Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 29: September 18th: Sansiantai to Duli

I arrived in Sansiantai after the usual long journey: train to Hualien, sleep in a cheapie hotel, early morning bus down the coast. The “Platform of the Three Immortals” is something of a tourist attraction, so there were lots of little restaurants. After eating some salty, oily fish and deep-fried sweet potato (Why?) I walked over the 8-arched bridge and out to the island with the three big funny looking rocks – the so-called immortals. Yep, nice rocks. Onwards! I backtracked a bit to the small village next to the island. With my pack, my stomach full of weird food, and the intense heat of mid-day, I didn’t feel too great humping along the slidy gravel beach.

Sansiantai: "Platform of the Three Immortals"

Later I skipped back through Sansiantai and found a little track near the sea, where the tourist trail connected to some farm roads. It was lovely, quaint countryside: coconut palms, farm shacks and houses, rocks next to the see. In time, the small road joined the bigger roads, and I ended up on the smaller of two main roads into Chengong City, which is the largest settlement on the coast between Hualien and Taidong. I walked through the fish port, too late to see the catch coming in, but in time to see them chopping up tuna, and sweeping up fish guts. I carried on through Chengong and out on the road beyond. It was about 5 pm and I was starting to think about where I would spend the night.

Chengong fish port, after the big rush

At the top of a hill, there was a road that went down to the see, with a sign saying “Bawangwang” or something like that. It sounded like a sinicized aboriginal name. It seemed like a through road, so I followed it, and was soon walking through what was certainly a very poor and simple aboriginal village. It was spread out, and there seemed to be no center, no stores, nothing but poor-looking houses and coconut trees. It felt more like Thailand than Taiwan. The road was right by the sea, so I guessed these guys got walloped by typhoons regularly. A few people passed by, on extremely old and noisy scooters. There were three police patrols in the 50 minutes that I spent walking through. Not a postcard village.

Eventually, this road rejoined Highway 11, in a cluster of upscale but fairly tasteful looking hotels. One looked nice, with wooden cabins, but NT2700 per night was too much for my trip budget (all these trips add up). The lady did tell me of a guesthouse down the road. So, at about 7pm in the dark, in the very humble town of Duli, I arrived. Downstairs they were playing mahjong. Amusingly, the female proprietor got a call, and when she saw who it was asked all us to shhhhh! After a while, the call was over, and the other players laughed! It turned out to be another player who hadn’t been invited to the game!

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