After a short flight from Seoul, I touched down in Taipei. Quite literally, as the airport is located in the middle of the city. Being able to see appartment windows on eye level while flying in a plane was a new experience for me, and it offered me a unique view of the city.
The next day, I just wandered around Taipei a bit, and went to see Blade Runner in the cinema with a fellow hostel guest. To be honest, Taipei didn't really 'capture' me, so I decided to leave the next day. Maybe when I complete my trip around Taiwan, Taipei will seem more interesting to me.
My next stop was Hualien, a city that itself doesn't have much to offer, but the nearby Tarako Gorge is one of Taiwan's natural higlights. Taiwans eastern mountains drop almost immideatly into the ocean, and thus deep rivers create the unique landscape around Taroko. The mountain walls are actually marble!
I couldn't have timed my visit to Taroko better, because the next day it started raining, and it wouldn't stop for some time to come. A typhoon was building up south of Taiwan. Luckily it wasn't headed for the island, but it still greatly affected the weather.
Meanwhile, I found an oppurtunity to work on a 'farm' near Taitung for a few hours per day, in exchange for food and accomedation. I got in contact with the owner, Mike, and was welcomed to come over in a few days. My original plan was to spend those days biking down the east coast towards Taitung, but the neverending rain made me reconsider that idea. Then, Fletcher (another guest) and me decided to hitchhike south. On the faithful day however, the rain started to intensify to proper typhoon levels, and after 5 minutes our sign was washed out and so were we. We admitted defeat and took a train.
Taitung itself is just a grey city, so we headed up a few kilometers up towards Dulan. An expat surfer and hippie hotspot, Dulan doesn't have much to offer in terms of sightseeing, but it is an incredible place to just wind down and relax. After a few days, the torrential rain finally settled down, and there were some oppurtunities to go hiking and make fires on the (rocky) beach.
On the 18th of October Mike picked me uo from Dulan. His farm was located in the mountains of Xinchang, a small village just 3 kilometers down the road. His helping hands have a small house to themselves (Mike's old home). I spend a little over 3 weeks in total at the farm. For the first few days I shared the house with Maria, a girl from Spain. When she left Amelie, a French girl, took her place. For the final 1.5 week I had the place to myself.
Work at the farm took a few hours a day, from 9 to 1, with plenty of small breaks and a delicious homecooked lunch afterwards. Work varied greatly, which I really appreciated. It ranged from basic stuff, like preparing patches of soil or planting asparagus, to collecting driftwood on the beach (which Mike uses to make furniture), to less responsible things (Such as picking up 60kg of chickenfood on a scooter or climbing trees with a chainsaw).
I had the afternoons to myself, but unfortunately as getting to Dulan involved a 20 minute steep walk down the mountain and then walking or hitchhiking 3 kilometers to the town, I didn't really go out that often. Luckily I could borrow Mike's scooter every now and then to do some groceries.
Between my second and my third week, I took 2 days to visit nearby Green Island. The boatride is quite infamous for making people sick, and I can see why! The sea was fairly calm on the day that I sailed from Taiting to Green Island, but the boat still rocked heavily from side to side..) Green island is a small but beautiful place. As soon as I left the boat, an old lady rented me a scooter. All that was required was to hand her some money and promise that I'd put back the scooter back the next day (I couldn't take it off the island even if I wanted to). A trip round the island only took a few hours, including time to see al the sightseeing spots. The next morning I went for my first scuba dive ever. Green island is surrounded by coral reefs and plenty of tropical fish (The entire cast of Finding Nemo can be found here). Then came the long wait to the boat back to Taitung, as there was only one that day and it left at 3. At least the sea was calmer than the day before! After 3 weeks I figured I had stayed in one place long enough. I really enjoyed the work and the perks, but the end of my budget is slowly coming in sight. Besides, I have settled on Nepal as my next destination, and if I wait to long to get there, the snowfall might make most of the treks impossible!