Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Can't Be Stopped...

Nothing can stop us from enjoying our time in Taiwan...not even rain! Which that it did the entire weekend spent in Keelung. From the minute the train left Taipei it began raining and it was still raining 36 hours later when we loaded the train to head home. But that didn't stop us from seeing and doing at least some of what we wanted to do...in fact the rain led to a few unexpected surprises.

When we arrive in any new place, we head straight to the hotel in order to drop our bags and plan out our course of action. This was were we started this weekend as well...which was a little more difficult than last as our guide book did not have any hotel suggestions and all the information we could find was in Chinese. We lucked out and the first we one we wondered into was a steal - NT$700 for a night - that's about $21US! After dumping our things and looking through out tourist information, we set out to find the fish market and the harbour where we could catch a boat out to Keelung Island - one of the reasons we came to this city.

We took a twenty minute bus ride to Bisha Harbour where we were encountered the biggest, smelliest, and busiest fish market we had ever seen. Dan was in heaven....if you don't already know, he loves fish - dead or alive! There were fish, snails, crabs, lobsters, and many more unidentified sea creatures, some alive and in takes, others dead on ice, and even more cooked and ready to eat.

After walking around a while and getting some great pictures, we decided to try one of the restaurants. It wasn't hard to find one as there were women everywhere showing us menu after menu trying to entice us to eat at their restaurant. We decided that the best course of action would be to just pick one and hope for the best. So, pick one we did, and it sure was quite the adventure. First the woman handed us a menu - entirely in Chinese - then took us to the tanks of live fish and pointed - she too only spoke Chinese. We were under the impression that this was to assist in our order, we'd point to the fish we'd like and she'd show us on the menu...WRONG. We pointed to the lobster, both wanting to try this for the first time, and what does she do but grab a net, dip out the lobster and put it on a scale. Then she picked it up again and shoved it into a black bag, she walked us into the dining area, showed us a table and proceeded to walk the poor lobster-in-a-bag back into the kitchen. As, I'm sure you can imagine, all we could do was laugh, we had no idea what our meal would be like, but hey, it was a learning experience right!?

Our meal came in two parts, a brothy soup that contained the shell of the lobster and a salad with the lobster meat on top. We were surprised at how little meat there actually was inside the lobster - that is of course, if they served us the entire thing, which we'll never know.
After our meal - which was unnecessarily expensive - we boarded the bus back into town as it was still raining and we were unable to find the boat to take us to Keelung Island. We decided that we'd try again on Sunday if the weather turned out to be any better.

Back in town, we tried to visit a few museums, all of which were closed for the night. Then headed down to the famous Night Market. Unfortunately, this was short lived as we were grouchy because of the rain and the lack of consideration people have when carrying umbrellas. Truly there were just too many people in the streets to make it a pleasant experience. After wondering around a few times in search of some dinner, we had decided to head back to the hotel when we saw a sign for the famous Taiwanese foot massages. We had read about these massages, both wonderful and painful, in our new Taiwanese culture book - Taiwan A to Z by Amy C Liu a must read for anyone living in or in love with Taiwan. We had decided that this was a must do while we were in Taiwan.

There was a sign on the window that read, what I can only assume to be "40 minute Foot Massage, $500NT." I know this because all I did when we entered was to point at this sign, and this is what we got! We were asked to take off our shoes, and hang up our jackets, before we were ushered to a foot bath of warm water and beautiful oils. This felt amazing after a long day trekking around in our water shoes in the rain. After the foot bath, we were taken to a comfortable recliner where they served us warm water and began our massage. As warned, this massage was both wonderful and painful. As you can see from the picture, your foot has pressure points that supposedly correspond to different parts of your body. It is believed that through the proper foot massage, one can learn about ailments in their body and treat them. There were knots in my foot that I didn't know could exist, but the masseuse was able to point to his body and gesture where something might be wrong in my body. Most was rather surprising as he pointed to my neck and head often and my lower back, which is indeed where I have pain due to crooked and short bones. But when he pointed to my stomach and my knee, I was at a loss. The massage, which was nearly 45 minutes ended left us feeling refreshed and relaxed.

We were sad to have to put our yucky shoes and socks back on a head back out into the rain. Once back at the hotel, we undressed our feet and marvel at the fact that I had actually developed a few bruises on my ankles and Dan's foot was cramped up. By morning however, we were feeling great...which was good, because we mad many miles to trek before heading home!

Sunday did not bring relief from the rain. We checked out of the hotel and headed to the train station where we stored our bags in a locker for the day. After enjoying breakfast and a cup of coffee, we explored the YM Oceanic and Art Museum near the harbour. This museum featured the history of the Yang Ming Shipping Company as well as the history of the building and harbour. It included an exhibit on Global Warming and the effects of pollution on Taiwan. We also saw some amazing photos done by a Taiwanese photographer who has traveled to the North and South Poles numerous times.

Next we headed to the Keelung Cultural Center where they have free art exhibits. The building itself was worth checking out as it is very Victorian and overlooks the harbour opposite the museum.

Our final stop was the Jungjeng Park. This park includes many temples and shrines all leading to a giant statue of Guanyin - the goddess of mercy. She is guarded by two giant golden lions and overlooks the harbour and the city. Unfortunately, in my excitement to update the blog, I lost half of our pictures, including almost all of this park.

While in the park, we met a lovely American couple who were aboard the cruise ship that had docked in the harbour and were enjoying a rainy tour of Keelung. We talked with them a while, sharing about our experience in Taiwan and teaching English, then walked around the town a little more before parting ways.

We found a delicious Japanese restaurant for dinner, then headed back to the train station for the ride home, which was extremely cold in our wet clothes as the trains are still air conditioned! While we enjoyed out time in Keelung and the unexpected surprises, we plan to return on a not-so-rainy weekend when we can enjoy it even more - and next time I won't lose the pictures!!!

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