Thursday, October 13, 2011

yilan here we come

My school offers several staff trips throughout the year but only one major one which consists of an overnight trip. The original plan was to go to Yilan and do some biking and hiking which I wasn't looking forward to since I can barely bike and hiking is torture people inflict on themselves. Then we were suppose to go to Turtle Island (Guishan Island) and go whale and dolphin watching. You need to apply at least a week prior to visit the island because of the environmental protection policies. It is also the only active volcano of Taiwan.  Well it rained the whole weekend so all the plans got scrambled and I couldn't freaking go to the island. We all had to pay a $1000 NT deposit and I so want my money back because the other stuff we saw wasn't that interesting at all.

We had to meet up at the school at 6:30am and I barely slept the night before. It was cool because we had hired our own "tour guide" and tour bus. The tour bus only spoke in Chinese and I'm not sure she was actually giving us information about the places we were going or just describing the itinerary since our principal had to translate for her. Since there wasn't that many people going on the trip we each got our own row of seats. We drove for a couple of hours because Yilan is on the east coast of Taiwan. Our first stop was at a rest stop so we could all go to the bathroom but after that was what I thought was the best part of the trip : National Center for Traditional Arts. We arrived on the first day of the 10th Anniversary Celebration of APTAF (Asia-Pacific Traditional Arts Festival) so there were all different kinds of performances and shows lined up to perform. We got there just in time to see the Sepiuma Tribe Choir perform some traditional Paiwan music. They were even wearing traditional clothing over modern day pants. I'm pretty sure the traditional clothing would reveal more than would be comfortable for the audience.

sepiuma tribe choir
One of the men even played a nose flute! He would blow air from his nostrils through holes at the top of the flute and also from his mouth. I don't know how he managed to breathe and not faint since he had to blow from nose and mouth. This was the first time I saw someone playing with their nose and I know how hard it was for me to play the flute so playing one with the nose?!? Crazy.

Ok honestly saying that the first thing I did when arriving at this center was to go and appreciate the cultural and historic aspects of Taiwan would be a lie. The first thing I did was go eat... In Yilan there is a dessert food called BaoXinFenYuan.

baoxinfenyuan and mango with red bean ice
Ok so I did not know that the mango ice had red bean on it which I can't stand. Even though the mango doesn't look at all contaminated by the red bean, once I took a bite I couldn't taste anything but red bean so I just left it. Yes I know what a waste but no one liked it either... The little cup contains the BaoXinFenYuan which is like glutenous rice with red bean centers. This dessert was actually pretty ok despite the taste of red bean, the glutenous riceball containing the red bean really helped neutralized the taste and whatever that juice is did too.

Inside the center is the Wengchang Temple. Wengchang is the Chinese muse of Academia and during test seasons a lot of students come to write down their wishes and make offerings to get into good schools. Though I'm no longer a student who knows if I would be again one day so I made a wish to hope for the best...

so many wishes from so many hopeful students

a street done in the facade of the older days of taiwan
I wish more architecture in Taiwan was kept the same as the olden days. Walking around the run down "modern" areas of Taiwan its not very appealing with necessity winning over aesthetics. You might wonder how I managed to get a picture with no tourists in it and that's because it started pouring rain not long after we entered. The rain once again really sucks. I barely saw half the place because the rain was falling so hard it literally came up to our ankles and I didn't have an umbrella and my feet were getting soaked... All the buildings above hosted a variety of different crafts and specialty foods such as this

this guy is pulling taffy
At first I thought this guy was demonstrating how to pull noodles or something with imitation cord. Then upon closer look I realize it was a silver colored taffy. How sanitary is it to do it on the street??

the left side is the end result of the "taffy" and on the right is a plum candy encased in a mango flavored rock candy
The taffy turns out to be more fragile than an actual taffy. It was pretty good but be careful because I realized that they cut these on boards that are covered in peanuts. One thing that really annoys me in Taiwan is all the cross contamination that occurs with your food. Good luck if you have any food allergies or can't eat a specific kind of food.

As we were leaving we ran into a bunch of dancers dressed in really weird costumes. A show was about to happen but for sure it wasn't anything traditional. Reading back in the program book it was the opening ceremony to start the 10th Anniversary Celebration so we were pretty lucky since they only had this performance scheduled once.

my co-teachers with the princess? of the sea
This woman literally posed like that every time someone asked to take a picture with her. If one hand was busy she would still use her free hand to do one half of the pose... The other characters had clown fish hats and all kinds of weird fished theme outfits on...

After this we had lunch. I was actually really looking forward to it because we were going to eat seafood and I've been wanting to eat some since I've gotten here. Also because we were going to eat at a restaurant and family style it which I wouldn't do by myself since I can't eat it all by myself and wouldn't know what to order.

seafood dinner
I was actually really disappointed with the food. This lunch had a lot of raw seafood from octopus to different types of fish. They also like to do fish balls or fish cakes which I really don't like. The fish was this weird type of grey fish that was mehh. The only thing I liked was the shrimp and the clams! I devoured those clams because they were the most similar to the Cantonese dish. The soy sauce for the shrimp had wasabi instead of jalapenos and onions like how I've usually had it. I still think Cantonese seafood is the best!!

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