In June we needed to get out of town – it was too loud for grieving. The death of Jack triggered an intense aversion to noise. Perhaps this is a the brain’s response to being to full to process any extra stuff? Curious if this has happened to anyone else. It’s diminishing a bit with time, like so many things.
In late April we read in the newspaper that the center of the annular solar eclipse would pass through the island of Taiwan. We thought this was a great reason to travel and position ourselves in the center of the path, in one of the most beautiful parts of Taiwan, on Father’s Day.
Generally speaking, the quietest part of Taiwan is the East coast because 90% of the population lives on the west coast. Source: Geography of Taiwan – Wikipedia.
CAMPER VAN TAIWAN STYLE
When the COVID-19 blues hit earlier this year we started scheming on how we could travel more on island in our leased Toyota Previa mini van. Could Taiwan offer us a similar dreamy van life as we had experienced on our other favorite island, New Zealand? The short answer is no, but it’s GE (good enough) and we successfully camped 3 nights so far.
First we had a custom mattress made. Taiwan is highly skilled at mattress making. Both our bed and guest bed were hand made in 5 days, completely to our spec from a small shop in the city. We returned to the same shop. This was definitely their first van mattress request. We designed it to fold in half and they nailed it. We then bought mesh screen material and magnets so we could cover the car windows at night and hope for a breeze. It is hot here! We bought a 10 liter container for water, 2 USB charged fans to help cool us at night and the rest was pre-existing camping gear.
The heat is our only enemy… and monkeys. Until it cools down we use van camping on the first or last night of long trips to cut the driving time down. We hope to do multiple nights when “winter” arrives.
About 3-4 hours from our apartment we found this lookout and had it to ourselves. It’s not New Zealand, but it was just us, a sunset, cicadas and two tuna sandwiches on homemade bread. Perfect.
After a night here we headed to where we’d hunker down for a week. Dulan, a small town, known for good surf, laid back vibe, and the perfect location to spend a few days and position ourselves for the Father’s Day SOLAR ECLIPSE!
We have heard good things about the little town of Dulan on the south east coast of Taiwan. It is a quiet town popular with surfers that attracts both Taiwanese and foreigners. We read that there is a Night Market every Saturday at the Highway 11 brewery. As far as markets go, it was pretty small, but there where a few stalls with good food and other items for sale. It was there we met Xiǎo Bù, a sweet dog with no back legs and then we met her human companion, Jo. We asked Jo how she ended up in a quiet town in Taiwan. She explained that she wanted to learn Mandarin and googled “Taiwan, Surf, Hippies”. That led her to Dulan. Since arriving in Taiwan she started making and selling natural sunscreen Mosa Surf Zinc. We’re fans!
We now understand why there is a surprisingly large number of foreigners in this town. The vibe is very laid back (particularly compared to the built up and busy beaches of Kenting), the ocean is accessible and great for surfing or body boarding, there is number of diverse and delicious food options. Beyond playing in the ocean and eating good food, and relaxing, there isn’t much more going on in Dulan, but that was just perfect for us. It has the most South-East Asia vibe (think beaches of Thailand or Vietnam) that we have found in Taiwan.
Sanxiantai Bridge for Eclipse Viewing
The Sanxiantai bridge is a beautiful bridge with 8 arches that provides a walk way to a nearby island. It was the perfect location for eclipse viewing. We got there in plenty of time to watch the eclipse from the shore near the bridge.
An annular eclipse is different than a total eclipse. A total eclipse blocks out all of the sun. An annular eclipse happens when the moon is further away from the earth and does not block out the entire sun, but rather passes in front and creates a “ring of fire”.
It was spectacular. We spent 3-4 hours observing and watching the moon slowly center itself in front of the sun (from our perspective). During that time it got visibly darker, the temperature dropped, UVs went from 8 to 3, and the isopoda (woodlice) came crawling up on the beach all confused. The “ring of fire” was less than a minute but it was magical.
From Dulan we realized that we could see Green Island from the shore and we decided to ride a 50 min ferry (21 miles) to check it out. We had heard Green Island has some of the best diving in Taiwan so our first stop was to Blue Safari Diving Center. After scoping out the shop and talking with the staff we signed up for a dive that afternoon. They paired us with Smile, one of the local dive masters (her name’s character has what looks like a smile in it, 笑 which means laugh). We were a little nervous because less English is spoken on these smaller islands and our mandarin is bù hǎo (not good). But after breaking the ice with Smile we felt very comfortable with her and enjoyed diving with her so much that we signed up to dive with her again the next day. Diving is part a mental exercise which is challenging when your headspace is in grief mode. Smile earned Passionfruit’s complete trust when she successfully calmed her mind down during an anxious underwater moment. We ended up doing four 18 meter deep dives in in two days and seeing lots of beautiful sea life.
We also had time to take a scooter around Green Island, all 6 square miles of it to explore and snorkel. A favorite spot was the caves near Youzihu, a coastal lake and reef area where you could float, free-dive, snorkel or jump in from the rocks above. The water was incredibly clear which made observing fish and corals easy.
This area was particularly serene and just what we were craving. It was medicine for the heart and head.
Thanks for all the continued love and reaching out in these past couple months. It seems we’re all grieving something in 2020.
As we look back on our suffering country from our safe haven of Taiwan we can tell you that 197,000+ people didn’t need to die from covid in the past 9 months (and sadly, this number will increase until public health becomes a National focus in the USA). Trump chose to ignore covid since January and he will continue to do so. To us, a flagrant difference between Taiwan and the USA is Taiwan’s leadership is “we minded”, the USA’s is “me minded”. Public health and public service are not priorities of Trump. They never will be. He’s a “me guy”.
We Need a Dopamine Boost!
One way to get it? Vote. The USA doesn’t have enough coffins and tears for another 4 years of his “me world”. Let’s not hand him another four.
We love you.
Pickles (or Kimchi as the stamp actually reads) & Passionfruit
(Trip occurred in June, post written/shared September 2020)
P.S. Sending us mail or a package?
A couple care packages have been sent to our Nike provided P.O. Box forwarding address. Flat mail works great (as in a letter/photos/cards/stickers), but Nike cannot ship us packages. We have been fortunate enough to have people hand carry the packages to us, but there is almost no travel between USA and Taiwan now. If you do have something to send that is not 100% flat paper please send direct to our Taichung address. Standard USPS mail is reliable and safe between our countries. It will be delivered straight to our door. Zero issues with thievery here. Email us for the address.