You Can’t Rain on my Parade!

21 Nov

Well I have to say, out of all of the weeks for my family to come visit, they picked the rainiest of them all… but I have to say that we made the most of it. For the time they spent here in Taiwan it rained almost 13/14 days, I could not believe it! For the last three months I have been talking about how beautiful the weather was here, that they were going to sweat more than they ever had in their entire lives, and that they didn’t even need to pack a pair of pants, I was so wrong. Thankfully they took the bad weather very well and kept reminding themselves that even though it is raining, it is -20 in Canada and it is +20 here, so no complaining!

Their trip started with a journey flying from Calgary – San Fran – Japan – Taipei and then taking the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taipei to me in Kaohsiung. Because I still was attending class I just gave them a list of things to see and do around the city during the day and then I would meet up with them in the evening. Conveniently most of the things to do in Kaohsiung are outside, so not so great for when it is raining; on the plus side the hotel they were staying at was located near two large shopping centers, so once again no complaining!

I packed my belongings into a backpack that would get me by for the next week and Friday morning we were off on our weeklong adventure across Taiwan. Our initial plan included most of the main spots to see including:

– Hot springs (many if possible)

– Sun Moon Lake

– Taroko Gorge

– Taipei from top to bottom

– And for the sake of my mother, shopping (later I found out Marcia was quite the shopper too ☺)

Stop 1: Guanziling Hot Springs (HSR Train to Chaiyi, bus then taxi to Guanziling)

We had the hotel that my family was staying at in Kaohsiung book us accommodation recommended by my travel guide for the Guanziling Hot Springs, we did not realize that there was an old village and a new village to stay in but upon arrival our hotel looked a little ‘tired’. We went out for a walk to find some lunch and see the town; after following what is known as the ‘Hero Stairs’ (as they were used to train injured Japanese soldiers) up to the tourist information center we realized there was a much newer village. Lonely Planet Taiwan needs to update Guanziling! Embarrassingly do I admit that we found a much nicer place to stay will beautiful hot spring facilities, went to the original place to get our bags and left. The change was well worth it and I completely do not regret it as after switching Marcia kindly informed us that at the first place she put her hand in the mud spring pool and it came out with clumps of hair, this 100 % justifies out move. The mud hot springs were amazing and a fun experience, you were to cover yourself in mud and then sit and let it dry, while you were letting it dry you could rest your feet in a pool filled with little fish. These fish would then suck the dead skin off your feet, I do not recommend this for people like myself with ticklish feet, it is unbearable and you will most likely embarrass yourself like I did by laughing uncontrollably and disrupting the quite calmness of the hot springs. I must add that my mother does not have ticklish feet and could sit there quite content with all the fish… I’m sorry Mum but eww it still weird’s me out.

After an executive decision made by Marcia and my Mum, we decide to skip Alishan mountain as they felt that it was going to be even more ‘tired’ than the old village of Guanziling (I may still try and go here before I leave).


Stop 2: Sun Moon Lake (Taxi back to Chaiyi, HSR to Taichung, bus to Sun Moon Lake)

The bus ride alone was a beautiful trip into the Taiwan mountains (and Marcia figures just exactly what we would have saw at Alishan). Apparently I need to figure out the system for my Lonely Planet travel guide, this time the recommendation for accommodation was spot on. Our hotel had beautiful views of the moon lake side and was very accessible to all you needed to see while there. The first night we were checking out the sights and found out there was a celebration at the main temple for the 100th Birthday of Taiwan, followed by fireworks. It was really cool to be at a temple in the evening, but also kind of eerie at the same time. Sadly it was a very misty/cloudy night so the fireworks just looked like big poufs of colour. The next day we rode the shuttle around the lake to see all the hot spots, ride the gondola, and then take the boat back across the lake. We had a lunch of Taiwanese food that my family even seemed to enjoy, thank goodness for fried rice or I think they would have starved for 2 weeks. We woke in the morning to find the first sunny day since they had arrived and decided it would be nice to walk around some more before taking the bus back to Taichung. We found a nice walking trail to the matchmakers temple and then we headed for the bus.

Sun Moon Lake

Marcia had heard of a big Buddha that was a popular tourist spot to see around Taichung, so before taking the HSR to Taipei we wanted to stash our bags at the train station and go check it out. I found out the directions from the tourist information booth in the train station and was happily surprised when she said it was in the city and the shuttle was free, off we went. Upon arrival Marcia tells me that it’s not the Buddha she had seen pictures of… shit, I took us to the wrong one. It was the biggest SMILING Buddha in Taiwan; however, outside of Taichung there is THE biggest Buddha in Taiwan, oops. What’s a girl supposed to do in a country full of Buddha’s? Once again, so sorry Marcia!

Wrong Big Buddha

Stop 3: Taipei (HSR to Taipei from Taichung)

Here we were booked for the next five days and planned to do day trips from Taipei as well as hit most of the main sights to see in the city. My sister had found out from the tour guide that there was at one time a night market with ‘snake alley’ where they would scare foreign tourists by cutting off snakeheads and drinking the blood, she told me to avoid this at all costs. One of the days we planned a trip to Beitou hot springs as you can get to them via MRT in Taipei city and then Mum, Emily and Marcia booked a tour to Taroko Gorge without me as I have already been there. Our next few days were filled with great food, thanks to a connection Marcia had in Taipei that gave us a list of local restaurants; shopping in mega malls and night markets; touring memorials, museums, temples, and more… The night before the Taroko Gorge tour we got a disappointing phone call to say that the tour had been cancelled. I haven’t mentioned it, but this whole week leading up to the tour it had been raining, which then resulted in a rockslide causing the park to not be accessible. Major bummer! I have to say that I was very impressed with my family, just like all of the previous bad weather they were very understanding, obviously the happenings of the weather are totally out of our control, but if it had been my trip, I think I would have been a little more upset. Kudos to you ladies!

National Palace Museum

Our evening was then filled with the search for Japanese karaoke for Marcia and this took us to a local karaoke place near our hotel. I have gone to karaoke a few times since I have been here, but this place was something special. The door opened to a room full of locals, a few of which who were passed out or nearly passed out and the karaoke machine full blast. We were taken to our own room in the back and accompanied by a worker who could speak Japanese and a little bit of English. She was fairly drunk and wanted to sing songs with Marcia, and even though I don’t understand Japanese I know she was totally butchering them, that is the drunk lady not Marcia, she rocked! This lady was there to make sure we were drinking/buying beer which would be our fee for the room. We were also visited by her boss who came and had some beer and told me that I needed to come back to Taipei soon so he could cook for me and I think set me up with someone he knew… what a night. After our three bottles were done we left to pay the originally discussed fee of what I thought was 600NT but ended up being more like 1800NT. At this point we didn’t want to argue with the boss and headed out.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Saturday. We went out for breakfast at Grandma Nitti’s (highly recommend) and then said our goodbyes at the train station. I am extremely thankful for the time that I got to spend with my family. It was a nice break from the stressful school in Kaohsiung (HAHA kidding – I will be honest, more like the party scene in Kaohsiung).

Thank you Marcia for taking care of my Mum and sister and showing them the ropes of international travel, as well as laughing with me at them for lugging all of their luggage around. Your previous travel experiences are always interesting to hear about and helped us along the way!

Thank you Mum for taking the time out of your ridiculous desire to be a work-aholic. I know it was busy for you before coming and I am sure it will be busy for you this week as well. I really appreciate you wanting to see Taiwan and what I am experiencing on my exchange.

Thank you Emily for spending extra time at school to cram and get everything ready so that you could skip class in one of the most important years of high school. It was so nice to be able to introduce you to my friends here and laugh together at our Mum, I mean with our Mum. I cannot wait to travel more with you around the globe!


One Response to “You Can’t Rain on my Parade!”

  1. Madeleine Voetsch December 12, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.

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