Day 252: Some Things Are Just Like Home

Mon. 22nd April 2013

Kids playing in the hotelJamie had already been on the beach before we had stirred this morning and he was ready to hit the breakfast buffet which, like last night was massive with a huge choice of dishes from many different countries. This was just as well as I could not face the dried fish, rice porridge, soup or noodles. It was good to have bacon, scrambled egg and French toast with maple syrup followed by croissants and jam – with proper, espresso coffee.

Hotel is right down by the beachIt was not long after breakfast when Jamie was keen to go swimming, he wanted to make the most of the beach before we started on our long drive. By the time Dave and I were ready to join them they had already been in the sea and were heading for the swimming pool. The water in the pool was even colder than yesterday so Rob quickly disappeared leaving us with Jamie and Ceilin. However, we did not stay in long and were soon warming up in a hot shower. Pity the sun was not shining as it was as cold as the UK on an overcast summer day (i.e. still shorts and T-shirt). Taiwan is in the Northern Hemisphere on the Tropic of Capricorn, which we will cross on our journey this afternoon.

Chinese cemeteryJust by the hotel yesterday, Dave had spotted a cemetery with curved Chinese tombstone/memorials. We had seen similar in Borneo from a distance and were keen to add some pictures to our “weird cemetery” collection. We headed off for a walk to see them just as it started to drizzle, being hardy and British we ignored the weather for as long as possible. The cemetery was mostly well maintained and it was interesting to see the different shapes, even though we could not understand a word.  We managed to get some photos before the rain got heavier causing us to detour to the hotel coffee shop. (To ensure we got the use out of our 2 for 1 drinks vouchers, you understand!)

Mountain view from townWhat we had not realised was that if we headed the other way out of the hotel we would get into town. Not wanting to miss anything, as the rain had stopped we went to explore. The area is very pretty with a local National Park and mountains which we would have loved to explore if we had longer, although our hosts would not have been so keen. The beach has been a great attraction and was top of the to do list of the younger members of our group. The actual town is not very inspiring unless you wanted flip flops or food. Once we had located a fridge magnet (I have lost count of how many we have now!) it was time for lunch.

Shop with toilet stop in the mountainsWe had a long drive ahead of us to Hualien where we are staying for the next two nights, so we decided to head off after lunch as Rob is the only one insured to drive and he, understandably, wanted to get going. The road headed out of town and then up through the mountains. We were soon in the clouds and rain as we snaked our way to the top and then back down the other side. At the top we did find a small local shop advertising a toilet stop. I am amazed as we travel through Taiwan just how many toilet stops there are. There is one in every 7 Eleven store, of which there are many and appear to be in every town/village.

More green in the EastI was just beginning to nod off as the Pacific Ocean came into view and the road headed up the coast. There were pretty coves and after initially being still mountainous this gave way to flat plains. With frequent stops, we ate through the kilometres and commented how they passed quicker than miles! It gets dark quickly at around six but we ploughed on and just after nine we finally made it to Hualien. After referring to a well known map app on Dave’s phone (his usual one was not up to the challenge!) we were able to find our hotel and tried inputting the name in both Chinese and English before it found the Quality Inn where we were staying.

Same the world overShould we confess that we had McDonalds for supper? Our excuse was that we wanted something quick and familiar and that was what the younger ones chose. This is the first McDonalds we’ve been to since leaving the UK. We are getting to see past all the writing and neon signs in Chinese, to find the country behind them where many things are familiar. I am sure that if we had to we would be able to find our way around (with suitable help from our technology). As we get familiar with the country, we are finding more some things that are just like home!

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