Taiwan: Taitung and Dulan

My time here in Taiwan is going very quickly. A part of me didn’t expect to find a job in a different country for next year, and I thought I’d have another year to explore this beautiful country. As excited as I am about my new job and moving to a new country, I am just as sad to be leaving a country I have come to love.

With only a little bit of time left, I am attempting to see places I’ve already seen and loved and visit a few more of the places I haven’t been to yet. The rain thwarted my efforts this past weekend although I did find a new market (so fun!), but my fingers are crossed that I’ll have another chance to do some of the things on my list before I go.

One of the trips I took last year that I haven’t yet written took me to two of the few places I’ve been to outside of Taipei and the furthest south I’ve been – Taitung and Dulan. Jon and I planned to visit Taitung, Dulan, and Green Island, but we only made it to two out of the three.

We flew out of Songshan Airport to Taitung on Friday night. It’s a short and easy flight, but we still arrived pretty late. Our hotel was out of the town proper near a fishing port. It was a rainy, dreary night, and we were so hungry!

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View from the balcony of our room

We went looking in a misty rain on a dark night down alleys and around temples and discovered that, at 7:45 pm, everything was closed or closing except a tiny, local restaurant. When I say restaurant, I mean wooden shack. When I say tiny, I mean a room filled by with three little tables that seated two in front of a cooking area and a glass case with seafood for us to select for them to fry up.

Additional seating outside was occupied by a few people, but we bypassed them and went in. One of the young ladies followed us in a few minutes after we ordered and informed us that the place was owned by a husband and wife team who were incredibly sweet. I’m not sure where our new friend was from (I can’t remember now), but she spoke both English and Mandarin. The wife whom we had ordered from using the point and mime method did not speak any English, but the husband whom we had not yet met spoke a little.

The young lady told us she was staying nearby, had been to Green Island the day before and ahd gotten badly bitten by a stray dog. This was not reassuring to me since we were planning to go there Sunday, but she said it was an unusual thing to have happen. She’d had to extend her stay in Taitung, though, because of the bite and this couple had been very kind to her.

She sat and talked to us while we ate one of the most delicious meals of fried food, and the owner brought us the most delicious Taiwan beer I’d ever had. I wish now that I’d taken a picture of everything, but I was too tired that night to think of it. For a spontaneous meal on a night when we thought we’d be eating 7-11, we were off to a great start. We walked back to our hotel room – a suite on the top floor (three stories) with a huge bathtub where I planned to soak for the next hour.

Taitung:

The next day we took a taxi cab to Taitung Forest Park then walked around Taitung City, visited the Taitung Railway Art Village then had an amazing meal made specifically for us at a restaurant where one of Jon’s co-workers had a friend.

The park was lovely! There were so many different kinds of plants with everything labelled and described

The Taitung Railway Art Village was adorable. It had hot air balloons everywhere, little shops, an outdoor area with vendors selling crafts and t-shirts and jewelry, and, of course, an old railway station with trains!

We left there completely stuffed and wandered around the night market. For such a smallish city, the night market was packed! I took a million pictures and drove Jon crazy then we headed back to the hotel where I almost immediately began vomiting. Jon slept while I spent the night by the toilet throwing up every morsel of once-delicious food. Let me tell you, it was not as good coming back up.

We were supposed to leave for Green Island the next morning, but the boat trip over is notoriously rough. Having spent the night vomiting, I was still feeling queasy and definitely not up for a rough boat ride. I spent the morning in bed while Jon went out and explored some rock park in Taitung. By early evening, I finally made it out of bed, and we took a walk by the water near the hotel.

The ocean is so calming and always awe-inspiring. This area had people fishing and large fishing boats and lots of rocks which made it difficult to walk.

Dulan:

We hitchhiked the next day to Dulan, getting picked up within 10 minutes of putting out our thumbs. The couple who picked us up spoke a little English, were willing to drive us anywhere, and were disappointed we didn’t speak Chinese. We got our picture taken so they could post it on Facebook, presumably entitled “The Disappointing Foreigners.” They dropped us off at the Dulan Sugar Factory and continued on their way back to Taipei.

We took pictures, wandered into and out of a few shops, walked through the one-street shopping/restaurant area of town, got directions to the beach, and headed down. The beach was stunning. We spent a few hours in the water before hunger drove us back to the one-street town where we ate at a vegetarian Mexican restaurant, Pink Rosa. It was good, not great, but filling and the closest thing I’d had to Mexican food since I’d arrived in Taiwan in August!

After lunch, we decided to hike off our food and headed up the mountain. It was rural and awesome with fields of crops and fields of cows and the occasional truck or scooter passing us on the two-lane road. We were still in our bathing suits and getting burnt and getting chafed by our wet clothes. We found a clearing with some benches in the woods and quickly changed before heading back down.

We found our way back to the abandoned sugar factory and hitchhiked home. It took us a little longer this time to get a ride. A car pulled up with a little bit of room in the backseat with fishing gear, and we climbed in. We had a male driver with a female passenger again, but the female passenger spoke fluent English and talked our ears off the entire way back to our hotel, spending part of the time berating us for not knowing Mandarin and the other part promoting the driver’s band.

It was our last night in Taitung and, by now, we were exhausted. We showered, found another local restaurant to eat in, and fell into bed.

Living in Taipei doesn’t begin to give you a taste of what it’s like outside the city. In the city, there are places I can’t eat because I don’t speak the language but I can find another place a block over that does. I have many choices, and it’s easy to live here without speaking Mandarin. Also – public transportation is easy and takes me within walking distance of all the important places.

Outside of Taipei, it’s different. In the rural areas, it’s hard to find people who speak English and it’s harder to get around and there is no public transportation. We basically relied on taxis and the patience of people to understand our halting Chinese coupled with their usually slightly better English, Google translations, and hand gestures.

Keep all of this in mind when you decide to venture outside of Taipei. It’s worth it, but it’s definitely harder.

Wrap-Up:

Taitung is a cute, small town that is challenging to navigate on limited Chinese skills. We easily saw almost everything there was to see in one day.

Dulan is an even smaller beach town that has a beautiful beach and beautiful scenery, but that’s it. Go if you want to spend time relaxing at the beach with no other agenda.

All in all, it was a relaxing weekend, but I still regret that we didn’t make it to Green Island. *sigh* I guess there is no way to predict getting sick – and maybe I’ll be back here on vacation one day to see all the places I didn’t make it to while living here!