Sunday, October 23, 2011

Down South in Kaohsiung

As you may know, the Fulbright ETAs here in Taiwan are divided between two counties on pretty much opposite sides of the island, Yilan in the northeast and Kaohsiung in the southwest. Of course, here in Taiwan, distance is kind of relative. So being on opposite sides of the country really means that we're an hour bus ride to Taipei, a short trip on the MRT, and then an hour and a half ride on the high speed railway apart. In other words, when we decided to take a trip down to visit our southern friends for the weekend, we left after lunch and made it in time for dinner. 

Being the second biggest city in Taiwan, Kaohsiung has a little bit more variety when it comes to international food than we have back in Yilan. So, of course, we took full advantage of that fact and headed over to General Pancho's for some authentic Mexican cuisine (trust me, it's really hard to find good Mexican food in Asia, so it was something to be excited about). 

Outside of General Pancho's with our hosts, Esther and Andrew, and some of our other
Kaohsiung 朋友們 (friends).

Real chicken burrito and margaritas for dinner = a good night.

Saturday was a big day of doing touristy things around the city. To start our morning off right, we headed over to Shoushan (壽山), also known as monkey mountain thanks to the thousands of Formosan rock macaques that call it home. The trailhead was on the far side of National Sun Yat-sen University, so we got a little tour of the campus (which, for the record, is absolutely beautiful) on the way there. We ran into a whole horde of monkeys right next to one of the dorm buildings. 

There is a dorm literally 10 yards to our right. How crazy would it be
to live there?!?

Adorable monkey family!
About 5 minutes after this picture was taken, the money pushed Andrew
out of the way and stole his seat

After the hike, we headed over to the former British Consulate building, which is just a little further down on the same mountain. It is a pretty little colonial era red brick building that boasts great views of the city and, best of all, serves afternoon tea! Of course, I had to try it. 
The steps up to the former consulate building
A display about how the British made trade deals with Taiwan back in the day
The view of the Cijin Lighthouse
Lauren and I had tea for two! It was a little bit British,
a little bit Taiwanese, and all delicious 
We had dinner at an amazing little Thai place that served some of the best fish I've had so far in Taiwan. And, as a tropical island nation, Taiwan is very proud of it's wonderful fresh seafood, so that's saying something.
Spicy lemon pepper Thai fish. Yum!
On Sunday, Esther, Christine and I took the ferry over to Cijin island. It wasn't very good beach weather, so we decided to just wander around town for a bit before hiking up to visit the Cijin lighthouse. 
Cijin beach
We're crabs! Not totally sure why this guy was there but I liked him.
Esther and I at Cihou lighthouse
Siena, one of my wonderful LETs, is actually from Kaohsiung county. Since we visited on a holiday weekend (Double Ten weekend, more about that later), Siena had also headed down south for a few days to celebrate with her family. Her parents own a restaurant and she was kind enough to invite Christine and I to come out to meet her family and have a late lunch. It was a bit of a treck to get there but the food was SO good! 
Her family's specialty is Taiwanese style fried chicken. But it's not you average fast-food style fried chicken. As Siena informed us, you have to wait a little while to get you food because the chicken is still alive when you order it. In fact, at their old location, customers used to be able to walk over to the pin and pick out the chicken that they wanted (as a child, she always hated it when it was her job to catch a specific chicken from the pin because sometimes the others would poop on her head). However, since they moved to a more urban location, there isn't room to keep the chicken coup where customers can go see it. Anyhow, this point is that my lunch was very fresh that afternoon.
Fried chicken good enough to rival my grandmother's
After we had stuffed ourselves to capacity, Siena drove us up the side of a mountain to visit a temple and monastery with a great view. Our timing worked out just right because we just happened to arrive right before an elaborate ceremony was put on in front of the temple. Apparently, to keep the idols at one temple from getting too bored, they are sometimes taken to visit the idols at other temples. Then, when it comes back home, the worshippers go through an elaborate procession with lots of dancing in order to welcome back the returning idol. Here's a clip from the dance (the whole thing lasted about 10 minutes): 

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