Turn your face to the sun

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June 28th 2018
Published: June 28th 2018
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The summer months are typhoon season in Taiwan, a period of volatility over the Pacific Ocean that can lead to severe ramifications for the people of the region. Since my arrival in Taipei there's been a typhoon alert in place, however there's been no evidence of severe weather during my visit to date. So I decided it was time to explore more of this magical island, and booked a train ticket for the four hour journey down the east coast to the city of Taitung. A traveller in Hong Kong recommended I visit Green Island, however the ferries weren't running due to the weather, so I decided to push on to Dulan. The little town is renowned for surfing and a hippy lifestyle, and attracts an interesting and vibrant group of tourists and Taiwanese alike. It seems visitors come to Dulan to soak up the unique atmosphere the town has to offer.

Although it was already raining in Taitung once the taxi pulled in to Dulan the rain had become torrential, and continued practically non stop for the next five days. I'd come all this way for the sun and beach, and instead dropped myself in the middle of a severe weather system. Due to the weather it would be safe to assume I had a miserable time right? On the contrary I loved every minute of being in Dulan, thanks to the brilliant people I met at the Travel Bug Bistro Inn. The awesome establishment is run by Nick and his team of super friendly staff. From the moment I piled out of the taxi with all my stuff the welcome was overwhelming. The layout of the place is cool and hipster, there are musos playing downstairs of an evening with a great common area on the second floor, and most of the dorms with a balcony on the third floor. The Inn became home for five days in the midst of great people and great conversation, and I barely gave a second thought to missing out on the beach life that had been the catalyst for my visit. There's something magical about being in a small town that touches the soul; it stems from seeing the same people on the main strip every day to wave and say hello to, and feeling like a member of a community.

My preferred hangout to watch the world go by is the local 7 eleven store on the main street. The place seemed to be the heart and soul of Dulan, where locals and tourists alike drop in at all hours for supplies; perhaps some noodles, a beer, train tickets, and everything else in between. The store has a cool balcony as well as indoor seating, and I spent a lot of time during the days watching the rhythmic nature of the rain, reading a book, listening to music, or chatting with one of my new friends. What a place Dulan is, and the Taiwanese guests I spoke to at the Inn are repeat visitors. I also met several foreigners who had returned for a second visit, it's a very special destination. On the first morning after a good night's sleep I donned a rain jacket and headed out to get my bearings, discovering the path that leads a kilometre from the main strip to the beach. As mentioned Dulan is a renowned surfing hotspot, but with the inclement weather the waves looked dangerous. Surfers who enjoy the area warned me about rips in the ocean, so please take care if you aren't the strongest swimmer and wish to go for a swim.

I followed the recommendation of a terrific American guy from the dorm for dinner, and was surprised to see him sitting there as I entered the restaurant. We had a little laugh and settled down for a great meal and wonderful conversation. A Japanese girl working at the hostel arrived soon after to join our table. We headed back to the hostel later and continued our chat in the common area. The next day coincided with the opening game for Australia in the World Cup against France, and I made some casual enquiries on where to watch the game. I formed the same impression as I had in Taipei, there seems to be minimal interest in the World Cup in Taiwan. The Taiwanese are not allowed to field a national team as that would be seen a recognition of an independent Taiwan by the world community, but during my travels I've never come across a country so blithely unaware and uninterested in the greatest show on earth! In some respects it feels like being on Mars as the staff gave me blank looks, but later on advised the game would be on that night. Unfortunately due to internet connection issues the game was unwatchable, so I raced across the road to the only other place in town playing the telecast. At full time I went to the same restaurant as the previous night, and there was my American friend again. We had a laugh, as did the delightful owner, and shared another meal together.

My visit coincided with the dragon boat festival national holiday, and it proved problematic purchasing a train ticket to Taipei for the coming days. However with the help of the hostel staff I booked a ticket on a slow train, and was able to relax for a few more days knowing an itinerary was organised. I pottered around town the next day in the rain, but surprisingly noticed I was having a great time in Dulan despite the atrocious weather. I was pleased to see the streaming glitches from last night had been ironed out at the Inn, and the infectious nature of the World Cup even managed to permeate the town with locals and foreigners alike tuning in for the games. I settled down with an interesting group of people to watch the tournament that evening, and all is well with the world.

I decided to hire a scooter for the fifth and final day, despite the inclement weather. The owner Nick took me to two rental stores, one refused to rent a bike to a foreigner and the other had all it's bikes out already. What to do, what to do? To my surprise Nick offered me his scooter, and only asked I put some petrol in the tank at the end of the day. I had a great day heading out along the coast in the lashing rain, keeping the sunnies on to protect my eyes from severe downpours. An American family at a lookout seems to be intrigued by a dishevelled motorbiker, and the father asked if I was a local. I smiled and replied I was a tourist as we commenced a little chat. I got back to the hostel without incident despite the dreadful weather, and although drenched even with a rain jacket the warm weather ensures it's not an unpleasant experience. I spent a final evening in the company of the staff and guests from my favourite accommodation on this trip. I can only speculate how wonderful Dulan must be with a little ray of sunshine added to the mix, basically all of you should be here now!

"Turn your face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind you." Maori proverb

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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28th June 2018

What a beautiful blog! I felt like I was in heaven. What evocative pictures! I think that I will plan a trip to Taiwan.
29th June 2018

Rhythm of the Rain
I really enjoyed this blog. Sounds like you had a great time. I would have loved seeing the Dragon Boats.

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