A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

I ate a bee!

Luckily, it was not alive.

semi-overcast 73 °F

We stayed in Kaohsiong Friday night and on Saturday morning attended my uncle's company banquet. I am finding that some of the most interesting foods are appetizers. At this banquet, fried bees and cashews were served. A gentleman at the table explained that the bees are not actually fully-formed bees yet and are harvested before they are "born". They're deep-fried to a crisp and served with sauteed cashews. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but the cashews and the bees end up being the same curved crescent shape!

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Eat 'em up, yum!

I actually only had one, by the time I finished taking the pictures, the rest of the bees were all gone! It really didn't taste like much, just fried crunchiness. But I guess quite popular, at least at my table!

Also pictured is the caviar cake slice and green onion described in a previous post.

Oh, on a similar note, while the caviar appetizer is harvested from the female oh hee, a local large Pacific Ocean fish, a main dish was served later in the banquet that was the male reproductive organ from the same fish. It was explained as the fish's prostate, but I don't think fish have prostates... probably the testes? It came sauteed whole with vegetables in a thickened sauce. It looked like and had the texture of very soft tofu, but had a slightly fishy flavor. Wasn't that great, but wasn't all that bad either.

Hurrah for new foods! (Can't wait for Thailand. I hear there is a very pungent fermented crab papaya salad that I should try... wait and see!)

Posted by hsustyle 08:32 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Eastern coastline and Southern Taiwan

Mist, rain, sun and wind!

72 °F

On Thursday we continued to drive south along the east coast of the island, which provided more great scenic pictures:

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We passed through some small towns, but for the most part, easter Taiwan is pretty sparsely populated. More of the population on this side of the island are the native Taiwanese aborigines that are of the Malay descent. When the immigrants came from mainland China, the aborigines were driven from the western plains of the island up into the mountains. Although a minority in Taiwan, from what I observed and heard, the aborigines are increasingly having more equal political power and social services and becoming culturally more mixed with the Chinese Taiwanese.

We stayed the night in Taitung and on Friday continued down to the southern most point of Taiwan in the Kenting National Park. Views from the southern most tip, where the Erlanbi lighthouse is located:

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It had been raining on and off for our entire trip, but the upside is that we managed to catch a pretty nice rainbow!

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More pics at Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 08:09 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Taroko Gorge

in North East Taiwan

rain 69 °F

On Wednesday, we headed south from Taipei along the north east coast of Taiwan. Most of the east coast of Taiwan rises up sharply from the Pacific to high mountain ranges. The drive was mostly on curvy, cliff-side roads, but it was so beautiful, that I spent most of the time hanging out the window.

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Amazingly bright turquoise water near the shore!

After a small fishing town, we turned inland to take the very old East-West Highway that crosses the island and also leads into the Taroko Gorge. The entire island of Taiwan is formed from the collision of the Phillipine and the Eurasia tectonic plates. This created the high mountain ranges and also formed large deposits of white marble in the mountains. As rain fell and a river eroded the marble over time, the Taroko Gorge formed. It is over 1,000 meters deep, dwarfing people, buses or trucks. As you walk along the pathway through it, you look up to see lush mountain vegetation and down to see white marble cliff faces and boulders. Definitely a humbling and beautiful experience.

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You can judge the size of the gorge by looking at the road cutting through the mountain and also the tiny little people near the center of the picture (red and white shirts).

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Interesting to see that the water that flowed from the marble was as bright turquoise as the water seen earlier along the coast. What makes water blue or turquoise? Even the omnicient Wikipedia didn't quite fully explain it.

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This guardian dog at the entrance of one of the bridges in Taroko Gorge is a product of the extensive white marble in the area.

More pics at Flickr.

We made it all the way to the small town at the end of the gorge area and turned back around to head out to the coast again. Checked into a motel in the city of Hualian and rested up for the next day of the Hsu Family Taiwan Roadtrip!

Posted by hsustyle 08:58 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Psst!

Word on the street is...

71 °F

That the recent election for Taiwan representatives was rigged! Actually, this isn't surprising gossip. Both my grandma and my aunt told me that in the past they've had campaigners come to their houses the night before the voting day to "buy votes." A good $100 dollars or so can be made as more than one candidate comes by the house. This year, no one came by my gramma's house, but people are saying that its still happening and is responsible for one party's overwhelming victories. The bribing doesn't happen in the bigger city, but is pretty common in the smaller towns.

I guess having elections does not necessarily mean that there is free choice.

Posted by hsustyle 08:46 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Tea, Caviar and Oyster Noodles

For afternoon meeting, dinner and breakfast, respectively.

overcast 71 °F

On Tuesday, we set off on our road trip around Taiwan. The first day involved mostly catching up with extended family; great-uncles slightly south of Taipei and an aunt and uncle in Taipei. At our first stop, we had tea with my great-uncles and their friends.

I found out that making tea is quite the process here, much different that popping a Lipton's tea bag in a mug of hot water. There is a special tray that holds the teapots and cups while also draining water or tea away from the table with a small tube. Only mountain water is boiled to brew the tea, as tap water "makes the tea taste awful." First, the boiled water is used to rinse off the first teapot. Then the tea leaves are put in the tea pot and water poured in to brew the tea. The brewed tea is poured into a second teapot to avoid brewing in the leaves too long. Then that tea is poured into all the teacups. But it's not served. The tea in each cup is poured into the next (the overflow drains away) until they are all empty. My great-uncle's friend explained that the tea from the first brew is no good and that you have to rinse all the teapots and cups w hot tea. Then a second brew is done in the same manner and this time the tea is served. If you're ever running low in your cup, tea is quickly brewed to refill it. I quite enjoyed watching it all; the rituals around food and drink fascinate me.

From there we drove into the crazy cement and neon maze of cars and scooters that is Taipei. It's a great city that has old parts full of tiny alleys, street vendors and neighborhood parks and then new parts with huge boulevards, sky scrapers and international fashion boutiques. We always stay with my mother's oldest sister that lives off of the old city's major avenue. She made dinner at the apartment and I helped her set up the appetizer. Dried caviar cakes with green onions and daikon. The sac of eggs is taken from a large ocean fish and dried whole to make one solid caviar "cake". Then its sliced thinly and served with a slices of a very spicy variety of green onion and slivers of daikon, both raw. Its an interesting combination of salty fishy caviar and spicy freshness of vegetables. Highlight of the meal for me. The meal and accompanying wine and brandy left me sleepy and I went to bed early dreaming of the next morning's breakfast...

Oyster noodles!! It's a favorite of mine when we're in Taipei. It probably sounds strange as a breakfast food to most people, but I guess it's quite a long-standing tradition. My aunt says that this one street vendor has been selling the noodles for more than 30 years. It's quite simple: tiny noodles are served in a slightly thickened broth with oysters and a hint of white pepper. That's all he sells, in either a big bowl or a small bowl. You can eat it plain or add more condiments. I always go for vinegar and hot sauce, maybe some more white pepper. Yum!

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My bowl: small. Bro's bowl: big. Both bowls: good.

Posted by hsustyle 08:02 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

A Tank

Not quite sure what else to say.

overcast 70 °F

On the freeway, we trailed a flatbed carrying a military tank. My brother was impressed and insisted that I take a picture -- so here it is: a tank on the Taiwan freeway.

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Posted by hsustyle 06:07 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Another Day, Different Mountain

Day trip to Ba Shen San National Park

rain

Monday was a day trip up to a national park in central Taiwan called Ba Shen San , which means The Eight Immortals Mountain. (Why it's called that I'm not sure.) It was a rainy, foggy day, but that made for less tourist in the park. By the time we left the park around 4pm, we were the only car in the parking lot!

On the way, we stopped at a Ke Ren Cultural Center, which was unfortunately closed on Monday, but we walked around the grounds and fed some fish.

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When we arrived, the national park was full of mist, occasional rain ... and giant spiders! Green and black striped abdomen, yellow and black legs. Bonus points for any etymologists that can identify it for me. Hard to catch a good picture, but I tried.

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We hiked about a 3-km loop up to the mountain path trailhead and back. And this is what we saw:

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Rivers and waterfalls...

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Misty rest stops...

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Native flora...

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Mountainside temples to house the spirits of boulders...

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And bamboo forests...

As we left, the mist lifted and left us with beautiful views.

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Posted by hsustyle 15:46 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

McDonald's in Taiwan

You can never escape the golden arches!

rain 66 °F

If you don't already know, McDonald's has menus in different countries that try to adjust to local tastebuds. They have beer in Germany, shawarmas in Saudi, rice bowls in Japan... So as we took a rest stop near a McDonald's in central Taiwan, I couldn't resist sampling the local McDonald's offering of:

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The concept is to replace the bread bun with a rice patty for those Taiwanese that, like me, can't get enough rice. The patties are lightly grilled on each side to brown them and keep them together, but on the inside the rice is white and sticky.

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Good idea, but as much as a tout the virtues of rice, I suppose I'm more accustomed to a chicken sandwich involving bread. Other thoughts: the sauce wasn't able to soak into the rice patty like it would with bread, so a lot of if dripped out and the rice didn't mix with the chicken in the mouth, because it was all stuck together from trying to act like a bun...

In conclusion, I must say: Bread and rice -- same food group, but completely different purposes and properties. McDonald's -- good attempt, but you don't have me sold on the Grilled Chicken Toasted Rice Burger.

Posted by hsustyle 17:38 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Goin' with the flow

The only way to go...

rain 66 °F

Plan have changed, so I have the chance to blog a bit and give a short update.

We decided to do a day trip yesterday instead of leave on the road trip. Today we'll head north to Taipei and then south and then around again. The plan is to get back on the 19th, but who knows?

Happy trails to yooooou!

Posted by hsustyle 17:21 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Taking to the road now

Signing out until next internet connection

overcast 68 °F

Tomorrow I leave on our family road trip around the island and don't know when I'll next have internet connection. We plan to head south along the western shore until we reach the southern most point of the island, then drive north along the eastern mountainous section, hit Taipei and then head back to Beidou. The plan is to travel for six days and return on the 19th.

Should have some interesting posts coming up, stay tuned!

If you'd like to know by email when I post (rather than suffer the repeated disappointment as you feverishly check for new posts) you can subscribe to the blog.

Posted by hsustyle 03:04 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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