After work on Friday, I rush over to the Taipei Main Station to meet up with two friends as we prepare ourselves for the five and a half hour train ride to Taitung. I had purchased our tickets earlier that day at lunch, but was only able to secure one seat for the three of us, and we would get a second seat about three hours or so into the ride. Needless to say, we were preparing ourselves for a long ride of standing and feeling hungry (none of us had enough time to buy food before reaching the station). As luck would have it, we are seated next to two sets of little kids who are jumping, yelling, or crying all throughout the trip. The first few hours pass quickly as we chit chat about our weeks, share funny anecdotes from our past, and then I hear a faint, “Excuse me” from a man pushing a cart. A FOOD CART! We quickly purchase a bag of vegetable crackers, and three boxes of food. Unfortunately, we would have to wait until we reached a larger station to get the food, since that was when they would be made. After we devour our food, we are now far along the route, that the seat next to ours is made available. We move the hand rest up and make it a loveseat, which we try to jam all three of us into. This was the most uncomfortable ride ever, no matter how you readjusted, someone’s elbow or should or body would be pushing up against you; however, we were all so exhausted it didn’t matter and we all proceed to fall asleep. The next time I wake up, our other friend Gloria is calling me, she says a group of them had hopped on a train at Hualien (about three stops before our ultimate destination). I realize, we just passed that station and ask her which train she is on. We figure out that we had all inadvertently gotten on the same train! We meet up and proceed to take over a section of the train! We start to play a word association game called “Contact” and are probably the loudest group on the train. We are just having the time of our lives, shouting out clues and guessing words. After we get off at Taitung, we still have another hour before our other friends who had left from Taichung and Kaohsiung arrive, so we go to the 7-11 and purchase a deck of cards and some drinks. We immediately begin to play the game Kemps, where each person has a partner and you are trying to collect four of a kind, and then signal to your partner. It got so competitive, that everyone was watching everyone else and not really paying attention to their own cards. Shortly afterwards, everyone arrives and we are whisked away by three taxis to the hostel for the night. We are greeted by Eddie, the most inhospitable person I have ever met. He was not only rude and obnoxious, but passive aggressive and sarcastic too. He would brush aside our questions, and talk to us as if we were little children. Everyone was not having any of it. We cooked up a late night snack and all the girls went to sleep. All of the guys decide to play Spades and cook up burgers since all of us were still pretty awake. Well, most of the guys were interested in burgers anyway, Chris became the classic case of falling for peer pressure. He didn’t want to eat the burgers at first, and didn’t want to stay up, but once all the other guys had enthusiastically agreed, he too begrudgingly said okay. By this point it was already 5 AM and our ferry in the morning was at 7:30. Eddie had warned us, “I’m leaving at 7:15 for the pier. If you’re not here, I’m leaving you. I’m a busy man. I have to make my facial and spa day. I’m rich, unlike you.” This is just a taste of the hospitality Eddie showed us this weekend.
As we head to the ferry, I start to get a bit nervous. I know I get seasick and I heard this boat ride would be extremely choppy. Luckily, Jackie had seasickness medication. I pop a pill, but was still not ready for this boat ride. We walk onto the ship and realize the only seats available are the first three rows. We quickly grab whatever seats we can, and the boat proceeds to dart forward. It feels as if the ferry is flying over these waves, and your stomach is in a perpetual drop (the feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster ride). After 10 more minutes of this craziness, all the boys move to the back of the boat to continue our Spades game. We get through one round and immediately, everyone but Daniel is done playing. We find an empty spot and lay down on the ground. Surprisingly this made the ride a lot more bearable and I proceeded to fall asleep. When I wake up, I notice that everyone around me has gotten up and we had reached Green Island!
We disembark and find the moped rental agency Eddie has arranged for us. We had decided earlier in the day that Daniel, Chris, Brian, Alice, and Tiffany would be driving the mopeds, with everyone else riding in the back. When we get to the place, he checks our US Drivers Licenses and gives us 5 mopeds. We all fiddle with the ignition and the gas, not really knowing how to get a moped started. The owner keeps asking if we know what we are doing, which we all quickly respond, “Yes, yes of course we do.” Unfortunately, he began to question if the girls could actually moped, and quickly took the bikes away from both Tiffany and Alice. Which meant, for the duration of the trip we would only have 3 mopeds, the rest of the group was given bicycles. We get over the initial disappoint with this turn of events, and set off to scrounge up some food. Tiffany and Grace spot a sign that says, “Vegetarian,” so we all head inside. We notice that the restaurant has 鹿肉燴飯 (deer meat over rice) and 鹿肉小龍包 (deer meat steamed soup dumplings). Everyone, besides the two vegetarians, orders all the deer meat they can. The meat turned out to be better than I expected, it was definitely gamey, but not as tasty as lamb for sure.
After lunch, we still have around a few hours or so to kill before we go snorkeling so we decide to practice moped-ing in what appears to be a circular track across from our hostel. Since I do not know how to ride a bike, Tiffany offered to teach me! It definitely was quite the adventure, as I hop on all shaky, and she holds the handlebars for me like a mom. I would start biking and roll into her each time, so I decided to venture off on my own, and started just trying to balance on the bike. After about ten minutes, I was shakily riding around the track! Afterwards, we realize we still had a little time left so Brian, Chris, Alice, and I decide to hop on the mopeds and explore the island a bit further.
Initially we are told that it would take over an hour and a half to traverse the whole island, later we learn that we are able to make the entire loop in forty minutes. Our initial trip out, we make it down to the white, sandy beaches on the southern tip. All along the ride, I bust out my digital camera and try to take some shots of the beautiful scenery. All the plants are so lush and the beaches are all beautiful expanses of sand with the waves crashing against them. By this point we feel like we’re pretty far, and book it back to the hostel. We are greeted by our instructor and are all ready to go, except Daniel and Grace are missing! We find out that they have a flat tire down near the beach and the moped rental agency sends out someone to bring them back. We all meet up at the beach and head into the water. Our instructor has a string of life preservers tied together, which we hold onto to while snorkeling so that he could pull and guide us along the water. At first, the water was pretty shallow and we were only able to see small fish darting in and out of the rocks; however, the rocks suddenly drop off into a massive ocean floor. We are greeted by hundreds of fish swimming around in schools, some of my favorite being a black fish with a long protruding nose (which I now refer to as the Pinocchio fish) and a rainbow colored slender fish. The instructors would throw small pieces of bread throughout the water to attract the fish; it was pretty amusing seeing all the fish swarm the floating bits of bread. My one complaint about snorkeling was the amount of people all gathered in that one area. It seemed like there were 30 groups of people all converging on that one location and constantly bumping into each other. People would shout “塞車” (traffic jam) over and over as you were being bombarded by legs and arms of the millions of people around you. After what seemed like ten minutes, but was actually closer to 30 – 40 minutes, we come out of the water, change out of the wetsuits, and are back on the road for another adventure. The girls and the guys split up to go shopping and exploring around the island respectively. We first load up on drinks at the 7-11, each picking up two Super Supau, which then lead to the nickname of our moped gang: Super Supau Supercrew. The first spot we stop at is a local prison. Green Island used to be home to multiple prisons as it is an island off the coast of Taiwan, so basically the Taiwanese equivalent of Alcatraz. Since rain was starting to pour down, we make our way over to a gazebo like structure just beyond the outer walls of the prison, snap a few photos, and just wait out the storm.
After about ten minutes, the rain dies down and we head out. As we are leaving, the guards from inside the wall spot us and yell, “You’re not allowed to be there!” Apparently, this was still an active prison and we had gotten too close to the outer walls! With that comment ringing in our ears, we blast off into the beauty that is Green Island. All along the trip I am snapping photos from the back of the moped. We spot a gorgeous shot of some rock formations off the coast, and pull off to take some quick photos.
Looking closer at the beach below, we notice the outline of people down below and see a path going down. All of us wanted to go down and explore further, but realized the time crunch we were in, as we had to be back by six for our BBQ dinner. We make a mental note to come back the following day and are on the road again, determined to make it around the island before dinner. Realizing we only have twenty more minutes, we vow to not make anymore stops and go straight back to the hostel….and then we see “Sleeping Beauty” a natural rock formation that resembles a sleeping girl.
We can’t pass this up, so we run down the “Little Great Wall” and take in the scenery while posing for some quick photos.
At this point, we hop on the mopeds and go full speed towards the pier and home.
Apparently, our time management skills are amazing as we pull into the restaurant right at 6. The girls come back with their haul of clothing from their shopping spree and we BBQ on the rooftop while watching the sunset over the water.
It turned out to be a pretty fun meal as we would throw everything on the grill and sauce them up like crazy, much like our first night during TTT orientation.
That night we all went our separate ways and had numerous mini adventures: moped practicing while carrying a dog, meeting friends from Nauru, sharing lobster with locals, watching shooting stars, chatting in the rooms, and biking to Family Mart throughout the night for more drinks. The original plan is to not sleep at all and make our way over to the hot springs to watch the sunrise; however, everyone decides to sneak in a few hours of rest before then and pass out for about two hours. Our plan to wake up and leave by 4:30 so that we can shuttle everyone over to the hot springs does not happen, as we all pull ourselves out of bed at 5. At this point the sun is starting to rise and we make our first trips over to the hot springs. The boys start to shuttle people over in mopeds, while some of the girls start to make the bike ride over. This place is actually on the other side of Green Island, so it’s pretty impressive that the girls were riding over at 5AM in the morning. Eventually, all the girls leave their bikes by the side of the road as they get a ride on a moped for the last stretch. By the time we make it to the hot springs the sun is already peeking out, but is being covered by clouds. We end up enjoying the hot springs for a few hours and just people watching. All the girls take a lot of pictures of the scenery, them in the hot spring in every combination of people possible.
As it starts getting later, the guys get start getting hungry and head back to the hostel for a bite to eat. We pig out 玉米農湯, 蘿蔔糕, and 煎餃. Then we hit up the 7-11 one more time to pick up some guava juice before we head out on our last trip around the island. We pick up Gloria, Alice, and Grace from the hot springs and drive around the island in the reverse direction.
This time we made sure to save enough time to explore the rock formations, so we take the windy road down. The first thing we spot is a cave to our left, so we make our way over. On our way, we stop to climb up a rock formation to pose for some more shots and then go explore the cave.
By now, time is kind of tight so we gun it all the way back in order to make our ferry ride at noon. We return our keys, take back the bikes, and prepare ourselves mentally for the ferry ride from hell. This time around, the trip was so much better! Since there was no back area to lay down in, like our first boat ride, we end up going below deck into the bottom level. There are no windows here, so you can’t really see the waves crash against the boat and since we were all so exhausted, I pop in my iPod headphones and knock out for the next hour. Once we arrive back on the main island of Taiwan, we taxi ride over to the train station and hop on the next Express train to Taipei! Thus ending an epic weekend in Green Island!