#DawningInTaiwan: Driving around Yilan

Waking up to the sunlight piercing through the translucent sliding doors, I got up pretty early today. I didn’t want to get up so soon, but my body clock urged me to do so. Packed my two day traveling needs and I was good to go. The MRT was a few minutes of walking away. I started my morning with a smile from a lady walking across the street, “Zao an!” she greeted. Brightened up, my excitement spread throughout my body. 

Yilan, that’s the destination. I talked to Richard prior to my arrival since I wanted to go somewhere near Hualien. He had a meeting in the morning so I figured I could go surfing. Taking the Kuo-Kuang 1877 bus at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, I had a relaxed ride to Wushigang Harbor. Funny note: I didn’t realize I had to buy a ticket before boarding the bus. The driver waited for me to go to the ticketing office and grab my ticket. An hour in the bus wasn’t too bad. TVs, charging ports, comfy seats – can’t complain, can I? 

Before walking to Wushigang Beach, I wanted to rent a bike. Unfortunately, no one was at the rental area. After waiting for five minutes, I told myself it’s okay not to use my biking helmet now. About 10 minutes from the port, the beach was filled with board rental stations. I stopped by the first one I saw and rented a surfboard for just $500. I told the guy it was only my second time to surf, so he chose the board for me. 

Grabbing my pink surfboard, I slipped off my romper and was ready to get into the water. Swimsuit on, tattoo covered with sunscreen, and hair tied up; surfing time! The surf shop owner’s son came along with me to surf. His name, I couldn’t remember because he said he has too many English names. He even told me I can call him in any name I want. I found him funny. He’s actually doing this summer job just for a week now. Having graduated high school, he’s going to take up engineering in a university in Taipei. I gave him some of my thoughts about studying engineering. Surfing with this kid was fun! He taught me some Chinese to. Playing time is over, back to work! He left to go back to their station. 
This guy then approached me asking, “Where are you from?” As usual, he didn’t expect I’d be from the Philippines. I find it weird though when people think that way. Anyway, Kirby’s from North Carolina and lives in Toucheng and has been in Taiwan for more than a year. I got some input from him about studying Chinese in Taiwan. He already did it for 6 months before and will be doing it again for 9 more months. I was advised to follow through my ideas of going to the east coast since I’ll learn faster and better by living more like a local with the locals. His Taiwanese friend was also there surfing. Both of them are good surfers! 

Being in the ocean made me starve. I dragged my ass out of the waves and scavenged for food. Richard was nice enough to ask me if I wanted to have lunch together. After waiting for about 30 minutes since he had to drive from Loudong to Toucheng, we drove to a place where we ate beef noodle soup, tofu, and Taiwanese kimchi. It was definitely a good meal! Afterwards, he recommended that I try the bubble milk tea with oolong tea. It was very delicious! 

Plans laid out: see waterfalls, soak in hot springs, look around Yilan! We went to the pubu (watefalls). It reminded me of Geumosan in Korea. The ladder-style hiking trails with rest stops; I thought, “Is this an Asian thing?” The only difference between the two is the color. When I was in Korea, everything was orange since it was autumn. Now, the lush greenery filled the mountains. Trails of tropical plants with butterflies fluttering all over the area, the 30 minute walk up the waterfall area was worth every step. 

I must say, Taiwan’s nature is very amusing. Personally, I would say it closely relates to my hometown: Batangas. Oddly, no one is swimming. This is one of the things that I alwyas notice in Taiwan. Not a single personis dipping into the water. If I were in the Philippines, a lot of people would be swimming with the heat from the sunny day!

After seeing the waterfalls, Richard asked if I liked drinking alcohol. Being very Alenna, I blurted out, “Yes!” He drove further and we reached the whiskey distillery, Kavalan! Entering the museum was amusing. Old barrels stacked up, malt giving off strong aroma, yeast aiding the maturity of the whiskey – these showcased how this single malt whiskey was created. The historical background is fascinating as well. However, one of the best parts is seeing the machines for distillery. Walking through the hallways with the glasses separating us from the actual area where they make it felt like we were already part of the process since the atmosphere was filled with the whiskey’s smell. It was soothing. 

Discovering much of the history, we couldn’t miss the whiskey tasting exhibit! At around 16:00, the entrance was opened for the tasting area. Anticipating like a kid, I was first in line to go and sit down one of the tables. They had small samples of their different kinds of whiskey. Smelling each one, I liked the bourbon’s aroma. I would have worn it as a perfume if it were a perfume. The other whiskeys varied from strong scents to fruity odor due to their flavors. Being handed glasses of whiskey, I was able to try the classic single malt whiskey. It was pretty decent as it slides as raw on the palate then turns rancid as its aftertaste, enjoyably drinkable I could say. In my opinion, it would be better if it was smokier and smoother. 

As the day closed into ending, we stopped by Loudong to eat the famous Yilan-style stinky tofu! Richard has been introducing me to the things I haven’t tried yet and told me I should go out with Taiwanese people more for the local experience. True enough, I loved it. I must say, it’s my favorite Taiwanese food. It’s quite different from the other stinky tofus I had. Hard crust on the outside, soft texture inside; mixed with Taiwanese kimchi, garlic, and chili – I had heaven in my mouth. The combination was perfect for my taste. 

Last part of the trip, Richard drove around the countryside. We had a very relaxing trip. One of the things I very much appreciated from Richard was his inclination to architectural engineering. He would point out buildings that aren’t fit for the city. Also, he’d marvel on the bridges and structures built with character by the great architects in Yilan. In line with this, he brought me to a part of the city which seemed like an old town. It looked like it was a collection of old buildings. Ranging from the 1980s to the present, the fusion was pleasing in sight.
I honestly didn’t expect that I’d have such an awesome day at Yilan since I was looking forward to going to Green Island. To my surprise, I had a blast! A lot of credit to Richard for taking me to the places I wouldn’t have gone if I were just wandering around alone. 

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