We had spent the first four days of our 10 day trip in the teeming metropolis of Taipei and we loved it. The Taiwanese people were so very friendly. The sights and smells were quite different from Okinawa, Japan.
Our fifth day we rose early and repacked our two small suitcases and personal backpacks in our minuscule apartment in the Wanhua District. We were heading for the metro station and would be boarding first a bus for a couple hours, and then a train for the remainder of our trip east.
The bus ride was uneventful, and it was fascinating to see the rice paddies and the Taiwan countryside. When we reached Luodong Station we transferred from the bus to a train. The children were dragging a bit, and we missed the first train by just two minutes. Lunch time was approaching however, so the opportunity to grab a bite was appreciated. After all, we weren’t on much of a schedule during this trip.
We rolled our bags out the station doors once again and peeled off layers in the warming sun as we searched for a viable option for lunch. There weren’t many, but we finally stumbled upon what looked like an open-air cafe that had just opened for lunch. We drank mystery soup and noodles with unknown substances. There were soy sauce eggs, so the kids were thankful for that. It wasn’t great, but it was food. It was actually the only meal I didn’t care for in Taiwan. I’m not picky, but I do like to know what I’m eating! Overall I had found the food in Taipei to be delicious. Two out of three of the littles were satisfied with the lunch. Snacks would carry us the rest of the day.
We made our way back to the train station carrying backpacks, bags and small children, sweating now from the unanticipated hot sun. We grabbed a couple of coffee and tea drinks from Family Mart (the local convenience food store in Japan and Taiwan). I just loved the rose tea latte, and bought it numerous times during our time in Taiwan. I wish I could find this brand in Okinawa!
Mistakenly, we had bought tickets for the Express train, which sounds great, but we bypassed the tiny town we were staying in and ended up having to take a taxi back 30 minutes after we arrived in Hualien. It had been a long day of travel. We didn’t know exactly where we were staying, but I did have an address. After scouring the streets for some landmarks I might recognize from the photos online, we finally just asked our taxi driver to drop us in front of what looked like an abandoned building, but was indeed where Google Maps said we should stop. Thank goodness Google is sometimes wrong.
In hopefulness we walked past the grey, scary building complete with gargoyles staring down at us, and towards the ocean. I remembered the room we booked had an ocean view. Sure enough, as the street dead-ended into the sea wall, we turned to the left and saw the most picturesque line of beach homes. With a sigh of relief, we finally dropped our bags on the porch and released the littles from baby carrier and stroller.
We were staying at an AirBnB in our hosts’ home. They were so hospitable! The floors glared with shining tile and the entire front of the two-story house was covered with large windows. It was open and felt airy, light, homey. The front faced east, and from almost anywhere in the house you could see the aquamarine water rising up in small waves. It was an escape. We were staying on the second floor and had an incredible view from our room. Out the front and off the side balcony we could see the ocean, and from the back balcony Mount Nanhu jutted up majestically from the green landscape. Birds sang lyrically from every tree. It was surreal.
After settling into our room and refreshing a bit we walked into town to get a feel for the area and maybe find some dinner. We were staying just a mile or two outside the entrance to Taroko Gorge National Park. The tiny town had a rural feel to it. We continued walking for what seemed like an eternity to the kids. It’s hard to tell if a place is a restaurant when you can’t read any of the language!
Finally we found Family Mart. It would have to work for a very over-due dinner. We feasted on a variety of pork buns, soy sauce eggs and noodle dishes. Much better than the convenience food options in the U.S.
Walking back it quickly became dark, and we unwittingly took a wrong turn that took us a mile or two in the wrong direction. Our mistake was realized before we were terribly lost, thankfully. The temple was all lit up and beautiful to see in the darkness.
Out of the darkness an owl swooped into the tall grass and snagged its unsuspecting prey, just feet in front of us. It was an adventure. With trudging little feet, but full tummies, we all made it back to our home on the beach and collapsed into our comfy beds.