Emily, Lakyn and I could not decide if we wanted to go to Taipei this weekend or try Hualien for the first time. (Haulien is where the man from the Fulbright banquet lives and said is beautiful!) Emily’s Chinese teacher told her to go to the stone market in Hualien because there is a coral stone that is found in Haulien and they have beautiful jewelry, so we decided to go there! Lakyn and I have a list of about twelve things we want to do in Haulien but we decided to just wander and scope it out this first time. Emily, Lakyn and I went to Shark Bites Toast for breakfast (of course) and got eggs, potatoes, pancakes and salad! It was delicious!! Not my normal sugar filled breakfast from Shark Bites but I decided I needed energy for the day. (And I got a chocolate oreo milkshake to go with it…..) We then took a train to Hualien and a taxi to the stone market. We got there at about 1pm only to realize the stone market doesn’t open until 2:30!
So we decided to wander around Hualien to find food. We found this restaurant that was American Western themed!!! There was Abe Lincoln on the wall and an American flag! We thought it was really funny so we went in. We found out that an American person owns it so that was pretty cool! Then we wandered back to the stone market only to find that fluid time was hitting us again. It was 2:30 and things were still not open. So we decided to explore some more and come back in a while. We walked by this weird boat thing sitting in the middle of a parking lot. We thought it was decoration, took pictures and moved on.
We were about 10 minutes away from the boat on a street getting smoothies and looking at clothes. **Super exciting side note: Emily and I were looking at long dresses to go to 10/10. Double ten is the birthday of Taiwan. It is HUGE. Normally all the ETAs get to go to this huge party hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and meet the president!!!! We have all been SO excited since we learned about it. But, a few days ago, we got an email telling us because of safety concerns, MOFA decided to have a smaller event this year. So, representatives from each area would be able to go, but not all of us. Four of the sixteen of us can go. We decided the only fair way to decide was to pick from a hat. So, our program coordinator, Kelly, picked names and mine was first!!!!!!!!!! I get to go to Taipei in October and meet the President of Taiwan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (: (: (: I could not be more excited!!!!!!!! Emily got picked also! So, back to the story, we were looking at long dresses for 10/10. I started to hear music but didn’t think much of it. We walk out of the store to see….the giant boat from before!! We run down our side street onto the main street to see what is happening. It’s a parade!!!!! The guy on the boat throws me some beads! We realize this parade is going down the whole street, so we get a spot and get ready to watch. You can look at the pictures to see some of the really cool stuff!!! The most hilarious part about the parade was people were asking to take pictures with us. Look how silly they look….and they wanted pictures with the foreign people. Too funny. But, I was more than happy to take pictures because I wanted pictures with them too!
We could not believe how lucky we had gotten. We randomly decided to come to Haulien instead of Taipei. Had plans to be at the stone market, but it wasn’t open yet. Wandered onto this side street, and straight into the coolest parade ever!!!! If I could live every day like that I would. Just having really cool cultural experiences that I could never have anywhere else. And this one, we just ran into by accident which made it even cooler! We had no expectations for the day because we really had no plans and this was the best day any of us have had so far!!! We found out from a local woman that this was the first time this parade had ever happened. So not only did we come on the right day at the right time but it was the first time it ever existed…and we saw it!! Then, the day only got better. We were walking to find dinner when we came across a music festival! It reminded me of Washington DC…an eclectic US city. There was a stage in front of a huge green where everyone was sitting to watch the music. Then, that was surrounded by restaurants and an artisan fair! We were hungry but looked at all the artisan booths first. I bought a lot of stuff! I bought myself two handmade necklaces. And other stuff that I can’t say because I started Christmas shopping early this year!! It was so much fun. Lakyn and I originally wanted to go to Hualien for the nature but instead we found the coolest city! It actually was the perfect day.
On our way to the train station, we stopped in a jewelry store. I knew at some point this year, I wanted to buy myself something nice that would always remind me of this experience. I found it in this shop. They had pink coral instead of the bright red we had been seeing at other shops. I asked to look at the bracelets and found one I fell in love with. It looks almost antique with pink roses and jade leaves. It is something I will keep forever. And to make it even better, he gave me half off the price!! Bartering is a thing here, which is absolutely awesome. You can get the price down almost anywhere…if you know how to do it right. So it was the perfect end to the perfect day.