OK, only getting this written two months after the fact, but hey I’ve been busy.
I seldom seem to take the train directly from Taichung to Taitung, but with little time to spare on this trip there was no stop off in the southwest of the island. There is lots of new rail line construction in that part of the country and the new elevated tracks allows for a whole new view of Pingtung. And next time when I do have time I think I may have to explore the temples on the south side of the rail station, the side of Pingtung I have never been on.
Lunch was the oil rice, 油飯 (yóu fàn) I got from the stand at the Taichung station. Which happens to be my favorite part of the Taichung station. I hope they don’t do away with the stand when the new station is completed. But I have my fears that “modernization” will mean they do away with the more rustic elements.
By the time the train pulled into Taitung I was getting peckish. So straight after checking in at the usual place I headed to the closest restaurant I could find. Well actually I had one in mind. There was this place across from one of our normal breakfast places that I’ve been eyeing. It said it had Milkfish congee 虱目魚粥 (shī mù yú zhōu) and since my favorite congee stand seems to have closed down I need to shop around for a new place. The congee wasn’t bad, thin like a lot of Taiwanese places and they also had a pretty mean stir fried rice with goat meat. Like I said it was ok, but I am still shopping around for a good southern style congee place.
Speaking of breakfast the next day we were at our usual Mei Mei breakfast stand. I don’t remember the exact address, but both it and the afore mention congee place are both 230something Fujian Rd., just north of the intersection of Fuxing Rd. Honestly I go there because of its proximity to the place we stay but they do have a pretty good 蛋餅 (dàn bǐng). And that is important because I consider a dàn bǐng essential for a breakfast experience in Taiwan. If you are not familiar with a dàn bǐng think of it as a very thin crepe with an egg and a number of other ingredients of your choosing all rolled up. Simple and perfect.
Since it was a short trip there was little in the way of new ground broken on the food front. Mostly I was just filling in the holes left in this years earlier trip. Which meant I had to to to go back to Seaweed (海草健康輕食館 hǎi cǎo jiàn kāng qīng shí guǎn) for the side dishes they are famous for, their 溏心蛋 (táng xīn dàn).
Later that day we were set to have a BBQ with some Amis friends of ours. I do not want add to the (often racist) stereotypes about the indigenous peoples love of drinking and singing. But it was a damn good time…all six hours of it. And I do have some fuzzy recollections of loudly (and probably rather poorly) singing Xiao Mi Jiu (trust me I do not sound good, but it is one of the few mandarin language songs I more or less know) somewhere during the evening.
The next day we had to move house. The downside of traveling with a very loose itinerary means our usual place was booked up for the weekend with a wedding party. Such as it was. Luckily our friends at Denim Elephant renovated a building for use as a hostel.
So we were saved from being homeless and from the hassle of taking our chances with other economy lodging in town (and also saved from the recent boom of over priced, luxury lodging that has popped up around Taitung). It was my first experience with a hostel. Since we usually travel as couple it is usually more economical to get a room together than to pay per person. But this was still pretty cheap and very, very clean.
The place is called 映像你是我 (yìnxiàng nǐ shì wǒ) it is at 145 Guangdong Rd., Phone # 0972 369145, e-mail email@example.com. Look ’em up if you need a place to stay.
I noticed that across the intersection (Guangdong Rd. and Zhongzheng Rd.) there was a place called Happy Green Bean Soup 幸福綠豆湯 (xìngfú lǜdòu tāng). I really like 綠豆湯 the barber I had in Taitung always use to bring me a bowl when I went in for a haircut in the summer. Unfortunately he is no longer at the shop, his father still is though and when I went in for a haircut on this trip I had to sit in a lawn chair in the middle of the room, because the old guy is too short to cut my hair when I sit in the barber chair. But I digress.
Back to the desert stand. They have been around for nearly sixty years and really focus on the simple (and cheap) deserts that I love so much about Taiwan in the summer. Simple as it is I really like sweet green bean soup and their shaved ice was nice as well.
The hostel had a couple of quote, unquote “bikes” for patrons use. Being that there was not really enough time to rent bikes from the train station Giant shop and go for a real ride I made due with what was offered. Because no matter how lowly the bike I am never more happy than when pedaling. Especially around the rice fields of Taitung…just don’t ask me to do any hills on this thing.
For three days straight I walked past the Green House hoping to find it open. There was no sign of life, no notice that they were on vacation, nothing. I was seriously worried something had happened. Finally on the last day they were open. Oh joy of joys, I was relieved and very happy to get one of the best set meals in Taitung. I was so excited I even ordered the slightly more expensive braised pork intestines meal!
And upon leaving I told the owner that we were worried when we hadn’t found the place open. And I told him how special his drunken chicken is. And how great all his food is. And how every time we come back to Taiwan we have to make a trip to his place. To which he replied in surprise, “you don’t live in Taiwan anymore.” Made me happy that he remembers us and yes I guess we still make a regular enough appearance that he though that maybe we were still on the island.
Walking away my wife says, “I can’t believe you engaged him in conversation.” Yeah, I may have been overwhelmed from the meal and the relief that he was still around. Because I have more or less only heard him speak Taiwanese and he always has a mouth full of betel nut and well my mandarin is pretty poor right now. But it went fine, and I am really happy that he remembers us.
The next day we were out early and on an unusual course. Generally we always do a full circle around the island. But it was a holiday weekend and while we could get to Hualien, getting from Hualien to Taipei was seriously suspect. So we decided to backtrack to Kaohsiung and take the High Speed Rail (HSR) to Taipei.
Which actually fulfilled a secret wish of mine. I had not been on the HSR since we had somebody else footing the bill for it. Not that it is very expensive, but it is relatively expensive.
We took regular train back through the thirty some tunnels to Kaohsiung (technically Xinzuoying, but it is just north of Kaohsiung). Where we got some lunch boxes and hopped the High Speed Rail like actual middle class people would do. To ride in style and comfort to Taipei.
185 mph makes for a damn quick trip from Kaohsiung to Taipei, about an hour and forty minutes total. It is pretty surreal looking at the world pass by at those speeds.
I am not sure if it was because we did not go all the way around the island or just the short duration of the trip at under two weeks, but it didn’ feel quite like a real trip to Taiwan. Though with all the jet lag it did feel real exhausting.