Look at that off-road beast on the right!
One of the best ways to spend your weekend in Taiwan: just hop on your scooter and head for the hills.
My friend and I decided to get out of Tainan on Sunday. We’d planned on making a day of it for a while, so some overcast skies and occasional drizzle were a drag, but didn’t dampen the spirits.
The idea was to aim for Yujing and Nanhua Reservoir, maybe Dongshan and some of the coffee fields there– but the best part about these rides is just stopping anywhere that catches your eye.
Put this on the “Taiwan Pros” list: The island beckons you to explore it.
Back home, I would have been parked on the couch, drinking beer, and watching football. While that is something I miss (like crazy), riding out into nowhere and seeing what I can stumble upon is much more fulfilling.
But, I’m not gonna blab on about day trips and where all roads lead in Taiwan. Not the point. You can pretty much stop reading right here if you want, but I hope this quick synapsis of our day inspires you to get out of town next weekend.
Couldn't find the name of this spot on Google Maps, but it is massive-- and worth a visit (coming from a very templed-out ex-pat).
THE START: Found this massive Tibetan Buddhist Temple. Magnificent grounds. Monks seemed like the real deal, doing the full-blown prostrate prayer technique. It was interesting to see the photos of the Dalai Lama and his, er, disciples placed prominently inside one of the main temples. Not going to see that in China!
No Photoshop needed.
NEXT STOP: Nanhua Reservoir in the lifting fog. Beautiful lake up in this jagged valley that starts stretching up towards Yu Shan. In my opinion, this spot was just as striking as Sun Moon Lake… but take that as more of a knock on Sun Moon that overboard praise for Nanhua. Regardless, it was gorgeous.
We were definitely not in here.
NEXT STOP: Random, abandoned military theme park. I’m talking fighter jets, tanks, gun turrets from battleships– all of it just abandoned in some surreal, overgrown plot of land below the reservoir dam. You find these spots a lot around the island. Somebody obviously thought he had the next big spot on the tourist map, but thought wrong. There were parking lots, paths everywhere, nice trash cans, little gazebos for snacking, flower gardens– even an odd cactus landscape– all just tossed aside when no one showed up. We probably weren’t allowed to climb up into some of the jets, so we’ll just say that that did not happen.
NEXT STOP: Road to nowhere. We followed this thing, winding down the mountain side, half of it completely washed out from flooding, or maybe earthquakes, in parts. We thought it was heading down to the res, but it dead ended at this monster, um, I’m not an engineer, so let’s call it a water run-off gulley. Hoping for a closer look, we decided to crawl down this barely visible trail that some fisherman must have cut in through the jungle brush not so long ago.
NOTE: I see why you don’t fight wars in a jungle. Just treacherous terrain. Wet. Slippery. Muddy. Creepy crawlies everywhere. It was fun, we made the waterfront, but it was a mission.
Apparently, this "temple" was celebrating a birthday. Party on, Wayne.
NEXT STOP: Random roadside parade. Maybe the highlight of the day here. We were hungry by now, late in the afternoon, covered in mud, and ready for a cold beer. We headed a little further on to Jiaxin, this fairly decent-sized town in the middle of nowhere. As we hit the main drag, we see this train of people carrying the standard temple altars and wearing the matching hats. The binlang dudes had their baggy white tees and the sweat towels over the shoulder. Ladies and kids were dressed in traditional attire, carrying spear-like prayer gadgets. Fireworks banging. Crackling. The good ol’ fireworks during the day display, always a crowd-pleaser. We stopped to let it pass by and try to sneak a pic. One of the good ol’ boys following the procession hopped out, looked at us, started yelling at his kid in the back of the truck, then walks over– two, icy-cold, frickin’ delicious Heinekens. Boom! For the win! Taiwan, I heart you! Coldest beers I may have ever had in Taiwan.
ALMOST LAST STOP: Earth baked chicken joint. We had some snacks in Jiaxin, but didn’t find what we were really looking for– that tasty countryside chicken. We hit the road, and on the way home, passed this one strip of three chicken joints that looked a little shabby, but had people there. We were welcomed by a sharp lady laoban who pulled us in to her spot. Her husband began chatting me up, giving me this whole shpeil about how he doesn’t really care about making money. Just likes to hang out and have beers with people. And, sure enough, he charged us 50NT for Taiwan Jingpai tall boys, cheaper than 7-11. Legit. The woman gave us our customary wool gloves and a pair of plastic ones to slip over them, and then a plate with a delicious earth-oven-baked chicken. We ripped that thing apart in no time. (Way too savage a scene to snap a pic)
LAST LAST STOP: Tainan Park. Made it home and needed a few more of those icy, tall boys to cap off the night.