Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day trip to Taoyuan

On Saturday, July 23, 2005, I went with my friend Betty and her co-workers on a trip to Wei Chuan (Wei Quan in pinyin) Amusement Park. Betty works for a computer company in Taiwan, and they took all their employees on a day trip to show their appreciation. Each person could bring a friend for free, and Betty picked me (because her boyfriend works on Saturdays, ha). I've posted the photos here: so have a look as you read about the day. There's a website for the place, and it's in Chinese, but you can still go have a look around. Just keep clicking stuff :)

The bus ride was about one hour, and we got to see most of the new animated movie, Madagascar, on the way. Unfortunately, they had the sound turned way down, and I had to resort to trying to read the Chinese subtitles to know what was going on. I finally gave up and fell asleep, so I missed a lot of the movie.

We arrived at Wei Quan at 9:00 a.m. First order of business was getting some iced coffee to keep us awake (I'd gotten up at 5:00 a.m.), so we hit eCoffee for some of the best and cheapest "bing ka fei" that I've had in Taiwan. Only $35NT per cup, what a deal! That's around $1.10 US, and compared to what Starbucks charges, cheap cheap cheap.

The company-sponsored BBQ wasn't scheduled to begin until 10:30 a.m., so Betty and I started wandering around to check things out. Thankfully, the weather was relatively cool, lots of clouds, low humidity, so we didn't suffer too much. We noticed a place where we could rent bicycles and determined to return there in the afternoon.

There were loads of families there with their kids, but it still didn't seem very crowded. People were cruising around on tandem bicycles, regular bicycles, motorized scooters pulling carts, in horse-drawn carriages, and on a cute little train. As usual in Taiwan, the cars, small trucks, and motor scooters were trying to run over the pedestrians but at least there weren't many of those.

We wandered first through a nice garden area that had some cute little fountains and some statuary, along with some bamboo sculptures (including a huge peacock that one could walk through). We then found a path along a little stream, teaming with koi carp. And, oh joy, they had a fish food vending machine! Now, you know how much I love to feed the fish and watch them scramble for the pellets :) I sat on a rock right down at the water and was even able to pet the fish as they came up for the food, tumbling across each other in their frenzy to grab that little snack. As soon as they see people on the shore, they make a beeline (fishline?) for them, knowing the chances of food are pretty good.

Right before it was time to head to the picnic area to start barbecuing, we found a nice little lake that had paddle boats for rent. Cool! Another thing to add to our list of what to do after lunch. OK, time to eat, save the rest of the park for later.

The picnic area was huge (and one of the few places I didn't photograph, sorry). Loads of tables and a grill for each. Taiwan people use REAL charcoal to BBQ, not those manufactured briquets used in the US, and no nasty charcoal lighter fluid. They have lighting a BBQ down to a science, and before long the coals were bright red and the food began to sizzle. We had been supplied with bacon wrapped around green onions and skewered, sliced pork, chicken chunks, steak with black bean sauce, some small fish, sausage (Taiwan sausage is yummy, kinda sweet), squid balls (no, not THOSE kind of balls), green peppers, bean sprouts, and corn, along with sliced white bread, which is what Taiwan folks use sort of like a hot dog or hamburger bun. Betty loves to BBQ, so she jumped in and started cooking. Since I still don't feel my Chinese is very good, I didn't have much to say to the rest of the group, which consisted of three guys and three girls, so I just watched Betty cook and listened to the karaoke (some good, some quite awful) going on over at the play area. During the BBQ the company had all sorts of games for the families to play, which was great because there were so many little kids. And all of them extremely well behaved, I might add.

After lunch we cleaned up and then Betty and I headed back to the lake to rent a boat. We had to wear life vests, which made it a little hotter and a little uncomfortable, but since I can't swim I didn't mind too much. We paddled off and quickly realized that both of us would be sorry the next day because our legs would hurt! That was when we decided drifting was preferable. We only had a half an hour, and it went by fast. While on the boat we spotted a little pavilion that looked inviting, so after pulling back into shore we walked over there for a rest. There was a lovely rock garden called "Stone Forest" at the back, so pretty. If I ever manage to own a house here in Taiwan, I want a garden like that. The pavilion was cool, with a great breeze blowing off the lake, and we actually fell asleep for about 15 minutes.

Time to stretch the legs again, so we walked the path around the lake, discovering more beautiful gardens and bridges and streams. So peaceful, could have just sat with a book and read for hours. But, too much to do and see! So we headed for the bicycle rental area, on the way deciding not to stress our poor legs anymore by renting something we had to work at pedaling and opted for the motorized scooter with cart. We took turns, first Betty driving and pulling me, and then I got to drive. Woohoo, look out! Can't go too fast on those things, but it sure was fun, and maybe I can actually learn to drive a real motor scooter, huh? We made a brief stop so Betty could go feed the calves (did I mention this was some sort of diary farm? It is...), then we drove up past the lake and found an absolutely incredible garden that looked like something out of a Greek myth, very out of place in Taiwan. OK, we gotta come back on foot to explore this. Our half hour on the scooter was over too quickly, and then we headed back for that garden.

All this traipsing around made me suffer from thoughts of ice cream, since I'd already seen it at the little store and also at the various vending stands. After we finished checking out the Greek garden, we went back to the BBQ area and got ice cream for me and Coke for Betty. She was tired of walking by that time, so we sat at a table to eat/drink. We were close to an area where there was some sort of show going on, but we couldn't really see it, just heard the music. Eventually we moved closer to see what it was. Turned out to be a group of four foreigners (and for some reason they looked Russian to me) doing acrobatics and gymnastics. One girl was so amazing, lying on her back and spinning a cylinder with her feet, then spinning two pieces of carpet with her hands while kicking the cylinder all over, then adding hula hoops to her arms - she was going four different actions in different directions at the same time! Jeez, I can't even chew gum and walk. And the thighs on this chick, my lord. I wasn't close enough in my first photos of her to see her clearly, but when they all came to bow, I got a good one she's the one in the red. Proof positive that one doesn't have to be the size of a stick to look marvelous! If my legs were as powerful as hers, I wouldn't care what size they were. Hen li hai!

Well, now the day was done and it was time to go back to the bus. The movie on the ride back was a recent Hong Kong flick titled House of Fury, starring Stephen Fung (who also directed), Anthony Wong, and Daniel Wu. Didn't get to see the beginning, and we got back before the end, so now I have to go rent it, because it was darned good! And they had the sound turned all the way up for this one, humph. It was dubbed in Mandarin, so I got some practice listening and trying to understand. I was able to get quite a bit of it, reading the Chinese subs along with listening to the dialogue. Hey, I'm learning!

The bus dropped us off at 6:00, and I got back to my place around 7:20 (bus ride from Neihu to Yuanshan Station, then MRT back to Zhuwei), and I was pooped. I managed to stay awake until 10:15 then gave it up and hit the sack. And slept until 9:00 this morning, too!

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