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Monday, May 11, 2009


I hope everyone had an enjoyable Mother's Day. Ours began with the short drive from our home to the ruins of the Long Deng Viaduct in neighboring Sanyi 三義. After parking our car, we had lunch at a small cafe called the Railway Inn, where I dined on a Taiwanese version of an ekiben 駅弁 (the taste wasn't bad, though it took a long time for our food to arrive. I could've done without the bamboo soup as well. Actually, I did). Afterward, Amber went on the first of what would be two model train rides today:

We then went for a walk along the abandoned railway tracks. One nice thing about Taiwan is that even when a "famous place" is packed (and the crowds were out today), taking a walk just a few hundred meters away from the attraction(s) will leave the masses behind. The scenery was pretty good along the way:

Even the most energetic of three year-old girls gets tired, however, and so, following a quick detour to a nearby rest stop (where we took note of a banyan tree, the roots of which were taking an interesting path due to the contours of the road surface), it was a free ride back to the car, courtesy of a father's back:

Before getting back into our vehicle, a quick break for ice cream and Ramune ラムネ was in order, though Amber didn't think much of the latter. The scenery behind the food/drink vendors looked nice in the late afternoon sun:

Once in the car, we drove on to the Shengsing Train Station 勝興車站. The drive there was somewhat stress-inducing, involving narrow lanes and oncoming traffic. I've driven on even smaller roads in Japan, but the drivers there are more likely to give way than Taiwanese motorists, and cars are generally smaller, unlike the 4WDs some Taiwanese urban warriors were driving this afternoon. Nevertheless, thanks to my wife's amazing maneuvering skills, we arrived near the train station intact. Due to the number of visitors, we had to park about 700 meters away, but there was a nice forest trail that meant we didn't have to take our chances on the traffic-clogged road (Amber was able to collect a few Tung tree 油桐 blossoms along the way). The last time Pamela had visited the old train station was when we were dating. At that time, it was a sleepy street with a handful of small restaurants. Now it's a circus of cafes, souvenir stands, karaoke and traffic. The "benefits" of the tourist boom:

Amber enjoyed her second train ride of the day, this time on a mini-steam engine. By the time we finished walking up and down the street (dodging the cars and scooters), and having dinner, the sun had already set. As the forest trail would've been too dark, we had to walk back to our car along the road. This turned out not to be a problem, as most of the visitors had already left by this point, but especially because there were fireflies up and about. As you can imagine, this excited Amber to no end. Once back in the car, we returned home the way we came, past the viaduct, which was picturesquely lit up. My camera, unfortunately, couldn't do the scene justice:

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