Day 200: Taitung & Hengchun, Taiwan. Today marks another big benchmark – 200 days of Asian Rambles. When we set off from Sydney in May, we’d no idea how we’d be feeling at this point (or at any point, to be honest). The good news is we’re still having fun and loving rambling about. Long may it continue and all that.
This morning we caught a train from Taitung to Fangliao, and then a bus to Hengchun, both on the west side of the country. A very easy journey overall, with a 2 minute wait between train and bus. It’s always good when it works like that.
We checked into our guesthouse, which is nice and central; we’ve decided being in the heart of the action is definitely the place to be. We were based a few kilometres outside the town in Taitung, and despite being next to the train station which was its initial appeal, it really wasn’t that useful.
The lady who runs the guesthouse is lovely – we’ve yet to discover her name. She speaks about five words of English but communicates brilliantly with written and spoken translations on Google Translate.
As with most places here, it’s shoes off when you reach the front door – however this lady doesn’t like people padding around in socks or bare feet so we have to put on blue plastic slip on sandals with those knobbly bits under your feet that make you go ouch! continually. And not surprisingly, they’re way too small for Jim’s big western feet.
Our room is big and lovely, with cute cat sketches on the walls. There were no towels in the room, so we asked for some using Google Translate. We got two tiny hand towels which will be of limited use other than drying our hands. Thankfully we carry large microfibre towels so won’t have to walk around the town dripping wet.
Once we’d settled in, and hung up our tiny hand towels on the massive towel rail, we kicked off our knobbly blue sandals, put on our walking shoes and headed out to take a look at the town.
Hengchun (meaning “Always Spring” due to its all-year-round growing season) is an historical city and the entry way to Kenting National Park, where we hope to do some trekking in the coming days. It has a 2.5km long wall and moat around it, built in 1875 to defend against Japanese invaders and restless natives. We went for a walk along the old walls, at least the pieces that are still intact, staying well back from the unfenced 5 metre drop on one side.
We’ve noticed on our travels through Taiwan that people are very active and exercise inclined. While we walked the walls of the old town, we saw hundreds of people out walking, playing woodball (a cross between croquet and golf) in the park, playing basketball and walking and jogging around running tracks. Very inspirational.
We also watched a glorious sunset – lots more of those to come we reckon.
When we’d finished exploring we headed back into the town centre in search of dumplings. Lil had found some online reviews for a small restaurant that is said to serve some of the best dumplings in Taiwan. And oh my goodness, they are to die for. Plump, juicy pork and scallion dumplings with perfectly steamed pastry – just as dumplings are supposed to be.
A lady was hand making dumplings at the back of the shop, and the ladies at the front were doing the steaming and serving bit. We also ordered a bowl of chicken and noodles in thick soup – also sensational.
Then we waddled around the town for a bit, dodging the rubbish removal lorry which for some reason was roaming the streets on Saturday evening and playing the most annoying tune to let people know they’re on their way. Here there aren’t rubbish collections as such – when people hear the headache-inducing music they run out with their bags of trash and recycling.
On our waddles, we passed a large brightly lit pet shop. Spotting lots of live animals bouncing around inside, we popped in to take a look. Lots of very cute dogs and cats which will no doubt be snapped up quickly (and hopefully taken care of for life, not ditched after the novelty has passed); stacks of guinea pigs and mice plus an animal we didn’t recognise; and a big collection of parrot-like birds. Jim had a conversation and (a little embarrassingly) a short stint of head banging with one particularly ferocious looking macaw which looked like it could peck an eye out (or possibly consume an entire head) in two seconds flat.
Then we bought a bottle of red wine and took it back to our guesthouse, put on our knobbly blue sandals, and raised our glasses in memory of Feebee, our cat that passed away two years ago today. She was an awesome fun cat, and we still miss her dreadfully.
Tomorrow we’ll have a relaxed start to our Sunday, visit the local laundromat (hopefully no cranky guys like the last time we went clothes washing), then go for a long walk somewhere. And Lil reckons another large serving of dumplings might be in our near future too.