Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taiwan -- Day 2

So excited, that after 4 hours of sleep I woke to the sounds of the city.   I packed my bags, got ready, did another walk around the city during the daylight and headed to breakfast.  

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Off for a quick city tour of Taipei before heading to the airport for our domestic flight. Our first stop was the magnificent Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The hall is situated in the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park, which covers over 240,000 square meters in the District of Zhongzheng, Taipei.  Its striking blue tiled octagon roof caps the pristine white walls of the Hall, which is situated on top of three terraces.


Carp and Koi Ponds

Next stop was 7-11 to pick up a quick to-go lunch before we arrived at the SongShan International Airport for our flight to Taitung. Since this was a domestic flight you are only allowed 10 kilos of baggage and we were all over that limit.  It took a while to check in and pay for the extra baggage but soon enough we were at the gate, eating our lunch and waiting to board.  Occasionally I could hear a rustling of chains but paid no attention to it.  That is until Wireless Mark tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look behind. 

Sure enough there was the source of the rustling chains: a prisoner with wrist and ankle shackles in flip-flops and a bright yellow prisoner jumpsuit talking to his two guards. Finally we boarded and to my companion Bev’s intense uneasiness we were seated directly in front of the prisoner and his guards.  I have no idea what he did or why he was travelling but it was certainly a first for me to sit in front of a handcuffed man during a flight.

A short 45 minute hop and we arrived in Taitung and were greeted by our lovely bus driver and his purple Pony Bus.  We all jumped in and hit the road heading to the Marongarong/Donghe Tribe’s House for some river rafting. We headed northeast up Highway 11 passing some amazing views of the ocean, rural farm life, and Jinzun Beach Area.

Now being from BC, Canada I had a vision of extreme white water river rafting.  That was not the case.  Instead we had a lovely afternoon of gentle river paddling on chairs that were attached to our bamboo raft.  The tribe was super friendly and got us together and fitted for our life jackets in a flash.  We chose our rafting chairs, grabbed an oar and off we went.  We were at the mouth of the river and so proceeded to row deeper inland. We were basically at the bottom of this limestone canyon of giant boulders that had been carved over thousands of years.  The water was beautiful and calm.

Photo by Mark Blacknell,

Our two bamboo rafts rowed as far as we could before fallen boulders blocked the river. There were beautiful outcroppings of rock and Wireless Mark decided that he would get up and take a few great photos of our group.  Everything went perfectly until he had to maneuver his way back onto the raft.  That didn’t go as smoothly and Wireless slipped into the river.  It was like watching a movie in slow-motion, you knew it was going to happen but you couldn’t stop it.  Unfortunately and not so funny was the fact that Mark had his new HTC phone and new sunglasses on him.  He didn’t remember till he was fully submerged that he had the phone.  He jumped out like a scalded rabbit and with the help of a magic bag of rice* was able to save his phone, but alas not the sunglasses.  The Mawuku River and Mother Nature were not going to be kind to us that day.  On our way back to the Tribe House a strong gust of wind blew off Beverly’s hat and her new sunglasses.  After a frantic swim and search they would never be recovered either.  We left our rafts and headed on foot back up to the Tribe House.  We were greeted by a local dish of smoked yams and small shooters of an unfermented rice wine drink, Choujiu.  The Tribe operates a hotel on the site, as well as offering bike rentals to explore the area.  After a few rice wine shooters and a tour of the area we hit the road again. 

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