Our final destination on our road trip was the small seaside town of Hualien, located in northeastern Taiwan.
We made a few stops along the way though. Our first stop was the town of Ilan, where we stayed in a beautiful, yet simple Japanese style hotel at the National Center for Traditional Arts.
Along the way to Ilan we had lunch in a small town (I don’t remember the name). We ate some really great seafood. Once we entered the restaurant we were immediately taken by a group occupying 2 tables.
Some of you out there may remember the 80s group Men Without Hats and their infectious , new wave hit, “Safety Dance.”
Sadly, they disbanded due to an identity crisis of sorts…and it’s a little known fact that they actually did “find themselves,” after many years…in Taiwan of all places. They now call themselves, Men With Hats:
We tried to figure out what group they really belonged to...even with our friends speaking Mandarin, well, all we got was: "it's a club." I like my theory better. "S-A-F-E-T-Y Safety dance! " doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo...
We reached our hotel around dusk. The National Center for Traditional Arts is located along the Tungshan River. It looked like a college campus – and in fact they do have visiting scholars, so artists and students can study there. But not only is it an educational facility, it is also a place where tourists can take in traditional theater (pictures to follow), music, handicrafts, dance, toys and games and acrobatic performances. We visited a museum which featured puppets, pottery and other handicrafts. There was a row of shops filled with beautiful sculptures, traditional musical instruments, jewelry (I got lots of silver earrings and a beautiful silver and glass choker all at very reasonable prices) and other handicrafts. The best part was taking part in DIY crafts. Sujoy crafted a leather keychain and Anjoli and I made necklaces out of clay that you stamp and then bake. Sujoy also made an owl clock out of tile – it came out great. Anjoli made a very intricate mirror – she “painted” the mirror with a mixture of glue and colored crushed glass. It was taking forever – until our friend, Thomas had the ingenuity to think of making a tube out of a plastic bag which we squeezed onto the mirror as if frosting a cake. He saved the day! Thomas the Train is a man of many talents! (Anjoli is posting the DIY craft pictures on her blog, and I will post the link here as soon as they're up, in case you're interested).
Here are some pictures we took at the Center, with a few taken the night we arrived:
Alice in Wonderland:
This puppet costs $5000 USD. I kid you not.
We were able to catch a short opera performance. In this scene, two friends are saying a VERY LONG goodbye. They will not see eachother for a long time. I thought they were supposed to be men dressed as women - however they are actually men...dressed as men!
Chris and Anjoli pose with the performers
View from our hotel
YUM! If you are wondering what we had for breakfast, so was I...