We didn’t have anything big planned for the day, so we looked on Google Maps and the internet for quick excursions, and found Tong Hua park (桐花公園), a short cab ride away. Yes, we’d learned our lesson about blindly trusting Google Maps in Taiwan, but old habits die hard. While Google Maps is accurate about 90 percent of the time here, sometimes, it has no idea what the fuck it’s doing and will really lead you astray. This was one of those times.
I showed the cab driver the address for the park on Google Maps, but when we arrived at the address, there was clearly no park entrance. There was a drainage trench on one side, and houses on the other. I described the park and showed pictures of it to the cab driver, and the cab driver stated he knew the park, as he had taken one other passenger there before on a prior occasion. The cab ride ended up being almost twice as long, winding through the mountains. If this was in any other country, I’d suspect the cab driver of trying to rip me off, but this tends not to happen in Taiwan. Plus, Google Maps clearly had its head up its ass, so it’s not like I had any better ideas.
Tong Hua park was a big, lush, patch of jungle with a walking path, scenic gazebo, and pretty foliage. The view was beautiful, though the weather was a bit overcast and bleak. If we had known better, we would have worn hiking attire, but we still had fun walking around.
We followed the stone path, and encountered a small rope bridge. Vale already felt questionable about the structural integrity of this bridge (it was fine), but really freaked out when Kyle started bouncing it up and down. She demanded, “STOP IT DADDY” and we laughed, because we’re terrible people.
We enjoyed the views, and walked over to a couple of restaurant/cafes to see whether there was anything good on the menu. The first restaurant had a world-class view, from up high, with the city in the distance. However, it was terribly overpriced, and the place was totally dead anyway, since this was the morning on a random weekday.
We made our way to a small cafe around the corner, perched up on a hill, and shared a pot of tea and some snacks, one of which was a “hamburger” with a rice bun and marinated chunks of beef (totally not a hamburger at all, but not bad). We took in the view here, and also browsed and bought some used children’s books for Vale. There was no one else at this cafe, and an elderly Taiwanese lady kept trying to chat up Jenn in Taiwanese, but Jenn only understood 20 percent of what she said, and responded with pretty much the only two phrases she knows in Taiwanese – “Thank you” and “Sorry, I can’t speak Taiwanese.”
While this was a random Wednesday morning, we did wonder whether this place is ever busy. There were a handful of other visitors, but otherwise, it was very quiet. Just another one of those gems in Taiwan: still, scenic, and serene, which you would think would attract more visitors or tourists, the lack of which makes you almost wonder if you’re not supposed to be there, or if you’ve stepped into a version of alternate reality.
Our visit was brief, as there were some steps/paths we could not tackle in sandals and a stroller. The afternoon was relaxing and uneventful. Vale napped, and Jenn read some poems from Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski, paired with Houblon Chouffe. This is another excellent Belgian beer we picked up at Carrefour for literally half the price of what it would cost in the United States.
At night, Vale helped Ye Ye and Po Po put up the Christmas tree, and we had dinner together.