Ringing out the year of the pig

The Chinese New Year is upon us where, this year, we will welcome the “year of the rat” so we thought it appropriate to officially say good-bye to the “year of the pig” in the best fun, travel way we could think of.

Cue in another adventure with our travel buddies although this time we skipped the night at the aquarium (but sadly, not the bad food….) and headed along the East Coast of Taiwan to explore Taroko National Park. The trip was off to an interesting start since our family made use of the car (we rarely use it because everything is so walkable in our neighborhood) and soon discovered that google maps appeared to have a mind of its own.

Every time I had mapped the drive before, the handy little app guided us to less than 3 hours of driving, however, when we were ready to leave Taipei, the app routed us almost around the entire island with an estimated drive time of 7 hours. Yeah. That was not going to be happening (my tolerance for road trips suddenly halts at 3.5843 hours; this is a known figure in our household that no one wants to mess with).

We John frantically searched the news for landslides or road closures only to find out that there was nothing unusual going on anywhere on the island’s roads. Still, google maps warned us repeatedly of road closures ahead and please reroute around the island.

In a performance I can only call “patient,” “astonishing,” and “inspiring” (or far from it, I’ll leave that interpretation up to you), I reset google maps over and over again to route us to different locations within the “right timeframe” and when all that failed, tossed the app aside and went back about 20 years in time and read the map as one did back in the day. Whew, how exciting was that. And guess what? We made it to the park in less than 3 hours. Yeah, sometimes technology isn’t your friend.

Anyways, back to our trip. We met up with the Turner family whose start was similar to ours and involved a wrong train, closing doors and almost one person left behind so we were all ready for some High 5’s when we finally met up at our hotel. Oh, the hotel. As the website and friends who had been there before promised, the views were amazing but the customer service and food were, let’s just say less than stellar.

Of course these things were not going to get us down (we are a fun traveling bunch no matter how many mishaps, miscommunication, and bad food is thrown our way) because there was lots of hiking to be done and we still needed to appropriately ring out the year of the pig. Fortunately for us, both options would be easily accomplished right away when we hit the trails to follow butterflies and monkeys in search of those pigs.

Found them!

So perhaps the food or staff weren’t the hotel’s selling points but for sure, their stuffed pigs surely were. Meet “professor pork chop bacon” and “tiny” (or “oinky” depending on whom you ask. I say if I buy a huge stuffed big, I get to name it, right? No matter what the 10-year old owner says). Yes, the pigs were purely awesome.

So much in fact that they accompanied us on our guided tour throughout the park the next day.

After hours of hiking and sorting out why our tour around Taroko Gorge started at the beach with a discussion about the local fishing trade, it was time to head back to the hotel, battle the hot/icy cold shower settings, warm up the electric blankets (fun fact: not all of them work!), and cozy up for board games (“Mahjong ME!”) and more fun including much needed after dinner snacks.

And while we may not exactly agree that we were in the “Star of Asia” as some tourist hats seemed to suggest, it was, as always, a fun travel adventure full of laughs. Let’s see what the year of the rat will bring for us.

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