On the final day of my road trip down Taiwan’s east coast I was faced with the ultimate dining out dilemma: To wait, or not to wait. Readers, you’ve surely experienced this- when you’ve waited so long in a line, or even after ordering, and you’re so hungry you’re practically hallucinating- picturing your friends as talking hamburgers and frustrated salads. You’ve already waited so long, that you couldn’t possibly back out now. You just know that right after you leave, you would finally get your number called, or be presented with the food you ordered a lifetime ago.
To be honest, Taipei, you’ve never made me suffer this pain. Your food- especially in traditionally places- is sometimes alarmingly fast. You know how it’s done! Thank you on behalf of my rumbling stomach. In Sydney, it’s not rare to wait around 30 minutes for my food to arrive. In fact, once I stood in line for a very popular Thai place, Chat Thai, for three hours. I wish I was kidding. It was very much one of those situations where you justify waiting just a bit longer multiple times over.
I remember peering, basically teary eyed, into the kitchen visible from the outside, and the cooks giving me a look of concern, as if I was going to break the glass and gnaw on a satay skewer. The most “hilarious” part was once we finally got seated, we had to sit opposite a couple who were complete strangers. We asked them how long they waited, and they said they just arrived and were seated immediately. It was then I knew the depths of my anger.
Anyway, the situation wasn’t so extreme for our final breakfast in Dulan, but it did truly test my housemates’ and my patience. We all ordered the same delicious meal- sourdough bread drissled with pesto and mozzarella cheese. What made this so exciting was that all of those things are rare in Taipei. We sat down and eagerly awaited our food. And waited. And waited. Thirty minutes passed. The group who ordered the same meal after us were presented with theirs. OH NO YOU DON’T! Fury built up in all of us. “I’m sure there is some UN declaration against this type of treatment”.
We asked about our order and they said the standard “It’s coming soon”. Fifteen minutes later, lo and behold, the two small pieces of toast that took 45 minutes to make came. “They’re lucky it’s really quite good”, we grumbled, and we gobbled down our food like three women who had to wait 45 minutes for their food (I’d use the simile “like a pack of hungry wolves”, but believe you me, that doesn’t even cut it).
From there we went to Dulan’s beautiful beach. I must say, it was just stunning. Being from Sydney, I’m practically legally required to say we have undoubtedly the best beaches in the world. I would like to add Dulan’s beach to the list, because it was just stunning.
With our back towards the sea we could see a backdrop of lush green grass and mountains. The water was the perfect mix of warm and cool, and the water felt soft against our skin. As we paddled further out away from where the waves were breaking, we body surfed on the playfully big, but safe waves. We even treated ourselves to a black sand massage, lying back on the sand as foam from the waves lightly crashed up against us.
Next stop was “Water Running Upstream” as it’s called in English- one of those sights that leave you wondering, “did I miss something?” I was super excited on the ride over- imagining a spectacle of water defying gravity by moving upwards instead downwards. When we got there we all looked to each other for assurance that we were all feeling underwhelmed. It was cool to see that the water was indeed moving upstream, but it was on such a very, very slight incline that it failed to make a big impression.
Needing to get back to Taipei that night, we had hours ahead of us in the car. To break up the journey, we stopped at some sights we just happened to pass. From the car window, I spotted a huge billboard advertising a kind of food souvenir plaza. “Can we go, pretty please?” I begged. It was much more satisfying than the stream- there were free samples galore (which to me, is equal to heaven). I bought a steamed mountain pig pork bun to refuel myself from all that tiring stream-watching.
Next was a completely unplanned trip to Chu Lu Ranch, a popular brand of dairy products in Taiwan. We didn’t really know what to expect, and to be honest, there wasn’t much to do. We had fun because we can make anything enjoyable, but I wouldn’t recommend going as the entrance fee isn’t worth what you get. We saw some cows, posed in a ridiculous cow cut out, and I got an ice cream tea affogato.
Throughout the trip, we had all been looking forward to guzzling down all the tropical fruit the south is famous for. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to. Along the road we could see little stalls selling pineapples and watermelons abound, but the two fruits I wanted the most- mangos and custard apples, were no where to be seen.
We pulled over, and there were baskets piled high with mangos. I wanted to cry happy tears. Especially hearing that 9 mangos were only $200 (AU$8, US$6, Y200)
Over the next couple of days I would eat one, or even two mangos a day. (My love of mangos knows no bounds).
On the final leg of the journey we were lucky enough to catch two more sights- the Tropic of Cancer statue, and a giant tea pot. We even spotted a beautiful rainbow to wave us goodbye, back to Taipei.
Of course, our somewhat haphazard day couldn’t be complete without one final little bump. The only tickets left on the train were standing tickets. So we had to sit on the train floor! Something I’ve had way too much experience in, as you can read here.
With time to kill, we sat down for a delicious meal of dry noodles and wontons. And yes, luckily for all involved, it came out super quickly.