Having finished the English camp, the schoolmaster and the schoolmistress, namely Prashant and I decided to go on a well deserved holiday in the southern part of Taiwan. Our first destination was the second biggest city of Taiwan, Kaohsiung. It took us about 4 hours to get there by train. There’s high speed railway in Taiwan, by which we could have made it to Kaohsiung in 1,5 hours, but the price is accordingly around double, too. (Earlier, we had tried the HSR for just one stop from Taoyuan to Banqiao for fun, but even that cost 125 NT dollars.)
We spent almost two days in Kaohsiung, during which, to our misfortune, it was raining heavily almost all the time, because a typhoon was passing by the island. You can ask why we didn’t check the weather forecast before going, but the truth is we couldn’t really have gone at another time, so we had to settle for these dates. Still we managed to get to a few beautiful places.
To me, one of the most important things is the building of the Former British Consulate. If you don’t know me or haven’t been reading the blog for a long time, you might not know about my hobby called Postcrossing. In the blogpost that I wrote about it in October I already mentioned that I had received a postcard from Taiwan – that was my second Postcrossing card. It showed the British Consulate in Kaohsiung. 🙂 I think it’s best if I share with you the letter that I wrote to the sender of that card.
you may have forgotten about this, but in October 2010 you sent me a postcard showing the building of the Former British Consulate in Kaohsiung. It was the second postcard I ever received via Postcrossing. Guess what, this summer I spent two months in Taiwan on an internship, and on the 14th of July I visited the building:) This is such a cool experience and I am really grateful to you for the card!!!
There is more to the story! In Kaohsiung we stayed at Hostel Hamasen, and the receptionist guy happened to know Postcrossing, what is more, he is a friend of Paulo Magalhaes, the founder of Postcrossing. So many coincidences…
And one more thing. In October, I had no idea that I was going to go to Taiwan, but I showed your postcard to my father and we talked a little bit about your country. He was very ill at the time and unfortunately we lost him in January. So he never knew about my internship but at least I talked to him about Taiwan a little, because of your card.
Words can’t describe how much this whole thing means to me…
Thank you again and I wish you all the best and happy postcrossing in the future, too:)
Zsófi from Budapest, Hungary”
In this letter I didn’t want to go into details, but it’s not hard to understand that my biggest grief about the Taiwan trip is that my father didn’t know about it, that I couldn’t tell him about it anymore, he couldn’t give me advice, he couldn’t be proud of me, I couldn’t bring him gifts from there… So the few words that he said when we talked about the postcard is all he ever actually said to me about Taiwan, and not just something I imagined he would have said.
So this whole thing is fantastic to me, and the little story I told about the hostel in the letter is the cherry on top. 🙂
Here’s the picture that was taken of me at the British Consulate.
I have to say that the building of the consulate is not so interesting on the inside, however its surroundings are very nice (garden and temples), and also there’s a great view of the harbor and some parts of the city. We went up there on foot from the hostel, and then we got caught in the aforementioned downpour. We managed to go back down when it ceased a little. Originally we had planned on renting bikes and exploring Kaohsiung on them, because there is a really good bike rental system here called C-bike. But because of the rain we decided to do something where we’d be sheltered: we went to the Tuntex Sky Tower, which everybody calls the 85 Building (it has 85 floors). With its 347,6 meters, this is Taiwan’s second tallest building. We managed to get lost here a little, which was mostly due to the Taiwanese’s amazing English skills. Finding the building was not a problem, but inside instead of going up to the viewdeck, we found ourselves at an expo of electronic devices. Of course we were telling everybody that we wanted to go up to the top of the building, still all the people instructed us to go here instead. We even bought the 100 NT dollar entrance ticket because they said we’d get to the top through here. After wandering among the stands in vain for quite a while, it became clear that there’s no way up through here, so we went back downstairs – and this time we immediately found the ticket office of the view deck. I didn’t believe in it, but thanks to the perseverance of Prashant, we even got our money back that we had spent on the unnecessary expo ticket. I would never have imagined, but after a while somebody finally understood our complaints.
Even though we wasted quite a lot of time with all this (especially with the wandering around), we finally got to the viewdeck located on the 74th and 75th floors. We liked this elevator very much, too, because it was dim and had stars on the ceiling. We also spent quite a lot of time on the top, the view being pretty awesome here as well. Let some pictures do the talking.
Evening had already fallen by the time we got to the Lotus Pond. Lotus Pond is a lake with beautiful temples around its shore. Allegedly there are lotuses on the water but of course we couldn’t see any of them. In turn the floodlit Dragon and Tiger Pagoda was an amazing sight, as were the Pavilions of Spring and Autumn. 🙂 Because of the stupid rain we couldn’t spend a long time here, but still we were able to take a few good (?) pictures.
The last stop of the evening before going back to the hostel was the Liuhe Night Market – but we mainly just rushed through it, looking for some food. There weren’t too many people because of the rain. I can remember buying some octopus and maybe some kind of fish, too. Usually I tried to grab the opportunities to have some seafood. As I know Prashant, he rather must have had some chicken. However both of us had a glass of sugarcane juice which wasn’t too tasty, and allegedly it was even expensive compared to Indian prices. 🙂
The next morning we took a walk in the harbor before saying goodbye to Kaohsiung, and then got on our bus to Kenting. I think the trip took about 2,5 hours and cost a little less than 300 NT dollars (per person of course).
Kenting is the southernmost part of Taiwan, located in the national park with the same name. It is a beautiful area of the country. Travelling on the seashore by bus, we already agreed that it looked like Jurassic Park. 🙂 Lots of mountainsides with lush vegetation and rocky shores. Earlier we managed to book a really good hotel, close to the sea, within walking distance from the beach and in the middle of the local night market.
We spent most of the afternoon on the beach at Little Bay (Xiaowan), which actually meant walking in the sand and in the shallow part of the water, we couldn’t bathe. Although the seashore and its surroundings are amazingly beautiful, the water itself is unfortunately very dirty and full of litter, too. Still we had a good time and we were hungry enough when we headed to the night market afterwards. Though smaller than Shilin, I think Kenting Night Market is just as good, cause it has more of a party atmosphere, because of the closeness of the beach. Among the souvenirs there are lots of things made of seashells, beach equipment and such. I managed to buy some stuff and we also had dinner, it was a nice last evening.
Still, the best part of the whole mini holiday was the next morning, when we rented bikes from the hotel (250 NT dollars each) and we decided to cycle to Baisha, because the day before we had heard from a tourist that the beach over there was much nicer than Little Bay. The way was about 15km long, on a slightly hilly terrain, but it led on the seashore quite a lot, so I can definitely say that I had never cycled in a more beautiful place. Along the way we stopped at South Bay for a while, this beach was bigger and more crowded than Little Bay, but the water was slightly cleaner. Still we didn’t want to get stuck here so we left for Baisha. I am quite proud of ourselves that we found it since we only had a not too detailed map and the road signs, in a place completely unknown to us. I have to say it was worth it, the water was really nice and clear here, so we spent a long time jumping in the waves, which were quite big by the way, so we couldn’t go swimming. Luckily we even found showers here, so we could wash off the sand before going back.
I have to say I managed to get quite sunburnt. I did use sunscreen and I even had a T-shirt on, but the top of my back wasn’t covered and I forgot to put sunscreen there…also onto the part of my thighs that, during cycling, so until the moment we got to the beach, was covered by my shorts. Stupid Zsófi, that’s all I can say. In addition my ears got burnt like two toasts. The days after weren’t the most pleasant…
If this wasn’t enough, I got a puncture at the very beginning of the way back. I was like this is the end, we have to catch the Taipei bound train in Kaohsiung in a few hours, and we’re still here at the end of the world with a punctured bike. Prashant could see this on my face but luckily he didn’t panic, instead he started showing the internationally recognizable sign for pumping to the first person we came across. Miraculously they did get us a pump. We had to do the same thing three more times on the way back, so with some suffering and timeloss but we somehow managed to cycle back to the hotel. Without a doubt the Taiwanese were helpful, at one place they even gave us cold water in cups, which was great in the scorching heat. We arranged the last pumping close to the hotel so that the wheel couldn’t get flat until then, and they didn’t notice anything… 🙂 They weren’t the best bikes anyways. (Not to mention that it was simply impossible to rent bikes that were big enough for us, but for that half day we managed on them.)
In the hotel they were a little vexed already because we should have checked out two hours earlier, but thank God they didn’t throw our stuff out so everything was fine in the end. It started raining again while we were waiting for the bus, which wouldn’t come. But a taxi driver came up to us and he offered a surprisingly good deal, so we accepted it and took the taxi (earlier in Kaohsiung the taxi was much more expensive than the bus). I think the taxi cost only 10 NT dollars more than the bus and we might have gotten there a little faster as well. We did feel a little crowded when the driver picked up two more people for a while, but oh well.
When we got to Taoyuan where we had to change to the smaller Yingge bound train, I managed to leave my shoes on the train (I was wearing my flipflops). We were on the platform when I realised it, but I have to say that Prashant saved me again, he told me immediately to go back and he said he’d hold the train. And we did it! He stood at the door and even though I don’t think the conductor understood what he said, the point is that he didn’t start the train until I fought my way through the crowd and got back with my shoes in my hand. I’m forever grateful. 🙂
After such adventures we arrived to Yingge Station around half past 10, where I just caught the last bus home, too. So that was the mini holiday. 🙂