Thursday, September 17, 2015

Discover Taiwan: Lanyu (Orchid Island)


Lodging: Online reservations, or pick a hostel from the people holding signs when you get off the boat.
Hongsheng White House in Langdao $1800NT/night for a double room with bathroom. $600NT/p for a bed in a dorm. Camping is easy, hostels have exterior shower facilities. Free internet: 7-11, reception in airport, hostels & restaurants.
Yamei B&B in Yeyin. $500/p for a mat in a dorm.
Normal price for a dorm: $450NT-$600NT. Normal price for a room: $1200NT-1800NT
To Do: Drive, Sunset, Sunrise, Stars, Diving, Snorkeling, Beach, Cold Spring, Hiking, Night Tour, Owls, Traditional Houses, Boats,
Food: Best BBQ in Taiwan, Yeyou village.
Dongqing night market, so so but try the ramen with spicy sauce.
Langdao : Great traditional meals Haiwangzi (Sea Prince) flying fish and water jelly mushroom, veggie fried rice was amazing
Driftwood Café & Hostel in Yuren village (Fisherman), creative, speak English
Karaoke next door
Restaurant in Dongqing good but not amazing. Nice view and cats. Speak English.
Have breakfast in Yeyin, no English
Langdao village, kilometer marker 6 on regional road 80, foreigner owned bar with food. Speak English.
Epicurean Café, Iratay village (Fisherman’s village), $350NT for traditional style meal. Good. Speak English.
Traveler (Luren) Bar, pizza, speak English.
Getting There : Train to Taitung $730NT, taxi to Fugang Harbor $140NT/2, Ferry $1150NT, Total : $1950NT
Getting Around : Rent a scooter, from the port, or from your hostel owner $500NT/day. Full tank $70NT, will take you around the island 3 times.
Hitchhiking is very easy.
There is a bus that runs four times a day.

First Leg of the World Tour
Lanyu’s beauty is breathtaking. I simply could not believe the color of the water, and the pictures don’t do it justice. We spent most of our time simply driving around the island, doing nothing in particular. Riding was enough to keep us happy. Of course, that’s not all we did.

We relaxed in the island's cold spring.

We sang* karaoke with the locals. Have you always dreamed of hearing Hotel California in monotone? Well, you missed it. We had the best BBQ in Taiwan from this lady in Yeyou village. The skewers were particularly delightful. 

We had a tour of a traditional home, from a drunken guide we met at the island's cold spring. We saw that his grandfather, the owner and inhabitant of the house, kept a collection of pig jawbones for reasons his grandson could not explain. Our guide seemed embarrassed by the simplicity of the home and its belongings. He pointed to some old suitcases and called them Dutch treasure and said they were full of gold. He berated his grandfather because the light didn't work in the family warehouse. His grandfather berated him for not taking down a panel in the wall, creating a panoramic window with a superb view of the ocean. Our guide actually lived in Taipei, but he had come back to keep his grandfather company after his grandmother had passed away last month.

We saw a festival, entirely drummed up for the sake of tourists.

And we saw loads and loads of goats. There’s no better way to start a world tour than with goats. That’s what all the experts say. Apparently there was a goat plague a few years ago that wiped out most of the goats. To us they seemed to be everywhere, but they had once been significantly more numerous. It's a wonder how anything managed to grow on the island. The island is also overrun with kittens and dogs and chickens and pigs. Although they still eat the chickens and pigs on festival days, they are now mostly kept as pets. The islanders are getting older, and they keep them for company.
* this word is here used in its widest and most encompassing sense.

The Sun, the Moon, the Stars
            The East cost is the best place to watch the sunrise, and the best sunset watching spot is reputed to be near the Old Man rock on the south of the west coast. A peninsula, stunning in itself, allows you to get good shots if the weather cooperates. Seeing as I was there, and since the weather in Taiwan hates me, the poor tourists only had clouds to look at.
Regardless, a sunset is a sunset, and you can pretty much see those anywhere. After living in Taipei for 6 years, and Montreal 10 years before that, it was the stars that I was excited to see. We went up to the observatory in hopes of getting the best view, but in the end clouds drove us home. That’s when we noticed groups of people lining the road looking at the sky, and we stopped. It wasn’t just the Milky Way we had wanted to see, August 11th-13th was also the best time of the year to view a meteor shower. The Perseids were peaking during a new moon. I hadn’t seen shooting stars since 2001, so I was excited.
Maybe not as excited as Squid who kept hoping to say a wish before a meteor burned up. This led to a series of hilarious sounds being blurted out faster than she could pronounce the words. It was as though she were being cattle-prodded. Still, we saw 5 big ones, and Squid finally made her wish with actual words instead of grunts and whistles.

A Painful Journey to a New World
            I reunited with a friend in Lanyu. My ex-landlord, who had been kind enough to travel with me (and his dog Wilson) on my first trip in Taiwan, had strongly urged me to visit Lanyu. He spends a lot of time on the island, camping in his van with his dog. He also significantly improved his diving skills there, and he wanted us to try it. Lanyu is apparently the best place he’s ever gone diving in, and he’s been to a lot of places in South-East Asia.
            As promised, the world under the waves is alien and spellbinding. It’s full of creatures that defy the imagination. What was less enchanting was dealing with trying to stay alive under 30 feet of water. Between water getting into my mask because I hadn’t shaved, my ears feeling like they were ready to burst because I was unable to equalize, and water (likely saliva) in the breathing apparatus, there was a lot to keep track of and distract you from the phantasmagoria of ocean life. I can see why people enjoy diving so much, but my first reaction when coming out was that I wouldn’t mind never doing that again. Weeks later, I still have issues with my ears. However, I have forgotten how horrible it was and mostly remember the good parts now. I also know that I can and should practice equalizing on land a few days before diving. It’s something you can train your body to do. I’ll also make sure to be clean shaven and have my mask on a little tighter.

Taiwan, ce n’est qu’un au revoir
This trip kicks off the world tour, so what else can I say. I love Taiwan. I love the people I have left. I will miss you. If this post seems to be rather directionless, it’s because it’s hard to write about something you’re not excited about. As beautiful and wonderful as Lanyu is, I knew it meant the end of my stay in Taiwan. So sadness has permeated all of my memories of Orchid Island. Also as I write this, I've learned that Wilson has passed away. So long little fella.

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