the group photo at the beginning of the hike. There is one person not in the photo. I'm posting this one because I think it's the only one that I don't have the goofy hat on.
The group photo at the beginning of the hike. There is one person not in the photo. I’m posting this one because I think it’s the only one that I don’t have the goofy hat on.

It’s been about a week, maybe as long ago as two, since I went on my latest hiking trip. This hike was to see some waterfalls, the actual name of the hike is something like, Sandiaoling Waterfalls to Houtong Cat Town. Of course I was happy to be getting out and getting the muscles working, and better yet, I went with about ten other people.
The group met up at the main train station near my hostel at about 9am, and was at the hike’s starting point at about 10. It was a pretty uneventful hike, something that I think anyone would be able to do. In fact I saw many people with canes and a few people that looked like they were in their 70s or 80s. That may be a little misleading though, there was a majority of the trail that was easy enough for almost anyone to do, but there was maybe a third of the trail that was difficult. There were long areas of stairs and climbing up the side of small mountains.
The whole hike took maybe four hours and that was stopping along the way for lunch beside the trail. I met a lot of new people and it was an easy, fun way to spend the day. Along the way there was one hiker that was taking the time to take massive numbers of photos of the group. It took him until about three days ago to upload them. I quickly went through them looking for some good photos of myself, but I couldn’t find any. I look like a fool in all of them that I saw. In two group photos my hat is on crooked… what a dork! 🙂

Note to self: get a different hat or stop wearing the hat I have.

On our way back to the city while on the train, I was surprised to see so many people complaining on how tired they were. I felt a little tired in my calves, but nothing that I would consider being exhausted, but several of the people that went were falling asleep on the train. Here are a few of the photos that he uploaded.

DSC03035I’ve been a member of Meetup.com for about two weeks. When I first discovered it, I thought that I’d be busy all the time doing all sorts of fun stuff. That’s not really what happened though. Maybe I was getting picky or trying too hard to find the perfect event, but after the first ‘hike’ about two weeks ago I was hard pressed to find anything fun to do. That’s not exactly true, there was one that I signed up for that is going to happen tomorrow, and there was a couple that I waited too long to sign up for and subsequently was full by the time I decided. So when I got an email that said that a hiking trip to a waterfall was planned for the next day, I jumped on it. It sounded perfect, a hike along a river that ended at a waterfall.

There were only three of us that showed for the adventure, but that was okay. I don’t like huge crowds and I like to move fairly quickly on a hike, and that can be difficult with too many people.

The beginning of the trail started pretty mellow. We got off the bus and crossed the street to a road that led up the hill. Eventually the road ended and we were left with stairs that led up to a temple. As we got up to the temple there was a monk that greeted us in Chinese and told us to be careful. (thinking back, that was like the beginning of a bad horror movie. You know where the local makes a point to the uncaring hikers to, “Be careful.” ) From that point, at the temple is where the hike actually was beginning.

The climb started with stairs then quickly entered a true path. The path varied between easily passable to moderately difficult, and sometimes it was hard to tell where the path was at all. It was very hot and humid and during the majority of the trek we were in dense jungle. Within a few minutes I was sweating pretty hard and within an hour I was seriously wondering if I was going to make it to the end.

When we started we inadvertently took the wrong path and ended up doing a loop back to where we began, which was just above the temple. This mistake put us behind about an hour and sapped valuable strength, so we stopped for a rest. At this point is where I started to question my resolve to finish the hike. I didn’t really explain, but the hike was pretty much climbing a mountain by using a winding trail and at the very beginning of the trail, stairs. To give you an example, in that hour loop that we did according to my gps we actually traveled about .6 miles. That really surprised me, because we kept moving the whole time and in an hour we didn’t even travel one mile.

So after a little break we headed back up the mountain again, but this time on the correct path. When we got to the top and trying to determine which way to go, one of the guys that was on the hike decided that he had had enough. He just was too tired to continue and wanted to go home. Although I was slightly displeased with him, there was a side of me that was thinking the same way, it would be nice just to go somewhere and sit down, preferably with a cold drink.

The whole hike was supposed to be about 6km. We started at 10am and we planned on finishing by 3. Those 6km though actually took us two and a half hours longer. It wasn’t until 5:30 did we emerged onto a road that wound it’s way to the city below.

DSC03036Along the way I fell three times and surprisingly didn’t get hurt at all. When I say fell I mean, actually falling, not slipping, but falling on my butt. At one point I reached for a handhold and grabbed a plant that has thousands of thorns all over it. We had to stop for a few minutes while I tried to remove all the thorns from my hand. Even right now, the day after, my hand is cut up from that ‘smooth maneuver.’ Then, after trekking for about four hours it started to rain very hard. It started when we were at the second highest point on the trail and continued for about an hour. Normally this would be just a slight discomfort, but the trail was a continuous up and down trek, and the trail had many large river rocks along the way. To sum up, it was raining very hard and I didn’t have an umbrella or rain jacket, and I spent most of the time trying so hard not to slip on the smooth and wet rocks.

When we finally made it to the waterfall, I was completely spent. So much that the view of the waterfall, although beautiful, was more appreciated because it meant the trek was over.

In the end it was the most challenging hikes I’ve been on. If it hadn’t been for the rain, I think the hike wouldn’t have been as challenging, but when you are climbing down smooth rocks with no handholds, the rain added a higher level of difficulty.

Tomorrow I go on another hike.

I found the web site called meetup. I know, sounds like a dating site but it’s not. It is a site that allows you to meet others that have the same hobbies as you do. I found the site about a week ago and it was exactly what I needed. There are groups for hiking, biking, and nearly everything that you can think of. I joined about 10 groups and yesterday was the first event that I attended.

meetupjune21

We met at 9am not that far from my hostel, and were on a bus by 9:30. There were four of us going, two guys and two girls. The trip to our destination was about an hour and a half. The trip was uneventful and I spent most of the time just chatting with the others in the group.

My assumption of the hike was that we would spend most of the time hiking towards the final destination of a cave that had bats in it. I was kind of disappointed to find out that we were going to a theme park that had some hiking trails. I don’t think that the description was misleading, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

As I was looking for some money to pay the entrance fee, I realized that I had lost my wallet. The panic set in immediately. The leader of the hike talked to the park officials and they called the bus company to see if the driver could check to see if I left it there. That was the case and after about two hours I got my wallet back. No harm done, but the panic was awful.

webDSC03027Most of the time at this park was spent just walking around, they did however have some actual hiking trails. They weren’t very long, but it was nice to actually get the blood flowing and get away from the tourist feeling of the park. I think we hiked for maybe an hour total.

I did have a good time even though I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to hike a long distance. I think what made the time the best was just being around others. The other guy in the group was from the US and worked at Apple so we chatted quite a bit about technology. The other ‘new’ person in the group was from Korea and she just loves to hike. She was probably the most upset about the theme park destination than any of us.

There are other groups on meetup that I think I’ll try either this week or next week. One of the fun activities that I don’t think that I’ve ever heard about before, but sounds fun, is river tracing. The idea behind it is, to follow a river by wading along it. You know, walking down the river/creek in the water. It looks really kind of fun and I think I may do it, about the only thing stopping me is that I would have to buy a helmet, gloves, shoes, and a drybag.

My next stop was Kaohsiung City, south of Tainan. Again my reasons for stopping here were more out of a sense of, “why not?” than a need to see the city. I’m not exactly positive, but I think it’s the second biggest city in Taiwan. It was only about a 1-hour long train ride from Tainan to Kaohsuiung and the train station was only about 100 meters from my hostel so the whole process went really fast. The train was more of a metro than a true train though and it was crowded. I ended up standing the whole ride which isn’t really important, but might give you an idea of the ride.

1IMG_0406

Again, just like in Tainan there wasn’t a plan of things that I should do or spots that I should see. My goal was just to ‘experience’ the city for what it was.

 

The city is for the most part just like all the cities that I’ve been to in Taiwan, crowded with lots of beautiful women and food stalls—both are becoming the endearing things I like about Taiwan. It was hot too, maybe a little bit too hot for me. It would only take a few minutes of walking before sweat would be pouring from every spot on my body. It is a situation that I find both uncomfortable and embarrassing.

 

On one day I went for, according to my GPS, a 15-mile walk (24km). I love long walks and although I don’t think I’ve written about it before, I consider my walks to be more of a chance to meditate than anything else. I do appreciate being outdoors and getting some exercise, but after about the 3-mile mark of a walk my mind starts to wander and I end up almost in a contemplative state similar to what I consider to meditation.

1IMG_0387
the parade that made it’s way around the city

On this walk I just wandered around the city, kind of aiming towards a large building that was situated far in the distance, it looked somewhat unique but more importantly it gave me a destination. On the way I heard fireworks and a mix of drums and chanting. I could see about 6 blocks away a large group of people doing something so I decided to check it out. I’m still not exactly sure what the celebration was for, but it was a procession of worshipers making their way from temple to temple… I think.

 

I stayed there for about an hour as each group would march by, turn a corner and stop in front of a temple, ‘do their thing’ and then move on. After each group left a person would set off fireworks. There were many different types of groups, there were people carrying an idol, flag bearers, musicians, and my favorite, dancing dragons. Although it wasn’t, ‘fun’ in the typical sense, I had a good time watching. The whole process was maybe a little bit strange to me for a few reasons, the first being that they had to deal with traffic. Here’s a procession of maybe 500 people and they have to wait for a green light cross the street or stop to let a car turn left. Just funny. The procession left the one temple and I would later find out that it was going to all the temples in the area. I figured this out because after I left I kept running into them for the next hour or two, somewhat embarrassing considering that they probably thought I was following them.

“What did you do today?”

“Nothing much, just followed a parade for about six hours.”

 

I may need a life sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve been desperate enough to follow a parade before, especially considering that I had no idea what it celebrating. J

 

 

Most of my time in Kaohsiung was spent just exploring not too far from the hostel. Did some typical touristy things like go to the night market, wander along the river and maybe unique to only me, gorge myself on fruit. I love watermelon… I really, really do. I think it’s the best fruit ever… If I ever have a son, I’m going to name him Watermelon. J

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Tianan, Taiwan as a destination not because I wanted to actually see it, (though I didn’t not want to see it,) but I chose it because it was the only city south of Taipei that I was able to get a room that was relatively inexpensive. It seems that Taiwan room rates are on par with the US and with Europe, definitely the most expensive that I’ve encountered on this trip.

I was wandering along the street when I noticed that down the end of a narrow alley there was a mini Statue of Liberty. Kind of surprised me, but also was a nice thing to see.
I was wandering along the street when I noticed that down the end of a narrow alley there was a mini Statue of Liberty. Kind of surprised me, but also was a nice thing to see.

At first glance there wasn’t too much that stood out for me that would make me consider Tainan a good destination for a traveler. It took at least a day before I started to relax and accept it for what it was, just a small(er) city that can be very relaxing and enjoyable, if one didn’t expect too much. Once I did that, I really had a good time exploring. There are some great little restaurants and food courts that I happened on that were good enough for me to be a regular customer for the remainder of my time there. I still don’t know what I ate, but at one street vendor I had something that was so delicious. It was like a salad with a chicken strips on top. It probably wasn’t very ‘Chinese’ or even healthy, but it was really good. 🙂

There wasn’t a lot of ‘touristy’ things to see in Tainan, but I still spent most of my exploring the streets and shops. Since I’m writing this at least two weeks from the time I was there, I can’t come up with anything that I think is worthy of adding. It’s a shame but it happens all the time that I wait too long before writing and then can’t think of anything to write about. I remember the fruit stands that I went to about three times a day. It seems that every fruit stand around got to know me in the matter of just a couple of days.

I was in Tainan for about five days in total and in that time I felt a little bit of a connection with it, so much so that I have considered going back for a few days later on.

 

 

I arrived in Kenting, Taiwan to a sweltering temperature along with a stifling humidity. No worries, and although I didn’t know where my hostel was it turned out that I only had to walk about two miles with my two packs in an estimated temperature of about ninety-four degrees. It’s all good. 🙂 I wasn’t really in Kenting the city, but in Hengchun City in the territory/state of Kenting. Kenting is like the resort place in Taiwan with lots of small shops and cafes all catering to the tourists that arrive to enjoy the many beaches.

Hengchun was nice. It was a small city about 10 km away from Kenting, that is trying to be the next best thing to Kenting so there is kind of a touristy feel to it. I was booked for three nights and seriously thought about staying longer. As noted above, it was very hot and humid and at times it was uncomfortably hot which made me think that I’d look for somewhere else. The hostel was situated at the end of a road right next to a small jungle. It was comfortable and laid back so I was enjoying my time there.

The second day there I decided to rent a scooter so I could actually explore Kenting and the many beaches that were nearby. I slathered as much sunscreen my skin could absorb, donned my helmet, and fired up the scooter and in no time I was whizzing down the road on my way. Did I mention it was hot?

I didn’t stop too many times, but I stopped to take photos a few times and even stopped to dip my toes into the ocean at a small deserted beach just off the highway. In general it was a good time, but would have been great if the sun hadn’t been so intense.

I was on my small adventure for about six hours and was ready to call it a day when I pulled up to the hostel. I felt good, like I had accomplished something memorable so about the only thing left to do was to take a break in the shade. I set my backpack on a table in the courtyard outside my room and heard a hiss or maybe it was a growl on my left. It was one of those sounds that is loaded with danger and kind of startled me, I stepped back and looked over to see about two meters away from me a black cobra with it’s hood flared out looking at me but also trying to move the rest of his body away from me as well. I kind of froze for a second, not sure what to do. I knew that I wasn’t really in a lot of danger because the snake was trying to get away, but on the other hand, it was a cobra…in the wild. I looked around and saw a guy sitting on a couch through an open window and asked/urged him to come over. I had to tell him to hurry and when he got outside all that was left of the snake to see was its tail disappearing behind a sheet of plywood. I asked if he had seen it, but since his English wasn’t very good I’m not sure of his response.

Later I talked to the guy that works at the hostel to tell him about the cobra, and his answer was, “I’ve never heard that before.” What? I mean, What?! I don’t know if he didn’t believe me or just didn’t care, but his lack of concern was disturbing. I couldn’t sit down for a couple of hours, partly because of adrenaline and partly because I was worried that the cobra would come back.

Although my encounter with the cobra was unsettling I wasn’t ready to leave Hengchun yet, it was only when my computer started to have problems. The battery wouldn’t charge and I was kind of starting to panic that I would be unable to use it. So at the end of the third night I headed back to Taipei to see if I could fix it or to find out what exactly was wrong.