11 Aug Nî Hăo to Taiwan
1) Ducks Head – One of the delicasies in Taiwan is to have Ducks Heads… Yes seriously you read that right.. An Actual Ducks Head! Now of course we had to give this a try… we was walking in a night market and we saw some stalls selling random foods and of course you can’t miss what a ducks head looks like.. I asked the lady for the whole thing.. but she looked at me strangely and said “no no no.. must cut.. must cut”.. so we found out you have to cut it into pieces so you can eat the insides of the head.. so we agreed and my first byte.. well.. what can i say.. i thought you was supposed to scoop out the soft bit, but after eating this i realised that it was the ducks brain.. so i think i ate the wrong bit.. all in all the rest was pretty tasty though.
2) Snake Blood Shot – Next thing on the list that we heard is a famous is ‘Snake Alley’ where you can eat fresh snakes and have snake blood. Ideally we wanted to try a whole snake but it was a bit pricey so we opted for the next best thing which was the snakes blood in a shot.. the shot glass was filled with about 75% snake blood and 25% alcohol.. we sipped it down in a group of us.. it tasted a bit thick with a random after taste. but hay.. we just had some god damn snake blood!!
3) Banana Hostel / 8 Elephants – So when you are looking for a hostel to stay at, it’s all about the name.. so scouting through the list I saw Banana Hostel.. with the description of ‘we are banana mad.. free fresh bananas every morning’.. how could we resist.. what made it funny was that when you fill out the arrival landing card for immigration, Veron was like.. “where are we staying..?” I goes.. Banana hostel.. he thought i was having a laugh but he reluctanctly wrote it down on his immigration card. To be fair i don’t think it matters what you write, as long as you write something.. though he was still a bit suspicious going through the border. Well the hostel was infact Banana Bonkers.. banana’s everywhere, banana cushions, banana teddies and of course free fresh bananas.. woohooo!! .. The next hostel was 8 elephants.. similarly this was mad also about elephants.. pictures, teddy bears all dotted over the place.. but i must say this place was amazing with some of the best staff and travellers we met.
4) Shaved Mango Dessert – We heard that there was a Mango festival in Taiwain in the month we are there, so from my love of Mango’s (and fruits) we had to find out where this was.. unfortunately we just missed the festival by a few days but it was still Mango season, so the sweet and delicious mango’s were all over the place. It’s famous to have a shaved mango dessert which is sliced up juicy Mango layed on top of shaved ice that is mixed with condensed milk… delicious to say the least and this was something we would continue to have.
5) Taipei 101 – We seem to always plan to go and see the highest building in each place and this was no exception.. though similarly to Japan we leave this until the last possible moment to go and see it and this time it was the taxi journey to the airport.. we told the cabbie to take a detour and stop off for a quick picture infront of the Tapei 101 Tower.
1) Typhooned in Tainan – We initially wanted to go straight to a place called Hualien to go to the national park, but the train counter advised us a Typhoon is on its way and it will be dangerous to head to the east coast, so instead we said where else is good.. and they recommended Tainan, so thats where we headed. We went around looking at the sights and having some random foods in Tainan, but as the weather was a bit bad for the two days.. allot of heavy rain and heavy gusts of winds due to the Typhoon, we had to take it easy.
2) Random Foods – As most of the menu’s were in mandarin and not many had english menu’s.. it was pot luck with what you are eating.. the way you are supposed to order in most places is that they give you a bit of paper with a check box list and you mark off what you want to eat.. well the menu’s being in mandarin, we had no idea what we was ordering.. so we just ticked random boxes and hoped for the best.. some restaurants had pictures dotted around with names so we would look for a good looking picture and then try to match off the symbols on our bit of paper and thats how you order food in Taiwan.
1) Dinner with Taiwanese Mamma & Pappa – On our train journey from Tainan to Koasiung, this guy (named Robert) started talking to us on the train. His English was okay, so we could just about communicate with each other… Taiwanese people are very friendly and welcoming and as he could tell we were backpackers, i think it reminded him of his son who also has travelled around Europe, so wanted to give us a good impression and show us around. He kindly offered for us to stay at his place, but we had to decline as we had already booked up our hostel. (though i’m not sure his wife was on the same page, as when he phoned to tell her he has just invited two strangers to stay over, she was quite against the idea, so i think it worked out for the best, but we greatly appreciated the offer from Robert). So Robert was keen to show us around, so he said he will come pick us up in his car and then drop us at our hostel and go to dinner with him and his wife. We of course were pleased to accept.. so he got off on the stop before ours to ride his bike home and then picked up his car and wife and picked us up.. We tried to find our hostel for about an hour, because i think Robert got confused with the road name and was searching the wrong street.. but nevertheless we got there in the end.. when I say got there.. well.. I stupidly booked the hostel for the wrong night and talking to the owner on the phone .. it was fully booked that night so we was a bit lost.. we googled another place and then Roberts son phoned a hostel for us and sorted us a place out.. we then headed for dinner.. a local place which Roberts wife knew and we had beef noodles together.. one of the best meals we had in Taiwan.. delicious.. and to top it off our new mamma and pappa (as we call them now) kindly paid for the meal. We then had some drama trying to find Roberts car.. as he had parked it on a street but forgot which street.. i guess it happens to the best of us! .. we made it to the hostel, checked in and then said goodbye to our Taiwanese parents.. After 20 minutes Robert had kindly bought us some bubble tea and left it at reception for us as we had told him we hadn’t tried it yet. We are greatful for the kindness of Robert and his wife and hope to see them again one day.
2) Love River – In Koasiung there is a place called Love River, so we thought we’d check it out. An awesome place to take a stroll down the river, with great background buildings and cafe’s along the way.. maybe not the place for two guys travelling together but hay still worth seeing.
3) Sightseeing by Bicicyle – we were told the best way to see the area and sights was to rent a bicycle.. so we did! We rented these random red cool bikes and headed off.. we cycled around and saw the sights using our map.. thought i can’t say we got to the sights in the right order as we cycled and was like ahh this must be the tower we was going to head to later on but looks likes it’s here (guess my map skills are not as good as i thought).. we then saw the word ‘university’ on the map and thought.. we must head here to the student union and find the student union bar.. we got there and parked our bikes up looking for the bar.. we asked this girl (named Kasia) and she said no bars around here, it’s taiwan uni not UK uni. Kasia is studying at the uni and is from Poland.. which we thought was pretty random, but she was a cool chick. So she was actually headed to the library to do some work.. but with a little convincing we persuaded her to ditch the books and come to this island with us and go to the beach. I will still stand by us being Good influences.
4) Mango Beach – The three of us, Me, Veron and Kasia all headed on the ferry to the island. We arrived and there were small stalls selling random seafood.. so of course anything random has to be tried. There were these small seashell things and the lady told me to suck it hard.. i was trying soo hard but nothing come out and i was sure there was nothing inside.. so she gave me another and said suck hard… so i sucked and my god this thing flew into the back of my throat and i nearly choked.. the women was pissing herself laughing.. We then had to gather a few ‘goodies’ for the beach.. I saw some Mango’s and had to buy some for the beach.. Veron decided to pick up a fresh BBQ’d squid and then we got some beers and headed over to the beach. Lovely day all in all and the three of us had some good fun chilling on the beach.
1) Stopover -so after successfully missing the last train to Hualien by about 3 minutes, after spending too much time on the beach with Kasia, we had to get our tickets changed. Thankfully they sympathised with us and refunded us our tickets and issued us new tickets for the next train that got us as close as possible to Hualien… which ended up being Taitong. So we arrived around 9p.m. and wondered around looking for a place to stay and then something to eat.. and just chillout, as the next morning we wanted to get up ay 6 a.m. to catch the first train to Hualien. So we checked in… watched some t.v. and grabbed a bowl of noodles in bed.
1) Tatoka National Park by Scooter – One of the main attractions in Hualien is the National Park and the fun way to get there is by Scooter… so of course we just had to rent some cool bikes out. The national park and the area around it was hit in the last few days by the Typhoon so we was lucky that it was open. It’s around an hour by scooter away.. though we had a few detours on the way.. not purposely but sometimes the roads just looked soo much fun to speed across that we ended up going in a zig-zag way to get there… Also heading through some tunnels that pass through the mountain side and the road extended across the coastline.
2) Crash and Hospitals – On the way back from the national park, we hit a downpour of rain so the roads got a bit slippery. I was in front of Veron, heading through one of the tunnels… not going too fast, maybe 40 or 50 kph.. I took the corner inside the tunnel then i suddenly hear a SMASH and a LOUD SKIDDING sound and SCREECHING… I turned my head back once…. and saw Veron’s bike on the floor.. i had to look again to see if this had really just happened!.. I immediately stopped and shouted at Veron to see if he was ok.. he replied back yes but my legs messed up… He had picked himself up at this point and moved to the side of the tunnel.. i was trying to turn my bike around but all the cars and lorries in this small tunnel was zooming straight past us so it was just too dangerous to turn back.. the lorries were like millimeters away from hitting us both.. so i shouted to Veron.. if he can drag himself out with the bike of the tunnel as its just too dangerous to stay inside.. He slogged him and the bike out to the side of the tunnel and then I checked to see how bad the injury was.. he could move everything which was the most important.. so we could tell nothing was broken… just allot of scraped skin off his leg and arms, with his shorts being ripped aswell.. I told him to sit down whilst i flag down someone to call an ambulance… but before this… i just had to take my camera out and take a quick snap (what are best friends for eyyy… well atleast it brightened up his mood and took his mind off the pain for that few moments).. I then waved my hands in the road trying to get a passing car to stop.. after 10 minutes one car finally stopped and I signalled that we need an ambulance.. which they gladly called.. they then gave me a bottle of water and headed off.. I said to Veron i need to squirt the water to clean the wound whilst we wait.. so i splashed his wounds with the water and it cleaned it out a bit.. The ambulance then arrived after 20 minutes and assessed Veron, washed him with some alcohol and picked him up on a stretcher and took him in the Ambulance.. after working out the closest hospital, Veron being monitored on the stretcher in the ambulance and me sitting in with him, we finally arrived at the hospital.. Here they checked all his wounds, cleaned them all out, which took an hour or so and then bandaged him all up and issued him with a variety of drugs. They were very helpful and confirmed that it was quite a big amount of skin scraped off but no broken bones and that he was lucky because it would have been allot worse.. After talking to Veron about the accident, he was just soo happy that he wore a helmet as he said his head was bashing against the side of the tunnel wall and the crash could have been very serious if it wasn’t for this.. so to anyone riding a scooter.. definately reccommend a helmet.. as i sure won’t be riding a bike without one after this episode.
3) Avril Lavigne Loving Coppers – During the incident of the bike crash, the coppers turned up to the scene and took some photos and asked some questions. They then told us to leave the bikes where they were and head to the hospital and they will meet us there. When they arrived back at the hospital they took a breathliser test on Veron, which thankfully we hadn’t drunk anything so it was all clear. They were then going to escort us to the scooter rental place.. whilst I waited for Veron they told me to sit in the copper car with them.. so a 45 year old male copper driving and a younger 20ish year old male in the passenger seat.. the older copper turns to me and says.. “music.. avril..”?.. i was just like “okayy cool, cool, yeaa yeea”.. so he then changes his mp3 track and puts on Skater boy… when i say put on.. he turns up the volume with his big ass speaker and sub in his copper car and blares it out.. he then turns it down and starts singing the song off the top of his voice.. he looks at me just making sure i’m not like taking the piss or anything and i give him hiifive and sing a few lyrics with him (like.. c’mon.. i’m in a copper car in a foreign country by myself.. what else am i supposed to do..?). Now him being comfortable.. he then changes the tracks to some more Avril Lavigne.. but this time it’s some slow lovy girly type songs.. the 45 year old copper dude then continues to sing off the top of his voice.. internally i was just pissing myself laughing.. but externally im like”yeeahhh woooooo”… So after about 15 minutes of this. Veron finally turns up.. opens the car door. looks at me with a confused look and i can tell he is thinking “What the hell is going on in here..?”.. i was like.. dude it’s a party in here.. join in!!.. so he gets in and we continue for about a half hour drive with the coppers singing god damn avril lavigne songs the whole way. If you have ever seen the film ‘White Chicks’ where at the end you have the guys singing gay songs in the car.. well.. THIS WAS THAT MOMENT!!!
4) Bike Damage Negotiations – So Verons bike was kind of scratched up and some plastic was cracked.. now the way they deal with accidents is a bit different in Taiwan.. the initial stage is the two parties involved sit down and settle it out themselves with money and someone compensates another.. Now Veron was adament to not pay for any damages and was trying to blame the scooter saying there was a problem with it and locked up when he turned (in his defense the bike did stop working at one point.. but then it sorted itself out).. so the owner wasn’t taking none of it.. and went and got the bike and started showing us mechanically that it’s impossible that it’s the bike.. initially he wanted 6000TWD (about 120gbp) but after about 3 hours of negotiation we got him down to 3000TWD.. Veron was still insistent he wasn’t going to pay.. but then if you don’t settle up.. the guy can file a report and a block goes on our passports and we can’t leave the country until its sorted in court.. so i said to Veron to just pay the dude as it’s a losing battle.. that’s also what our hostel owner reccomended we do aswell. so he paid up and just let it go.
5) Legendary French Dude – In our hostel we met this French dude who was just travelling around by himself.. now the usual traveller is between 20-30 years old.. but this guy had just had his 50th Birthday.. though he didn’t look 50 at all. So he had been travelling 20 years before for his 30th birthday and over the last 20 years he had settled down with his girlfriend and had two kids. He had what we thought was the coolest job.. a high-end lingerie salesmen, attending parades every week in different cities… he did infact love his job but it still wasn’t enough for him and he said he felt that he hadn’t lived enough and before he gets too old he wants to enjoy life and see and experience more of the world.. so he took the decision to pack his job in and just go for it.. whilst his ex girlfriend will look after the kids for the one year, as previously they shared the kids on alternating weeks. He was the funniest guy i think i’ve ever met.. he was spot on with life.. After his first stint of travelling he said it was difficult to find a job because all employers said to him that he has taken a year out and done nothing (completely untrue as he had gained a huge life experience) but the employers didn’t see it this way.. one employer invited him in and said ‘ahhh so you’ve had a year of fun yes.. now you will pay and will never get a job like mine, you will never have what i have’.. so the french dude replied back ‘so.. let me get this right.. you work from 7am to 9pm everyday, you have a wife who you don’t see, a nice house that you don’t get time to spend in and a nice car you don’t have time to drive.. why would i wan’t you life.. you’re jelous my friend.. your jelous”.. the french dude told us that guy was gobsmacked and had no response.. im sure he went home thinking about his life… so he had some other words of wisdom.. the one that stands out when we was talking about work is that he said.. “I’m not a Lemon my friends”.. to which we replied.. “what do you mean..?”.. he said.. “yes.. i’m no lemon.. you know.. like a lemon.. most people go to work and they give everything, work hard and the employer squeezes the life out of them working their ass offf.. and then he says for what..? they squeeze and squeeze you soo hard .. and then what happens to a squeezed lemon..? there’s no more juice so you just throw it away and get another one.. now that was pretty full-on but he was quite spot on… Now we know a few lemons back home.. not to mention any names.. but you boys know who you are 😉 . One of his last sayings to us before he had to leave was…”If you are scared of Adventure… Try Routine”.
1) ViP Service – So Veron being all bandaged up, we turn up at the airport and the helpful staff immediately offer a wheelchair for him.. Veron was still walking slowly, so he wasn’t going to turn this opportunity down. So he gets wheeled around like a Vip across the airport.. lucky for me the passenger accompanying also gets vip access around the airport.. So firstly we check-in by the business class counter… we then get upgraded to some descent seats.. Veron gets wheeled through security so no queuing.. then we are the first people on the plane and first people off.. with vip wheelchair assistance at the other end, straight through border control and to collect our bags (not to mention priority bags).. what a life!!!
Ni Hao = Hello
Shie Shie = Thank You