Saturday, October 8, 2011

Night in Taitung, and first day in Green Island. (Ludao)

The train to Taitung was OK.  We didn't know which stop to get off, because for some reason this train this train was one of the old ones.  It didn't say in English where we were so I had to listen carefully to make sure that we got off at the right stop.  I didn't know how long it was going to take.  We had got some beers for the journey, and cracked them open in the station while we were waiting.

Some guy in Hualien told us about his friends hostel.  He told us it was called the Taitung Woo (Who Knows) Hostel and he gave us the card with the address on it, so we could go there when we arrived.  He told us we would have to take a taxi because Taitung was not like Hualien, and the train station is not in the centre of the city.

We got a taxi, and give him the business card.  We hoped the hostel would be empty because for some reason on the train we could not get through when I tried to call.  I asked the taxi driver if he knew where he was going, and he said yes.  Like they always say yes, then of we went.  Simple as that, well it didn't really turn out that simple.  The taxi driver got us to the rest place, but then he seemed to be lost.  He took the business card and his mobile phone.  He then proceeded to drive along the road with the phone stuck to his head, the light on in the car, and looking at the business card every so often.  He didn't seem to be that bothered about looking at the road to be fair to him, at least we didn't crash.

We eventually managed to find the hostel.  Well the Taxi driver finally managed to find the hostel.  It seemed really nice, and the people who were working there were just sat around boozing it up.  I thought that seems pretty good of them, it felt like a greeting party, even though they didn't even know we were coming.

The guy who owned the hostel introduced him self as Jackson.  He quickly showed us around our hostel and to our room.  The room was really nice and clean, inside there was only me and Steve, and two other guys from Hong Kong who were pedalling from Hualien to Kenting.

The hostel was really nice, I liked how it was inside.  It was really nice and clean.  After Jackson had finished showing us around, we went downstairs and told them, "after we go and eat, we will come back and join the party."

We headed out to look for something to eat.  In Taitung it is clearly not like Taipei at all, it seemed a lot more difficult to find food.  We didn't arrive till quite late either so we didn't want to stray too far in case we got lost.  We ended up just buying some fried food from a stand outside 7/11.  I got a ji pai, and some pigs blood and I don't remember what Steve bought but that is all we could find that was open and relatively close.  Steve wasn't happy with what was offer, because it was too unhealthy but he had no choice, nothing was open and we couldn't see anything for miles down the road!  We got a few beers from the 7/11 too, so that we could drink with the people in the hostel.

Jackson (do you know Jackson?)
When we got back, we joined Jackson, and his merry bunch of drinkers in the lobby area of his hostel.  Jackson introduced us to his companions, Belle and Grace.  We sat and chatted the night away, and drank till the early hours.  At some point in the night, an American girl turned up and joined us, in our mini Taiwanese style drinking party.  Which is more civilised than English ones I have been too.

Grace and Belle
The American girl seemed pretty cool, I have totally forgot her name....(mental note, to self.  Make better notes.)  She told us she had been living and working in Taitung, but she just left her job and was travelling for a while.  She told us she had even tried the betel nuts, just because some guy offered her one she thought why the hell not.  In theory it is a good attitude to have, but only sometimes.because those betel nuts look awful, and most people who chew on them regularly have the most horrible teeth I have ever seen.

We then got onto to talking about who knows the most capital cities for some reason, I don't even know why this came up.  What I have to say is I completely battered Steve and the American girl for knowing the most places that they asked about.  Steve told me it is because of my love of football, that I know all these weird places.  I replied does not matter how you know it.  Just that I know it.

We started to ask about the boat, and how it was?  How much was it?  This kind of thing.  They told us they didn't know the price of the boat, but that it only left at certain times.  The boat we were going to try and catch was the really early one, this started of a debate about if we could manage to wake up in the morning or not.  Grace and Belle were telling us we have no chance of making the early boat, because we had decided to stay up a lot of the night and drink with them.  This I seen as a challenge and then I told her, I bet you a whole bottle of wine that I will wake up in the morning.  This challenge was gratefully accepted.  The time of the first boat I think was 8.30am, and we were sat drinking till around 2 or 3am.

We started to talk about what the boat was like, and how was it.  They kept telling us that it is horrible, and loads of people don't like taking the boat.  They told us we should take a sick bag and everything.  I asked them why, and they said because you will be sick on the boat for sure.  I then informed Jackson I will not be sick on the boat, and on top of this, I will not even take a sick bag, in fact I will take a 4 pack of beers and drink all the way to Green Island, just to prove a point.

I also told him, that you are forgetting the UK is an island country also and I have been on a lot of boats before.  Never once have I been sick, but I have definitely drank beers on boats, so I assured him, thanks for the worry.  I will be fine.  Then because we were all in betting mood, I decided to make another bet, if we get a picture of me drinking on the boat, and then show him it, he has to be stood waiting for me with more beers at the ready when we got back to Taitung.  This he agreed to do.

We eventually managed to get to bed around 4am.  Steve even started telling me that I would never manage to wake up either, and that I best just go and buy the bottle of wine, and give it to them all tonight.  I thought bollocks to that, I am indeed a betting man, and I will wake up.  I told them I would be awake for 8am or something like that, but eventually we didn't wake up till 10.30 and we had clearly missed the boat to Green Island.  The only solution was to go and buy our breakfast.  The 2 guys from Hong Kong came with us, when we seen them in the street.  They were looking for somewhere to eat breakfast too, before they pedalled to Kenting.  We managed to find a fried dumpling place that was open, so we just piled inside of there, and ate that for breakfast.  The reason being, Taitung seems pretty spread out and more in the country side than an actual city, and things were pretty difficult to find.  As well as this we did not have much time if we wanted to catch the boat to Green Island.

When it came to paying, the 2 guys from Hong Kong said they wanted to pay for us, this was very kind of them, and we told them that they didn't have to, but they insisted.  On the walk back to the hostel, I stopped off at a 7/11 and bought Grace a bottle of wine.  Seeing as she is the one I made the bet with.  When in 7/11 I was looking at the wines thinking, I know jack shit about wine.  I just ended choosing a bottle that looked nice, and taking it to her.

We arrived back at the hostel and she wasn't even wake, I had to make Jackson go and drag her out of her bed so I could give her the bottle of wine for losing the bet.  She told me that it didn't really matter that much, and I didn't have to buy it, but I told her, a bet is a bet.

After this we then decided to get a taxi.  Jackson called the taxi and all that was left to do was sit and wait.  The taxi arrived and were on our merry way to Green Island.  The taxi cost around 200nt.  Which was OK for the distance we travelled.  The boat station is quite far from the centre of Taitung.

We went inside the station to buy the tickets.  When I asked the woman about the next boat to Green Island, she was very miserable and pretty angry.  She looked like a big raging lesbian, and looked like she wasn't getting any.  That's the conclusion me and Steve came to as to why she was so bloody angry.

We then toddled over to the next booth and the woman told us all cheerily that we can buy boat tickets for the next boat.  This was at 12.30 I think, which give us around 1 hour to kill.  We bought the tickets, if I remember correctly they were around 700 NT each.  We only bought 1 way tickets because we did not know how long we would be staying on Green Island.

After all the scare stories from Jackson we were thinking about just not getting any beers at all.  After all he did tell us how terrible it was, and how nice will it even be drinking a beer when everyone around you is having an all  mighty puke fest anyway.

To waste some of the time, we had a look around the dock area.  There were a lot of fisherman in the dock, stocking up all their fish onto trucks.  The trucks were piled high with ice as you would expect to keep the fish fresh.  They had loads of sharks, I guess this is what Gordan Ramsey was going on about when he made that TV show about Taiwan and the shark fishing.  I asked the guys doing the fishing where they were from because they didn't look Taiwanese at all.  They told me they were from the Philippines.  Me and Steve both tried to take a lot of pictures, then it happened.  I seen some other foreigner taking the boat to Green Island.  He had a small pack of Coronas and at that moment, I said to Steve, we can't be outdone in drinking by some little guy like that.  He looked like he was on a hot weekend away with what could only be assumed to be his girlfriend, or a companion of the good friends kind.

We walked back over to the beer stand, and started to haggle with the woman over how much we should pay for the beers.  I only managed to get 20 dollars of our beers, but she knew she was in a position of power in the haggling, there was no one else around selling beers, and our boat was going to leave in about 5 minutes so its not like I had a big window of opportunity to work in.

Crazy guy, who looks like Jim Morrison.
Once on the boat, people were looking at me and Steve weirdly.  They were all armed with their sick bags.  Me and Steve, our weapon for the boat was not a sick bag, but 4 beers each!  Rock and roll, indeed!

Once the boat got moving it felt pretty tame, it was no where near as crazy as people were saying.  Some of the boats I have been on to France have been worse than that.  Anyway I thought it must get worse because this is just the beginning or the journey.  So we cracked open.  The beers started flowing on the boat.  At this rate I knew they would not last long.  The drinking continued anyway, the couple from Peru had beers and a bottle of wine.

Taiwanese class going on a trip.  I thought they were 14, they told me they were all 18 ha!!!!!
At this moment we decided we needed to take a picture for Jackson to show him, we got the boat with ease and drank on the way there and back as promised.  We selected to have the photo taken at the back of the boat, and we used one of my beers and the Peruvian guys wine for the photo, to make it look like I was more bad ass.  After that all we could we do until we got to Green Island, was sit, wait and off course.  Drink!

Before we got on the boat, we called a hostel/hotel from Taitung.  We agreed with the guy to get bicycles at the pick up point.  The thing was he wrote my name in Chinese.  I know my name in Chinese, and I can write and read it.  I was just hoping he used the correct characters for my name.  So this was like a small mission to see if I could manage to find the guy OK with him having my name in Chinese.

Eventually we got to Green Island.  It took around 45 mins I think, if I remember it correctly.  Getting off the boat was a bit of a nightmare walking past all the people who had thrown up.  The smell it stunk, I was happy I had a strong stomach, otherwise I might of been one of them spewing my guts up!

When we got off the boat, there was loads of people standing around with plaques, and signs waiting for people.  There was also loads of people trying to make you go to their hostel, and rent their scooter.  Etc etc. Obviously we had to find our man.  We were looking around for Ma Ke in Chinese, and then I seen him.  There he is I shouted, and went ha....Ma Ke!!!!  Then I got my photo taken with the card and me, as you do.

I didn't really understand what the guy kept saying to me, and we nearly ended up arguing.  I don't even have a clue what it was about now.  Some random guy passing told us what he was going on about, and then I remember saying "well that's OK then isn't it."  Then I told him in Chinese you are my new friend.  He seemed very happy with this.  Then off we went to collect our bicycles.  The problem was the bicycles looked completely shit.  One hundred times worse than the Giant bikes we hired in Hualien.  At this point we decided that a scooter was a much better option.  They would not allow me to get one due to not having a license of any kind with me, so thank god Steve had a one, otherwise we would of been stuck on bicycles that looked like they had been there forever.  Plus I am clearly not the fittest and I didn't really want to be trying to peddle around an island, on one of those in the 40c heats!

So the downside to this meant, that I would have to be the bitch and sit on the back.  The up side was not trying to bloody peddle around in the heat.  We drove of, and then headed for some petrol.  We just followed the guy around the corner, and he told us this is the only petrol station on the whole island.  We filled it up as much as we could, and while we were there we decided to run into the bush and take a piss break.

The guy from Peru drove off ahead of us, and my god was he drunk.  He could not even stay up straight on his scooter, and it was a very good call from Steve to stay way back behind him.  The guy from Peru didn't give a shit though and just kept saying "come on, WHAT THE FUCK!"

When we got to the room we ended up haggling over the price.  The price she told us was for the air conditioned rooms, and she tried to charge us that price for 2 nights.  The problem is, she was telling us that we had to change rooms and move to a room with only a fan.  We ended up haggling over the price for a while until she agreed she could not charge us the same price for both nights, when clearly both rooms were different!  We ended up paying 200NT per night each for the room with the fan.  Steve was confused what we were paying for, and what the extra cost covered.  It eventually turned out we were paying for the 2 nights, and 2 days of the scooter all at the same time.

After that little mix up, we dumped our bags into the room, had a quick change and a shower and then went to have a look around the island.  The roads were all windy, and the views were stunning.  Truly beautiful.  Driving around the island was great, it really had everything even only driving past it once.  There were mountains, beaches, hiking trails, and relaxing spots where you could sit around and watch the sea, and people go by all day if you wished.  That first ride around the island on the scooter was a real eye opener to how beautiful the place was.  It only took us 1 hour to drive around the whole island.  That was just one straight drive though, we didn't really make any stops.  This was just to see what there was to do, and of course test out the scooter.

When we got back to the small main street, we then had to look for something to eat.  We ended up in some small noodle shop.  Steve attempted to get some kind of fish, and when the guy showed him he looked a bit excited.  It turned out it was sushi, so he had sushi, and I ended up with venison noodles which we just OK.  The cost for food on Green Island seemed quite high.  There was also not much choice, most of the Taiwanese people were practically raiding 7/11.  

After we ate our lunch, I told Steve I wanted to buy some crushed ice.  It is wonderful, even though it doesn't sound to great in the name.  There were 2 different choices of places to go to.  One looked like it had been done out as if it was Halloween, and the other one was made to look like a jail.  I told Steve I thought the one that looked like a jail was way cooler, and it seemed like it had more people in.  That is normally a good indication to go inside as any.  When we went inside we ordered our crushed ice, and we met the owner of the place Jan.  Who was really nice, and he helped us order.  Basically they shave the ice and put toppings on top.  It seemed the speciality for Green Island is to put seaweed on top too.  I didn't like the seaweed on top that much, I prefer the mangoes and cream.

When we finished and went to pay, Jan told us we didn't have too and he was giving it to us for free.  We tried to insist on paying but he was having none of it.  That was really nice of him, and we thanked him loads before we left.

After we ate, we went back to our rooms so Steve could check out his lonely planet book.  It was talking about a hot spring.  This hot spring was apparently only 1 of 3 in the whole world to be powered from sea water, and not from volcanoes.  So obviously we had to go and see it, and test it out.

Actually we got ourselves all excited about because the lonely planet was really bigging it up. So we quickly packed our things, and then rushed out to the scooter in childish excitement.  To the hot springs we go!  We drove around for quite a while looking for the hot springs.  It was dark by then, as it was the evening time so we couldn't see all the signs that well.  When we realised where it was, I think we must of drove past it about three or four times.  Then when we did eventually get there and get the scooter locked up, we decided to walk to the top of the hill.  I persuaded Steve that if they have a hot spring up there how awesome would that be, sat on the top of that rock looking down on everyone else.  When we got to the top, it just turned out to be a viewing point, and we wasted our time walking up there because the view was not that great, unless you
went up there to view the hot springs complex which was actually quite amazing.

We then clambered back down the big hill, we both had loads of sweat pissing out of us anyway, so it didn't matter if it had came from walking up there, or back down.  We had the Taiwanese white man summer look.  Then when we went to pay, and enter the pool they asked up about the skullies (swim hats).  Sorry if anyone finds that offensive I know it is a bad nickname for them.  When you go swimming in Taiwan they make you were the skullies for hygienic reasons.  Even though someone could be minging dirty when they get in the pool anyway, I do kind of understand the idea behind it, and it is nice that everyone has to wear one, even though they are as uncomfortable as hell!  So we had paid to enter the hot springs, we had changed, and we still didn't manage to enter any hot spring water, because we had to go to the shop and purchase some skullies.

Eventually everything was sorted, and we could eventually go into the hot springs.  What happened when I first put my foot in.  I expected it to be hot, and it turns out I only went and chose the cold pool first.  That was typical of me, I am a natural cold blooded creature, I don't need the hot in my life thank you!!!!

The hot spring complex was amazing, and it is for sure one of the best places I have been to in Taiwan.  They had loads of different pools and areas, and it was awesome.  They had more filtered water inside that you could tell was not coming direct from the sea but even still that was lovely.  They had a selection of different hot pools at the top near the entrance.  The hottest one being in the middle with steam pouring from it.  Then they had some cooler ones further down near the cold part.  These were all amazing, and I wish I stayed in Green Island for longer so I could go back to them again.  As well as these hot springs, they had some more natural ones outside the complex.  These were much closer to the sea, and were a lot better I thought.

Gua Sha treatment for heat stroke relief

Earlier this week I had to get Gua Sha, because of suffering from bad heat stroke after hiking in the afternoon, like a madman, bang on midd...