Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese New Year Episode 1

My Chinese New year began in a car of five expats: three Americans (Texan, Hawaiian, and Detroit native), an Israeli (they all drive crazy), and a quiet, handsome Swede. 

Our journey commenced in Taipei.  The Swede picked up the car after a sleepless night of partying the night before.  My friend Cassiopia and I were picked up that morning, and our Israeli had thankfully taken over the wheel.  We had been warned about the traffic on Chinese New Year by all of our Taiwanese co-workers.  It basically was going to be the absolute worst traffic we had ever seen in our lives and we were crazy for even thinking it would be a good idea to leave any of the first three days of the week. 

For those of you who don’t know, Chinese New Year is a celebration very similar to that of Christmas in the Western world.  People have a week off of work to celebrate and travel wherever they need to be to be with their families.   Like Christmas time, everyone becomes the worst version of himself or herself in at least one point in week.  The Friday before, everyone is driving around like crazy a crazy person after the last Tickle-Me-Elmo, everyone is pushy and irritable.   Driving my scooter around the Friday before in Taipei was so bad, I opted to pull over and take taxis around town for the day.  We left the following Saturday morning, New Year’s Eve.  To our surprise the streets were nothing as they were painted to be by our co-workers.  In fact, overnight, Taipei had turned from a bitch-slapping town to a ghost town.  There was not a car on the road and we zig zagged safely to the highway and out of the city in no time at all, disappearing into the mountains. 

We planned a road trip for our venture this week; a road trip all around the island of Taiwan, going wherever our five little hearts desired.   Our first stop down the coast was to be Dulan where we would meet our friends for a party to start off the new year right.  After all it was New Years Eve, and one must be with their friends on such a day. 

After my hitch hiking venture, The East Coast has become my favorite part of Taiwan.  The drive through Hualien, where Toroko National Park is located is just insane.  The steep twist and turns of the road, up and down, through tunnels going forever cut through the mountains, and surrounded one side by green ocean and the other by green mountains.   The drive is a surprising, stunning adventure in itself. 

Six hours later, we arrived in our destination: Dulan, a small town in TaiDong, and my most favorite place in Taiwan.  We set up our tent at a campsite after getting lost and almost wrecking the car a time or two.  After that we were golden and ready to enjoy the night.   We enjoyed copious amounts of beer, wine and fireworks in celebration of the New Year.  In fact, fireworks are set off all week long, all night long in the weeks following New Year's day.

Dulan is a creative town built by aboriginals, expatriates, painters, poets, writers, philosophers and surfers.  I met a lot of interesting people that first night.   One of which was an elderly Taiwanese man with an old soul and youthful appearance that people called Professor.  I suppose he was a professor.  We spoke for a while and he invited me to lunch at his museum the next day.  I excitedly accepted not taking into account that it’s me, and its New Years and I probably wouldn’t be sleeping. 

There were about twenty of us all-together at the campsite and we picked up several people along the way to take our party to the beach for a lively bonfire.  We stayed up talking, laughing and dancing into the next day and ended up passing out around 11am.  Lunch was at noon. 

Luckily for all of us the Professor was not going to let a New Years night on the town/beach stop us from keeping our promise.  About an hour later he was at our campsite rattling our cages, poking us with his cane and telling us to get up and that we had an appointment to keep!  Some dragged their bodies up off the ground of their tents, others flopped out of hammocks and eventually we all made our way to the Professor's house/museum. 

This was our Chinese New Year meal.  We were all together a hunger over group of Americans, Israelis, Taiwanese, Eastern Europeans, a Honduran Ambassador, a professional South Korea pianist, and the Professor (AKA the Indiana Jones of Taiwan).   Our first course was getting learned a bit and moved around in a boy-girl order for our meal, second course was a salad, followed by a fabulous sushi plate, a pork dish, ice cream sandwiches, and all accompanied by our beer, wine or champagne of choice.

After lunch we had a good, hard sleep only to wake up and dance around the fire like a tribe of heathens. 

And our journey begins...

Stopping along the coast to enjoy the scenery...

Fireworks on the streetz of Doulan
Sparklers by the fire...

On Vacation, watching the sun rise. 
Our Table!

Beach adventures.

Joy and the Professor. 

Large sush plate.

Some salad. 

Photos taken by: Me, Cassiopia Nichole Urban, and Oli!

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