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Reisverslag The sunny south and cultural west
9 februari 2014
The sunny south and cultural west
Yes, it was more than a bit annoying that I had to go back to Taipei for some unpaid work.
Having had to travel all the way back up north just to travel back south (this time on the west coast) 2 days later seemed a bit of a waste of time and more importantly a waste of money. However, the job will start generating money again soon so it had to be done.
After this unpleasant intermezzo, I wasted no more time and jumped on a bus no less than 3 hours after finishing up work. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake though. When purchasing my ticket the girl at the counter may have misunderstood my question or the answer may have been lost in translation. The overnight bus which seemed like a great idea because it would save on accommodation and get me to my first stop nice and early in the morning. It did get me there in the morning but not at the projected 6 am (the answer the girl at the counter gave me) instead I reached Kaoshiung at 2 am. Not to worry though there's was another bus ride ahead of me which should take 3 hours or more, yeah not at this time off the day though. So here I was in Kenting village at 4 am, not quite the "early" start I had in mind. To top it off every hotel there was way to expensive so I had to backtrack to an earlier town and try my luck there. In Hengchun there were hostel and guesthouses according to the internet, too bad most of them were closed...
Finally found a place that would have me but I had to wait until 7:30 to check in.
With a few hours kip I was ready to take on the south. Rented a fancy mountain bike and set off to see what the fuss about Kentin was about. I was sadly overdressed for my ride (I wore jeans,socks, shoes and a jacket + scarf in backpack rather than wearing short and flipflops with board shorts and towel in backpack) but that was the only thing I can complain about, Kenting national park and it's surroundings were stunning. Beautiful roads to cycle on nice beaches, a somewhat touristy Kenting village and great vistas all around. Made it all the way to the southern most point of Taiwan and took my sweet time cycling back to my guesthouse. There I met some other travellers and spent the night eating and drinking with them.
Since I had my bicycle for 24 hours I could ride it some more on the next day. Taking the advice from a Swedish guy in my hostel I had yet another tremendous day of cycling. Even though the landscape was nothing like at home but the cycling made me feel a touch nostalgic.
In the hostel they were gearing up for Chinese new year and with that came a free dinner which was gratefully eaten by us the travellers. Many, many beers and drinking games later we lit some fireworks and concluded a fun night. As much as I had wanted to stay longer time was not my friend so I had to move on to the next place if I wanted to see as much as I could before starting work.
Kaoshiung, previously seen in the wee hours of the night, was reached in little over 3 hours. Kaoshiung is Taiwan's second largest city and couldn't be more different from Taipei if it tried. It's a modern city with very wide streets and even though it tries it lacks character. I don't know why but I liked the city, I walked for miles and miles to see what it had on offer. I must've damn nearly seen all the nightmarkets there and I ate too much at everyone of them. The hostel situation was precarious again since everything is fully booked because of Chinese new year. I managed to get one bed in a dorm room but only for one night and I had to sleep the next night on the sofa. In the hostel you find mainly Taiwanese people who are visiting family or just travelling for the holiday or they're there because the want to assassinate someone (because I don't speak a word of Chinese I had to make up the stories of my fellow guests).
One of the main sights in Kaohsiung is the Lotus pond which is, as the name might give away , a body of water with lotus flowers. It's surrounded by tempels and other religious buildings and statues, together with great weather and a big market for CNY. I loved the place and must've easily spent a number of hours strolling around there.
There was also a vibrant harbour scene where the local artists had made it their playground. Another very busy place where many like me had chosen to walk around for a few hours and take in all the art on offer.
Again pressed by time I had to leave a place sooner than I had wanted but such is the life of a traveller. Where Kaohsiung had been a very modern city, Tainan was a more authentic city. The city is littered with ancient (and some more recent) temples of various different belief systems.
You hardly could walk through a street without finding another temple tucked away or a grand temple that commanded your attention. Maybe it was the grey skies and the drizzle but as lovely as the city was it couldn't warm my heart.
The western part of the city had some historical sites where I learned more about the Dutch involvement in the Taiwanese history. The Dutch east India company had established (invaded) a post in Taiwan to accommodate their trading routes. It's always interesting to find something of your country of origin especially since I didn't even know "we" had been there. Yet again there was a big market going on and I got to sample more of Taiwan's amazing foods. This country has some fantastic food but unfortunately I have no idea what it's called or what it is because I don't speak Chinese and they speak no English.
There was one last place I'd like to have gone before returning to Taipei but this was made impossible by the holiday. After hours of researching and many phone calls I just couldn't get any accommodation for Sun Moon lake without paying an absolute fortune for it. Angry and disappointed I decided to go back to Taipei, after all I still had to find an apartment before work would start.
Taipei was a little more rainy and colder than I had left it (or had the sun and clear blue skies made me weak again) but it felt like coming home. The apartment search went smoother than expected and with a first work meeting behind me, and already settled into the new pad I am now ready to go back to work.
I guess this shall be the last travel update for a while but next time I'll try to give an update on living in Taipei and maybe some horror stories from work.
It's been a fantastic run since I last worked in April in Thailand and I can't belief how I have made so long without working. I want to say I can't wait to start working again but the truth is, I can't wait for the first week of work to be over again. Friday afternoon beers are going to taste so sweet again!
Until next time, but for now enjoy the fact that I shall be joining the masses again by getting up Monday morning and start my working week like the rest of you.
not sure if these links still work, but it's woth a shot
here's a link from facebook for some photos