Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hualien, Taiwan...with the help of a local

When we found out G-Money wouldn't be able to come with us to Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, I decided to follow up on a contact.  My friend Christy remembered a couch surfing host who takes people into the national park, and so I asked for his name and sent him a message to see if he would want to meet up with us.  He said yes, so at 9:30am, we stood waiting at the park entrance for a stranger to walk up and greet us with a huge smile.  Dylan had arrived.

We got into Dylan's blissfully cool, air conditioned car, and he took us to our first stop: the Shakadang Trail.  For about an hour, we walked at a brisk pace along a smooth, flat path with a rock outcrop cut out above our heads from the rock.  It was our first excursion into the gorge, and it was magnificent.  The trail ended at the river, and while Dylan let us go ahead and explore, he was busy buying us a small gift. When we returned to the path, he presented each of us with a hand-woven aboriginal bracelet.  As he tied it onto our wrists, he told us to make a wish.  Then he said not to take he bracelet off. But, he said, if nature made it fall off after time, our wishes would come true.  Not sure I buy into all that, but it makes a nice souvenir and was such a sweet gesture!

Dylan took us to one more hiking spot (another place with sweeping views of he gorge and the river, and a trip across a suspension bridge), and when we got back to he car, it was around noon, and I was getting hungry. Dylan suggested that since it was so hot out, a Japanese lunch might be nice.  He took us to a place in Hualien where the sushi dishes travel around on a conveyor belt, and you just pck off the ones you want to eat.  Delicious!  (And really affordable).  Liz and I tried to pay for our host’s lunch, but he refused to let us.

Next up, we went to Liyu Lake, which I had never even heard of.  I was so glad to have a local guide to show us cool things in the area.  We walked around the lake, taking in the beautiful view and clear water.  People used peddle boats and canoes on the lake, and others biked the path around it.  But the real draw at the lake was this giant inflatable duck (I'm talking 30-40ft high, here) surrounded by a flock of smaller ducks.  I've no idea the story behind the ducks, and Dylan didn't either, but they made for pretty entertaining photos.

From the lake, Dylan brought us to the coast, and we sat at the edge of the pebbled beach sipping iced tea (a mix of oolong and green tea) and listening to the waves rake along the small stones.  The water was clear, clean, and blue, and the setting was very peaceful.  We stayed there a little over 30 minutes, just relaxing, before we took off for the night market and aboriginal dance performance.

The night market in Hualien is new, in a space especially built for the purpose.  There are wide walkways between the stalls and spaces filled with picnic tables for people to sit and enjoy their food.  We walked around looking at our options, then went with Dylan's suggestions for food.  We ended up with these...things.  The filling was a bit like a spring roll (and that's what Dylan called them), but they were the size of burritos, and the wrap was thicker than a normal spring roll (but softer than a tortilla--made of rice, I think).  Anyway, they were absolutely delicious.  I could soon become addicted!

At 7pm, we went across the street to watch an aboriginal dance show.  The dancers explained each dance (or maybe the story of the dance represented), and then began.  The entire explanation was in Chinese, though, and Dylan didn't try to keep up with translating.  Even with no background info however, we could easily enjoy the music and  dancing.

Dylan graciously took us home after the show (a taxi would have been very expensive, so the ride was really kind of him), and we pretty much fell into bed after showering.  It was a great day, and I am so glad we contacted Dylan!