Saturday, March 17, 2012

Taiwan Day 6 Hualien

 My second day in Hualien started out around 7:30am. My aunt had already gone down to a famous breakfast shop to get me some soy milk, rice milk, more steam buns and pot stickers, etc.  Needless to say I was chuck full.  Then we headed out.
We first went to a "charcoal bamboo" exhibit.  I didn't take any photos because the whole thing screamed "Nikken" at me, but looking back, I probably should have taken a few photos to at least document the experience.  So, if you don't know what "Nikken" is, it's basically a company that believes in the healing powers of magnets, purifying water with mineral rocks, fancy food supplements, etc.  Anyway, Charcoal bamboo apparently has amazing water purification capabilities.  I saw them demonstrate purification of water with it and it was quite amazing - yellow yucky water turning pure right before my eyes as it goes through a giant tube filled with charcoal bamboo.  They also had people try some sake with a charcoal bamboo cup after it's been sitting there for 2-3 minutes because it apparently takes the "burn" off of alcohol and produces a "better flavor."  Anyway, so we were there for a while and my aunt bought my siblings and I each a little charcoal bamboo cup. :o)  They also sold nuts laced with charcoal bamboo and coffee beans laced with charcoal bamboo... now I feel like it's a drug using the word "lace."  I tried the nut, it tasted like a nut covered in charcoal... not terribly disgusting charcoal, but charcoal nonetheless.  My grandma apparently rather liked the coffee so we got her some of that too.
Afterwards my aunt apparently decided that I must be hungry again and went and bought me veggie buns unique to Hualien.  This was only after an hour maybe two after breakfast.  Any wonder how I put on 10-12 lbs in 8 days?
Anyway, we next went to a wood carving place.  This wood is special because it has quite the amazing, sweet, wood scent.  It is also amazingly beautiful. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of this wood in English. They actually sell pieces of this wood for people to hang in their house or put in their drawers to make things smell wonderful, but they were nice enough to just pick up some scraps from their carvings and gave it to my grandma and I.
 I thought this was absolutely amazing.
 I took a picture of this one because of the snails, yes the snails.  I have always loved snails when I was little and we would play with them, etc.  Nowadays I HATE snails with a passion because they eat my garden, but I wanted to show people that snails aren't seen as terrible pests in Taiwan and they actually incorporate it in their fancy art!
 Anyway, after the wood exhibit we looked at a few other museums near the wood exhibit.  Then we headed around the mountains to another beach.  Once again it was cold, windy and wet that day, but it didn't stop us!  We ended up having lunch around 2pm at a crazy place.  I don't even really know how to describe this.  It was out of someone's home which was right next to the beach.  They supposedly cook fabulous fish and catch them fresh almost daily.  We got there and nothing was set up and was told that they didn't go get fish today because of the weather.  But, they decided that they would feed us anyway.  So they start setting up the tables and chairs in what I would describe as a covered driveway/carport.  We saw them take food out of their freezer and they start making us lunch on the side of the road.  When asked where the owner was, we were told that he was across the road in the mountain hunting wild boars.  Now, I have never been afraid to eat anything in Taiwan, but I was a little iffy when it came to this lunch.  The veggie dishes were tasty enough, but the fish dishes I had to wonder and I was a little scared, but I ate it anyway.  Luckily I didn't get too sick from it all, it just didn't settle as well as I would've liked.
 After lunch we toured a bit at a very small smoked fish exhibit and then headed off for tea time.  The tea place we went to was actually really fun.  It was a shop owned by an artist that makes sculptures out of bronze, wood and rock.  The place was perched right up on a hill over looking the water and it was quite nice.  We ordered 3 different types of herbal teas and some cakes and cookies.  The tea was actually amazingly tasty.  We had a citrus tea and two flower teas.  I learned after 3-4 small cups of tea that if I ever drank it all, my aunt would magically pick up the tea pot and re-fill my cup while she was deep in conversation and telling political stories to the other family that we were with.  Once I noticed that, I left my cup half full. :o)

 I had to take a picture of the flutist!

This was pretty much the end of our touring of Hualien.  After tea we drove back into the city.  My grandma and I had to take a train that night at 7:45pm to head back to Taipei.  We were going to go eat at a restaurant, but I was so full and our time was somewhat tight so we went back to my aunts and she made us dinner there.  I was extremely impressed by my aunt's speed of cooking and how many dishes there were.  Some she just reheated, others she cooked up, but regardless, it took her maybe 15-20 minutes and all of a sudden the table was filled with 6-7 different dishes of food.   Now, I don't remember EVER eating something that she's made before.  All growing up, whenever we visited Hualien, all I remember was restaurants upon restaurants and finally when there was so much left-overs we'd eat the left-overs at her house.  But I don't ever remember her cooking.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was an excellent cook.  We talked a bit more, and I discovered for the first time that she really was quite an amazing wife/mother.  She is a part of the high society and she plays her part VERY well.  She's a very gracious hostess, but very commanding at the same time.  She was a good mother, albeit strict at times, but she was a good mother.  She is now a very loving grandmother.  She's got a soft side to her that I've never known before till we chatted this time around.  I'm grateful for the time that I got to spend with her.  This never would have happened had I been with my siblings or other family because we just simply wouldn't have talked as much as we did this time.
Anyway, after dinner my uncle took us to the train station and we headed back to Taipei.  We arrived in Taipei Songshan station at around 10:15pm.  It was actually FREEZING when we got off the train and we couldn't find a taxi for 15-20 minutes.  I felt awful because I knew my grandma was cold but I didn't have a way of keeping her warm.  I figured that in Taiwan you could find a taxi anywhere at anytime!  That was apparently true only at the Taipei City Main station and we should have gotten off there instead, but we didn't know.  We got to Gina's fairly late - 11:00-ish, I showered and headed off to my little makeshift bed on the floor.

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