I think I like punishing myself - but it's all for a good reason, right? Another early morning wake up call and rush to the train station - that seems to be a theme of this trip, no? Anyway we got lucky with train times and caught the 7:10 train to Hualien, we even got seats (unlike our first trip to Alishan where we spent half the ride in the cargo car). I feel like i'm about to sound like a broken record but this trip was much like the beginning of Alishan, we rearranged some luggage, stored my large backpack in the baggage room and ventured out for a scooter and lunch. The woman we rented the scooter from was extremely friendly (even if we couldn't communicate much past body language and smiles). While Grant ran back to get his ID from our bag at the station she showed off her pet pig and even tried sharing her lunch with me. Lunch was a not so glamorous lunch box from the shop next door but cheap and filling - just what we needed. A few more stops for necessities like money, gas and a knee brace (finally, after 5 years of talking about it I bought one for my Grandma knees) we were on our way to Taroko National Park .
After arriving at Taipei Taoyuan International airport I caught the bus to Taipei and found myself in the apartment of a stranger - Grant, my Couchsurfing host for the next few days. Thankfully first impressions didn't scream "serial killer" and aside from telling me I have a lot of wrinkles he appeared to be a really nice guy. Little did I know he would soon turn into my travel partner for the next week. It was strange, our first meeting was more like a reunion among old friends than a meeting of two strange Americans in Asia.
This country has a smell, I can't describe it and I actually don't know what it is, but as soon as I step out of the airport I know I've arrived. The land of night markets, bubble tea and so, soooo much food, your tastebuds will be tired.