Hot springs

Woke up to a message off Marian, an American girl I met, saying it’s beach weather and we should go to the hot springs. Not arguing with that! 
First time I took the bus was yesterday with Tina, today I was going alone. The bus was already full when I got on, but the driver just kept stopping and picking more and more people up! It was like a real life game of sardines! 
Trusty maps on my phone at the ready to make sure I was actually on the right bus and heading to the correct place. I made it! 

After lounging around in the spa for a few hours we finally left to go to a cafe. 
We walked through an old part of town that had been restored.

The A-Z cafe, although only a cafe, has a certain amount of exclusivity, meaning we had to ‘book’ a table. 
While we were waiting Marian took me through a village known as Righteous Dragon. As there is a temple at the centre. Having only seen the temples in Taiwan to compare, this was far more shabby and being used by the locals to play Mahjong! 

Marian did ask the locals for any history of the temple, and we asked about the carvings on the doors. We were told they were ‘door gods’.

We made our way back to the cafe as our table was ready. 

Selling meat and fish unrefrigerated, sitting on a table! 
The A-Z cafe was like a little western haven. We ordered tuna croissant, which tastes far more amazing than it sounds, and a chocolate drink that actually tasted of chocolate! I was made. 

As it’s Chinese New Year we were also served oranges and red packets with a chocolate coin inside. 


Holiday Reading

I am currently working my way through a 100 book reading list I found online. War and Peace being the book I’m currently a fraction of the way through. This being quite heavy reading I tend to take breaks from it and read other things. 
I’ve just now finished Sophie’s Choice, again, not light reading, but an interesting one, and a book that is referenced in many films and TV shows. 
I’m still not in the mood to move back to Tolstoy just yet so am going to give Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children a go. Seeing as Sana left me the paperback, I need to read it before the mold gets it! 

Best place for reading is down the beach. Tina and I caught a bus that cost the equivalent of 10 pence to the beach on Haidian, which is the island off the island. 

The Chinese don’t really like the sun, so they all cover up and have umbrellas to shield themselves. Not me, sun dress on and burnt shoulders by the end of the trip. 

Taiwan Tour Two day Two

What a view to wake up to!
First stop Luka. Long Shan temple.

A Buddhist temple made mainly from wood over 200 years old. No nails holding it together, just wood.

Granite from China shipped over to build this temple. It’s situated on the West side of the island so doesn’t suffer from any earthquake damage that the temples on the East are potentially subjected to.

Loving the design of these temples, they are all so peaceful. 

Chilled out with some turtles which represent a long life.

Next we moved down the road towards Xinzu Temple, walking through an old part of the town.

We were fed plum tea and blossom tea and some dried plums by a street vendor. All said to be good for digestion. 

My pictures can’t do it justice, but the detail on the ceramic animals decorating the temples is exquisite.

The dragons on this temple even have whiskers.

The queen in heaven. Tien Hou Temple.

I think this was a good time to come to Taiwan, the weather is warm, there’s hardly any other tourists so you get the attractions to yourself (which makes for good pictures with no one photo bombing!) and all the Chinese New Years decorations makes it feel special. 

We had lunch in a little restaurant next to the temple (the cheapest meal I’ve had since being in Taiwan!) it seemed to specialize in seafood, which I do not. So I ordered the only thing that wasn’t sea based on the menu, Pork. It came with fish! 

Taiwan Tour Two

A more reasonable start to the day being picked up at 8am.
Today’s tour takes me first to Puli, where we seem to be doing the touristy sales pitch first, stopping in a brewery. A brewery that makes wine. Yeh.

I’m not a fan of wine anyway, but if it was served to me in a big brown urn I would think twice about drinking it.

Found some amusing takes on drunkenness

Clearly the Taiwanese have a methodical view on drinking.

Lunch in a place near the ‘brewery’. I ordered vegetable rice. Apparently ham is a vegetable. Served with a questionable looking mushroom.

Onwards to sun moon lake and Wenwu temple. 

The amount of work that has gone into all these stone carvings is incredible. 

None of these picture do it justice, plus with the scent of incense in the air just adds dimensions to this whole experience.

A wishing well. Of course I made a wish. It was tough though. Everything is good right now. 

We then visited an aboriginal settlement, which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

Not exactly a slum but a bit strange. 

Onto the Yuchi township next to see a bit of bone of XuanZang, a Buddhist. 

Felt so peaceful in here.

Last stop on this day of the tour was the Ci’en Pagoda. 
255 steps to get to it. 

No idea how many steps to get to the top of it.

And a giant Buddhist bell that you can ring and chant for peacefulness. I couldn’t reach it. No peace for me! 

We then arrived at our hotel for the night and I took a stroll around the sun moon lake before the sun went down. 

Was lush just sitting there listening to the water. 

Then took a walk into town where there are night markers for food. Taiwan is expensive compared to China, and the U.K. for that matter. The street vendors tend to make prices up as they go along and I wasn’t in the mood for spending a tenner for a corn on the cob. 

I found a little cafe overlooking the lake, where I paid a tenner for a glass of coke and two waffles instead. 

Chinese New Year 

I was informed that Chinese New Year isn’t a huge deal on Hainan as everyone tends to leave the island to go visit their families on the mainland.
So, seeing as we have this time off work, and never one to miss an opportunity to try somewhere new, I’ve booked to go to Taiwan. 

Taiwan, although not a part of China, still celebrates Spring Festival and speak Chinese. I’ve also been told the food is more diverse! 
On arriving in Taiwan, my first thought was ‘This is what I thought China was going to look like.’ A mixture of built up areas, followed by lush green fields, and further into rainforest landscapes.

So today was a lovely 5am start to go to Taroko. 

The scenery was immense. So relaxing being in this kind of environment. The sounds of the water over the rocks and just all the greenery.

These cliffs look incredibly like the ones I was learning to paint too.

After Taroko and some lunch in a 5 star hotel, we did the obligatory stop at some tourist shop with pushy sales people. In this instance, a place that specializes in marble sculptures and jade jewelry.

I did play with this Lion’s ball. I was told it was lucky. When I asked the guide she said it represents the male balls. I was not impressed. And stopped touching lion’s balls. 

Found a lucky Buddha to rub instead! 
Followed by a random trip to a beach where we were told not to touch the water! It was really clear blue, but maybe now is not the time for a swim. 

First week of teaching

Taking over Sana’s students was made a whole lot easier that I was introduced to them as helping Sana initially. I was able to see what worked with each student, and try to tailor my lesson plans towards that.

When it came to writing the lesson plans, however, this was a whole new territory. What takes 40mins to write does not take 40mins to execute! 

Towards the end of the week I was getting the hang of it and it basically boils down to which games are best for which student. 

First time I’ve felt homesick since I’ve been here, it didn’t help that my Nan sent me a picture of my dog, Teddie! 

Once the weekend came I went to the cinema with Tina, who is also new to Haikou, luckily she has the advantage of speaking Chinese! 

So Star Wars with Chinese subtitles here we come! 

The mall looked so pretty at night, despite all the rain!

Farewell to Sana

It’s time for Sana to return to Russia. We had a little farewell party for her in the school with all her students.

We played a few games, from blind man’s buff to a piñata. The kids loved it! 

For our last evening together we found the western bar and celebrated with a few beers and a burger! 

We took a walk along the coast and enjoyed the view across to the island off the island.

Only been here on the island for three weeks and thanks to Sana, I have seen most of it! 
So this week I start teaching by myself! 
Bring it on!