Goodbye Taiwan

16 10 2012

I don’t think it has truly set in how much I love this country, and how much I’m going to miss it; the people, the endless adventure, the constant surprise that it has indeed become a second home.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the right choice, however that doesn’t make it easier telling the kids I’m leaving, realizing I’m not going to cycle those awesome, tiny farm roads any time soon, or saying goodbye, for now at least, to some amazing friends I have made in Taiwan.

I’m going to be traveling SE Asia (Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and hopefully Burma) for two months before heading back to the States for a while and then start the next chapter in my life – whatever that may be.

It’s been a week of goodbyes with Saturday being my last official day teaching. It was quite sad, but I know that staying would only be an attempt to remain comfortable. I will go back to Taiwan, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Goodbye everyone! It was an amazing experience and I’ll miss each and every one of you.

Below are some pictures of my classes and coworkers:

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Betel Nut!!!

15 10 2012

Finally, after 18 months in Taiwan and the eve of my final day in the country, I tried betel nut. Together with the help of Ryan, Matt, Jesse and Paul we chewed away. It was an experience, and I’m glad it’s over. Here’s some pictures to live vicariously through my experience, so you’ll never have to try it on your own. Included are the visit to Tiffany’s and pre/post chew in the dorms. Now off to bed and tomorrow to Singapore.

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Going Away Party

14 10 2012

Thursday night Paul, Katie and Stephanie had a concert and put together a going away party for me. It was great to see everyone one last time and I had a ton of fun. Here are some photos from the evening. Thanks again everyone for coming out! I’ll miss you all!

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Cycling Taiwan’s Central Cross-Island Highway

8 10 2012

It’s a bold statement, but Sunday’s ride was the best one I have ever done.

150km starting in Puli, the geographical center of Taiwan, over Hehuanshan followed by an epic 65 km descent through Taroko National Park. The route was simple: follow the provincial hwy 14 until the split and then continue along the alternate up to the top of Hehuan. Afterwards, connect with the 8 east towards Hualien.

Eight hours in total on the bike; it was insane, but awesome. Amazing roads and sights, basically everything you could possibly want for a good ride.

The climb, which basically started more or less the second I left the hotel in Puli, took well over 5 hours, and seriously kicked my butt. I’d be willing to say that about three hours in I thought I was doing amazing, and then I realized how much further I had to go, an extra 10 km that I wasn’t expecting, about 50km of climbing, brutal. Elevation I think played a role, and flashbacks to Nepal replayed in my mind. Crawl along for a few minutes, stop to breathe….

After finally reaching the summit, I snapped some photos and then began the descent into Taroko. Time was everything, so off I went.  There were two short climbs immediately after a 12km drop from Hehuan, the second of which was testing my mental limits. I made it over and was finally rewarded with the seemingly endless downhill.

The descent was filled with crazy turns, canopied roads, dangerously pitch black tunnels (which I basically rolled into walls to get through – not fun and really scary), a monkey gang which started to amass and forced an end to my photo shoot, beautiful scenery, construction, random gravel patches in the road (not ideal when coming around a corner doing 55km/hr) and absolutely stunning scenery.

Couldn’t ask for more. I’m beat, but it was amazing. I’m so happy I didn’t leave the island without doing this ride, I never would have forgiven myself. Enjoy the photos!

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Another great ride in Taiwan

4 10 2012

Tuesday morning I went out for one of my last bike rides in Taiwan. It was on some familiar roads, some of which were of the first that I explored on my own. Taiwan has some amazing cycling, and I am truly going to miss it.

I began by cycling out towards Longtan and then diving down into a valley by following the provincial highway 3. I turned off onto county highway 118 where I followed this until I reached another provincial hwy 7 (the main road going across the mountains in the north) and headed back into Dasi Township. I cycled back into Chungli / Ping Jen by following the county hwy 112.  In total I think the ride was just at 100km, not a bad start to the day.

It was an awesome ride with nearly no traffic once in the mountains. Hazy views of the mountains along with awesome lesser seen views of the backside of Shimen Reservoir are shown below.





Jiufen

2 10 2012

I went to Jiufen last Sunday with Matt. It’s a mining town east of Taipei known for great views of the mountains and ocean and tea houses. As a place that has managed to escape me since being in Taiwan, I’m glad that I finally checked it off the list; it was a good time.

View from the bus stop

Back side of Jiufen

Overlooking the ocean

While we gazed at the variety of snacks and souvenirs, Matt and I were steadily pushed through the famous Jishan Street. At the end we strolled through the Jiufen Teahouse and viewed the pottery rooms at the bottom before settling into a corner table overlooking the ocean and mountains.

Jishan Street

Pottery Room

Steep roads throughout Jiufen

We chilled and drank tea for about an hour and a half I guess (I lost track of time). Matt wrote and I planned for my trip.

Tea, yay!

Afterwards, we began hiking up to the view-point behind the city but strayed off course due to heavy fog. We followed a path for about a kilometer before turning around and heading back in town and eventually home. Worth a view if you end up in Taipei.

Hiking Path

Looking at Jiufen

Booo clouds came rolling in

 

 





Four Beast Hike – Taipei

9 09 2012

Just after 9am this morning, a group of us set off to hike the four beast hike which scales Nangang mountain and Jiuwufeng. Each of the four peaks (Elephant, Leopard, Lion, and Tiger) rise higher than the next, all giving views of Taipei city and the iconic Taipei 101 building. We only conquered 2 peaks, but that seemed to be plenty, having to trade a leisurely stroll up some steps for testing our biceps.

The hike was relatively easy to find. After exiting the MRT, and following a winding road towards the mountains, we eventually diverged off the pavement onto Taiwan’s typical staircase hike.

Standard staircase hike in Taiwan

After a few short minutes of climbing stone stairs, we reached the first peak. It had a great view of the city, however the weather didn’t fully cooperate and all of our viewpoints of the vibrant city were diluted by a thick haze.

It was just after noon when we arrived at the first peak

Taipei and the haze

Next the fun part came. As we were already drenched in sweat, we began moving towards another peak, and luckily picked a difficult one. Slowly, the stairs disappeared and gradually the path turned into dense foliage.  Before long, we found ropes laid down stone walls and began ascending almost straight up. Our hike turned into a rope climbing session.

Yay woods!

The ropes begin!

And they continue going straight up

Taipei 101 in between the trees

We were rewarded at the end by another awesome viewpoint of Taipei turned sour by murky skies. We took our time hanging out at the top before heading back down into town and roaming around trying to find a bite to eat. It was an awesome day trip to Taipei and I’m hoping to find a few more like that before I leave.

Crazy Spider!

The group at the top!