On Saturday Michelle Lee (who we first met at that cafe on the hill at Dongshui along with Kareem a animated filmmaker) took us to one in Yilan along with some of her friends. Yilan is a popular beach destination on the south east coast of Taiwan. Its the only major southern city between the cities of the north and mountains that dominate the center of the island. Despite the fact we were on a freeway most of the time, it took 2 hours despite and yet Yilan was only about 32 miles (65km) from Taipei. My theory is the island is so small that they can’t afford to have people going too fast on the freeways, because everything would go by too quickly.
As I traveled to Yilan my initial idea that the transition from city to country is usually very rapid (what little country there is in Taipei) in Taiwan was only further confirmed. Leaving Taipei and getting on the freeways, there were several urban enclaves amidst the mountains around Taipei (metro Taipei has about 7.5 million – about a third of Taiwan’s total population with the city proper taking up about 2.5 million of that). Its still hard to grasp that so many people (23 million people) live in such as small place as Taiwan which is about the size of New Jersey.
On the way down to the beach, we saw some beautiful mountains and stunning landscapes as we went through several long tunnels including one very long tunnel – it was at least 5km long. Michelle said the tunnel was quite a feat and that a special report on Discovery Channel was done about it!
As I woke up I heard an early rain dumping some water on Taipei. Going outside I could see it was not going to be the best beach day. When we first drove into Yilan the skies were overcast and a mist turned to into a pretty good rain. The skies throughout the day were cloudy with heavy rain at times drenching us and forcing us deeper into the beach tent. Despite the rains at the the beach there were still people there and some were braving the waves, however it was obvious that the rains dampened things a bit. It probably was not the best day for the beach because of the rains but the consistent warm temperature made it tolerable.
Yet it was an interesting experience to go to a beach in foreign county and particularly one that is a surfer beach. Scott actually is a seasoned amateur surfer with experiences in many parts of the world including most recently Indonesia where he went to one of the best surfing locations in the world.
We actually went to the beach in a convey of 3 cars with about about 8 Taiwanese folks. While the men did not talk to us much, several of the women were friendly. We got a chance to learn a bit about Emily who now works in Taipei after getting her finance degree in the USA at USC in LA. I was surprised just how much time she spent in the USA> She actually went to high school in OK City USA of all places for two years before going to USC for 4 more years and then working in LA for another year.
The whole system of going to beach had similarities to USA but was different in fundamental ways. For example, the cost of the whole day was split up per person and that included meals and drinks. There were people who sold drinks and surfboards and food.
For dinner, before we left, we had a wonderful seafood meal that included several types of shrimp, fish, pasta and crab that I thought was a pretty unique experience.
On the way back we went back through Yilan business districts missing the main commercial area. It seemed that the region was considerably flatter in density (and less urban than Taipei and the cities along the norther corridor).