During Chinese (or Lunar… as you may wish to call it) New Year, my roommate and I traveled around Taiwan, literally.
We didn’t have any real stops planned out nor areas of interest nor even direction planned out. We decided to leave it to a giant stuffed toy die if we had any questions of what to do or where to go, to stop or go, or which road to take. We took a tent and some sleeping bags to camp in and wished for the best with no reservations made on one of the busiest weeks in Taiwan, when everyone and their mom would be on the road.
The night before the trip began, and by night I mean about 4 hours before we began our road trip, we asked our die which way we would travel: clockwise or counter-clockwise. If we traveled down the West Coast first, we would make good time heading south on large highways. If we traveled down the East Coast, we would see some beautiful views from the 2 lane highway that goes right along the coast. Die said east.
We finished packing our strange assortment of winter and summer clothes and with only an hour or two of sleep we left early enough to hopefully avoid the traffic that would start stampeding out of Taipei that day.
We managed to make some pretty good time until we hit the coast and the wide highway turned into a street and then a 2 lane road that hugged the coast with a steep drop off to our left and high cliffs to our right. Rock slides are not uncommon during wet weather so we drove carefully through thick fog and light drizzle. We managed to overtake a few buses and slow vehicles thanks to Zoe’s practiced driving (I would have gone so much slower with tight turns and blind spots galore, but I just took a nap instead and didn’t worry about the driving).
We stopped a few times to enjoy the beautiful views and finally made it to Hualien around noon to meet up with Zoe’s mom and grab some lunch. Our camping goal was still half a country south. Boy were we ambitious that first day, and running on so little sleep, I’m quite amazed thinking back on it.
Leaving Hualien we switched drivers and asked the die: coast highway or mountain road? Mountain it was. Now it was Zoe’s turn to nap. After driving for a while I wondered if it would have been better to have taken the faster coastal road versus the limited speed mountain road… it was a new experience so I didn’t mind too much. Next time it’ll be back to the coastal road, so much prettier (and faster!)
We reached our first night’s stop a bit before sundown and looked around the town to check out possible camping locations. What’s great about the East Coast is that during those crazy holidays when everyone is on the road and so many hotels and motels are full, you are allowed to pitch a tent at certain elementary schools, especially in small towns and in the countryside. Our first elementary school seemed a good choice: the bathrooms were unlocked, there was running water, and there was an area blocked from the wind where we could pitch our tent. But we couldn’t reach anyone to see if it would be alright to sleep there, nor was anyone there camping. We decided to check out the other elementary school just to see which had the better options.
The second school already had a few other families camping out and it had all of the amenities the first camp had. We wondered if it was better to camp all by ourselves or if it would be better to camp where we had neighbors in such an unfamiliar town. Second elementary school it was.
We pitched our tent where the kids usually leave their bikes and ate a delicious dinner consisting of roast duck and vegetables, pizza, and wine. What a fabulous camping dinner. After dinner we did what the rest of the town was doing. We headed to the main street and bought a bag full of different fireworks (some I’m sure are illegal in the state of California), went to the grassy field near by and fired them up.
My favorite fireworks weren’t even our own, but some family’s front yard fireworks where all of the grown men were giggling and setting off crazy huge fireworks and some of the little kids were asking for them to stop. You know they’re nice and loud and bright when everyone is running for cover. Thanks gramps and uncles.
We fell asleep with the sound of pops, zooms, kapows, and whistles and awoke early the next day to quite the same sounds.
[End of day one. 289km]