Scoffing stodgy scallion pancakes, a soggy walk along the waterfront, and coffee time in recycled shipping containers.

Day 191: Hualien, Taiwan. We woke this morning to another cloudy but less chilly day.

While Lil did another chunk of her Teaching English as a Foreign Language course, Jim headed out to organise travel passes and print our permits for Taroko National Park tomorrow. He came back with the printing, but said the lady at the transport booth (who was very focused on eating her meatballs) said we needed to get passes tomorrow.

Then we headed out for a walk along the coast. It was still cloudy when we left, and the weather went steadily downhill as the afternoon went on.

First stop was the Yellow Car Fried Spring Onion Pancake stall, to buy one of Hualien’s renowned Egg Scallion Pancakes. We’d been warned that it can take an hour or more to get to the top of the queue at busy times, so we decided 3pm on a Thursday was a good time to visit – which it was.

There was only a handful of others in the queue, and in less than 5 minutes we had our paws on a deep fried concoction that tasted amazing (a doughy pancake with scallions, with a soft egg in the middle) – but probably isn’t on the list of foods recommended by the Heart Foundation.

Then we walked along by the waterfront, which was lovely but would probably be a lot more lovely if the sun was shining.

The weather doesn’t seem to deter anyone from getting out and about here, they just get their umbrellas out and go for a walk in the rain.

Towards the end of our walk, we wandered through Taiwan Happy Farm, a large open area with ornate ponds and bridges, and had a quick look at a collection of pheasants and other birds which also looked pretty soggy.

We were surprised to see that Starbucks is one of the iconic landmarks on the tourist information map. Soggy and starting to chill down, we walked across for hot coffees, and discovered the cafe has been built with 29 recycled shipping containers and is stacked up to three levels. It’s a fascinating cafe, and although we’re not big Starbucks fans, this one was a novely.

We had a quick look around the shopping centre next door, tantalisingly called New Paradise (though there wasn’t a great deal to see), posed for a quick pic by the Christmas tree and a giant teddy bear, then caught the bus back home. We had dinner at the same restaurant as last night – it’s only a one minute walk from our guesthouse, and we were wet enough as it was.

Tomorrow we’re visiting Taroko National Park, and we’re praying that the rain will hold off at least until the afternoon. We’ve got permits to do the Zhuilu Old Road trail, a slightly hairy hike with some very narrow paths and a 200m drop into the gorge below. Should be fun.

More then.