Monday, July 4, 2011

Our hike on Chaishan and the Century Egg

Sunday morning, Brett and I got up early to meet Jenny and Milton for a hike on Chaishan mountain. Interestingly, the mountain is formed from fossilized coral reef. As we walked towards the trailhead, Jenny assured me that the hike would be easy. She told me about all the elderly people who climb the mountain very early every morning carrying large jugs of water to share with fellow climbers at the top. I found it a little more challenging.

We started our hike/walk at 8:30 in the morning, but a bright Kaohsiung summer day becomes overwhelmingly hot even before then. I can safely say that my exertions on Chaishan resulted in the sweatiest day of my life. This includes the time I tried hot yoga.
My sweaty face aside, it was a perfect day. The scenery was beautiful, the monkeys were adorable, and we saw plenty of lovely butterflies, wild flowers, lizards, and brightly-coloured beetles. Thankfully, Milton and Jenny were kind enough to stop frequently to “tell us about the history of the area” ie: politely wait while I caught my breath long enough to enjoy my surroundings. I was really excited when we saw a yellow striped lizard known for doing adorable little push-ups, and I was absolutely enthralled when a large family of monkeys calmly walked past us on the path. They came within inches of our ankles and seemed very nonplussed by our presence, perhaps because we had no snacks for them to steal.

After the hike, Milton ran to get the car while Jenny showed us a Taoist temple at the base of the mountain. She showed me the proper method for acknowledging the altars as well as the order in which they must be addressed - unlike monotheist places of worship, each Taoist temple contains shrines to multiple gods and goddesses with a main altar dedicated to a particular deity. The temple we visited is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, a clear favourite in a harbour city like Kaohsiung!

Jenny and Milton then took us to a casual deli/cafeteria-style restaurant in Zuoying, a historic part of the city. While we waited for our beef noodles, Milton brought us dishes of specially cooked peanuts, pig skin (yum!), and a century egg (pi dan)! For those of you who don’t know what a century egg is, CNN actually posted an article just a few days ago about it being the “world’s most revolting food”. Despite having been way too much of a wimp to try the century egg myself, I don’t agree with that label. Century eggs are not rotten or dangerous to eat - they don’t even have a strong smell. They’re just duck eggs that have been cured and preserved in a special way that makes the egg turn green and slightly gelatinous. Milton showed us how to take a spoonful of tofu, green onions, sauce, and a piece of the egg, and eat it all in one bite! He and Jenny both really like it, so Brett gave it a try. He doesn’t know how to put into words what the egg tastes like, but says it’s a unique flavour, an acquired taste, and something he’ll need to try once more before he decides if he loves it or hates it. We’re very lucky to have Taiwanese friends who encourage us to try local delicacies! Brett now has one up on me with the century egg so I’m going to have to think of a way to gain some traveler street cred soon!

Today we went to Kenting with Milton and Jenny. Brett’s going to post something about that once he has a spare moment... For now we have to finish packing for Xiao Liuqiu!

Jenny & Milton!
Milton, Jenny and Amanda.
There were many butterflies more beautiful than this one but this poor fellow is the only one I captured on camera.
Milton, Jenny and Brett.
Temple dedicated to the God of the Sea.
Inside the temple.
You can make a donation and have your family name written on a little glass window in one of two such pillars in the temple. This will bring you good luck.
Century egg and tofu! The century egg is covered in fish shavings and the tofu is covered in spring onions.
Here goes nothing...
I wasn't sure how I would react...
Thinking about it...
Still thinking...
Success! Not that bad really.

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