I woke up this morning and saw the sun shining, looked at the weather report and found a 0% chance of rain. No way in hell was I gonna spend my last day of Chinese New Year vacation sitting around lesson planning.
I sent out a feeler to see if any of my Jhubei colleagues wanted to join me in taking life by the balls and just doing an unexpected last minute trip to see the National Gold Museum and Juifen. With Wendy’s help I planned out an awesome trip and put aside all the lesson planning I should have been doing.
Well, everyone was tired from their other amazing trips and so I was solo. That’s ok, I’m perfectly fine with going solo. If I waited around to do things until someone went with me I’d be doing a whole lot more sitting than I already do.
What a freaking AWESOME day! Cowgirl the f Up, I am so glad I went!
First, having Wendy help me was the best. She helped me look up all the transportation stuff and printed out the schedule for me. Then she wrote out these little cards with Chinese and English on them.
These were seriously incredibly helpful. All I had to do was try and say what I meant first and if that didn’t work, show them the card, BAM taken care of.
*Important to note – Taiwanese people are some of the friendliest if not the friendliest people I have ever met. Any time I have needed any kind of help; there has been no hesitation to help. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask, they just see me and ask me if there is anything they can help me with. Friendly, friendly, friendly.
So, I get on the MRT headed toward the bus station and right away I am greeted by this smell. I know this smell and it is good.
I look around and sure enough there is a small group of backpackers. Damn I love the smell of backpackers. Maybe it’s the backpacks more than the ‘ers themselves….. but, that smell is so fresh, like the outdoors. That smell lives outdoors and visits inside, not the other way around. Slightly musky, a little smoky, campy but still fresh; full of new experiences. That smell emits that new experience vibe like no other.
I think, “it’s gonna be a good day”.
I suppose I was given a sign on the way to the MRT.
I can’t say that I knew exactly what seeing a random chicken head just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk meant when I felt the need to snap the picture, but, apparently it meant – “Go take life by the balls girl, you got this”
So I get on the MRT, transfer from the green line to the blue line, but woops, wrong direction. No problem, next stop change … dang, I’m going to miss the 1062 bus I was planning on taking. That’s ok, there’s another one in 20 minutes. I get to the station and as I walk off the bus, random guy walking down the street sees me look at my paper and right away comes over and asks if I need help.
Yes. That friendly.
Not only does he point me in the right direction, he insists on walking me there. Just as we turn the corner, he notices the bus about to leave, waves at it and makes sure I get on the bus. The bus driver is super awesome, I show him my little cards asking him to let me know which stop is the one I’m looking for and BAM, I’m taken care of. Sit down, and do some on the bus lesson planning. (so I don’t feel like I completely forsook my duties)
Ok, I’m not totally alone, Monkey joined me on this trip J
Just as I was finishing this week’s outline, we start climbing the mountain into Juifen. I put everything away and just sit back and take in the scenery in shear awe.
It is so gorgeous.
So here I will mention that this lovely mountain road is barely big enough for two buses to go side by side on. The drivers could high five each other as they pass. On one side there is a steep mountainside wall and on the other side there is a steep drop off towards the ocean, down the mountain. The road has u-turn switchbacks the entire way. One misstep in either direction is not a good scenario.
My driver, friendly as he was, was a scary ass driver. I thought, well here’s to life and may I and it’s sac return home safely.
My first destination was the National Gold Museum/ Ecological Park.
WOW. The Gold Park was beautiful, I hiked all over the place seeing one beautiful thing after another.
There were three temples and one giant statue on the ground tour path. I just did the self tour, but there is good information in an English pamphlet. The Cyuanji Temple was really pretty tucked in the mountain.
According to the website, “Cyuanji Temple was built in 1896 and consecrated to what was the only golden-faced Guan Gong in Taiwan prior to Retrocession. The gold and bronze Guan Gong statue on the roof of the temple is the largest idol of that deity in the world, weighing more than 25 tons.”
So here are a few pictures from the park.
There are also these to see…
Monkey praying for gold.
After a couple of wonderful hours just walking around and enjoying the fact that I was on no one’s timeline but my own, I headed back to the bus stop and on to Juifen.
Out of some sort of luck I managed to catch the same bus driver on his return trip from wherever the final destination of the bus line is. He knew me and knew I was heading to Juifen, no need to show my awesome little cards.
One 10 min crazy bus ride later, I was in Juifen. Juifen was a gold mining town with a huge boom and an equal but opposite departure. A nine family town, turned boom town, turned ghost town, turned tourist location. I wrote a little history of it in this blog.
Some Juifen fashion.
Pixie’s newest fashion acquisition
I was curious as to what this was, and I think the owner said it was a hula hoop….. I don’t know though.
Mmm Lunch, Get in mah belly
Apparently this is ice cream, no cone required.
The amazing beauty of the coastline required that I take about a hundred photos of it. I won’t post all of them, but here are a few.
I have a serious dislike for the whole cultural child-like-NESS; everything from how girls act and dress to the type of drinks they have are meant to display this prepubescent, innocent but sexual nonsense. Now the group pictured here is not in the 15-30 year old range of single women, but the drinks are meant for the fake-wide-eyed, dressed up like little school girls to suck on while shamelessly flirting.
Yes, they are kumquat drinks put into cups that look like baby bottles, with an optional straw in the nipple. Ugh. Child porn sales just went up, thanks guys, we weren’t trying to protect those kids or anything.
Now on another front, this little girl was about the cutest thing I have EVER seen. Why? Because she was falling asleep as she was walking. Her mom kept waking her up after almost tripping on her because she would start walking in a sort of circle as her eyes would close and her head would dip down. Then her little feet would sort of shuffle, before her mom would shake her arm a little. Then she would take this giant puppet like step and look around before starting to fall asleep again. I watched her do that twice before needing to take a picture of her. So cute.
Heading down toward the Quan Yin tea house.
My tea was prepared in the most elaborate display I have ever witnessed. It was a 8 step process just to get some tea into that tiny little cup.
These little dried oolong leaves turned into these beautiful green leaves that produced some really strong tea.
The tea house was beautiful and peaceful. I am really glad I reated myself to this stop.
The Quan Yin statue in front of the tea house.
Cool little shop had lots of theings made out of jeans.
Who would have thought I would find a store selling African art in a little Taiwanese tourist town?
As I walked up the stairway leading to the street to catch the bus back to Taipei, there in the middle of the stairs was a lone flower. It felt déjà vu like with the chicken head, so I had to take a picture.
I am glad that I took that picture because if it was the last thing I was going to see, it was lovely.
I say that because of the ball-breaking ride home.
Taiwan tried to show me how it’s done, and I showed Taiwan how to Cowgirl UP.
I caught the bus as it was pulling out of the station. The driver hollered to hurry and get on, so I hopped on board. The doors closed behind me and the bus was on its way as I discovered that the only space available was the one where I was standing, at the top of the stairs.
Yes, folks, I got to ride down the steep, switchback, sheer drop-off or mountain face road, downhill, standing at the front of the bus.
This ride was so jaw dropping out of this world that I barely have words for it.
The craziest part is that the only thing going through my mind was, “Hell Yeah”.
The woman standing next to me was praying non-stop. I am assuming to the god of safety. At least I’m hoping so. I decided it was best to leave that up to her, because I can’t remember that god’s name and I did not want to accidently start trying to pray to the god of the water and have us all end up in the ocean, albeit surely being nicely taken care of by him.
Not only were we careening down this mountain at speeds that should not be allowed, full far beyond capacity, but the driver was apparently trying not to fall asleep the whole time. At every red light he would pull out a wet rag, put it over his eyes for about 20 seconds then wipe his face about 5 times. Then he would shake his head, fold up the rag, and watch for the green light.
Could this possibly be the best part, OH NO. Puh-lease, I do not say that I took life’s balls to the rodeo lightly. I freakin rode that ride the full 8 seconds.
On this stupidly narrow road, in the middle of a switchback, going uphill, an amazingly stupid driver decided it was a good place to make a U-turn. The safety god decided to pull through, what with the constant prayer stream still taking place, and our driver was able to stop without hitting the car.
We drove through the brake smoke with a new rumble happening (that lasted the rest of the way, that bus is going in for repair tonight). Apparently it scared the piss right out of the driver because at the nearest safe place to pull over, he, without saying a word, hopped out of the bus and took off up the side of the mountain. Everyone was at a loss until about 4 minutes later he showed back up, got on the bus, and started back down the mountain.
By the first stop into the greater Taipei area I was able to get into a seat and we made it safely back to Tim, Wendy and William’s home.
Monkey feeling glad we are safe.
Yes, this was one heck of a humdinger of a day. I am enjoying this whole living life to its fullest thing 🙂