Fulong Beach, Cycling and Waterfalls

26 09 2011

Two weekend’s ago a group of us went to a beach about 2 hours NE of Taipei. We spent the day playing in the water and tossing the frisbee around. It was a fun low-key day to end the week.

Buried at the beach

View of Fulong from a local temple

The following week, I went cycling with a buddy from work. We left Longtan and headed out into the country. Our first down hill had a few blind turns and on the second one we were greeted with an SUV in our lane. I locked up both wheels and started skidding sideways down the road. Somehow I managed to stay up right and as soon as I gain control I turned to see how Ivan fared.

I looked back in time to see him ride off the road and launch head-first into a pole. I stopped as fast as I could and ran up the hill screaming. Half of his bike was rolling down the road, the other half stuck in a small tree.

He collapsed on the road moaning in agony. A good sign, since I figured he’d be knocked out. I did a quick check to see if he could answer basic questions and move his feet and hands. Things seemed ok, but his back was killing him and he couldn’t move.

Now to call 911. This is harder than it may seem. I don’t speak Chinese and neither does he. We are on a small country road about 25 km outside of Longtan (the closest township) and me giving directions to someone in English would be suspect, given out location.

Since the car that met us head on didn’t stop, there was no once else there. Right as I was dialing a man came out of a side road about 30 meters away. I chased him down the road until he finally stopped. He was able to talk with the operator and tell them our location.

About 25 minutes later, the police showed up. Questioned us in Chinese (no help) and then about 5 minutes after that, which seemed like an eternity, they said they would call the ambulance. Thanks….

His bike broke at the fork...

Did what it was supposed to do

We got him into the ambulance and then headed to the hospital. X-rays came back negative, which was awesome and he was cleared to go home a few hours later. He had a concussion, but other than that nothing but sore body parts. Incredibly lucky. Seriously, hands-down the worst crash I’ve seen in person and probably one of the worst I’ve seen period. He is so lucky.

Outside of Longtan

After the hospital, I headed to work and taught two classes. Afterwards, one of my coworkers gave me a ride back out into the country to a restaurant where our bicycles were being kept. I grabbed my bike and told the owner of the place that I would come back and get his the following day.

That evening was our friend Katie’s birthday. I arrived back home, showered and then headed over to the KTV to meet up with everyone. Awesome party, but my mind was definitely not there.

Katie's Birthday Bash

The next day a group of us rode scooters into central Taiwan on HWY 7 just past a small town called Fuxing. We then peeled off the main road and followed a tiny back country road to a little swimming hole.

 

The falls and swimming hole

Going for a dip... so cold

We spend a few hours swimming, exploring a waterfall and jumping off some cliffs before returning home. Paul drove me by the restaurant on the way home where we strapped the weeks of Ivan’s bike to the back of the scooter and I threw the frame over my shoulder.

Long two days, but in the end, everyone was alright and home safe. Glad that nothing worst happened, but definitely struck a nerve with me.

 

 

 

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Green Island!

13 09 2011

11:30PM Friday evening eight of us piled into the van for yet another weekend excursion. Monday was Moon Festival, which means that we actually had a three-day weekend and the opportunity to travel outside of northern Taiwan.

Sunrise - almost there!

 

Hanging out roadside, waiting for the sun

By sunrise, we had made it to the southeastern coast of Taiwan a little south of Taitung. Upon arriving, we located a hotel and a quick place for breakfast. Groggy from lack of sleep, we changed into our swim attire and head to the beach. We spent the next four hours roasting on the beach. After playing frisbee and swimming, we piled into the van and headed off to a local Thai restaurant.

Da Beach

Frisbee beachside fun

North about a forty minute car ride was a place called Sanxiantai. Upon arrival we walked across a giant (1050ft) arched bridge, connecting the island to the beach. The small island is supposed to represent three Chinese Taoist deities who stopped while crossing the sea. I’d like to think that my own version of the bridge was a little more entertaining… a great story about the Great Philippine Invasion of 1497. Whatever the reason for the bridge, it was a fun afternoon spend wondering around the island.

Sanxiantai bridge built to resemble a dragon

Island Paradise

Back side of Sanxiantai

That night we stayed at a local hotel, grabbed some food down the road and a well deserved night of rest. The following morning, hopped up on Dramamine, we boarded the ferry for Green Island. The ride was not nearly as bad as we had heard, and all the medicine just made us want to sleep.

Ferry ride to Green Island

The guys look really excited - damn you Dramamine...

Since nothing was available for a few hours, that’s what the majority of us did. Two hours later we hopped on our scooters and rode around the island viewing the majestic sights. After a few hours of riding, we went to the local dive shop to go snorkeling at Shihlang (Sorry no awesome photos of fish). It was a ton of fun and truly amazing. The variety of fish we saw were amazing and the coral was really well-preserved. The two hours I spent snorkeling definitely moved getting my diving license up a few notches on the to do list. Really cool experience and I’m looking forward to exploring some of SE Asia’s more well know spots for diving, hopefully  in the near future.

Rachel and I touring the island by scooter

Pekingese Dog Rock

Dog Rock group shot

Pre snorkel... still a little tried from being doped up on the D

That afternoon we showered and grabbed a bite to eat before chilling near an airport and dock drinking. Realizing that we were forgetting something, I finally remembered that we had yet visit what made the island famous!

Post dinner hang out

Outdoor saltwater hot springs needed to happen. The Jhaorih Hot Springs can get as hot as 165F – I didn’t get anywhere close to that. There are only three in the world and the other two are in Japan and Italy. We worked out a deal for the hotel to drive us to the springs. We spend the next few hours easing into steamy springs right along the beach. Jagged rock formations surrounded the springs and just slightly separated them from the crashing ocean waves. Awesome experience. Our evening concluded shortly after and we all crashed at the tiny 1 bedroom hotel room.

The next morning Rachel, Paul and myself woke up early and toured some more areas of the island. We found some of the most beautiful regions, as well as the Guanyin Cave, which remains a holy site today. Shortly after, we went back to the hotel to wake everyone up. We jumped on the next ferry out and started our epic trip back to Chungli.

Guanyin Cave Entrance

Checking out the other side

Canopy near the cave entrance

Me running through Lord of the Rings battle scene site

On top of the hill - awesome view

Edge of the cliff overlooking the Pacific

Sweet view, right?

The ride back included stopping at a famous beef noodle house as well as a famous rest stop in Taichung. Kid you not, they were both impressive and a much deserved break from the 9 + hours in the van. We also drove along the 9 and 11. I will be cycling both of those roads during my trip, which made me quite happy to see how awesome they would be. We finally arrived home around 10:30 and called it a night. Awesome, awesome trip. Probably best yet in Taiwan.





Sun Moon Lake!

5 09 2011

After finishing another long Saturday teaching in Longtan, I made my way through the small town to find my favorite tea shop and mexican stand. I met up with Benjamin, the owner of the tea shop, who introduced me to a friend of his, Mr. Su.

Mr. Su knows people pretty much everywhere in Taiwan and after some bad Chinese on my part and a little English on his I found out that if I let him know where I will be stopping along my trip he can find places for me to stay throughout Taiwan – Sweet!

Most won’t speak English, but will know that I am coming and will have a place for me to sleep and hopefully some tasty treats as well. So, as that goes, the planning for the cycling trip is getting better, and will be trying to tie a lot of the route together in the upcoming week.

That night, after arranging the time with the driver, Mr. Liang, the 8 of us piled into a passenger van around 11PM and made the trip down to Sun Moon Lake. The van ride was fun, and after stopping a few times for drinks and bathroom breaks we finally arrived at the lake. We drove around the lake for a little trying to find a place to pitch some tents and eventually decided on the main parking lot. We found a small patch of grass and set up shop around 3AM.

Two hours later we were up and getting ready for the swim. We had to meet a guy named Mark to get our race caps and info. We didn’t want to be fashionably late, because he might be fashionably gone…. After dealing with him and getting everything taken care of, we made our way down to the starting dock.

Walking to the start

The crew waiting at the start

People arriving, many had crazy balloons tied to their feet or floats

The swim was 3.3 km or just over 2 miles with over 27,000 people. Its the largest mass swim in the world. Since I am as buoyant as a brick, I was a little worried. At the least, I figured I could grab on the someone if I started to drown.

The swim was amazing and I had a ton of fun. Everyone was required to have a float, although, a lot of times it would have been much easier if I didn’t have to drag that giant thing with me. Katie, Paul, and I finished together and were with Ingrid and Rachel for the majority of the swim.

Lifeguard chillin at the swim

Nearing the end of the swim

Swim!

At the end we were greeting with a large number of volunteers who wanted to help you climb the steps out of the water. I didn’t understand this until I got upright above the water and realized that I was much more tired than I had originally thought. As we staggered through the finisher alley, we were greeted with warm tea, weird eggs, and delicious chocolate. We met up with everyone, ate our lunch-boxes and then caught the ferry back to the other side of the lake.

Ferry ride back - Ryan, Rachel, Me, Scott, and Paul

The swim was super cool and taking the ferry back made you realize actually how far the swim actually was.  Once back to the start, we watched thousands more stand in line for their chance to jump in the water. It was insane that there were still that many people wanting to start, hours after we began. Unfortunately, I found out later that poor weather moved in and they stopped the swim. A couple thousand didn’t get to start and the pulled a ton more out of the water.

We found the driver, changed clothes and then went to find some shaved ice. After some confusion with finding a beach, we ended up in a giant park outside of Taichung. Super cool to see, since parks don’t really exist near cities in Taiwan. We wondered throughout the park for a few hours and then headed back to Chungli.

Wandering about the park

More paths in the park

Once back a few of us went and grabbed some dinner and then ended the day with a Taiwanese movie at the theater called Jump, Ashin. It was a true story about a gymnast who turned into a gangster and then back. Sounds ridiculous, and I was skeptical at first, but it was a good movie and a nice way to end a fun day and a half.