Monday, March 22, 2010

Wulai Hot Springs Video

Wuliaojian Hiking Video

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shrimp Fishing

(Post by Bacon)
Back home, I used to mock places that made you pay to catch stocked fish in a small pond. I believe it's a lame concept for two reasons:
1 - What's the fun in catching something that's already been caught?
2 - Everyone knows that hunting man is the ultimate game.

Well these rules don't apply to Taiwan shrimp fishing because it's awesome. In Taiwan, there are a massive amount of shrimping places that consist of a large grubby building and an indoor pool. The pool is about 10ft x 30ft, and the water is colored dark green so you can't see the shrimp (because that would make it too easy). You simply go into the building, pay for your fishing time, buy a few beers, and channel your inner Benjamin Buford Blue (Bubba).

Catching the shrimp is rather straight forward. On your pole you have two small hooks where you bait two small, dried shrimp. It was really fun to catch our first shrimp until we discovered you needed to grab them tightly to get the hook out. It's a little more difficult than unhooking a fish, and it didn't help that I hate touching crustaceans (the insects of the sea). These things aren't small either, and some of them had pretty big pinchers. But whenever we were having trouble, a local was more than happy to come over and help us out.

Probably the best part of Taiwan shrimp fishing is the locals. They seem to really enjoy this activity, and watching a foreigner struggle to do something they find so easy seems to be great entertainment for them. The atmosphere is very similar to a bowling ally back home. Some people take it extremely seriously and are very skilled. Others view it as a joke, and after a few failed attempts, just start to have fun with it. And like bowling, it's a popular thing to do on weekend nights for a group of friends, a family, or a couple on a date. After your time's up, you get to clean them, salt them, and grill them up right there for some of the freshest shrimp you've ever had.

So if you want to feel like a local while looking ridiculous, I would recommend this to get a taste of Taiwan.

Hiking Wuliaojian

(Post by Alisha)
Whenever a hike comes with prerequisites, you know it's going to be an interesting experience. Some information we found on Wuliaojian warned that attempting hikers should be in good physical condition, wear gloves, and, above all, avoid the trek on a windy or rainy day. While we weren't quite sure we fit a hiker's definition of "peak climbing condition," we were excited to challenge ourselves and try a hike that was actually located in the backyard of our own Sanxia.

The hike started off steep and narrow, and, a few minutes in, we discovered the reason for the gloves. The trail is covered with knotted ropes that you need to use to pull yourself up over rocky walls and steep terrain. It was definitely a workout literally climbing up and up through this tropical, bamboo-lush mountain. Most of the trails we've hiked thus far have clearly marked signs, paths, or even steps, but this was one that was definitely off the map. Thanks to flags and markers left by other hikers, however, we never got lost.

After a little over three hours, the trail started to level out as we approached the ridge. This was the highlight of our trip: we were on the exposed spine of the mountain. The ridge was extremely skinny, from the vertigo-inducing few inches of width to the relative safety of one to two feet . On both sides of the spine was a pretty sheer drop, and there was only a simple rope path on our right for us to hold on to as we made our way across. After taking in some gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, we found out that the only way to get back was by repelling down a steep cliff wall. It didn't seem so bad to me at first, but I soon found out that going backwards when you're almost vertical with the mountain (with no harnesses or safety equipment,) is a little bit more difficult. It felt like forever (even though it probably only took about 5 minutes) and my arms were sore afterwards, but it was such a cool experience. After that, we had an easier hike back down and were back on level ground in about an hour. This one goes down as my favorite climb by far.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Taiwan Driving

(post by Bacon)
A few weeks ago I posted my Taiwan driving video. I thought it would give people a good example of what driving in Taiwan is like. Well, I found an awesome video on YouTube that I think does an even better job. It's called "Taiwan Drift" and it was posted by changster1.
Sunday, March 7, 2010

Yangmingshan Flower Festival

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the powerful and passionate Tiger, (my year!) which should help in warding off thieves, fire, and ghosts- the latter being a very troublesome but important aspect of Taiwanese religious beliefs. CNY in Taiwan is similar to Christmas back home; people clear out of town to visit family, take a vacation they've been planning all year, and participate in age-old traditions like the giving of "hongbaos," red envelopes full of money. The main difference is that the ringing in our ears is not from sleigh bells jingling; it's from fireworks exploding. Of course no Taiwanese holiday would be complete without excessive sparkling explosives- they have literally been going off all week during all hours of the day and night. This is in no small part due to the fact that they are extremely accessible and completely legal, even the ones that look like mini-missiles.

It's been great to have the week off school, but unfortunately the weather has been some of the worst we've had so far- cold, wet, and rainy. Therefore a lot of the plans we had for this week had to be abandoned. Instead of going camping, hiking, and day-tripping, we spent a lot of quality time together just relaxing and rejuvenating. We did find an amazing center that houses a huge selection of Taiwanese handicrafts and works of art from all around the island. It was great to find some beautiful and hand-made items for our friends and family back home.

It's really hard to believe that we're down to the last two months of our year living abroad. These last days will be spent doing all the things we still want to do and journeying to all places we still want to go. In the line-up is a trip to Orchid Island, a ride on Alishan Forest Railway- one of the most spectacular mountain-railways in the world, and a visit down South to the tropical beaches of Kenting. Hopefully we'll have some exciting updates for all of you soon!

*Update: This post is a few weeks late- I got a little behind on posting it- but Chinese New Year lasts through February and most of March, so it's still relevant. The weather is also now in the 80's with sunshine- it changed just in time for our vacation to end.

Taiwanese TV

(Post by Bacon)
Back home I used to watch way too much television. I really only had a few shows that I would want to watch on the DVR and then after that I would channel surf. In Taiwan any American show I want to see I can watch online, but any kind of casual watching habits I had have now been destroyed by Taiwanese television. The standard show here is filled with unnecessary sound effects, constant graphics popping up, and awkward laughing. Explaining it in words does not give it justice so I decided to just grab a few clips off youtube.

This is the basic Taiwanese formula at work.

Standard commercial formula.

This is actually a Japanese commercial, but it's not any weirder than anything I've seen here.

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