After a week of exploring Taipei, and another week spent trekking down Taiwan's east coast, Marisa and I are now holed up in Taiwan's 2nd largest city of Kaohsiung, where I'm working with my friend Simon (who's generously hosting us) to make a super cool game about rice farming! I'll be posting an overview of our trip down the east coast shortly, but for now, here's a look at one day in the process (Nov. 11), complete with trekking, hitching, lunch with our ride providers, hot springs, and beautiful views.
We started the day at our beach-side campsite on Highway 11:
From there, we walked a little bit, enjoying the clear skies (it was our first truly sunny day in Taiwan), then hitched a ride further down the coast in the back of a pickup:
We had a snack in the small town of Fongbin, walked a bit more, then hitched another ride inland a little ways, to Taiwan's Guangfu, in Taiwan's East Rift Valley (once again, try to ignore my eczema, which makes my face look gross):
The man who took us to Guangfu was kind enough to invite us in for a home-cooked meal with his family, in their house which also served as a store-front for every kind of hardware supply (and a talking bird):
At Guangfu we caught the train further down the Rift Valley...
... in search of Taiwan's only naturally carbonated hot springs, in the town of Rueisuei. The hot springs weren't quite as easy to find as we expected, but after walking several miles through farmland, and asking numerous people for directions, we finally got there!
Here's a little map of the ground we covered that day (click on it to get an interactive view, with pictures):
You can also check out more photos on Flickr.
After leaving Taipei Marisa and I headed for Taiwan's northeast coast, where we did some camping and hiking. I'll post more about our experiences when I have the time, but for now, I thought I'd upload a couple of videos we took from our tent. These won't show you much of Taiwan, but they'll give you a bit of an idea of what it's been like camping and trekking in the rain... monsoon season on the east coast is late summer, but the aftermath has been hanging around this year, so that we've only seen two dry days since we've been here (and sun only once).
First night out camping:
The following morning:
That day we hiked the historic Caolin Trail, in the drizzle (click here for more pictures):
And spent the night at a temple in Dali (click here for more pictures):
This is where we live. Yes, it's awesome.
To me the most interesting aspect of this video is how critical the Korean government seems to be of its own education system--Obama's compliments notwithstanding. Thanks to Marisa's dad for passing this on.
This past weekend we took Jed on a quick trip to Jeonju to see the traditional Hanok village. They have one of the largest surviving groups of traditional Korean houses there and it's a big tourist destination in our province. We were lucky enough to go on the same day as some sort of festival; we think they were celebrating the deity in a tree. We made a little video about our experience, some things to look out for are: jump roping, a cute puppy and Marisa dancing.
Keep watching, and you'll get some crazy hops starting at 1:20.
We hear the Korean version of this song almost every day here. It is much loved by our middle school girls. Now it is apparently much loved by American middle school girls as well. Notice how the beginning of this music video is obviously just a dubbed version of the Korean video--and yet the thing still managed to do well on MTV...
Korea is fairly new to the world hip hop scene. But when Koreans started b-boying they did it in typical Korean fashion: without reserve, determined to become the best. And now they are. The best. "Battle of the Year," a tournament often called the World Cup of break dancing, takes place annually in Germany. Out of the past seven years Korea has won four times. The other three years they were runner up. America, the mother of hip hop, has by contrast won the tournament twice in nineteen years.
This is all a lead in to say that while we were in Busan this last week we stumbled upon an international hip hop competition taken place on the beach. At one point it was raining pretty hard, so it was like seeing Step Up 2 live; the Koreans were ready with ponchos for everyone, so the show went on unfazed. One thing that surprised me about the competition was the number of girls involved, including an all-female Korean crew, which I thought was great (hopefully their parents think the same). Here's a little highlights video:
Does anyone know where Croacia is? For the life of me I couldn't find it on the map...
For more about break dancing, hip-hop, and Korea's dominance, I would highly recommend the film Planet B-Boy.