Wise words on marriage and potatoes, a dinosaur on a leash at the station, and Jim has a quick stint in jail.

Day 190: Taipei & Hualien, Taiwan. This morning we packed up and headed to the train station to catch a train to Hualien, a town on the east coast of Taiwan.

We had a good giggle as we walked down the street and past an Irish restaurant called ‘Ireland’s Potato’. An advertising board above the restaurant entrance proclaims:

“There are two things in the world that can’t be joked: 1. Marriage 2. Potato.”

It took Lil (who’s Irish) a couple of reads to sort of understand what they were getting at. Goodness only knows what local Taiwanese people think of it all.

We arrived at the station early as always, and plonked ourselves on the floor in the waiting area (which is what people do here). The wait came with another opportunity to eyeball the train-themed Christmas tree, which was roped off this morning with a camera crew standing in front of it.

A few minutes later a very large pantomime dinosaur was led across the floor by a leash. Turns out it was a promotion for a new exhibition of Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience in Taipei later this month. The presentation was half in English, half in Chinese, and the Q&A about dinosaurs was pretty amusing. The funniest part was when they got a small child to say they weren’t scared of dinosaurs and to go up and pat it on the nose, then have the presenter go ‘boo!’ right behind them.

Our train was one minute late arriving at the station – the efficiency of the Taiwanese train system meant an announcement was necessary to advise us of the late arrival (gotta love it).

The train was ultra-comfy, modern and clean with cute bear head rest covers and a slogan saying “It’s time for Taiwan”. Timely from our perspective, given we’re just heading off to explore the island.

We arrived in Hualien mid afternoon and walked to our accommodation. The lady who runs the guesthouse is lovely, and makes good use of Google Translator to communicate with her guests (as we did in return).

We headed out for a walk around Hualien, which is a fair bit bigger than we’d anticipated. It was a cloudy day, and not long after we set out on our walk, the rain started – drizzle at first, then it gradually got heavier.

We walked across to the Hualien Railway Cultural Park, which was created to encourage people to become interested in rail travel. It’s small but interesting, and one of the exhibits was the old prison cells where miscreants got locked up for traffic offenses. Jim of course had to do his ‘Look at me, I’m in jail!’ impression, much to the amusement of the locals (and the groans of Lil).

Defeated by the rain, we decided to head home, popping into a cute secondhand bookshop on the way. We found nothing of interest (their English book selection was very small), so stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few things then headed for dinner at a local eatery.

We had pretty good pork and egg fried rice, and spicy beef noodles. We spent ages using Google Translator to interpret the menu on the wall, then one of the ladies running the place whipped out an English menu from a box under the counter.

Tomorrow we’ll do some exploring around the town, and take a walk along the waterfront and through the night market. Hopefully we’ll find some interesting things to eat, though whether Irish potatoes are on the menu remains to be seen.

More then.