Taipei trip write up: January 2005

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Our flight was uneventful (good) and smooth, but long. Our first day in Taiwan was Sunday; it was a really long day, but we ate some good food, went up to a high rise observatory in downtown Taipei, and had lunch with Shirley's mom and some of her friends. We tried so hard to stay up late, which we figured would help us get used to the local time, but passed out around 6pm. Then we got up and went to "dinner" at 2:30 Monday morning. We had porridge with sweet bean curd and peanuts and it was wonderful. The city is very crowded, but has a completely different feel at 3 in the morning.

Monday afternoon Shirley, her brother Kevan, his girlfriend Lency, and I drove out of Taipei into the surrounding mountains in search of hot springs. The intrepid explorers enjoyed a mountain hike at a national monument complete with ancient military installment then journeyed out in search of a relaxing hot spring experience. Shirley was drawn to a small resort which looked like a tree house built into the side of a mountain but everyone agreed on a swanky resort with huge tubs and fluffy towels. As you might imagine, it was wonderful.

Tuesday morning Shirley and I, along with her other brother Dicky and his girlfriend, Mimi, all boarded an express train for Hualien. Hualin is on the east coast of Taiwan. When we arrived, Tuesday afternoon, we took a half day guided tour and saw temples and an old military installment with an interesting past. It seems the Japanese Zero pilots, who were to give their lives in Pearl Harbor, spent the night before their final missions here, partying, and drinking, and generally carrying on. The building was recently refurbished and now there is an art gallery and a small museum on the grounds.

Wednesday we stayed in the Parkview Hotel/Resort taking full advantage of the most impressive Jacuzzi I have ever seen. This thing was 20 feet across and had many jets and acupressure stations and even three waterfalls designed to deliver deep tissue massage. It was a relaxing day. We also had a great time on rented bicycles which we rode along the water front and around the hotel grounds.

Thursday we visited Taroko Gorge. The day before had been rather overcast and we were concerned about the weather for our trip into the hills but, as luck would have it, we were greeted with light cloud cover and a warming sun. Ancient cultural artifacts strongly contrasted modern man's ability to bend his environment to his liking. There were local people offering displays of ancient weaving techniques and impressive roads with lengthy tunnels cut into the rock of Taroko Gorge. We took lots of pictures but the photos do not do justice to the majesty of this place. You will truly have to see it for yourself some day. We rode the comfortable and smooth tourist train home.

Friday we hung out with family and explored the local area.

Saturday we had a luncheon with 23 of Shirley's friends from over the years. Guests came from many associations: grade school, high school, college, and co-workers from previous jobs were there. I had a good time meeting everyone but Shirley was buzzing from table to table, so excited to see all her old friends. After our luncheon we visited Shirley's aunt and uncle. Her uncle is a professional masseuse and we enjoyed relaxing massages and espresso. Our next stop was back to mom and dad’s house for a wonderful dinner her mother had prepared. Its Sunday morning at 8:20 A.M. and we are getting a relaxing start to the day. Its been a wonderful week and I wish we could stay longer.

Sunday we visited Taipei 101. The new super tall building, claimed to be the tallest building in the world, which is built on top of a modern shopping mall. Unfortunately our visit was three weeks prior to the official opening of the observation tower. We will have visit the tower on our next visit.

Monday I enjoyed a Taiwan driving experience and I knew I was doing a great job when Shirley kept screaming and I had to tell her, "honey, pretend you're in a taxi, don't watch". We drove to the northern coast, visited sea world, and bought a few gifts for co workers. Shirley ate something funny and didn't feel to well so we cut the trip short and headed for home. Later that evening we had dinner with Shirley's family. Shirley’s mom, Kevan, Lency, Shirley, and I picked a Japanese buffet which had wonderful sashimi and sushi and a delicious assortment of Japanese dishes. It was a new age, rave style restaurant with huge video screens with music videos playing, cool music, and obnoxious servers in the Los Angeles style. The meal was followed with a 17 minute ride on the Ferris wheel built into the modern mall the restaurant was in. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday we visited Taiwan’s museum of miniatures *yawn* and ate the most famous dumplings in all of Taiwan. They were delicious, yum! Tuesday night we joined forces with Kevan and Lency again and visited the night market. We had traditional Taiwanese food and milled the streets with what seemed like thousands of night shoppers.

Wednesday we enjoyed a bus tour to a gold mining museum and beautiful seaside vistas. We had dinner with Shirley’s mom and brother and Lency, then they took me to the airport. 12 hours or so later I was home. Such a sudden change, if 12 hours can be considered sudden. The roads here are so wide, and the distances so great. My cousin picked my up at the airport and we went to 3rd street in Santa Monica for dinner. My adventure was over, but I'll go back soon!

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