Thursday, June 24, 2010

confession. when i think of the gulf war, i always picture the day i first learned about it, sitting on my grandparents terrace in florida looking out at a golf course. Golf. Gulf. i thought it was called the golf war for a long time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

okay, this ridiculousness has gone on long enough. i've been worse about blogging than ever before, and all i can do is hang my head in shame. i'm up in taipei now, where i have been for almost two weeks. and my classes start tomorrow, after which i will try to minimize my english speaking. so i've finally gotten it together to write up the adventures of the travel period of my summer. initially, i didn't write about this because i was A) on the road, and B) didn't want my mom to find out that i had rented a scooter and was driving by myself all over the island. but now that it is complete and i still have all my limbs, etc, i will write about it.
so i left from kaohsiung the morning after the day of the worst hangover of my life. to celebrate getting into my asian studies masters program at columbia (yay!), i went out to a taiwanese all you can drink dance club. here i made the mistake of having a "let's go for it!" attitude, which never mixes well with incredibly low quality, free drinks. i did have a fun night though. i spent the entire next day throwing up, probably until around 6 or 7 in the evening. and the next day i awoke at 8 in the morning, and headed off on my trip.
my first stop was kenting national park, at the southern tip of taiwan. it is a really beautiful spot, with really awesome beaches. here i stayed at a hostel that was run by a taiwanese surfer, who at first i was intimidated by, but he ended up being really nice. i spent a couple of days just chilling on the beach watching the surfers, then i headed on to my next stop.

It had looked like the drive to the next stop would be fairly easy, a little shorter than the three hour drive to my kenting. unfortunately the map didn't show that i had to drive through a mountain range, with lots of twists and turns. having 2 days of scooter driving experience under my belt, this was a challenge to say the least. the last hour of the ride was incredible though, right next to the pacific ocean, and the roads were wide and straight so i could just cruise. unfortunately, i hadn't written down the address of the hostel i wanted to stay at, nor did i have a phone to call them. i had assumed that somehow i would just be able to find them, but it turned out the hostel was about a half hour outside of the city (Taitung). Luckily I stopped at an italian b&b where they called the hostel owners, who told me where to meet them so they could take me to the hostel. at this point i had been driving for about six hours, and was so drained i pretty much fell asleep when i got there.
the next day i decided to backtrack a little and stay at another hostel in the area, so i could explore taitung. i stayed in a new hostel in fugang, a harbor city about 5 minutes from taitung. the owner of the hostel also runs trips to the nearby Green Island (, and i mentioned that i was interested in going to the other island in the area, Lanyu. he said that the trip was too unpredictable for him to run tours there (not that i would have done a tour, that shit is expensive), that the ferries only ran occasionally and it was expensive to stay out there. i was discouraged, but then an hour later he said that a guy who worked for him was taking a vacation out there for a couple of days, and encouraged me to tag along. so, sweet! i got to go to Orchid Island, described by lonely planet as "off the beaten path," inhabited by a cool australo-asian aboriginal tribe. it was incredibly beautiful, and i had a good time hanging out with the aboriginals and also doing some snorkeling.

i returned to taitung, and then the next day i headed off for my next stop, hualian. this involved driving up most of the east coast, where i made an egregious error. there are two highways that go up the east coast, one along the ocean and the other through farming villages. it looked on the map as though i could drive half the way along one and then switch to the other. so i started on the farming villages, but honestly, i never saw a spot to get to the other highway. and i was looking. so, i dunno. so it turned out taitung was the last place i saw the ocean.

i had checked the weather forecast the day before, and seen that there was supposed to be one more day of sun, and then rain for a whole week. my plan was to hang out in hualian through the rain, because it is supposed to be a nice backpacker spot, and then go on when the rain had stopped. but on my way up to hualian, i had a thought. perhaps i should try to beat the rain instead, because i didn't really want to wait around for a week. i had only packed what would fit inside the scooter, and that wouldn't last for long. so instead of staying in hualian that night, i drove on through taroko gorge. taroko gorge is a marble gorge that was first popularized as a tourist site by the japanese (who ruled taiwan from 1895- 1944), and it is an incredible sight. i would say it most resembles the place where the elves live in lord of the rings, if you get the reference. there is a hostel in taroko gorge that is run by a nice catholic aboriginal guy, with whom i had a lovely conversation.

the next day i woke up at six prepared for a long day of driving. as the middle of taiwan is pretty much all mountain, i knew that i would need to drive over a mountain at some point to get back to the west coast.
okay, i meant to do this all in one go, but what with the pictures and everything, this is exhausting. so stay tuned for: abi drives over a mountain, abi gets caught in a rainstorm, abi drives the whole west coast in a day. exciting.