

So there was nothing else for it, it was time for another visit to Lil’s favourite cake shop to pick up more of their delectable cheese cake, and another piece of pineapple cake, even though the New Year holidays are now over.

However despite the New Year celebrations being over, there are still lots of decorations around the city.

Jim wasn’t due back until late evening, so Lil went for dinner on her own. As we share an internet connection (Jim has a local SIM card and Lil hot-spots to it), she realised she couldn’t translate any of the items on the menu. She marked a dish, hoped for the best and hit pot luck (literally), as the selected dish turned out to be some rather good pork noodle soup. Lucky she didn’t find herself tucking into a large pile of intestines.

There was a glorious sunset visible through the buildings – one of those evenings where you wish you were sitting on top of a hill watching the sun go down.

Jim meanwhile managed to successfully rescue his kindle from the Yilan hotel, then caught the train back to Taipei again. He says he’ll be running through a checklist of ‘important items’ before he leaves accommodation in the future.

Tomorrow we’ll either visit the National Palace Museum, or head out for a long walk. And we may well have to pick up some strawberry ale along the way.

More then.

Detailed instructions for killer bee attacks, watching out for feisty cows, and toilet roll panic at the supermarket.

Day 257: Yilan, Taiwan. The weather was good enough for us to walk the Caoling Historic Trail today – overcast and chilly, but dry.

Before setting off, we booked flights to Athens on Monday; we’ve been sitting tight and waiting to see what happens with the Coronavirus outbreak, and now seems like a very good time to exit Asia. So instead we’ll do a bit of Greek rambling, and then we’ll work out what to do after that.

With flights booked, we headed off to the station, with Jim clutching a giant 2.5 litre bottle of water (the local store had run out of smaller sizes).

The train took just over half an hour to reach Dali station, and from there it was a quick walk to the start of the trail. It’s the only remaining section of the old Qing dynasty trail that was built over 130 years ago to provide a connection along the northeast coast of Taiwan, from Tamsui to Yilan.

We stopped to scan maps and read the obligatory noticeboards. This time there wasn’t just a warning about killer bees, there were fairly explicit instructions on what to do if you encounter them. Later Lil had a look online, and read that a number of bee attacks have been in the Yilan county area, so perhaps that’s why they’re more focused on it.

We headed off on the trail, which of course started (and continued) with heaps and heaps of steps. We reached a lookout point with great views back along the coast, including the town of Dali.

At the top of the trail is a rock carved with a tiger inscription. The notice board nearby explains: “When Taiwan Regional Commander Liu Ming-deng arrived at the Caoling Wukou during an inspection tour of northern Taiwan in 1867, he was buffeted by such strong wind and thick fog that he could not tell his directions. In according with the ancient Chinese saying ‘Clouds obey the dragon, winds obey the tiger’, he inscribed the Chinese character ‘Tiger’ to suppress the wind.” So there we go then.

Eventually we reached a small clearing, where there was another ominous sign warning us to watch out for cows. Lil read only this morning that a part of another trail in the greater Taipei area had been closed because of visitors being injured by cows. They must be feisty cows. Thankfully we didn’t spot any, though we had to steer around rather a lot of cow dung.

We passed a group of locals sitting on steps eating their lunch. We were impressed to see they’d brought big boxes of noodles with them, and were happily working their way through their lunches with chop sticks.

After a bit we stopped to eat our own packed lunch in a small park-like area. A family of four was doing the same thing, and had passed some of their food to two adorable ginger kittens who were hanging about on the sidelines.

Then we continued on our way, passing a river and waterfall and eventually reaching a road which was aflutter with butterflies.

Further along we passed a house where we had a quick game of count-the-cats – they were everywhere, lolling about in the afternoon sun (by now there was some blue sky, albeit short lived).

We reached the main road and had coffee in a cafe that was painted floor to ceiling with beach scenes. We sipped our lattes feeling a little like we were at the seaside, then caught the train back to Yilan.

Jim had a couple more opportunities to post with Xmas decorations today, on what is now the 48th day of Christmas.

We popped into a supermarket in Yilan to pick up a few things. Lil read an article in the local news today about panic buying of toilet rolls; there are rumours spreading that the paper used for loo rolls is being diverted into face mask manufacture (not true, apparently). People have been rushing to buy bog rolls – the shelves at the supermarket were almost empty as we passed, and a lady was scurrying to the cash register with 4 giant packs. Either she has a very large family, or she’s going to have to store lots of loo rolls for a while.

Tomorrow we pack up again, and head back to Taipei for our last days in Taiwan. And we’re hoping our airbnb will have enough toilet roll to last us until we leave.

More then.

Hanging on tightly on the bus, a whisky tasting in Chinese, and marking the 47th day of Christmas.

Day 256: Yilan, Taiwan. Today was a ‘rest our legs’ day, with no long walks on the agenda. And we had a great excuse to take it easy – the opportunity to visit a local whisky distillery, and a local craft brewery, all in one day.

Around lunchtime, we caught a bus from outside the train station. Jim dropped a coin as he was getting on and bent down to pick it up – a momentary delay which was enough to make the bus driver honk his horn impatiently. Little did we know it was a sign of things to come.

The driver was a bit of a nightmare. We clung onto our seats as the bus shot out of town at speed, lurching around corners and through lights turning red. Thankfully there are seatbelts on buses here, which made us feel some way protected.

The bus skidded to a halt outside Kavalan Distillery, a famous producer of whisky in Taiwan which also wins international awards.

The Kavalan complex is huge – a series of buildings including the distillery itself, a visitor centre and a vast tasting room and shop. It’s all set in huge grounds which are beautifully kept. There are two other buildings – a water bottling plant and a whisky bottling plant, but unfortunately both were closed due to the Coranavirus risk.

There are hourly tours of the distillery, however they’re conducted in Chinese, so the lady at the visitor centre suggested we do a self-tour. We’d previously tried to book an English tour online, but the web site seemed to be having a bad day, and wouldn’t accept our reservation request.

We had a walk through the museum and information centre attached to the distillery. It was a really good exhibition, if a little information heavy, and it was great to be able to see into the mashing, fermentation, distilling and storage rooms.

Afterwards we headed for the tasting room and queued up for the next free tasting event. Again it was conducted in Chinese, so we’ve no idea what it was all about, but eventually we got to taste one of the core whiskies in the range, and it was seriously good.

Afterwards we had a wander around the whisky shop. They sell the entire whisky range in handy test tube-like 50ml bottles, so Jim picked up a few to enjoy later.

And before we left, Jim also took the opportunity to pose with a giant Xmas tree, on what is now the 47th day of Christmas.

Then we walked a kilometre down a busy main road, and headed into Jim & Dad’s Brewery. They had 11 beers on tap, available in small and large servings. We tasted our way through the entire range, sharing a small glass of each beer, and they were all really good. We’d probably give the Smoked Plum Marzen a miss next time, and four different kumquat beers were a little much, but overall we were very impressed.

We finished up with the bourbon barrel aged barley wine, which packs a whopping 12.5% alcohol, and was top notch.

Before we left, we took the lift to the 5th floor of the brewery’s observation tower, to look out over the landscape (though it was freezing so we didn’t hang about for long). Then we walked out to the main road to catch the bus back home. A bus came barrelling around the corner and we had to wave like crazy to get it to stop. It skidded to a halt a little way up the road – and yes, it was the same driver again. He was obviously keen to get home for his dinner, as his driving was even more terrifying then earlier.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to walk the Caoling Historical Trail, weather permitting. Thankfully we can catch a train there, so unless our bus driver friend has changed jobs overnight, we won’t have to suffer his crazy driving again.

More then.

Jim gets pounced on at the hotel, celebrating the 46th day of Christmas, and a wander through old railway dormitories.

Day 255: Yilan, Taiwan. This morning we headed out for a very long walk by the river and across the hillside.

Which meant trying to sneak past the staff downstairs, so they didn’t come chasing after us again, asking if we were going to use the bikes they’d put aside for us. It was a successful sneak-past, until Jim realised he’d left his phone in the room and went back – and on his second attempted exit from the building, he got pounced on.

It was another glowery overcast day, but thankfully not raining. We headed down along the riverside path we’d come across last night, and further up the valley into the hillside.

The hillside has been used as a graveyard for decades and it covers an enormous area. It’s very overgrown in places, but some workmen were out with strimmers trying to tidy it up a little. It will probably take them months to work their work through the whole area, and by then it will be time to start all over again.

Afterwards, we walked through a massive modern crematorium, and around to a lake where a gaggle of geese was honking by the roadside. Jim crossed the road to avoid them – previous experience tells us that geese love Jim (or at least love trying to get a good peck of his legs).

We walked through lots of farmland and fruit gardens, including huge orchards of oranges and kumquats.

Then we wound our way down to an area that was marked as an ‘amusement park’ on Google maps. The area was deserted – apart from an abandoned sightseeing boat, a seafood restaurant and the remnants of a bridge across the lake, there wasn’t much to amuse anyone. We sat by the river for a bit, then headed back to town, with a quick look at a Buddhist temple on the way.

On the way, we came across an old Japanese Air Force hangar, and perched on top of the hangar is a bamboo aeroplane. Many of these were built as imitation targets to draw fire from American planes, so they’d have less ammunition to use against real planes. Cunning.

Jim had two fab opportunities to pose with Xmas trees today – and as he pointed out, it is the 46th day of Christmas after all.

We had dinner at the same Vietnamese restaurant as last night – this time braised pork and rice, and a beef dish with noodles, plus some fabulous rice paper rolls.

We had a quick walk through Jimi Park afterwards – a small park alongside the railway station that was the old dormitory area of the Taiwan Railways Administration, and has now been turned into an art park. Lots of brightly lit installations, cute statues and a small craft market.

Tomorrow we’re planning to visit a local craft brewery and also a whisky distillery, which should be fun. And who knows, perhaps there will be some more Xmas tree sightings on the 47th day of Christmas.

More then.

A dog’s eye view at the station, Jim’s new cookie eating skill, and settling into our special room.

Day 254: Taipei, Taiwan. This morning we packed up again and walked to the station to catch a train to Yilan (pronounced ‘eee-laan’)

We were early at the station (old habits die hard, and all that). We plonked ourselves on the floor of the big station hall, as everyone does, and enjoyed a dog’s eye view of the world going past.

The huge Christmas tree is no longer at the station, but there’s a large station clock with electronic cogs, and a cute train that lights up and runs back and forth across the board underneath. We were there when the clock struck midday, and it was quite something. Though as Lil says, the Christmas tree was heaps more fun.

The train journey was a slow local service, taking over two hours; a good opportunity to see some of the coastline that we hadn’t travelled previously.

And Jim has acquired a new skill – the ability to eat a cookie without taking off his face mask. Which either denotes laziness, or ingenuity (or perhaps a mix of both). Lil suggested installing a zipper on the front might be even easier, and even more dorky.

Our accommodation in Yilan is only a few minutes’ walk from the station. When we checked in, the lady behind the desk used Google Translate to inform us that ‘Work is taking place here. We apologise for inconvenience’. And she wasn’t joking. We had to climb over piles of furniture and other random items that had been piled in the corridor, to reach the stairs to our room.

The room is what we would call ‘a little special’. It’s an old room that’s been done up in an effort to modernise it (but really, it would be a better idea to knock it down and start again). As Jim said “They’re getting there – perhaps a bit more filler on the walls, maybe screw the electric sockets onto the walls too. And maybe a couple of pictures”). There’s an exercise bike outside our door in the corridor too, presumably that’s the gym.

The guesthouse offers free bicycles for guests – Lil ticked the ‘yes please to bicycles’ box when she booked the accommodation. Now, every time we approach the front door, staff come running to ask if we’re going to use the bicycles. They’re pretty old and beaten up, so we probably won’t be going far on them anyway.

We had a quick coffee in the town, while watching a cake shop opposite doing a roaring trade. Perhaps they were selling off their New Year cakes on the last day of the holidays.

Then we walked through the town and down to the river. There’s a long riverside path that runs alongside bright green fields, with great views of the river and the mountains beyond.

As we walked back into the town, there was a bunch of white cockatoos tied up outside a pet shop, kicking up a right old racket. One of them was particularly vocal, with an ear splitting loud squawk. The lady in the pet store came out to tell it off, wagging her finger, and impressively it stopped shrieking straight away. Until she went back into the shop, then it started laughing its head off. We didn’t get any pics, as we were too busy laughing our heads off too.

We wandered around the night market for a bit, then had a fab dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant for a bit of a change.

Then we walked home through the city streets, which were brightly lit and buzzing. There seems to be quite a lot going on here, considering it’s a reasonably small town.

Tomorrow we’ll either go for a long walk, or if it’s raining (and there’s a reasonable chance it will be) we’ll visit a local brewery. And hopefully we’ll get a good night’s sleep in our special room.

More then.