Friday, December 17, 2010

Taiwan -- Day 2 Cont'd

We headed back down Highway 11 to Jhihben, stopping at the Jinzun Beach Area for a coffee and a view of the gorgeous coastline line and unspoiled beaches.  Too bad no one told the coffee shop we were stopping by because it was closed. What we did get to see for the first time were these immense spiders hanging between the trees.  Even in the strong winds coming off the water these giant arachnids never moved.  I have to say they gave me the heebie-jeebies! So off we went, coffee less, following our leader Fearless John back onto the Purple Pony and our next hotel.

Count of Lost and Damaged Items by Day 2: 
2 pairs of Sunglasses
1 HTC phone.

An unused Waterslide

"Buddha Head" Fruit -- very good

The Hotel Royal Chihpen is a gorgeous world class hot springs leisure resort located south of Taitung City in Jhihben.  When we arrived it was quite late and dark so it was hard to get an idea of the surrounding area.  We were proficiently checked in and everyone went to his or her room to get ready for dinner. I had a Superior Suite room with a separate living room, Two King Beds, a gigantic bathroom and a balcony that overlooked the courtyard and dance stage.  This was only Night Two in Taiwan but this hotel was even nicer than The Howard back in Taipei.  (We didn’t know at the time how amazing the hotels and rooms were we going to stay at would be.) 

Chihpen Hotel - Living Room

Chihpen Hotel - Bedroom

Everyone met for a lovely buffet dinner in the Naruwen Restaurant*.  It had a large selection of Chinese and Western Style foods.  For those that know me I am not that adventurous with non-western food. I decided that this was a trip of a lifetime and therefore I should and would try everything that I could. So that night at the Naruwen Buffet I tried frog legs and baked oysters for the first time.  The frog legs were good and tasted just like chicken (as they say) but the baked oyster with melted cheese was cold and I was not expecting that.  I couldn’t eat it.

*This restaurant was also the place that we received the magic pack of rice.  Wireless Mark had heard that if you get moisture into your electronics that you should put it in a bag of uncooked rice for 12-24 hours so that the rice attracts the moisture and the electronics “dry” out.  It worked!! 36 hours after swimming in the Maruku River, Mark’s HTC was working again.

After dinner we watched the local tribal children do a dance performance on the main stage.  It was a total delight.  The music, and the beat had the audience moving along and the costumes and dance moves had your eye trained to them for the entire performance.  Once that was over we went for a walk through the hotel grounds and the amazing spa paradise area.  The hotel has a large outdoor pool as well as many spa pools.  There were the Rose, Mint, Lavender, Hot and Cool pools, as well as the walking pool path and massage areas.  Our group had to depart the hotel at 530am the next morning but neither Kate, or I wanted to miss anything.  We headed for an Open-Air Spa that we heard the hotel had.  After following a path through the dimly lit vegetation we came upon this old fashioned house of sorts.  We acted out a little English/Chinese charades performance and were given towels and pointed toward a fabric covered opening in another building.  Inside the building it was a small locker room with cubbies and drawers for your personal stuff, a tea counter and a vanity area and privacy sliding doors to the outside pool area. 

This particular outdoor spa had a rule of no clothing allowed. Okay, deep breath, you can do it, Niamh! It’s only naked hottubbing in Taiwan with people you’ve never met (but have to spend the next 10 days with). Now, I have had two children in 3 years and am not a fan of exercise.  You can imagine how I felt about walking stark naked into an open-air hot springs area.  This was only exaggerated by the fact that my hot-tubbing companion Kate, has no body fat, is a certified yoga and tennis instructor and just completed an Ironman.  Uh huh, I know, but “Trip of a Lifetime Mantra” was being repeated in my head over and over again and out we went.  The spa was amazing! The mineral water was really hot and invigorating.  When Kate and I got in the pool there was no one else in the spa area.  By the time we left the entire spa area was full and we had had several conversations with other visiting Taiwanese women.  It’s a little surreal, but amazingly freeing, to sit naked in a hot spring with 17 other women, all of whom are also naked, having a chat that consists of hand-motions and broken Chinese/English. 

By the time I got back to my room it was almost midnight and we had a supremely early morning to get ready for.  It was the Press Conference and Kick-Off of the 2010 Taiwan Cup and Taitung International Triathlon.  We needed to be at Huoshui Lake by 630am.

Now I want to mention here that this trip wouldn’t have happened without the generosity of the Taiwan Tourism Board.  Their invitation and planning of the 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival and Taiwan Cup made this possible.  I thank them very much from the bottom of my heart for a chance to experience their amazing country, culture and people.

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