The past two days have been a much needed break from the Taiwanese city overload. I was having a difficult time acclimating to the climate, time change, and food which left me in a constant state of mild nausea, but we have been getting out of the city and I feel tons better.
Yesterday we rented bikes at our apartment complex and took a trail that boarders the river to the neighboring town Danshui. It was such a relief to ride under the shade of thick overgrowth and be able to breathe fresh air without the fear of triggering my gag reflex.
Danshui is only 3 miles away and has had a lot of recent development. The city is fairly well planned and has some interesting modern architectural elements mixed among the ancient.
We parked our bikes along the river in an area that is similar to a carnival where the restaurants sell fried Taiwanese “fair food” and the booths offer cheap thrills (balloon pops and prizes—that type of thing). The main attraction is this “shuaige” (handsome man—even though he’s kind of ugly) who does ice cream tricks. He thinks he is hot stuff, and although he may not be, he was very entertaining.
We explored a few temples and hidden alleys and stumbled upon interesting antique shops. I’m a big fan of Danshui. It has sidewalks.
Today was also an excellent day. Britton and Chris had to register for classes, so we took the 45 minute subway ride to their university which mercifully had a waffle hut on campus. So random, but so appreciated. It was 5 minutes of Nutella, bananas, and funky tasting waffles that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
At the registration office Heather accidentally told the gal who was helping students fill out paper work that she and I were married. It was the first language mishap of the trip but it was pretty funny.
We then jumped back on the subway, backtracked past home and then some, boarded a bus, and rode to the north part of the island to the ocean. It was one of my first looks at untouched Taiwan and it was beautiful. Mountains sharp and jagged as shark’s teeth jutted through the terrain but were softened by a blanket of heavy tropical greenery. The bus stopped less and less as we progressed and the small beach towns grew further and further apart. Our stop came and we were immediately greeted by the salty sticky ocean wind on our skin. The water was warm and the blue green expanse was a sight for sore eyes.
After we got back to our apartment building we decided to give the swimming pools a whirl. In addition to a lap pool there are other shallow pools used for healing and health purposes. One has huge showerhead like pipes that spray out streams of water with the force of a fire hose. People get beat to death under it but claim it feels like a massage. I gave it a try and could hardly breathe it was jarring my lungs so badly. There are also semi-circle alcoves with jets, a whirlpool, saunas, and an area with slightly submerged metal plates to lay on that shoot out streams of air.
After feeling adventurous and revitalized by being pounded with a combination of air streams and water, we decided to complete our “healing” experience in the natural hot springs.
Apparently its ancient tradition or something, but the spring pools are to be absorbed nude—a spa for the men and a spa for the women. I was not on board with the whole naked idea, so the guy overseeing the pool assured us that if we wanted to keep our swimsuits on, we could. Heather and I didn’t make it far into the spa before our retinas got burnt out by old ama’s naked bodies. They stared us down, and said something angrily in Chinese and pointed to our swimsuits. We got the point and chickened out. It was clear who ran the show in there, and it wasn’t the pool guy or us.