in taiwan

more manhole covers from taiwan!

after the first few, we kept seeing more and more fancy manhole covers, so we kept collecting, a bit all over taiwan. here’s some more from taipei:

from tamsui:

from hualien:

and kaohsiung!

also from kaohsiung, this rather funky constellation of little sewer lids, which i loved walking by:

in taiwan

taroko national park

what a magnificent place! taroko gorge is a national park near hualien, created by tectonic plates and millions of years of erosion that reveal gorgeous marble canyons. they are super narrow or deep in some places, others show the greenest water you can imagine.

it looked a lot like vintgar gorge in slovenia, but many times larger. it really looked like we were inside an ancient chinese painting, with the steep mountains and fog covered peaks!

our host recommended this place for lunch, and it did not disappoint — especially the sticky rice, steamed in bamboo!

one of the best parts came near the end. to get to a particular trail, we had to do 400 meters of tunnel through the mountain, and the tunnel was completely dark. i couldn’t quite understand why… but then some taiwanese tourists walking besides us shone their powerful flashlight on the ceiling and wow! sooooo many bats! i think this was the first time i saw so many of them together, and it suddenly made sense why the tunnel was so dark.

i did not realize there would be so many highlights to this place, otherwise i would have planned to stay more days so we could hike around the park between all the sights. something for the next visit! :)

birdwatching in taiwan

more taiwan birds

let me just make note of a few more birds we saw in taiwan, because they don’t exist in this part of the world, and so it felt extra special to see them. first up, the light-vented bulbul, our first ever bulbul. a little bird, that seems like it has been snowed on:

next, the chinese bamboo partridge! we spotted them next to a patch of bamboo and while we watched with the binoculars, a couple of taiwanese hikers walked by, curiously looked at where we were looking and exclaimed “ah! bamboo chicken!” :D

the common myna seems so used to people in taiwan that they get really close to us in the city…

and look at the black bulbul, with its spiky hair… a funky sight!

just as funky was the malayan night heron. it’s a big, stern-looking bird, and the juveniles look less rust-colored than the adults. i learned that the technical term for the color is “rufous”.

and last but not least, we saw some oriental turtle-doves with their stripes on the neck (and the spotted dove too in the south, but i didn’t get a good picture).

this concludes the brief tour of birds we saw in taiwan! i think it’s one of the brilliant things of being so far from home, and especially on an island: every bird we saw seemed new and made us look more closely, even sparrows and doves.

in taiwan just life

17 years!

… and lots more adventures to come! :)

foooood in taiwan

betel nuts

betel nuts are something completely new to us, and i was kind of fascinated by them. they grow on a type of skinny palm tree, and are sold fresh wrapped in betel leaf, with a bit of slaked lime mixed in.  the stalls and shops that sell them are everywhere on the side of the roads — once you notice their flashy fluorescent neons at night, you cannot unsee them. 

in taiwan, they’re sold fresh in little bags of a dozen or so nuts. the nuts and leaves are chewed together, to give people a buzz and a warm feeling (or so we’ve heard). like tobacco, they’re also carcinogenic, so it’s not something i was eager to try. there’s a curious magic to them though: when chewed, the whole saliva and mouth of the person turns blood red… it’s more than a little disconcerting to see someone smiling while chewing them. the leftovers are spit out after the chewing is done, often on the floor.  in taipei, it’s forbidden to spit them out on the pavement, which i guess hinders its consumption… but around the country there is no such problem, and everywhere  you go outside the capital, you see the red spats on the floor.  

apparently, they’re more of a southern asia thing, which helps explain why we never saw them in shanghai. anyway, maybe not the nicest aspect of taiwan, but yeah… it made me look and discover something new.