We make holes in teeth!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Taiwan Day 11 - Toilets & the Tea Farm

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.

Some people asked for clarification on the Japanese meal the other day. So I'll bring that back up and describe it. The picture:

Left green stuff is garden-variety cabbage, nothing crazy. The big hunk of fried meat is chicken, with no bones. The round thing is a fried mushroom, sliced on top to make it look like that. The brown stuff is sliced pork in sauce. And the pink thing is pretty much a slice of bacon wrapped around asparagus. Like I said to Ilya, the Japanese cuisine (at least in the US and here) is pretty tame and non-offensive to people who don't like dog kidney and the like. The gaping hole in the picture is missing another vegetable, which is a root of some sort (ok, so it's a tuber technically) that's shredded, and on top of that was a piece of egg. Another carton had the rice for the meal.

No ride today. I was going to do something lighter this morning and maybe take some traffic video, but it was raining when I went to get coffee and decided that an hour and change in the rain wasn't what I wanted to do. I'm feeling pretty tired after 9 straight days of riding so this is probably a needed day off. Yesterday at dinner I felt like I couldn't eat enough. Then I couldn't go to bed fast enough. Guess a day off is not a bad thing. Maybe tomorrow I can take it the distance and aim for TaiPingShan. I suspect that will be in the realm of a 5 hour journey or so.

Nat also wanted me to let the readers know that most of the toilets are like what we're used to:

I tried to look for pictures of the birds I saw yesterday, but that's an effort in futility. Wikipedia has a list of about 6 million birds. The best I was able to get from the lady at the tea farm today (see coming sections) was that yes, they exist. So I have external validation that I did not, in fact, fabricate these in my own mind. That's good to know.

The idea was to leave the house at 9:00 and go to the tea farm this morning, because MIL/FIL were pressed to wrap up lunch and head up to Taipei for the afternoon. At 9:30, we were still sitting around wondering who was going, who was driving, and what the general deal was. After several iterations of discussion, Nat's aunt and her mom went in 1 car, and the rest of us went in another.

Before long we were driving out the way I generally ride my bike, and as we crossed the river it struck me that we would be going to the area on route 7 where I see the teapots on the side of the road. Sure enough, when we saw the pots we took a right and went up the side of the hill and drove to one of the shops. It's all coming together now, and I'm starting to know know this county better and better. By the end of this stay I'm going to know it at least as well as Nat's dad. He actually thinks I know it better already.

This was the same place we went almost 3 years ago, and I recall it well. As soon as we got there I had to go to the bathroom and I was able to verify again that they do have modern toilets:

They gave us peanuts and some kind of seed (sunflower, pumpkin, whatever) but we all did most of our business with the peanuts. The old man who (I guess) owns the place was there, but he has long since given way to the daughter-in-law, who does the full tea brewing process with the customers. He just sits around looking pretty, or in this case pretty much just looking old. Every time we come to the country we have to make the journey to one of the tea farms. The first 2 times was a farm near Nat's aunt's old pig farm. The last 2 times it's been here. I always enjoy it as it's a chance to sit down and have a solid cup of tea.

Between us and Nat's parents, we ended up getting 8 kilos of tea, which should hold us over for a while. We tried 3 different kinds and Nat's mom and I agreed that the 2nd one was best. So they busted out a huge mountain of tea leaves:

And turned it into this:

After the farm we headed up to the top of the hill to check out the bed & breakfast. It was a nice place but as I've said before, none of these places have heat. The place was freezing, and as awesome as the view was, I find it hard to drop $100 a night to freeze your nuts off for the night.

It was supposed to be a scouting mission for Nat & I, which quickly turned into her parents wanting the whole family to go, which immediately turned into the MIL claiming 1 of the 2 rooms with a view as her own. As far as I'm concerned, it's too damn cold to pay to stay there. We'd check in late afternoon, freeze until we went to bed, sleep, then wake up and be cold. I know these place don't often have heat, but wouldn't it make some sense for the place to offer maybe a nice warm cozy bed for these chilly winter months, especially when you're up in the hills like this? Call me crazy, but it doesn't appeal to me.

Somewhere in this mess I had to go to the bathroom, which means that Julia had to go to the bathroom, which means we had a second consecutive day of Squat Toilet Madness.

The visit dragged on and on, and I'm thinking to myself that yeah, my work hours are liberal and all but we've already toasted a good half-day on this trip and we still didn't eat lunch yet. Nat's dad was going to town talking to the lady who ran the place and the old man from the shop down below, who had been driven up by his grandson. I know my patience is longer than it used to be, but it ran out up on the hill and I was pretty much tapping my foot waiting to get out of there by the end of it.

On the way back we stopped at a local seafood place which had decent food but was as loud as a sailor hangout. I mean, not that I've ever been to such an establishment. I'm just kind of projecting what it would I think it would be like. Let's just say that it was loud and there was beer spilled on the floor in the first 10 minutes of us sitting down. And it was cold inside because, you know, no heat and all.

We got a bunch of things, and apparently you guys might not want to actually eat this stuff but you want to know what it is. We had some noodles, a soup of kidney and some mystery meat (read on), oysters and tofu, a fish stew, veggies, shrimp, and a fruit plate. The veggies look tame enough:

On to the mystery meat. There were these 2 things in the kidney and X soup which I really had no idea what they were. They looked edible enough, so I took one and ate it. Meh, it wasn't that great. Not awful, not great, just there. Nat asked her parents what it was, and she said, "Are you for real?" I asked her the same and she told me. I then looked down at it, took a close-up picture, then dug in. I admit, it was a little harder to eat the second one but it wasn't too-too bad. I don't think I'll be ordering a big bowl of these soon. But hey, when in Rome, sometimes you gotta wear a toga and do the orgy thing, in a manner of speaking. Anyway, I've kept this vague enough. If you really want to know what it is, the Flickr picture link is below, with description.

Be warned, it's not so much what we ate, but how it looks. It's really not pretty. I know at this point I've made you all curious enough to click the link, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Click here only if you can really handle it.

After lunch we went back to the apartment, got some coffees, Nat's parents hit the road to Taipei, and I did some solid coding. In the meantime, Nat's aunt and her aunt's granddaughter (Nat's cousin's kid) came over with different snacks for all of us. After they left, Nat told me that was YaoChun, one of the relatives on Facebook. So there's another relative that will likely be reading this blog by the end of the day. I wonder if they're going to welcome me with open arms next time I come.

As I was sitting in the office working, the building started to sway back and forth, which was my first earthquake for the trip. I experienced one before, on our second trip. It was something like a 1 on the Richter Scale, so nothing to get all worked up about. But it's kinda neat to say you experienced an earthquake. Well, a small earthquake. Big earthquakes are not really good times, as far as I can tell. I'm pretty sure this island averages much more than 1 earthquake a day across the whole island. It's not really a rare event.

Right before dinner (or actually, when Nat was walking in with dinner) her cousin's kid came over with his girlfriend, toting a bunch of gifts for all of us. Julia got a bubble-making gun, I got a hydration bladder that his company makes, and we all got some snacks he brought up from Hualien. He's also on Facebook. The last 2 days was the Facebook Wang brigade. Well, I think they're all named Wang. I'm surprised that her younger cousin isn't on Facebook. Facebook. Facebook. Facebook. I should get royalties for this.

Rain dance tonight, hopefully it stays away tomorrow. The forecast is...never mind.



  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger terren said…

    Between the harrowing one-lane slick quarry-truck-ridden roads and the chicken nuts (etc), you're a traveling Fear Factor.

    btw that little plant on top of the urinal - is that supposed to add a touch of class? It's not working.


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