Friday, April 28, 2017

Lobsters and Hot Springs and Wontons in Taiwan

On our second to last day in Taiwan, we had a pretty mild and easy day (which was good, because frankly, I was exhausted from the road-tripping and sight-seeing)!  I'm not used to being in a car for long periods of time (plus I hate it) so it was a relief when I woke up on Sunday to discover that we were all just taking it easy in front of the TV, watching news of Trump and North Korea, eating guava, watermelon, pineapple, bananas and corn (a bit random for breakfast, I know), and... preparing to eat lunch.  Only in Taiwan could you be eating as you prepare to eat.

I didn't think I could stomach any more seafood, after our double-triple seafood whammy the day before.  I KNEW Michael couldn't stomach any more seafood!  So what did I do when I heard that a bunch of people had gone out and gotten us fresh lobster for lunch?  I groaned.  I know, so quickly do we become spoiled.

New England/Maine red lobsters these are not!  The lobsters are generally much smaller, have much more brittle skins, and have wildly colorful exteriors.
Here, my dad starting a trend where everyone suddenly wanted to grab the biggest lobster and take pictures.  I liked the lobsters - if I hadn't had lobster soup and lobster cooked three different ways a mere 12 hours before, I probably could have single-handedly put four or five of these babies away.  Instead, I went for two little ones and stuck mostly to vegetables and these amazing hot peppers.

After lunch, we went to a place called "Clouds Mountain Water" which was, essentially, the elements of the scene. 

 Along the way, we stopped at a former cypress manufacturing site to look at elaborate carvings and to learn about the history of cypress production in Taiwan.  I didn't realize that these trees were big.  They are largely prized for their size and their smell, and often found in temples in Asia, especially Japan (a lot of which were "exported" during the Japanese occupation).

After that, we drove to a little village where we all went to take baths in a hot spring.  This one, called "Red Leaf," is a local favorite because it is nestled directly at the foot of the mountains.  It's prized for its location because the locals figure the water is "more fresh," delivered to your tub directly from the mountain spring.

I'm not sure how much of that to believe, but I decided to shed my skeptical hat and roll with it.  The surroundings were a bit more rustic than I'm used to, and I definitely had a few cringe-worthy moments as I surveyed the tub, wondering just how clean the facilities were.  I didn't soak for long.  The tub was angled at a perplexingly shallow curvature, which caused me to bruise the holy hell out of my shin (I am very easily bruised), so that was an unhappy souvenir.
 Afterwards, we went to eat zhongzi (sticky rice packaged in lotus leaves) and soup at a little stand in town. 

Then we went to eat pork wonton dumplings at a famous little shop in town for dinner.  These were delicious (Michael agrees), and I usually don't like wontons and he usually barely tolerates Chinese food.  So that's a pretty ringing endorsement, right?

After dinner, we all headed home.  Michael and I were just hanging out in our room, chilling, when we could hear my aunt shouting for him to come downstairs.  "Come drink!"   Well, it was an instantaneous transformation akin to a sleepy sloth morphing into a sleek panther!  He shot out of bed a sudden parcel of unbridled energy, his entire being nearly shimmering with enthusiasm.

We sat around a big cypress table (see, it is a popular wood in Taiwan) to eat more fruit, eat peanuts, drink tea, and drink whisky.  Michael had bought a bottle of Glenmorangie to share with everyone and managed to pressure my aunt to drink that way.  (It wasn't that hard to get the others to partake!)  Before I knew it, it was late, Michael had turned into an oldies juke box at the enthusiastic request of one of my parent's friends, and everyone was a bit buzzed and happy.  Another successful day in Hualian!

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