While I was staying near Taipei, Red Bull hosted the first Red Bull Soapbox Race in Taiwan, so I dropped everything and headed on over to watch. Even though I grew up in the states, I have never seen a soapbox race before (*cough* deprived childhood *cough*), so my first race was in Taiwan – not exactly known for its soapbox racing. Results… were decidedly mixed. But I got on national television! Of Taiwan!
Continue reading Interlude: Red Bull Soapbox Race, Taipei 2013
I made a pit stop in the town of Chishang (池上 – literally, on top of the pond), primarily known for its boxed lunches! Seriously. As the train pulled up to the station, all the hungry people rush to the doors, hoping to buy a boxed lunch from the vendors before the train departs again. Me? I hopped off, hoping to spend a couple of hours enjoying the boxed lunches and touring the area.
Continue reading Interlude: Chishang
I initially thought that Taitung / Taidong (臺東, literally East Taiwan), the largest city on Taiwan’s east coast, would only be a pit stop on my way to beautiful Hualien, but I was pleasantly surprised, and ended up staying in Taitung for several nights. Here, I enjoyed this old and park-covered city on Taiwan’s eastern coast, as well some of the scenic points near the city.
Continue reading Travelogue: Taitung
Kenting (墾丁) National Park (國家公園), on the southern tip of Taiwan, is a gloriously beautiful landscape, a symphony of water, wind, and earth. From anywhere on the Kenting peninsula, you can see the clear water all around you, undisturbed by heavy industry, great for surfing, diving, and banana boating. From the southeast blows a powerful trade wind, stirring up the waves and cooling the air. And a rolling, forest-covered mountain to complete the set. A glorious landscape, but unfortunately one that’s been overrun by mainland Chinese tourists.
Continue reading Travelogue: Kenting National Park
While staying with relatives in the Taipei area, I had the fortune of attending a college-level lion dance competition, and it was a pretty cool experience. For the uninitiated, the lion dance is the great Chinese cultural dance, representing…. something. I’m not sure. But in Chinatowns all around the world, there is certain to be a lion dance display for (Lunar) New Years. Basically, you’ve got two+ people in a lion costume, jumping around. It looks more impressive than it sounds.
Continue reading Interlude: Lion Dance
When I think about Taiwan’s railways, I immediately think of the Taiwan Railway bento box / boxed lunch (台灣鐵路便當). There’s nothing particularly special about these boxed lunches – no special ingredients, no special preparation, no special packaging. But yet, they are surprisingly popular, and surprisingly delicious. It tastes like comfort food.
Inside, you’ve got some basic pork chops, pickled and boiled vegetables, and a broiled egg. This basic lunch (or dinner) is very simple, and very cheap – just $2! And for the fancy pants, there are also fancier boxed lunches, costing $3 for slightly more food.
During lunchtime, massive crowds form to buy these boxed lunches.
I found that they weren’t big enough to be a full lunch or dinner, but were quite nice as a snack to take the edge off my hunger for a couple of hours. They’re especially convenient since you can not only buy the boxed lunches from onboard the trains, but also in most train stations, including Taipei Main Station.
While waiting for buses and trains at Taipei Main Station, I ate a great number of these delicious boxed lunches!
Kaohsiung (高雄), the second largest city in Taiwan, was the fourth major city I visited in Taiwan. It’s basically a large boring city, with some attractions thrown in. Fun fact: Kaohsiung used be known as Takau (打狗 – literally, beating the dog). I want to be a fly on the wall at the city hall meeting where they decided to change that name.
Continue reading Travelogue: Kaohsiung
Tainan (臺南, literally south Taiwan) is the old capital of Taiwan, and is full of history, so I stopped by for a couple of days to see the sights.
Continue reading Travelogue: Tainan
As mentioned in an earlier post on Alishan, something odd about traveling in Taiwan is the naming of places – all points of interest, no matter how insignificant, must be named and labeled. This is the pig stump. That rock arrangement looks like a Buddha’s ear. Over there is a very tall tree.
And to somebody who has traveled through scenic spots in other countries, this is really weird. When climbing Mount Rinjani in Indonesia, there are basically no labeled points of interest. There’s the summit, there’s the crater and accompanying lake, there’s the hot springs. There’s a bunch of camping sites. And that’s about it – everything else is simply ‘climbing trail’.
And it’s the same thing in New Zealand, home to the Great Trails. Hiking in Abel Tasman National Park, there are only two points of interest – hiking trail, and camp grounds. Nothing else. It’s simply you and nature, and have to use your own eyes and imagination to find any sights of interest.
So why this difference?
Continue reading Reflection: Chinese Travel and the Naming of Places
One of the reasons why I stopped in Taiwan, was to attend the wedding of one of my (countless) cousins. I had expected a traditional Chinese wedding (lots of ceremony, lots of relatives, lots of drinking), but it turned out to be a mass wedding! Mass wedding, meaning that 85 couples got married in one giant ceremony. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Continue reading Interlude: Mass Wedding in Taipei