Today we had another long drive ahead of us. We didn’t end up waking up at 5am to drive back to Cape Hillsborough to watch the sunrise and see kangaroos on the beach. As we were snoozing our alarms, we said we’d come back and do this drive over a week or more in the future. We could camp there and walk to the beach instead of driving 45 minutes from Mackay to Cape Hillsborough. The bed at Ibis was extremely comfortable (probably one of the best beds we’ve slept on so far) so it made it even harder to get up.
We went to McDonald’s (again) for breakfast. I ordered a spinach, egg and feta wrap trying to be healthy. Tim, however, found the most unhealthy choice. He ordered the “Aussie BBQ Brekkie Roll”, which had double sausage patties, eggs, bacon, and BBQ sauces on a sesame bun, two hash browns, and a flat white coffee! Our breakfast was basically our only meal for the day so it was good Tim had a huge breakfast.
Our drive today was from Mackay to Noosa, which is about 850km away. Tim had another ~9 hour drive to do today. I don’t know how he drives so long and is still okay. Tim’s done a lot of road trips on his own while working in Columbus, so long drives like this are nothing to him. I’m just used to driving max 6 hours a day (to get to Portland). The weather was better than our first day on the road but the scenery was pretty boring and repetitive. In my mind, I had pictured the drive from Cairns down to Brisbane to be scenic and beautiful. Since we were driving a more direct route we weren’t seeing anything interesting.
Halfway through our drive we got pulled over for a speeding ticket, which is really unlucky. I was thinking we hadn’t seen a police car at all on both our road trips in Queensland and while we were in Victoria. Tim thought we were still in a 110 zone but it became a 100 zone and he was going 119. We got pulled over and they gave us a ticket for $235 AUD. From that point on we were pretty paranoid with the speed limit changes. On the bright side, the police officers were really nice and friendly.
That put a bit of a damper on our day since $235 AUD is more than our car rental for 3 days. We were still really full from lunch and there wasn’t much food selection in the small towns we passed by. After two meals in a row at McDonald’s, nothing I saw at gas stations or any fast food was appetizing.
The sun set really early in Queensland. Around 5:30pm it was already pitch black out. This made me feel a bit uneasy while we were driving because the highway was only one lane each way with no median, the roads were winding, there were no street lights, and there were so many semi trucks going the opposite direction. As much as I trust Tim’s driving skills, I don’t really trust others. Considering there were so many warning signs about driver fatigue and a lot of road side memorials, it made me a bit paranoid.
When we arrived in Noosa at 9:30pm, I went from being thankful we made it there safely to feeling physically exhausted (and I wasn’t even the one who was driving). The long hauls of our road trip are finally over. I’m looking forward to seeing Noosa during the day and finally seeing the Sunshine Coast.
The motel we booked for the night was called Noosa Sun Motel. It was the nicest motel we’d stayed in so far. The room was huge and was more like an apartment than a motel room. It had a kitchen, dining table, sofa, an extra bed, and our bed was in a separate room. The room was $125 AUD/night.
Yesterday, we had hung some of our shorts and swim suits on the balcony outside to dry. This morning, when we woke up and looked outside there was only one item out of four left on the balcony (we’re on the 2nd floor). The palm trees were swaying and it was super windy outside. We looked outside and saw my sister’s shorts on the roof top below, Noel’s swim trunks on the ground and Tim’s shorts weren’t anywhere in sight. Tim went down to find his shorts which had been blown about 30 meters away on the first level. Then Tim climbed off our balcony to the roof to get my sister’s shorts (probably not the best idea). We learned our lesson about Kenting weather: it changes really quickly. Today’s temperature dropped almost 10 degrees Celsius and with the wind blowing it felt significantly colder than 20 degrees out.
Here are some pictures from breakfast:
After breakfast, we got changed and headed to the covered jacuzzi area. The jacuzzi area pool is set at about 34 degrees and has different jets everywhere, including ones that spray down to massage your shoulders. This area was the only part of the pool area that was busy. In the pools here you need to wear a swim cap. If you don’t have one, you can borrow one from the hotel. Many locals had their own that matched their swim suits.
To get to our resort in Kenting, we took their shuttle from Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung. I had booked the shuttle about three weeks before but forgot to ask to reserve seats back to Kaohsiung on Friday. When we arrived at the resort to check in, we told them we wanted to book a shuttle back and they said the shuttle was full and that we would have to take a bus in town which takes an hour longer and costs more. I felt really bad for dropping the ball on this. We had done more research on the other bus we had to take but today as we went out for lunch, I told Tim to just ask the front desk again if there was any room for us. I said, I think today is our lucky day, maybe some people decided to go home earlier or stay longer. Tim went to go ask and we were in luck, they had room for us! They even gave us the round trip rate of 500 NT = $20 CAD, only 100 NT more than the one way fare (which is not posted on their website… their website needs some work), so we only had to pay the different from our one way fare we already paid. This was the best news we had all day! A shorter bus ride, more convenient and a lot cheaper (the other bus would have been 418 NT = $17 CAD one way).
With that great news, we headed for celebratory lunch at McDonald’s. Asian McDonald’s have fried chicken! The prices at McDonald’s in Taiwan is a bit cheaper than at home. A Big Mac is only 69 NT = $2.80 CAD, where as it would be around $5 CAD in Vancouver. The best thing we have discovered at McDonald’s in Taiwan are their black sesame McFlurries (Tim: and sundaes). They mix black sesame paste with crunchy rice-crispy-like bits; no wonder it’s advertised at their number one seller.
We walked around the beach after lunch and then eventually made our way back to the room. It was Nate’s nap time and as it turned out, it was mine as well. Earlier in the day, Tim signed us up for an archery class at 4pm, but I stayed back to watch over Nate while Tim went with my sister and Noel. They came back after an hour saying they had fun. Nate didn’t wake up from his nap until around 6:30pm. We were deciding what to do for dinner since it was really windy out and we didn’t want to eat night market food tonight. My sister and I went to check out the restaurant downstairs and decided to just stay in tonight.
The main restaurant here is where breakfast is served, buffet style. The restaurant is called “Aegean Restaurant”, which had a mixture of Western and Asian options, a good selection of cold seafood, and a carving station.
It was 693 NT = $27.60 CAD per person (weekday price), which is like a North American priced buffet. They had a Filipino trio band playing live music during dinner, which Nate enjoyed listening to. We all enjoyed dinner as there were a lot of vegetables (which really hit the spot) and western options (Tim and I were craving pasta for a while). The seafood was a nice treat since the seafood at the night market was overpriced for tourists -ie. 3 scallops on a skewer for 200 NT = $8 CAD.
We took our time and enjoyed our nice dinner. My sister, Noel, and Nate treated us tonight as a thank you for “showing them around Taiwan”. It was the most uncomfortably full Tim and I have been since being on this trip.
Time to sleep, tomorrow will be a longer day because we have to travel back up to Taipei. At least now we don’t have to worry about the bus to Kaohsiung!
Today was our first full day in Taitung. The weather didn’t really improve much from yesterday, it was still overcast with no sun in sight (Tim’s going to say, “stop complaining about it being overcast!”). The reason why I wished the sun would come out is because I know that Taitung would be amazingly beautiful with the lush green mountains and ocean on either side of the city. But with an overcast sky, the city wasn’t able to really shine through. I suppose I had high hopes for Taitung because it is Tim’s favourite Taiwanese city. I wanted to love it here like he did, but I didn’t. I would like to come back when the weather is nicer (which is usually 90% of the time), to experience the city the way it should be.
We started off our day with a nice and hearty breakfast… at McDonald’s. We like to try different McDonald’s around the world because they always have unique menu items and Taiwan was no exception to that. We ordered a chicken and egg breakfast sandwich meal (which is like a McChicken with an egg in a muffin (Tim: and without lettuce)) and an extra sausage and egg McMuffin. The meal came with a hash brown and instead of coffee we ordered corn soup. I enjoyed everything in the breakfast – especially the corn soup (Tim: I love how corn soup is a substitute beverage choice).
After our breakfast we picked up bikes from the apartment and started a trail that wrapped around the city. We headed towards the mountains and the bike path was pretty clear. It felt good to ride and feel the breeze – it was refreshing and freeing! (Tim: It wouldn’t be as refreshing if it was sunny and hot… Thankfully it was overcast). After we passed the 2km mark, the bike trail emptied and we were the only ones on it. It was nice that was it just us, fresh air, (away from all the scooter exhaust) and some small low flying birds.
Tim has fond memories of the time he spent in Taitung in 2009. He likes to recount how while biking along this same trail, a stray puppy rode along side him for a couple of kilometres until he got to a larger street intersection that he needed to cross. The puppy was too scared to the cross the street and Tim never saw it again. When he thinks about it, he gets a bit sad. (I think he regrets not keeping the puppy). I make it worse when I tell him that the puppy chose him (just like how elephants choose their mahouts (owners) in Thailand) and he just left him. Later on at the beach, a stray dog was attracted to Tim and followed him around while he took pictures. I thought it would make for a pretty epic story if that dog turned out to be the same dog from 7 years ago (too bad this dog was brown and not black).
When we reached a split in the trail we decided to head back so we could go back towards the beach. We ended up walking to the beach instead because I was too scared to ride on the street alongside all the scooters and cars. I get a bit anxious when I’m on a bike or scooter in traffic and I feel like in Asia it’s even more chaotic (although, it’s likely more of an organized chaos).
After dropping our bikes off, we stopped to get bubble tea a “Presotea” which advertised a “Panda” bubble (black and white pearls!). We also attempted to Facetime my family for my Mom’s birthday. Taitung County has free wifi (TT-Free) throughout the city if you register your phone number. Unfortunately, my family was only able to hear us, but we were able to hear and see them.
We walked to the beach area that we visited shortly yesterday. This time we walked down to the actual beach and watched the waves crash on to shore for a while. The east coast of Taiwan is very beautiful. In the summer, Taitung has a hot air balloon festival that looks awesome, maybe next time we’ll come for that. Although, I’m sure then I’ll probably wished the weather were like how it was now- mild rather than really hot.
After the beach we headed back to the apartment to grab our bags that we left there. We were moving to another place to stay because the apartment was booked for tonight. We walked down the street and checked into our hotel, “Traveller’s Hotel”. We read good reviews about it for being a clean and friendly hotel. The room is very basic and clean (the only important thing), which works for us! The only “bad” thing is that the internet is a bit slow.
Once we checked in, we headed to grab a late lunch and walked to the Taitung Forest Park to wander around. We thought that on our way to the park we would pass by a lot of food options, but that didn’t happen. I think we underestimated the effects of a small town/city. I kept thinking, there’s got to be a lot of places surrounding the park or even a snack stand inside the park. We were wrong, there’s no vendors inside the park. It was about 3:30pm and we were both pretty hungry (Tim: Kaitlyn was pretty hungry). We walked around the park for like 15 minutes and then left to find something to eat.
We decided to walk down a different street on our way back. There were a few bento lunch options and we decided on “Woo Ricebox”. We’ve seen a bunch of these types of Taiwanese fast food restaurants around, mainly at train stations. The wooden bentos are filled with rice, pickled vegetables, cabbage, sausage, chopped bok choy and a meat of your choice. I had a pork chop and Tim got pork belly. They were a good lunch option and I can see why people would order them to take with them on a train.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ourselves organized for tomorrow. We booked our train tickets from Taitung to Hualien (we’re heading north on the east coast). This was our first time booking the train ticket online – we didn’t want to risk the train we wanted to be sold out. We also booked our hotel for two nights in Hualien – “East Town 26”. The hotel has really good reviews on Trip Advisor so I’m looking forward to it (hopefully I won’t be disappointed).
Tonight for dinner, we met with Tim’s relatives at “Showtime Plaza”. This mall was built a few years ago and is one of the newer building complexes in the city. It has a movie theatre, a couple of clothing stores (Uniqlo and Nike) and a few restaurants. Tim’s relatives made reservations at a Japanese Tonkatsu restaurant (I couldn’t find the translated English name). It’s always nice to meet with family and friends while traveling. It’s a nice familiarity and comfort knowing that loved ones are close by. The tonkatsu set meal and was delicious – it was my first time having tonkatsu where you have to crush the sesame seeds with a mortar to make the sauce. (Tim says now we don’t have to go to one in Japan…). Tim’s relatives are in the middle of moving so we caught them at a hectic time. They were very hospitable to us despite this and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet them on this trip.
After dinner, Tim and I decided to check out the night market, which was down the street from where we were staying. The night market here is only opened from Thursday-Sunday (the majority of night markets in Taiwan are 7 days a week). Tonight it started to rain, and apparently when it rains no one in Taitung goes out. This was evident in passing by the night market. This was the saddest night market we had seen so far. Many of the vendors were closing down and some didn’t even set up. There were no crowds at all. See? This is what happens when the weather isn’t good in Taitung.
Now we’re back at the hotel, getting ready for tomorrow. Tim’s aunt is going to pick us up tomorrow morning to drive us to the train station at 8:30am, our train to Hualien leaves at 9:39am.
There’s still a lot more of Taitung that we haven’t seen, but we know we’ll be back one day.