I love cold weather. When I was a kid, I had a snowboarding t-shirt that said “never summer.” Sure, I like to go to the beach, swim, and surf, but if I had to choose a favorite type of weather, it would definitely be the crispness of fall and the start of winter. I am a girl made for boots, scarves, and leather jackets.
That’s why, when I came to Taiwan, one of the most challenging things for me to adapt to was the heat. I did a lot of research on Taiwan before coming here, but for some reason, it never struck me just how hot it was going to be, especially since we arrived at the beginning of August. I think the first few weeks of 90 degree plus days with humidity were the hottest consistent weather I have ever felt. Simply walking outside was enough to make me start sweating buckets.
That’s why, over the past week or so, as the weather has started to cool down, it has been glorious. The weather is finally perfect for running, something I have been starting to take advantage of now that I’ve found a good running path by the river.
But, this change in the weather has had unintended consequences. *Dun dun dun* Prior to coming to Taiwan I researched every corner of the internet for advice on living in Taiwan. One Fulbright pamphlet I read said that after a few months of living in 90 degree heat, your body gets used to it, and that when the weather starts dropping you will feel more cold than you normally would back in the states. “That won’t happen to me,” I told myself. “I love the cold…”
The other night it was 70 degrees and I found myself putting on leggings, a sweater, and a jacket as I got ready to drive my scooter. I was wearing an outfit that I had worn in the winter in the Midwest, during weather that I would definitely consider shorts weather back home. So much for my resistance to cold I thought I had developed from living in the Chicago suburbs my whole life.
Plus, even if the weather is nice out, you learn pretty quickly to bundle up when you drive your scooter, as you are exposed to the elements when you drive, and the winds can get pretty chilly when you’re driving fast!
Oh well! I guess it’s all relative. So for now, I’m going to keep bundling up as I go for a run.
And, as the weather cooled down and October neared its end, the Yilan ETA’s had an entire week off of work, which meant it was time to do some exploring on the island! October 20-26 were the National Games in Yilan County, a country-wide sporting event that draws participants from all over Taiwan. And, because the events were happening, we had a week off of school. No other counties had this week off, so it was the perfect time to do some exploring on the island without having to worry too much about the crowds. To make up for this week off, the Yilan ETA’s had to start work a week earlier than everyone else back in August, but it was worth it!
Unfortunately, during the first part of the week I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed home instead of visiting Hualien, the county just to the south of us. However, as the week progressed I began to feel better, and joined up with my friends for the Kaohsiung portion of the trip.
Kaohsiung (the “k” is pronounced like a “g”) is a port city in the south of Taiwan, and its about a five hour bus ride or a little over two hour high speed rail journey from Taipei. One of the things I noticed immediately about Kaohsiung is that it feels more laid back than Taipei. One of the ETA’s who is placed in Kaohsiung said Kaohsiung is to Taipei like Chicago is to New York City. Although I’ve never been to NYC, I can definitely attest to the similar laid back feel of both Chicago and Kaohsiung, especially since they are both located near rivers and either lake or ocean coastlines.
During our time in Kaohsiung we explored several parts of the city, from the Pier-2 Art Center, to the Liuhe night market, to Cijin Island.
My favorite part of the trip was visiting Cijin Island, a district that you have to a take a five minute ferry ride to get to. The whole place was filled with tourists and had a very vacation-like feel to it. The palm trees, coastline, and nice weather reminded me of being back in the Caribbean.
Definitely the most fun thing that I did during my time in Kaohsiung was renting an electric bike to tour Cijin Island. My friend Tim and I decided that electric bikes would be more fun than walking, so we rented some and set off to explore the island! And it was super fun. Cijin was definitely a district that was meant to be explored on bike, and it’s even better when you don’t have to pedal! We drove to one end of the island, went through the Cijin Star Tunnel, and parked our bikes to walk up to the Cihou Fort and Lighthouse. Then we rode the other way down the island, overlooking the ocean, to the Cijin Wind Turbine Park. This is a perfect afternoon activity, and we managed to do everything within the allotted two hour time frame during which we rented our bikes.
I feel like I only scratched the surface of Kaohsiung while I was there, but it left a good impression, and I think I will definitely be back! There are so many things that I still want to do there, like visiting the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, as well as the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, where there is a giant Buddha statue. And, since the weather in Kaohsiung is nice year round, I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to go back.