Taitung (Feb 11-13): A Forest Park, a Rut, and the Cinema

I have to be honest… I kind of fell into a slump while I was in Taitung (pronounced Tai-dung). Originally, I was only planning to go there as a stopover on the way to Lanyu Island, but two things stopped me from going to the island: 1) A lot of my Taiwanese friends said that because it’s winter, boats wouldn’t be going out to the island as regularly so I could end up being stranded there for a few days longer than planned, and 2) I spent more time in Taipei than planned, so I ran out of time to go to the islands. Instead, I got a train ticket from Hualien to Taitung for 12:30, so I was able to sleep in a bit, pack up my stuff, and go get breakfast in Taroko. However, when I went to get breakfast, the place that I had went to the day before was closed. I picked up a snack and coffee from 7-Eleven and FaceTimed my parents while waiting for the bus. The bus that I was meant to take was the 1133A, which only comes every hour. I waited for quite awhile and it still didn’t come when it was scheduled to come. Suddenly, a bus came speeding down the road and by the time I could actually read what number it was, it had already whizzed by. That was my bus! I started chasing after it and when some locals saw that I was supposed to catch the bus, they waved down the driver. Luckily, he stopped so I ran down the street and got on. The trip to Hualien was about an hour so once I arrived, I still had 45 minutes to find some lunch before catching my train. I walked around and found a place that had an English menu called Mo Dou Dining Room, and decided to order a Teppanyaki with a latte. I didn’t realise how small the Teppanyaki would be and would have ordered more had I known, but I only had enough time to walk back to the train station and share some of my food with a stray dog that looked so desperate for food. I arrived in Taitung 2.5 hours later, just after 3pm. I went to the information booth and they said that I had to take a bus (#8172) to the bus station, and then my hostel was only a ten minute walk away from there. I stayed in Hostel Who Knows in an 8-bed female dorm, and I paid 390TWD per night ($17.70). The woodwork in the hostel was really nice, which I’m pretty sure the hostel owner did himself (bunk beds, showers, and more). When I asked the hostel owner what to do, he suggested taking a bus to the hot springs the next day. I think Taitang is more-known for the region and not for the city itself, so he didn’t give any suggestions about what to do IN the city. I was starving, so I asked where to go for lunch/dinner and he told me to try 老东台米台目 (Lao Dong Tai), which is known for their rice noodles. I went and I was given a Mandarin menu with a checklist (which is how many of the restaurants work here), and then another menu with pictures and English. I decided to go with the noodle soup for 45TWD ($2.04) and was curious to try the “white gourd juice,” which I recognised as wintermelon (I love it!) for 25TWD ($1.13).

Honestly, I didn’t think the noodles were that spectacular, and I had to add quite a bit of soy sauce and hot sauce just to get some flavour. I spent the rest of the evening walking around, but it seemed like all of the stuff that was going on (Tiehua Music Village and the night markets) only happen from Wednesday to Sunday nights, and I was inconveniently there on a Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, I got up later and got ready for the day. I really wasn’t feeling like doing anything touristy.. it was day 60 of my trip and I was feeling worn out. I walked to a restaurant called 綠房子 (Greenhouse), which is known for their grape juice and dumplings. This was another Indigenous-inspired restaurant, and the owners didn’t speak any English. I came prepared with the help of Google Translate. If anyone has difficulties with menus, you HAVE to use this – it’s the coolest thing! Basically you need to upload a picture of the menu (which you can often find on the internet) and then you can highlight different symbols and it’ll translate it for you. I had found grape juice and dumplings on the menu, and was excited to put my skills to use.

I came in and they gave me the checklist menu, and a translated English menu. I checked what I wanted but then the owner pointed to the dumplings and said, “méi yǒu,” which luckily I understand means none. I pointed to the vegetable dumplings and he nodded his head. The dumplings and juice were good – nothing super spectacular, and they were 110TWD ($4.89).

I decided to take it easy that day. And my “taking it easy” translated into spending 3-4 hours walking through a park (and doing 24,000 steps that day). However, part of me still felt guilty for not going to check out a museum, or going to the hot springs. I first walked to Seaside Park and saw a neat building, which is an art piece.

Then I found the entrance to Taitung Forest Park. In order to go inside, I had to pay 30TWD ($1.33). Most people rent bicycles and bike around the trail, but I didn’t see any bikes at this entrance. It was a nice walk, and there were many lakes and colourful flowers. It was a pleasant and relaxing way for me to spend the day, and for the first time, I felt completely away from most of society. The further I got into the park, the longer it would take for me to see another person, which was a nice break from the usual hustle and bustle of most cities and parks.

I got to the end of the park about two hours later, but then had to turn around and go back. By that point, I was hungry again so I walked a half hour to one of the supermarkets called Carrefour, which is actually a French supermarket (so I was surprised to see it!). I picked up a couple things from the bakery and headed back to my hostel to relax for a bit.

That night, I walked to the cinema because all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a movie. Yes, me… The one who has only been to the cinema once in over three years. The one who has never had Netflix and usually won’t watch a movie unless I’m with someone who suggests it, or if I’m stuck on an airplane. This is how deep my slump was… But I think I just needed a day to recuperate. There is only one theatre in Taitung and it was offering about 7 movies, some of which were in Mandarin and the rest were superhero movies. Therefore, I decided on Mary Poppins Returns for 260 TWD ($12.56), which didn’t start until 8:40pm so I had a couple of hours to kill. I walked a half hour to a restaurant called 鄰家蒸餃 (Lin-Jia Dumplings) because I was hoping to get some soup dumplings (yes, dumplings for lunch AND dinner – I could probably eat them every meal for days!). I chose some pork and vegetable steamed dumplings, but they weren’t the soup dumplings that I was hoping for.

However, they were still good! To get eight dumplings and a coke, it cost me 90TWD ($4). I slowly walked back towards the theatre and checked out some of the shops. Then I walked down Tiehua Music Village, which was a tiny bit more active compared to the night before. There were TWO buskers that night, and one was really great! The entire street was filled with lanterns that were decorated by elementary school kids, so it added a nice charm.

Finally, it was time for my movie! There were only six other people in the theatre so it was another getaway. The movie was good – lots of songs, and of course I cried (I rarely cry in everyday life, but play a movie or a sad commercial and I can’t help myself!). I got back to the hostel quite late so I just went straight to bed.

Honestly, I probably could have skipped over Taitung and spent more time in my next destination, but it was still nice to have a day of relaxation! Love always

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