My theory that every good day starts off with a greasy breakfast was further proved on Sunday. We felt like taking it a little slower after having such a long day on Saturday, so we slept until almost 9:00 and went to McDonald's for breakfast. Unfortunately, we arrived as they were changing from the breakfast menu to the burger menu, so some of our group couldn't get breakfast. Being the first one in (I practically sprinted in the door), though, I was safe.
After breakfast we noticed a community group giving massages across the street. They had many massage chairs set up under a tent and urged us to come over. This group turned out to be a local community group of blind people who were giving out free massages to all that came by. I wound up getting two massages that felt good at first, but I think our visually impaired friends didn't know their own strength. They REALLY dug in! Ouch! It was painful at the time, but I think it did help loosen me up because my stiff neck felt better afterwards.
After our greasy breakfast, free massages, and a few cups of coffee, we hit the road. It was a little chilly and raining lightly, but we weren't planning on doing any long hikes today, so we were fine with the weather. We decided to go down the East Coast highway and stop at a few sights listed in the guidebooks to see if any of them were any good. Our first stop was a scenic overlook where we managed to get this group photo.
We stopped at some little fishing town where you are supposed to be able to take whale-watching tours. Adi really had his heart set on waking up the next morning to see some whales, but they informed us the season was over. Too bad!
Our next stop was the Tropic of Cancer monument. I loaded a picture of this on flickr, but it's hardly worth mentioning. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed when we crossed to the tropics and the weather didn't warm up.
Next, we stopped at the Basian caves. There are eight or nine of these "caves", which are very shallow. Some of them could probably just be called "overhangs", but the scenery from the top of the walkway to the higher caves was quite impressive. There are temples in each of the caves, but the caves themselves are not that big, so it was a bit of a let-down.
We stopped for a bite to eat in the town of Chenggong. We then backtracked a mile or two to visit the Sansiantai Bridge. This wave-shaped bridge was built in 1987, but has already become a popular tourist attraction. The small island it connects with the mainland hosts three large rock formations that are said to resemble three Taoist immortals who visited the are long ago (although I didn't see any resemblance).
I had seen some beautiful pictures of the bridge and the island in sunlight, but it was much more challenging to take photos in near hurricane conditions. Although it wasn't raining hard, the wind was blowing so strongly that the raindrops pelted you in the face like little bb's. It was especially bad on the bridge, which was a shame because the views of waves crashing into rocks and the different colors of the ocean at different depths were really dramatic. I managed to snap a few pictures that weren't blurry and kept my camera sheltered enough from the weather that it didn't malfunction, which I thought was a stroke of luck.
It was getting dark as we left the bridge area. Once again, I had the brilliant idea of taking “the scenic route”, which AGAIN turned out to be less than a highway, as the map indicated. ONCE AGAIN, we found ourselves on a “winding narrow path of doom”. Yes, I take full responsibility for the poor navigation, but hey, if you looked at a road map of Taiwan, I think you would agree that highway 23 looked like a shortcut. Anyway, Adi was brave enough to take us on an even more winding “road” at night and managed to keep us all in one piece. I put “road” in quotation marks because at least half of 23 is still under construction.
When we made it to the inland highway (a proper highway, by the way) the going was much smoother. We called the lady at a travel agency and asked her to contact our innkeeper in Ruishuei to come meet us at the train station and guide us to our lodgings. The Ruishuei Hot Springs hotel was a very pleasant spot. This inn was built by the Japanese about one hundred years ago. The rooms are Japanese style, with tatami mats and futons you lay on the floor. There are hot and cold spring water pools near the front desk for free use by the guests. Not too shabby at about $10 U.S. a night per person!
We went to town for dinner and soaked in the hot water for a while before dinner. The Europeans seemed pretty happy spending about half their time in the cold water, but I could only enter for about 10 or 20 seconds at a time before I had to jump in the warm water. I think it felt even better because it was a little chilly and drizzling outside as we sat and soaked.
We all slept well and the girls had a hard time waking us up in the morning. They probably slept more soundly than we did, though, because there were only the two of them in one room, while us guys were five in the other room. There was also some REALLY crazy animal fight right outside our window at 4 or 5 in the morning, but we were all too tired to go see what was going on. Whatever it was, it was all cleaned up by morning, and the big golden lab who sits chained out front wasn't hurt.
Well, I have procrastinated on my schoolwork today long enough. It's 11:00 at night and I need to try to finish one of my presentations tonight. I only have one more day of our road trip to post on, but I'll wait until at least tomorrow to write it. It wasn't too eventful, so it shouldn't take too long.