Taiwan – day two: Ticket to Ride
Day two had us up early, due to a minor time difference and our body clocks being on work time. I consider this a good thing, as it enabled us to make the most of our days. Our day began with a visit to the Longshan temple. This is the most famous temple in Taiwan, and is bright, noisy and electric. The temple itself is ornate – a direct contrast to Japanese temples, which tend to have a very contemplative and reflective feel to them. There were extra decorations up, celebrating the year of the snake. While we were there, there was some sort of service going on, with a number of black robe adorned women chanting. There were also a number of tour groups milling around, so it was quite crowded. These tour groups were a lot more polite than those we had encountered the previous day.
Outside the temple
I loved this guy!
After the temple, we stumbled across a bakery. Amanda was much smarter than me, and stocked up on a range of delicious looking breads, meaning she had something to nibble on whenever we found ourselves hungry and without easy access to food. I instead decided just to get one egg tart. The tart itself was delicious; rich, creamy egg custard in flakey pastry. We found a small park nearby to enjoy breakfast then set off toward our next destination – the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial.
We made our way to the memorial grounds, where we were impressed with the grandeur of the National Theater and National Concert Hall. As we neared the memorial, we were disappointed to find that it was closed. Reading the notice posted, we found that it was closed until the day after we flew back to Japan! With mild frustration we wandered for a few minutes, but soon became bored. We went to the edge of the square to see what else was in the vicinity. It turned out the botanic gardens were a short walk away – score!
The (closed) memorial
The National Theater and National Concert Hall…. And Amanda!
We wandered a few blocks to the entrance of the gardens. They were small and compact, but provided a nice green space, contrasted with the bustle of the city outside. They weren’t very crowded – a handful of people using this oasis to exercise. There were a lot of squirrels, too. Being from New Zealand, I never grew up around squirrels, and therefore get far too excited whenever I stumble across them. This instance was no exception. I spent a good ten minutes taking blurry photographs of half-hidden squirrels. Soon they became over confident and started too seem a little less cute, and a little more scary, plus Amanda was being patient as ever, considering she’d flown across the ocean to find herself staring at squirrels – something not so uncommon around her native Philadelphia, so I decided we should move on. The fact we had a train to catch was probably Amanda’s true saving grace – I’m sure the squirrels would have been perfectly safe to keep watching from a metre or so back.
Greatest. Creature. Ever.
Soon it was time to depart Taipei for Hualien. Sadly, the time we took finding the correct platform meant I couldn’t grab a proper bento for the train, so grabbed bread from the 7-11. It was ok.
The scenery from the train was stunning. Tall mountains, densely covered in thick forest to our right, and the ocean to pur left, where jagged rocks jutted out silver sea, with the occasional isolated fisherman balancing one one of these rocks. We passed through a number of charming and not so charming villages, eventually cleaning into green checkered rice fields.
After three hours we arrived in Hualien. We found our hostel, Sleeping Boot, and stumbled out in the rain to find a beef noodle soup that had been recommended to us by the hostel staff, then headed back and retired to bed fairly early.