Adventures living as expats.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Weekend Getaway to Hualien and The Taroko Gorge

Last weekend we took a family trip to the East Coast of Taiwan to see Hualien, known for it's stunning coastline, and the Taroko Gorge, a steep and narrow canyon that cuts down from the tall mountain peaks to the coast of Hualien.  On the way there we took the slow and windy mountain pass road that is know for it's views.  The weather wasn't cooperating and we were mostly fogged in, but got to have a little fun in the snow with Oolong, who much preferred to stay in the warm car.

View from the mountain pass
Oolong wasn't too enthusiastic about the cold snow
At least 75% of the cars we passed on the way up had built snowmen onto their windshields.
Taroko Gorge from above
The next morning we headed to the Gorge to tackle Jeff's perfectly planned itinerary which would have been amazing, except that we were deterred by 3 of the 4 attractions being closed due to construction and rock falls.   We still found some great hiking and amazing views and had fun despite the wet weather.   We had a 45 minute delay while returning to Hualien due to a rockslide that blocked the road.  It was quickly cleared out but made me a little nervous of returning to the Gorge during wintery weather.
Oolong loved the hiking but hated her rain jacket
View from the trail 

Our final day, we decided to go for a drive down the East Coast which is supposed to one of the most beautiful drives in Taiwan.
We stopped at Henan Temple and climbed up to the Buddha statue 
Shih Ti Ping recreation area, I think Jeff just wanted to go because of the name
We had lunch at a traditional Aboriginal cuisine restaurant that was recommended by one of Jeff's work friends.  It was delicious, unique, fresh, and we were so glad to have tried it.
Salad included guava, "fiddlehead" fern, "bird's nest" fern, baby corn,  green beans, cabbage, and some grated vegetables that we couldn't figure out.
Fish and shrimp stone hot pot.  They heat the stones over glowing coals, then dip them in water, and add them to your soup pot.
Smiles all around

On our drive back to Taichung the next morning we opted to take the route that goes north around the mountains.  We got to see some more gorgeous coastal views along the way which ended our trip on a high note.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tasmania, Land of Oysters

Jeff and I left the day after Christmas and headed to Tasmania for Bede and Susie's wedding.  We arrived a few days before the wedding festivities started so we drove up to Swansea and spent a few days touring around Freycinet National Park, exploring wineries, and of course eating oysters while taking in the fresh air and beautiful beaches.
Wine Glass Bay
Oysters by the bay.  No cups, no problem says Jeff.  "I can drink out of my empty oyster shell."
Bicheno Blowhole
After a few days on the East Coast, we headed back to Hobart and met up with Matt and Adelle.   We went out to an amazing multi-course dinner that included an incredibly delicious but confusing mix of infusions, deconstructions, food to table ingredients, foams, emulsions, and edible flowers.   My favorite part of the dinner was the 3 dessert courses!
Exploring Hobart with Matt
New Year's Eve was certainly a memorable one.  We started out with a group dinner that included many of our Jakarta friends.  We then headed to MONA, a famous museum in Hobart with amazing views of the bay.  Just before midnight, we went out on a boat to see fabulous fireworks over the water.  The show was amazing and my voice was hoarse the next day from all the cheering.
Adelle and I shared this amazing seafood platter - oysters, mussels, salmon, rock lobster, etc.
Riding a Tasmanian Tiger for our wedding photo competition.

Fireworks on the bay over Hobart

The following day we went out to tour Port Arther, which was a former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula.  Most erie was the "Separate Prison" where prisoners were put into solitary confinement and made to remain silent in their cells.  
Port Arthur
Wine and oysters with a view

On the big day, Susie came out in a gorgeous, shimmering, vintage dress and Bede was of course dressed to the nine's in his tux.   There was a short ceremony followed by appetizers, speeches, dinner, dancing, and an after party.  What a way to celebrate such an amazing couple!
The vows
At the main event
Our Tasmanian summer glow

Monday, January 18, 2016

YuanZuei Mountain Hiking

Chinese New Year is coming up in February so I have a month off from my Chinese classes and am been looking forward to catching up on the blog.  Jeff and I are well settled into our new home now and have been loving life as dog parents.  We've been doing our best to explore new restaurants although I'm embarrassed to admit that we still haven't gone to the famous FengJia Night Market.  Our neighborhood in downtown is so interesting that we often just walk around the park or nearby streets exploring shops, street vendors, cafes, and bars that we haven't been to.  

Back in December, our Taiwanese friends Kaku and Annie took us on an incredible but frightening hike up YuanZuei Mountain.  Without knowing the difficulty of the hike, we decided to take Oolong along and Jeff offered to drive us all in the van.  As we wound our way up the mountain through the fruit trees, poor Oolong got sick twice along the way.  As we started hiking Oolong quickly recovered from her car sickness and was clearly having a blast pulling me up the mountain with her harness.  
Can't beat this view!
Cloud forest
 About half way up, the trail became very steep and required ropes and ladders to pull yourself up the cliffs.   Going back would have been difficult because the traffic was one way and the narrow trail was very crowded.   Without having many options, Jeff tied Oolong to himself and hauled her up the mountain.  As we arrived at the top, Annie translated the Chinese for us saying that the crowd was calling Jeff "super hero" and "strong man".   I'm guessing there were some other comments that she left out such as "crazy whitey".
Annie was our photographer during the journey
Photo of the year and Dad of the year
At the top of the mountain.
There was a huge line to go down the other side
You can just see Oolong's head peaking out as she hangs from the harness strapped to the front of Jeff.  Kaku gives us the thumbs up as we cheer Jeff on.  
On our way home we stopped at a persimmon stand on the side of the road and bought the sweetest persimmons I've ever had.  The hike was a great getaway and we'll definitely be heading back sometime!