I said goodbye to Bec at the Phuket International Airport and then walked over to the domestic side. I had a while to wait for my 23:55 flight to Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok so I found a quiet lounge to relax in. It was a short flight to Bangkok and I soon connected on my 03:30 flight to Taiwan, arriving at the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at 8:00 am on Monday, December 4th. My journey still wasn’t complete yet. I transferred airports via a 45 min bus ride to the domestic Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei. My third and final flight wouldn’t be leaving until 13:20 so I did the best I could to entertain myself while I waited to board.
After a quick hop, I found myself in the south-eastern Taiwan city of Taitung. I was there to meet my friend Zack who had arrived in the country a few days earlier. He was on his annual surf trip with a couple of other guys from Australia. When a Luxgen 7 minivan came around the corner with a half-dozen surfboards strapped to the roof, I knew my lift had arrived. I met Zack, our Taiwanese guide TK Yang, and the other guys, Wade, Dane, and Ben.
We jumped into the van and headed north through Taitung City and up the coastal road. The guys had surfed the previous 2 days in Hualien and made the drive south that day. We arrived at the Wishing Well B&B in the late afternoon and everyone wanted to get in another surfing session before sundown. We drove down to the local beach and the size of the waves threw me back a little. I was able to get out, have a swim, and get back in while the guys surfed without getting crushed by the huge beach break. That night, TK took us over to the local restaurant, Low Pressure Surfers Kitchen, owned by a Japanese expat surfer and his wife. The food was absolutely amazing. It was nice to finally hit the sheets after such a long overnight travel day.
Delicious shrimp at Low Pressure Surfers Kitchen
On Tuesday, I slept late and was sure the guys were off on a morning surf so I had some breakfast and went for a walk in the Taitung countryside. In comparison to the west side of the island, the east is much less populated. A narrow strip of land between the central mountains and the Philippine Sea runs down the entire coast. It is here that the largely indigenous people make their living from the land and sea. I walked through some cow pasture and fruit farms and down to the beach before turning back to the B&B. We transferred to a more permanent accommodation that afternoon so, while we waited to check-in to our new digs, TK took us on a drive into the mountains to see the Formosan rock macaques. That afternoon, I did a little surf photography however I hadn’t brought my zoom lens, so I couldn’t get those nice tight shots. We also enjoyed watching a couple fishing boats come in and unload the day’s catch onto the jetty. That evening, we couldn’t resist another meal at Low Pressure and, having called ahead, were treated to an even larger feast with the highlight being the salted fish on the charcoal grill.
Taitung County countryside
Dane with the catch
Salted fish on charcoal grill
I was up early for the morning surf. We stopped in at a nearby restaurant where the locals were chowing down on the breakfast bao buns, so we sat down and followed suit. That morning’s surf session was at a spot called River Mouth and the fellas finally convinced our guide, TK, to get in the water. We popped into Donghe village for another lunch feast of beef noodles and countless other sides. We did a little shopping at the central market as Zack was keen on finding a hoodie or light jacket. I think we all thought it would be a little warmer in Taiwan. 19-20C sounds OK, right? Well, couple that with a constant 20 knot wind and occasional drizzling rain and you might re-think your answer. That night, TK took us into Taitung for a real treat…the Bawei Ginger Duck restaurant. Zack recently posted about our meal on his blog, Tacks On A Map. Have a look, I won’t even try to top his description of our dinner…
Go Surf Taiwan Crew – Zack, Ben, Dan, Wade, Dane
Ginger Duck Feast
Hot Pot Spot indeed
After dinner, we rolled over to another Taitung gem, the karaoke bar. TK got us all set up and we were soon bolting out rock ballads from a limited, but indeed eclectic, collection of English songs.
Thursday morning was sunny and warm, so I cut across the highway to the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration. The large grounds are home to the aboriginal Douli Visitor Center and Amis Folk Center as well as a natural science museum. On the way home I ran into the surf wagon coming back from the morning surf session. Ben, Zack, and I popped into Donghe and had another heavy TK lunch before wandering around the market. That afternoon, TK ran me up to Sanxiantai. I walked across the 8-arch bridge to San-hsien-t’ai Island and back. That night, we made another drive into Taitung and hit up a seafood restaurant.
Sanxiantai Bridge to San-hsien-t’ai Island
So many dinner choices
Friday morning was blowing an absolute gale, but the guys were keen on getting in one last surf. We headed for the beach, but only Dane and Ben were brave enough to paddle out. I got some great shots of the guys with Dane’s Nikon and 250 mm telephoto lens. We got back to the house, packed-up, and headed into Taitung. Our first stop was for some more hotpot, this time it was incredibly spicy. TK tricked us all by sneaking in some stinky tofu, a fermented and foul-smelling Taiwanese culinary delight. We did a little shopping in the centre and ended up in the Victory Bar and got on the electronic darts machines. We were then dropped off at the airport and said goodbye to TK. He really did an excellent job for us and ensured the betel nut supply never dipped too low. His company name is Go Surf Taiwan and I’d highly recommend it. Our 20:40 flight got us into Taipei at 22:00. It was a quick jaunt to the hotel where we quickly dropped our bags and hit the town. We caught the metro and headed for the Taipei 101 district. We wanted to see one of the famous street markets, so we jumped off the train and headed for the Linjiang Street Night Market. Things were winding down around midnight, but we still managed to find some eats. Our night didn’t stop there. The bartender tipped us off to a club she likes to go to, so we caught 2 taxis and hit the Roxy Rocker. We really weren’t feeling it, so Dane found another for us on Google. The Wave was huge and a little more like what we had in mind. It must have been 3:00 or 4:00 am before we called it a night and said our goodbyes as I was heading out the next morning. All top notch blokes which made for an excellent vacation.
Ben catching a nice wave
Dane trying his best to get barreled
Bye Bye TK Yang! We’re off to Taipei.
I slept till about 10, packed up, and walked to the metro. The train took me to Taipei Taoyuan Airport where I boarded my 13:45 flight to Manila. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed 1.5 h, so I missed my 17:55 connection to Abu Dhabi…D’oh!!! I knew there was another flight leaving at midnight, so I re-listed for that one. I killed some time until the check-in desk opened and found a lounge to chill in before the flight back to Abu Dhabi.
For someone who doesn’t surf, I’ve been on more than a couple surf trips. Maybe I should consider taking it up some day?