Naturally Beautiful Taiwan

Many times while on the road in Taiwan people asked us why we came. “Nobody from the west comes to Taiwan as a tourist”, they repeated. Some people asked it it was from the recently released surf magazine issue covering Taiwan. Still our answer was no.

Our first inspiration came our cousins, Donna and Joe, who had their wedding photos done in 2009 around Taiwan. The photos blew us away. Giant mountains covered with lush forests, beautiful oceans and rivers. What else could we want? Surf maybe? While on the road in Mexico this year, I met a Japanese surfer who insisted that Taiwan had some good waves. He also told me winter was a very consistent time. Okay, well we already had planned to go to Donna and Joe’s wedding in Hong Kong in December. Why not fly over (1.3 hours) to Taiwan afterward to get some good surf and enjoy some sightseeing.

So far we’ve posted on the surf, the food, the agriculture in Taiwan. Here’s our final post on what brought us to Taiwan in the first place, the incredible natural beauty. We only covered a fraction of the island, concentrating our efforts in the southern sector, mostly around Kenting National Park. We will definitely return to Taiwan someday to discover more parts of the island; hopefully with a better understanding of Mandarin.

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What’s growing in Taiwan

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All that tasty food comes from somewhere. While in Hong Kong we heard the people say that they would try to purchase the most expensive food from Japan, followed by good quality food from Taiwan. Many tried to avoid the industrial garbage coming from China, for its notoriously not-what-you-think-it-is status.

The agriculture of Taiwan blew us away. Of anywhere in the world I have traveled, Southern Taiwan appeared to have the most diverse and advanced horticultural systems. Within one square kilometer we spotted orchards of cherimoya, guanabana, betel palm, coco palm, mountain apple, banana, mango, next to fields of onions, lettuce, choy, beans, and cover crops. In some areas the flooded paddies not only grew rice but taro and water caltrop. As I rode the train north along the west coast we gained an elevated perspective. The farmers were busy diverting the water in the fertile river beds to plant corn and other commodities. Next to the rivers, in protected vineyards, the family farms cultivated trellises of dragon fruit.

The average farm in Taiwan is only 2 ha (~5 acres). The slow food movement teaches that this correlates with diversity and economic stability. Unfortunately the industrialists of Taiwan don’t feel the same. I dug up this website full of big-farming propaganda (http://www.taiwan-agriculture.org/), stating that they need more consolidation of small farms to make more efficient agro-industry (bad idea guys).

Most of the agriculture we saw appeared to use conventional inputs (we spotted hundreds of empty bags of synthetic fertilizer on the margins of the fields). Numerous instances we saw small spray rigs, usually man-driven, working across the fields. Only in the flat paddies did we see use of cover crops on fallow land. If we could only speak Mandarin, we could provide a more complete perspective. Until the next trip I guess.

Good Eats in Asia

The top two activities in Hong Kong are eating and shopping. Probably in that order. In Taiwan there is no shortage of tasty food either. Check out some of the delicious and strange things we ate on the trip.

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Taiwan Surfing Review

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Stoked in Taiwan

Greetings to our dedicated readers from Nanwan, Taiwan!

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We arrived after a very short flight from Hong Kong at the Kaohsuing airport. Our driver proceeded to speed through countryside and towns with death-defying manuevers; we wondered if he knew that the 90 on the sign meant kilometers/hr, not miles/hr. His fast driving got us to Nanwan in time for an evening surf session in front of the nuclear power plant. The water is warm-ish (especially in front of the cooling water outflow), the beach is clean, and the atmosphere is relaxed. We are currently staying at Afei surf hotel, which is a funky little hostel directly across the street from the surf spot.

In the evening, after a few Taiwan Beers, Afei’s orange van took us, along with visitors from Hong Kong and Tokyo, to a very local spot for dinner ($180 NT per person, including beer), followed by a stop for the Taiwanese favorite, bubble milk tea ($30 NT)! [Currently, $30 NT = $1 USD] After dinner we retired to the surf hostel and ended up trading jams on the guitar and dancing with the light-up hula-hoop. The locals invented some new dance moves and got the dogs to play too!

The rooms here are charming, with lots of intricately carved wooden furniture, bamboo beds, wooden bathtubs and fun surfing themed decorations. The charm began to wear off, however, when a dog began yapping incessantly as we tried to go to sleep and again in the morning as we tried to stay asleep. Goats, cats and roosters joined the chorus at times, but their sounds were more entertaining than irritating.

Breakfast is included at Afei’s, for two people we are paying $1200 NT, which is roughly $40 USD. The crew here has been super friendly and most speak some English. This morning they took us for a surf trip to Jialeshuei, where we scored offshore winds in midst of the NE storm that was bearing down upon the island. John got a little river mouth barrel while the other beginner surfers stayed on the playful left next to the point. Two good surf sessions in two days (with warm water to compliment) – we love Taiwan!