We make holes in teeth!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taiwan Day 14 - Heading South

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

Yeah boy today was a bit of a long one. At least Julia is cooked at this point. Somehow we managed to stay up until almost 9:30 now, which is probably a questionable decision but hey, here we are. Tomorrow may be a late-start kinda day. It's ok, we just have more eating to do, which of course is how we started the day. Nothing crazy, just a dumpling and a few mini buns of a sort. No pics. We hit the road slightly after 8:30 and the FIL drove a bit aggressively because we were 10 minutes late. But we were leaving so early we really had little chance of missing the train.

No traffic to speak of so we got there with plenty of time to spare, at least 45 minutes if not more. The FIL is a bit of a spaz in regards to being on time, and leaves nothing to chance. I like to be early but my man takes the cake on this front. So, you can imagine his nearly nuclear reaction when Calvin played a joke on him and told him they had just left the house with only 30 minutes until the train arrived. He started pacing back and forth and ragging on Calvin for not leaving with time to spare. They arrived shortly after, still 20 minutes before the train was supposed to show.

While waiting for them I had a late second breakfast of a bun with taro paste and dried & shredded pork. This one is really good so I'll give you the pic:

As we got going on the train, I got a coffee from the rolling cart and had it sitting on the tray on my lap, which is attached to the seat in front of me. And Calvin was sitting there, or at least was about to. Apparently he's one of those guys who goes from a full stand to seated in one fell swoop, by relaxing his muscles all at once and dropping into his seat like a big bag of cement. In other words, the coffee ended up in my lap, on the floor, the seat, on the camera, on my phone, the window, the train conductor, on the side of a passing airplane, and so on. So I spent the next 10 minutes or so cleaning myself up, and then getting back to my coffee.

I guess I forgot to mention we were on the high-speed rail (HSR) on our way from basically Taipei to GaoXiong, the south of the country. The trip was expected to take a hair over 1:30, which is exceptionally fast as it takes about 5-6 hours to drive it, apparently. As we were driving to the HSR, I realized I should have taken my GPS with me to track the trip. So Nat and I both downloaded motionX on out iPhones, and while the reception was spotty, we were able to get this as a max speed:

It can apparently top out at 300 km/hour, which is like 187.5 mph. Not sure what we got but it was fast, and the ride was pretty cool. A neat experience, I will say. Also, we're clearly on the wrong side of the island right now:

Having said that, most of the West Coast was covered in smog and there are no hills to speak of. So while the weather sucks, the riding is better where we are. Not sure about the SE part of the island. I suspect that's the prime spot to be. I understand the mountain biking is actually active in that area.

We got to GaoXiong right on time (12:36) and without a doubt this trip proved what I already knew, that the train system in the US is an absolute embarrassment. We should be ashamed at how poor our mass transit system is. It took us 1.5 hours to go 200 miles. I've had the train to NYC take over 2 hours, and I think that trip is something like 36 miles.

Off the train, then rented a car, and finally hit the road and found a place to get lunch just before 2:00. So in all, as fast as the train was, we spent almost 5 hours on the trip that would have apparently taken about 5.5 by car if we had just left and driven straight there. We ended up grabbing lunch at a food court in a mall, where we parked in the basement and found the most useless door in the world:

It's used in the event of a fire. There are fire doors that drop and seal off sections of the parking garage. Lunch ended up being a Korean pork and noodle concoction, which was a little less good than it looked (it looks good here) but decent overall:

Post lunch we went to this touristy Hakka place where you can mix up your own Hakka tea, which is this mix of various seeds/nuts, green tea powder, and actual brewed tea. But first, we saw some coconuts:

We eventually made it to the Hakka village, and I did a good amount of the grinding of the concoction:

It was kinda neat, and the tea itself was actually quite tasty. The finished product:

After that we walked around the village a bit but there wasn't much of anything worth buying there. The area is known for these paper umbrellas that were made a hundred(s?) years ago. You could buy one, along with a myriad of other junk if you wished. Aside from the tea, nobody bought anything. The kids were reasonably entertained and at the end we found a few things to keep us all busy, like 4" stilts, a hula hoop, and a few Hakka games like Pong and Mario Brothers.

We also continued to see bits of the sun:

The weather down here almost depresses me because I know we have to go back to the cold rain tomorrow. Apparently it never rains down here (Nat's dad says 50 days a year at most) and is always warmer. That's good for winter but summer must be a bear. The problem from a riding standpoint is that there are scores more people in this area, and there are no hills. I'm sure the food is good, even if we really didn't find anything. But as much as the weather is nice I like where we are because of the terrain. As we drove to the hotel the slightest bit of rain spit on the windshield and I announce, "There! It does rain down here!"

The hotel was this grand affair that's generally a bit more than we would have aimied for on our own. Surprisingly the rates were higher than we usually pay, though admittedly it's pretty high class. I still have a bit of a problem wrapping my head around the fact that you can eat dinner for $4 between the 2 of us then go drop $150 on train tickets and $200 on a hotel. In my mind everything should be cheap like the food.

Of course, they had a Ferris wheel, which isn't normal:

Julia keeps insisting that she wants to go on this and I refuse to let her go. Earlier in the day she was flaking out about being on the 2nd floor balcony and if she goes on that, she's going to possibly have a nervous breakdown and throw up at least 18 times. Nat really wants to go so we need to convince Julia to let that happen tomorrow. I think she'll back off once she stands next to it. But she may object to Nat going.

Dinner was included in the hotel and was a buffet of decent food. Nothing to write home about so no pics on this one, though the lamb was quite good. Nothing unique really. Some sushi, assorted prepared food, and soups, fruit, and desserts. As usual, Julia struggled to find anything and had a little bread and noodles, then 5-6 different mini-desserts.

We were up in the room around 8:00 for the night. In all, probably not a real lot of meat to this day given how much effort it took to get here. It makes Nat's parents happy, or at least her dad, and it gives us a chance to see a small slice of the south. Tomorrow is 3-5 square meals and the amusement park which is part of the hotel, and included in the price. I hope it's more than just rides since Julia isn't going to be down with Freefall and Superman and the like. After that we reverse course and head back to the rain.

We've now been here 2 weeks, and the trip is about 1/3 done. Doesn't feel like it, and I'm not ready to go home yet. So I'm glad we have another 4+ weeks to go until we return to the snowy hell that is NJ, which will make the cold rain here seem like paradise.



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