I Survived Yue Mei Kang: Bear Grylls’s Got Nothing On Me

 “I don’t think we’re going the right way” is how our real adventure started.

Mal and I had heard about a river trace in Jiaoxi and though it would be a great Sunday trip. We didn’t really know what to expect, or honestly, where we were going, but found a promising trail.

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The trail is steep and chalked with forks, so like any would-be Indiana Jones we started following the mysterious red arrows painted on rocks and trees. We had been meaning to get to the river but instead were climbing a mountain.

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That’s when we decided to back track and our story starts to get interesting. After winding our way back to the river, it was time to cool off. We split from the trail and found a great little fall to swim at. The water was fresh and cool and the perfect depth to do cannon balls off the fall.

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All of a sudden we were in the midst of forty Chinese tourists and the luxury of our secluded private pool was quickly lost.

They all headed back down on the path we had taken up, so we made the most obvious choice, leave the safety of the trail and follow the river all the way back down to the park entrance.

It started out easy enough with a few easy traverses down into shallow pools, but when we got to the third waterfall things got real. At this point it was still completely feasible to turn back and get back on the trail but being headstrong adventurers (idiots) we forded onward.

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This particular waterfall was beautiful but too high to safely leap, luckily for us there was a slippery mud soaked rope that went down, under a rock bridge and off a small overhanging boulder. While, this rappel wasn’t all that high, it was awkward and the rope was less than confidence inspiring.

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After that we were sure that we were on easy street…NO. Just past our treacherous abseil was an even gnarlier waterfall. Mallory uneasily pointed out that the rock bolts on the edge probably meant that it was going to be a rough climb down. She was right.

Getting down involved straddling the fall and then sidling up as close to the right side and jumping out as far as you possibly could, all the while hoping and praying that there wasn’t a hidden rock to break your fall.

I went first and to my great relief it was a deep pool with a relatively mild current.  Mal was getting ready for her leap of faith, and what do you know, her biggest jungle fear showed up to keep us company, a snake swam right down the fall and was wading in the pool.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do about it though and we splashed past it without getting bit (honestly it was probably harmless, but no sense in testing it out). After that we had a nice easy wade back to the trail to little the adrenaline settle.

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The main attraction, Yue Mei Kang Fall, is an awesome sight. It’s relatively tall with a wide, shallow pool at the bottom. This is a perfect summer time trek.

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If you go to the base of Wufengxi trail, instead of going up the stairs cross the river where all the kids swim and head up the dirt trail. Getting to the base of the fall and back down should take an hour or two. Safe travels!

This site has good instructions on getting up to the fall.

http://www.mandarintaiwan.com/2/post/2011/09/yang-mei-kang-waterfall-hike.html

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The Hunger

The craving. That itch you can’t scratch. The insatiable hunger. What am I talking about? Getting a taste of home. When you get to a new country it is so fun to try all the new things around you, the variety of fresh flavors. I love food and I love eating. I’ve found some amazing cuisine since being in Taiwan. The thing is that who ever you are and where ever you’re from you probably get sick of the staples. After a while all the unique, exciting delicacies become the standard and you want something else. For me I crave western food.

So, for those of you who are in the same boat as me, here are some great places to check out in Yilan city.

Five Fish – This little pizzeria owned by a friendly Taiwanese family is great. They have a single wood fire oven and make delicious personal size pizzas. They are really affordable and you never have to wait. They make the pizzas with fresh ingredients right in front of you. Their menu is all in Chinese so bring your translation book or be ready to do a lot of gestures and pointing. In all seriousness they speak a little English and if you order a margherita they will know what you are saying. It is small and easy to miss, so keep your eyes open.

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Rain City Grille – This is a good place to go get a burger and fries. It’s owned by a Canadian guy, who mostly works the kitchen, though, you will probably see him milling about. Their lunch menu is almost identical to their dinner menu, but about half the price; so go for lunch. Even for dinner though it’s pretty affordable. Besides burgers they have pizza, pasta and sandwiches.

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Tavola – Another pizza joint! There ‘zas are pretty good and they have some really good salads (a rarity in Taiwan). They have a cool New York meets Italy meets Taiwan thing going on. Their pizzas are a little bigger than five fish and a little pricier, when I want a slice it’s always a coin toss between the two.

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Mr. Balagov – Not quite American but still really tasty, Mr. B’s serves classic Ukrainian food. It is a little spendy but really good. His specialty is the sultan kebab, a foot and a half of barbequed lamb. It is amazing and a big undertaking for one person, so go with a friend.

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Silks Lounge- if you are looking to impress a date thinks about this place. You should make a reservation because it fills up especially on the weekend. Silks is much classier than the other places mentioned and a lot more expensive, but worth it if you can foot the bill.

These are some of my favorite places to go eat some familiar food and take a load off. I’m sure there are others and as I find them I’ll be sure to share. If you know of any good places please leave a comment and if you like this post please follow our blog. Keep an eye out for more cool things to do around Yilan and Taiwan.

Taiwan-a-saurus Rex

One of my favorite things to do is to get on my bike and cruise. I love the exercise and biking affords me the opportunity to take unusual routes. By going off the beaten path I’m able to discover my neighborhood and my city at large.

Yilan is a “small” city in Taiwan. For a city of about 29,000 it is very spread out. There are sprawling rice patties all around and large swaths of area devoted for tea growing in the mountains. The downtown areas are full of bustling markets and winding alleys. By cycling (no pun intended) I have found out way more about my city than I would by driving or taking public transport (plus the Yilan bus is a little worthless).

Who Needs Brakes?

Clicking of cassette…

Cold lightning speeds through the air

I am bicycle.

-Worst Haiku Ever, Tim. 

I ride everywhere. I love my bike. Every bike I have ever had becomes a friend. When Mallory and I arrived in Taiwan we obviously needed to buy new bikes. Giant is a Taiwanese company, so you can buy a decent Giant for a good price and there are Giant stores abound, although we decided to go with one of the many smaller bike shops. Though these shops are relatively common it is near impossible to find a Google map showing all the shops near you, Taiwanese businesses aren’t so hep to Google. It’s really a matter of stumbling upon them and we were able to find several close to our place.

The thing I really love about the smaller shops is haggling. I found a crummy Giant 2400. I got the price down to NT$1000 (about US$30). It was going to need some work that added another NT $1000.

I am not super keen on mountain bikes so I was set on changing it into more of a cruiser, mountain cross. I also like to personalize my rides, so I stripped decals and buffed the paint. I put some green candy stripes, a bunch of stars and a couple lightning bolts. 

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Before

When I went to another shop I found some little kid BMX bars and a bunch of cool accessories, including some mirrors and an umbrella mount. When I asked the price the guy asked if I was planning on putting those parts on the bike I rode up on. I was, so I said “Dui” (yes)(对). At that point he told me that those things weren’t for sale. For some reason he was strongly opposed to me “freakin out” MY bike. I figured the easiest thing for both of us was to lie. I explained that I misunderstood and that I’d never dream of putting ill matched on my pristine Giant 2400. This satisfied him and I was on my way with some new stuff to trick out my bike.

Slowly but surely my bike was coming together, though I still had a few speed bumps along the way. When I installed the new bars the brake cables were too short. Instead of fixing them right away I just jerry rigged the cable and pulled on them to stop. Worked like a charm. After a while I did fix that little issue though. Other fixes included new brake pads, patching old tubes, oiling the chain, all the stuff you need to do for any bike.

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After!!!

Now everywhere I go I get the weirdest looks, I don’t even think my bike is that crazy. People will stop at lights and ask me “why is your bike like that?” or tell me “WOW, so crazy.” I like to think that it’s a compliment.