We make holes in teeth!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Taiwan Day 8 - Behind the Wheel

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

I'm tired this morning, slept until 5:15 and probably could have slept more but I need to get up and do some form of work before I head out. I realize that on the way back from 7-11 there are no stars in the sky, and I've probably never actually seen stars here. Aside from the constant overcast sky, the light pollution is pretty heavy so your chances of seeing stars are about 1 in 100, is my guess. I'll keep looking but I won't hold my breath.

It's cold this morning. Not the temps, which are the usual 50-55 when I wake up. But it feels colder, and there's a wind. Starting out on my ride I feel a little chilly but soon enough I'm warm and don't think about it. Today's exploration is up the mountain on one of the routes that go up and over to Taipei, or so I thought when I looked at the map. As usual, Google maps starts to get a little suspicious when you head up in the hills, and today was no exception. There was supposed to be a road that went all the way over, and I was going to take it until I ran out of time, or I hit 3000 vertical feet, whichever came first.

I'm getting to know the roads well enough that I no longer load up the GPS for rides like today. I just look at the map and go. I'm sure this will get me in trouble sooner or later but today there was no issue, and before long I found the road going directly west and the mountains looming up ahead of me. The climb was of little note, just another winding road going up the hill, on my left steep up, and on my right a steep down. Now and then I could see the retaining wall up ahead, showing me where I'd be going eventually. But the climb wasn't too hard and the road was well paved and showed signs of much new work.

As such, there wasn't a lot of interesting things to see here. Most of the way up I saw a few workers and got a "jia yo!" which is the equivalent of "you go girl" or something like that. It literally translates to "add oil" and is what you say to cheer someone on. Shortly after everything opened up into a plain of sorts, and there were farms and a quite a few signs. It appeared to be a bit of a tourist area which would explain the well-paved road going up. At the top there was parking and what looked like maybe a tea house, which would make sense.

I saw some people working in the fields and a few off roads going to other farms and maybe some temples, but I kept following the signs to the botanical garden which was supposed to be 8 km away. That was my makeshift goal and once I got past the small farming area I dove back into the woods and the road climbed up a little more. I was pretty excited to see this along the way:

Not something you see everyday in NJ, or even Taiwan for that matter. While I hadn't really climbed up all that far, I had gone up enough to enter the land of monkeys and...well, frankly I don't know what that top animal is. Some sort of surprised sheep maybe?

Soon, however, my rope ended:

Normally I would have just ridden under the bar, and that's actually what I did. But some dude stuck his head out the window and yelled at me, and pointed in the other direction. Some older guy had just driven up and told me that the place opened at 9:00, and that I needed a passport or driver's license. At least that's what I got out of it. It worked out I guess, since I told Nat I was going out for 2.5 hours and this was 1.5 hours in. If I had kept going, I would have been lured by the monkey sign and surely stayed out longer than I had planned. So I guess it was all for the best.

When I got home my FIL was pretty psyched that I went up there, and told me that it's actually closed to the public and you need to apply for a permit to get in. This jives with a sign I had read on the way up, which said that the hiking trail was used for management only and to not trespass on it. You have to understand, that the expression "no trespassing" doesn't exist in this country. So it's odd to see a sign like that. In general, you can go anywhere you want. Except here.

Lunch is a sort of repeat from other meals, with intestine thrown in this time. I'll spare you the pics. I did break out a new bag of tea today though, which is a nice colorful picture that I can throw in here:

This is the MIL's pot, otherwise I would have likely tracked down a blazing blue & orange one to go with my kit. It's hard to get a grasp on how big the pot is, but it makes me a solid 3+ cups of tea. I put in enough leaves to make that much, then top it with hot water, let it go for 3 minutes or so, then drink it while I work. I don't do this at home but I think I should start. This is one of those habits I'll try to bring back with me when we go home. Every time I go on vacation or away anywhere for that matter) I go home and do something different. This may be one of them.

The afternoon excursion came around and we had to pile in the car. Much to my surprise my FIL suggested I drive. Score!

No matter how much I shrink the image down you can still see the bald spot on my head, so I'll just keep it the same size. The car is a Volvo, worth much more than my VW at home. As daring as this might seem to some, after riding my bike in this chaos, driving is simple. I'm already starting to know the roads well enough that I can go out on my own. Not entirely, but pretty much I can get where I need to go. We headed south to see Nat's aunt and then uncle shortly after that. We had tea at one and coffee at the other, and snacks at both. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Nat's uncle:

He's getting on in years, but is a good guy. Well maybe, I can't understand a damn word he says. He may be cursing the white man up and down. But I always walk out of there with good tea so I have to give him props for that. He tried to give me a whole tea set but we declined. This is part of the song & dance of the culture. If they really wanted to give it to us, we would have been hard pressed to refuse it. But we refused and said it was too much to carry on the plane, and they accepted it. That more or less means they didn't really want to give it up. He once tried to pull a huge framed picture off the wall and give it to me. Gotta love his style, have to say.

After not killing us on the roads of Taiwan I managed to not kill us in the middle of Luodong during rush hour. The place isn't really that big but turns into absolute madness around 5:00. I got us to the bakery to get tomorrow's breakfast (ok, so sometimes we drive there, sue me) then over to the parking lot to drop the car off. Nat's dad told the lot guy I would be bringing the car in & out soon enough. Looking forward to being able to come & go as we please. We had to sneak around a bit today because Nat's mom is dead-set against me driving. we didn't bother trying to convince her, we just did it while she was getting her hair done. Maybe I'll pay her to get her hair done every day.

For dinner, Nat and I went out to night market and got more squid balls. In the process of cooking:

Then we went to another place and got oyster pancake, liver soup, and a veggie. Back at the house to generally hang around and BS, then a dessert which is another unique one from anything we're used to. A sweet soupy mix with red beans and more tapioca balls that you find in the bubble tea. Then we hung out talking to Nat's dad for a while and stayed up too late.

Tomorrow Nat's brother comes into town. No idea what that will entail.



  • At 7:54 PM, Blogger terren said…

    Why is MIL anti you driving? Too bad you didn't get to see any monkeys or startle any sheep.


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