Monday, 10 November 2008

Taitung, Chenggong, Hualien - 台東 成功 花蓮市

Man it was good to get outta the rat race of Taipei! Even though this weekend I'll be back in the boondocks working again among the trees of the Zurcas orchards in rural Victoria, I wanted to head down Taiwan's rugged and relatively sparsely populated east coast. I took a train from Taipei Main Station, following the coastline down to Hualien then heading inland passing through the Eastern Rift Valley, a land of tropical fruit orchards and rice fields. Stunning scenery. I arrived in Taitung (pronounced Taidong) to discover that the hostel I was planning to stay at had shut down, so after wandering about for a while I checked into a cheap but clean and friendly hotel for three days. Taitung is a very laid back coastal town, the beach is clean but rips make it unsafe for swimming. There is an airforce base just out of town and military jets often fly low and slow over the town on their approach to the runway. I spent alot of time on the beach and in a coastal forest park with shady paths, birdwatching huts, a butterfly reserve and rowing lake. One evening around dusk while sitting close to the surf upon one of the many great ugly concrete wave breakers placed here and there along the foreshore I saw a waterspout for the first time. A great tornado of black cloud perhaps a kilometre offshore lifting water from the oceans surface. Wow. Leaving Taitung suitably relaxed and less pale skinned than when I arrived I caught a local bus up to the fishing port of Chenggong, the town itself is nothing special but the port with it's large and small fishing boats coming and going was a fine sight. The harbour itself is protected by large concrete walls in the ocean - neccesary protection from the frequent summer typhoons. I was lucky to be there for the auctioning of the days catch. I saw swordfish, yellowfin tuna, barracutta, and perhaps two dozen other sorts of fish which I have no idea the names of, black, blue, silver, orange and even a few stripey ones. It was a real treat. Saw some hard as nails fisher men and women too, harder than nails I reckon. Even the women chew betelnut in these parts. They didn't pay much attention to me though, they were just busy getting on with their tasks. I saw a couple of really cheap looking hotels in Chenggong, but they didn't look too inviting so I continued up the coast by bus to Hualien, the largest city on the east coast. I had the large comfortable bus to myself for half the journey, and was joined by another passenger who bummed a Yuan(NT$) from me for the rest. Oh, there were a dozen or so aboriginal junior high school students who got on at one small town and who got off at various spots in the next, the whole time engaging in lively banter with the driver. The east coast is home to many of Taiwan's aboriginals of which there are nine tribes. There is evidence that suggests they are related to New Zealand Maori. They certainly look the same. The coastal road offers some stunning scenery, and traffic during weekdays is sparse, it reminds me of parts of New Zealand's South Island west coast. Spent a night in a hotel in Hualien, where I visited last year, enjoyed it just as much as last time. Perhaps if and when I return to continue my Chinese studies it could be at the university there...... Taipei's charms seem to have worn off for me. At about eleven thirty I recieved a call to my hotel room asking if I needed a massage. What service! The whole time I was away I spoke nothing but Chinese, which was hugely satisfying. I'm now back in Taipei for my last few days in Taiwan - on friday night I catch a plane to Melbourne, Australia......

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