4 Day Weekend

Last week, we had a four-day weekend, for a historical and tragic reason. 2-2-8 is a country-wide holiday to observe the massacre on February 28, 1947. This year it landed on a Thursday. In Taiwan, rather than getting one day off, the schedule changes to enable an extended weekend. Meaning, the previous Saturday (February 23) our school had class as usual. This allowed us to take off Friday (March 1) in addition to February 28, totaling a four-day weekend.

I love taking advantage of built in vacation, but I still felt burned out from the big trip to Australia. I wanted to see something new, but not at any large expense of money or time. Pete stepped up and planned our mini-weekend getaway, which was local, fun, and affordable.

Thursday – Wulai

Wulai is a nearby village south of Taipei, famous for its aboriginal culture, cuisine, and hot springs. It was convenient to access as the bus stop is in front of my apartment and the ride only lasts 30 minutes.

As soon as we stepped off the bus we didn’t stop walking for almost 7 hours. We walked through old street packed with aboriginal clothes, foods, and drinks. We walked across suspension bridges overlooking the slow-moving teal blue river. We walked through a forest trail lined with ferns and botany unbeknownst to us. We even saw a monkey sitting in the tree tops above us!

An hour shy of check-in into our AirBnb, we decided to rent a hot spring room for an hour and a half which only cost us each $12. Behind the door labeled “My Room” situated a queen size bed and an excessively large bathroom with a tiled Jacuzzi tub, television, toilet, and shower.

After adequately bathing off the sweat and sores from our walk, we packed up and walked down the street to our AirBnb, which was an even nicer hot spring hotel.

A cozy bed garbed in crimson comforter and a heart-shaped lamp greeted us as we entered the room. Across from the bed sat a flat screen tv, framed by the window which separated the bedroom and bathroom. Walking up two steps and past the toilet we entered the *spa*.

This room had a strikingly woodsy yet whimsy atmosphere that really captured my heart. The floor was a well oiled honey-brown wood that slightly warmed our toes. Next to the sink sat two deep obsidian hot tubs. The larger tub had a seat and could comfortably fit four people. The smaller rectangular tub had no seat so you could really submerge in the water. The view beyond the hot tub was a low-lying window that outlined the surrounding forest and river. A wooden canopy blocked the sun and rain, but left an opening where the breeze, the sound of croaking frogs, and the moving river could join us.

For hours we sipped on rice wine, watched a movie, refilled the tub with scalding hot water, dipped our toes into the cold tub, and laughed and laughed. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Friday – Taipei

The following morning, we returned to Taipei early to work on personal projects and have a stay-at-home day. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of our meals that day.

Lunch – Zoca Pizzeria, the best Italian pizza in Taiwan.

(Photo is courtesy of Zoca Pizzeria Facebook page)

Dessert – Heritage Bakery. I ate a classic carrot cake that was dense and sweet. Pete had a date tart that was crunchy and delightful!

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Bakery Facebook page)

Saturday – Luodong / Peter’s Birthday

Peter is the luckiest person I know. All week the grey skies promised rain and cold winds. Except for his birthday. There were no clouds, there was no chance of rain, and the sun shone with enough force that only a small sweater was required.

We paid $100 NT ($3 USD) for a bus from Daplingling Station (a block away from my apartment) to Luodong, a rural city east of Taipei. From there, we took the TRA one stop south to Dongshan . A bike rental shop located outside the station was swarmed by weekend riders wanting to be outside on this perfect day.

We rented two bicycles for 4 hours which cost $250 NT ($8 USD) each, then we set off on the river side trail. The paved road was narrow for only two parallel riders at a time. It cut through quaint farmland and bustling, colorful parks. We shared the trail with families walking, couples on tandem bikes, and groups sharing bicycle carriages. The trail led us past the small farms all the way to the shore.

The smooth, charcoal colored sand felt so refreshing on our hot feet. The waves hit the shore fiercely making it quite dangerous to swim. We rolled up our pants and waddled knee-deep, challenging the ocean to a speed test…We quickly got splashed to the butt.

The sand did have a quick-sand quality, where areas were exceptionally deep. If we jumped down with enough force, our legs submerged up to our calves.

After returning our bikes, we traveled back to Luodong to explore the night market. This market is situated alongside a large park, with ample seating. We watched a live band perform Taiwanese hits that had the crowd singing along, and a few interesting songs from Maroon 5.


On the far left is a fish paste mixed with sausage, wrapped in pig intense and fried. In the middle is a boiled egg also mixed with fish paste and deep fried. On the far right is an egg dish also fried. They’re all covered in a combination of wasabi and sweet n sour sauce.

Sunday – Lazy Day

Not much to report here, besides a good ol’ day of doing nothing! A classic way to end a fun weekend.

3 Hours at Zhu-Wei Beach

竹圍海水浴場

Startled by the sound of my alarm, I squinted one eye open to check the time.  Saturday, 9 AM. Both eyes shut with ease as they refused to acknowledge the morning rays illuminating my room. Then a moment of clarity: “I want to go to the beach.”  I rolled over and whispered to Peter, “let’s go to the beach.”

We lounged in bed for another 30 minutes Googling “nearby beaches” and decided to venture to Zhu-Wei beach for proximity’s sake. The idle route is a low-stress environment to test ride Peter’s new 150 CC scooter. 

Ricoh 35 ZF – Agfa 400 ISO

With a trepid heart, I sat behind Peter and tightly squeezed his torso for the entire 14 km (8 mile) ride. Until that moment, I haven’t ridden a scooter since my accident in 2013. My left knee and hip still pain me from the collison.

We puttered past farms, tattered buildings, and brightly decorated bus stops, and my grip relaxed. A grin cemented on my face while the light breeze played with my hair and the sun kissed my cheeks. A giddy sense of adventure and spontaneity radiated within as I held on to Peter and watched the gentle clouds painted on the light blue sky slide by.

The joy and excitement shadowed my navigational duties. We missed a few turns and parked in a dilapidated lot. In the end, we found where sky meets sea; proof of a job well done.

Ricoh 35 ZF – Agfa 400 ISO

A range of emotions flowed through me as we walked onto the chocolate shore. At first glance the quaint and sleepy cove seemed an idyll place. Dogs played in the sea water quietly lapping onto shore. Parents watched their children dig holes in the sand from the comforting shade of rainbow umbrellas.

A few steps closer to shore, the sun reflected off a variety of plastic washed ashore from the Taiwan Strait. In lieu of seashells and rocks, plastic glittered along the shore — bottle caps, microwaveable containers, water bottles, and squeezed Coco cups.

The beauty and tranquility that beaches offer is why they’re revered in my eyes. Wind gliding over sand and waves gently greeting the land have a lulling effect which clears my mind. I’m instantly transported to an reflective state – uncluttered by anxiety and responsibilities.

This time the connection was disrupted by a grim reminder of human waste surrounding me.

I looked around and thought about every time I sipped on an iced latte from Starbucks, purchased carry out fried rice, chugged water from a plastic bottle,  and used plastic utensils because I was too lazy to find a metal fork.

Looking at the forgotten waste, I resolved to significantly reduce my consumption. It will be challenging considering I have limited vocabulary. I don’t even know the Chinese translation of “plastic” or how to politely say “I don’t need a straw.” It’s motivation to learn more Chinese phrases and simultaneously reduce.

The time evaporated as we raced and sprinted a few yards, threw a tennis ball while the water splashed our calves, and photographed the cloudy scenery.

Before we departed, I dipped my sandy feet in the water and a playful border collie greeted me with a purple Frisbee in mouth. She dropped the foam toy by my foot and with expectant eyes waited. (Only 10 minutes before this moment, Peter and I agreed that border collies are smart and fun because they can successfully play fetch.)  Amazed that she can read minds, or she can understand English, I scooped up the Frisbee and hurled it into the wind.

Peter and I rolled over in laughter as she kept returning the toy to me, and only me, for 15 minutes.

A perfect afternoon essentials: kindle, Frisbee, sea, dog, and boyfriend all together.

 

Hunger and Peter’s sunburn forced us to say goodbye to our new friend and find a shaded meal. A mile down the dusty road, we happened upon a Thai restaurant seated on the bed of a river along the outskirts of the fish market. We shared three spicy seafood dishes.

From the left to right: spicy seafood medley (mussels, shrimp, sea urchin, and other questionable meats), spicy shrimp soup, sweet potato greens mixed with chilies.

Peter swallowed a spoonful of soup into the wrong pipe, which left him coughing and teary-eyed the entire meal. I watched him with a grimace and asked myself “Do I help? … Can I help?” I refilled his water and avoided questions that could not be answered with yes or no.

Our delicious yet taciturn lunch marked the end of an endearing afternoon in Zhu-Wei. I can’t wait to see where Peter’s scooter will take us next.

A view of Zhu-Wei fishing harbor atop a pedestrian bridge leading to the Zhu-Wei fish market.