Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Return to Taiwan Tour 2011 - On the Bus - Day 1

Many of you who read this blog have seen posts on these pages during the past year or so announcing our Return to Taiwan Trip.   The tour of the island started on Sunday, 6 November 2011.

My friend and co-sponsor of the trip, Gene Hirte and I, talked often about folks who were stationed in Taiwan back in-the-day who might want to fly back to Taipei and experience Taiwan as it is today.  We figured that many who might want to come back. were not comfortable with going it alone.  So, we put together a Return to Taiwan Trip ourselves.  

We received many inquiries from a host of individuals who were interested.  We corresponded with all who contacted us, answering their questions and then waited to see who would finally decide to make the long journey back to Taipei.

By mid October, we heard from the last person who was still contemplating coming.   We closed the books on this year's roster and made transportation and hotel arrangements.

After months of advertising, we ended up with 8 folks on the tour. We arranged for a smaller bus with 9 seats and a driver.
Our tour bus
Comfortable reclining seats with lots of leg room
Seats were 2 to a row with the walkway between.  Every wide seat reclined backward to various positions, similar to an airline seat, moving far enough back to relax and catch a nap.  
Plenty of leg room and comfortable.

We wanted this type of seating since our tour was13 days.  The more comfortable we rode, the better we felt. Many hours were spent on the road, although we stopped to sight see often, we knew some folks would catch a quick nap from time to time.  Relaxing to the hum of road noise is comforting to many.

Each seat had a holder on the wall containing a bottle of  drinking water. Our bags rode in the rear of the bus.  If you needed something,  bags were readily available without having to stop and dig out a suitcase.

Our Headquarters Hotel in Taipei was the Hsuanmei Boutique Hotel.  

The rooms were attractive, clean and the breakfast buffet offered a wide selection of dishes.  

Sunday - 6 November.  Sunday's weather was expected to be very wet.  With agreement, the itinerary was changed and the day was spent around Taipei as weather permitted.

 The Hotel Breakfast Buffet..

Quite a selection of western dishes available, on the buffet line, to the left and below.

Monday - 7 November.  During breakfast our tour bus pulled up at the front door.  The driver loaded our bags. We finished our breakfast, and claimed a comfortable chair on the bus.  

We were soon off, it was exciting to begin. 

Eleven days of touring were ahead of us, seeing Taiwan in a casual, comfortable and relaxing way.

We got away from our hotel around 0900, passing the Taiwan Beer Brewery a block or so from the hotel.  I believe someone said that they had visited the brewery a day or two before and had had a brew.

Our bus drove toward Yangminshan, we missed a turn and ended up in Beitou.  We just down the street from the old Japanese Bath House and along side the Taipei Metro Station in Beitou before heading toward Danshui.

Old Japanese Bath House, now a Beitou historic building.


      In Danshui, we passed the entrance to
the old British Consulate.

 And the entrance to the Tamsui Golf and Country Club, here, as it looked  
"way" back-in-the-day...
We drove on toward the coast, stopping at the Danshui Boat Harbor for a rest and refresh.

The Danshui Fisherman's Wharf bridge and just above a new hotel built to resemble a huge ship.

It was beginning to rain off and on again, you can see the umbrellas in the photo above, it was overcast.  I was hurrying toward the Family Mart (7-11 type store) As I approached the front entrance, the side walk turned to ceramic tile, my left food slipped backwards as I strode onto the tile, I lost my balance and hit the ceramic tile full force on my right knee cap.  "Crack!" 

I heard the sound and just knew that my knee or leg was broken.  In a minute or two I was helped up and I struggled to walk around, regaining my composure, with slight pain in my knee and leg.  I decided to get back in the bus and continue the tour.  I had waited 43 years to take this trip and as long as I could walk, I would ride along on the tour.

We headed up Highway 2, along the northern coast toward Keelung City. There were sights to see along the coast, but the wind and rain pretty much ruled out stopping for any of the sights.  

We did stop at one area along the coast and I was able to get a couple of photos.  Back in-the-day, we had men assigned to the Shihmen area, right along the old highway, which has been re-worked in certain areas.

Look HERE to see the Shihmen area as it looked in the mid 1960's.

The Radar Domes, both have been rebuilt since we worked in the area.
(The rain had let up  for a few moments when we jumped out of our bus and took photographs)

We passed other sights along the highway, but the rain and wind continued.  No one was interested in getting soaked, so we proceeded toward Keelung City. passing the area of the old Camp McCauley, which no one could recognize because of the rain.

We stopped for lunch at Yehliu, home of the coral and stone heads.

We ate our first sea food dinner in a restaurant close to the Yehliu beach area. After lunch most of the group headed out to the beach area to see  the stone formations.

 Wet weather, four of our group, with those throw-away rain coats from 7-11 standing among the stone formations.

Some of the formations, with rain drops collecting on the camera lens.

The weather would not cooperate, showers off and on, steady wind and water.

We arrived in Keelung, drove down into the old port area, it was overcast, lots of rain outside the city, with streets inside Keelung reminding us of small streams.  We drove up to the Buddhist Temple overlooking the port area.  The weather cooperated for a few minutes as we walked up the steps to the hill top and were able to see the large Buddha and Temple, and a glimpse of the Keelung Port and harbor through the low clouds and rain.
The Da Fo Buddhist Temple in the background.  I don't have any photos taken when we stopped on the trip.  I took this photo in May of this year.

Shortly, we were back on the road driving toward our Ilan, our stop for the night.  

We headed out of Keelung on Highway 5 toward Taipei and then turned left and took the long tunnel route south toward Ilan.

We arrived in the Ilan area around 4:00 PM or so and our rooms were not scheduled for occupancy until after 5:00 PM, so we visited a Whiskey Brewery.

We walked through the Brewery Building.  The large windows, inside of building, offer visitors, bird's eye view of the manufacturing and bottling area, as well as the storage area for the wooden barrels.

After that building, we moved into the next facility, where everyone was offered a nice pour of one of their whiskey labels.   Here, visitors we lining up for a sample of their finest whiskey.
I believe everyone lifted their glass for a sample sip

What an interesting complex.  The company in addition to brewing whiskey, also owns the Mr.Coffee company, with large retail coffee shops and canned and bottled coffee drinks through out Taiwan. 

Shortly, we were off to our hotel facility, the Forte Dongshan Villa.  

By the time we arrived, it was raining again, and the sun had set an hour ago.  We located our hotel and checked-in, we dropped our bags in our rooms and walked down to the restaurant for dinner.

We were tired, it has been a long first day of travel.  The wet weather kept us busy.  

A good hot dinner was what we needed this night.  Hot tea and cold beer caped the meal.  

A few minutes after this photo was taken most of us were off to our rooms for a good nights rest...  

I decided to visit a hospital to check on by knee.  With the help of Gene and his wife, we found a hospital in the area.  After a series of x-rays, the orthopedic physician could not find any broken bones, but did find 2 chips on the knee cap.  They put a half cast on the back and sides of my leg from under my foot all the way up to just under my hip, wrapped it and sent me off. I had little pain and was exhausted. The cast was heavy and clumsy.

Our second day begins early tomorrow.  What new vistas will it bring?

Click on this photo map to see our bus route on Day 1 of our Trip around Taiwan.  
We began in Taipei and ended our first day in the Ilan (Yilan) area. 

Tomorrow, the weather clears somewhat and we're off on  Day 2 as the magnificence of Taiwan begins to appear....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting trip account. Looking forward to next episodes. Hope your knee is better now.