Taiwan has a couple of holidays in early October, Mid-Autumn Festival (full moon, bbqs and moon cakes) and National Day on 10/10 (similar to our 4th). We decided to bridge the holidays with a relaxing vacation, to a familiar spot on the island’s chill east side, Dulan. In the past year, Dulan has become our go-to spot to get away from the city, play on the beach, eat some good food and just relax.
If our photos looks strangely mask-less, here’s why. Taiwan has no local spread or undetected cases of Covid-19. However, masks are still common practice, mandatory on public transit, at post offices, and health institutions to name a few.
We stayed at our comfortable b&b, Stone Party, and hit up some favorite restaurants: Dulan A Mano Pizza, Taitung Tea House (fish ‘n chips & shaved ice), The Pig Out (smoked meats), and a place known as Vietnam Food.
Our timing turned out to be really good as we caught the last show of the East Coast Full-Moon Festival and concert series. It’s a stunning setting for outdoor concerts which overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
During the day we played in the ocean, although the waves and wind were stronger this time of year (early October). We also spent some time hiking around Sanxiantai Island where we had previously watched the solar eclipse in June, on Father’s Day.
We also tried some some new yummy places. An ice cream place opened up called Bumang (Mandarin for not-busy … and it wasn’t). She hand-mixes the flavors and forms it into a brick shape. It’s decadent. This is the Roselle flavor (aka Hibiscus fruit, very common and in bloom this time of year).
Our friends Jade and Charlie recommended YaSu, a Japanese place with a great set menu and Sapporo on tap.
For our last meal in Dulan we decided to try a highly rated, obscurely located, and tiny restaurant that specializes in a set menu of stinky tofu (fermented tofu). We are not big fans of stinky tofu but the ratings and reviews made us curious. Passionfruit needs to interject here! I am a fan of some stinky tofu and will take it from here …
This was not your average stinky tofu. This was artisan, as in not what you find at the night markets. It was prepared as a strong accent in every dish, including dessert! It was served in a tatami mat room, cozy enough for 8 people. We made fast friends in this cozy setting and by the end of the meal found ourselves invited to something called a gong bath the next day.
A Gong Bath
When you’re invited you to a gong bath, there’s only one way to answer, “yes”. We have found that saying yes is an excellent way to experience life, particularly in a foreign land.
This gong bath was scheduled for the following day at 9 am. As promised it was on a mountain top so we gave ourselves extra time getting there. We knew very little other than this.
We don’t have photos of the actual gong bath but it went like this. We showed up, and everyone was made to be comfortable, laying on the floor in a beautiful wooden pavilion. There were yoga mats, blankets, and pillows. It consisted of the small group of 5 we had dinner with plus a couple more of their friends and kids.
We laid down on yoga mats, eyes closed, and waited for the gong vibrations to begin. What happened next, caught me by surprise. Kuruna (the gong musician) walked around the room and flapped two very large Andean condor feathers over each of us. I was completely overwhelmed with the beauty of it all, the music, the vibrations, sounds, the art of ceremony, hearing birds sing and the wind blow through the trees. I could only think of my dad and how much I craved a ceremony for him, with all my people. The tears flowed.
Many of you know that my father died from a fall off a cliff, but what caused this will always remain a mystery. He was a skilled hiker, in excellent health, and the area where it occurred was familiar and safe. This place is near our home in Montana and I’ve gone many times with him. The only story that makes sense to me is this… on May 14 he set out to stretch his legs, get some fresh air, and observe golden eagles and their eaglets, which he had done over the past 20+ years. I believe that while he was attempting to observe the nest he was caught by surprise and knocked off his footing by the female golden, swooping at or near him. These magnificent raptors are the largest birds in North America. They have broad wings that span 6 to 7 feet and can be silent in flight. Had an eagle been protecting her nest, Jack would have called this “pilot error”, his error, as he had the greatest respect for the natural world.
The ceremony lasted an hour. At one point Kuruna’s assistant walked around with a gong and played it gently over each of our bodies. The vibrations were powerful to hear and feel that close.
Afterwards, Kuruna and Dass (friend from stinky tofu dinner and fluent in English) came over and sat with Scott and I on our mats. They could sense it was an emotional journey of some sort, so I shared why. They listened with big hearts and then Kuruna offered a feather blessing to each of us.
The synchronicity of everything happening at this gong bath is beyond what I can capture in words. I believe some things find us when we need them and I needed this, including the two corgis that lived on-site.
As the afternoon ticked on, we saw dozens of birds in various sizes, circling in thermals of hot air above us. I felt the Spirit of Jack in an enormous way. I also craved my dad’s wisdom to identify what all these birds were. I really need a Taiwanese bird book in English! Many were massive so maybe vultures, the smaller ones, hawks? It was a magnificent sight that lasted 30 some minutes.
Soon after the bird show, we observed a couple of yellow-throated martens, an endemic and protected animal, chasing each other. We also saw lots of Formosan rock macaque monkeys which are common Taiwan natives.
By evening this magical place transforms to a restaurant (by reservation only), serving fresh food grown from their mountain-top garden. We were invited to stay. We again said, “yes”!
Dass and I stayed in touch and we’ll be going to my second gong bath at the end of November. This is why you always say, “yes”, even if you’re not so crazy about stinky tofu.
We leave you with this mini 30 second gong bathing experience. Enjoy the vibrations. Stay safe. Stay healthy. We love you! xoxo
Pickles & Passionfruit
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