This week, I took some time off of work, and my youngest sister, Ashleigh, came to visit me for three days. She brought along the toddler that she is fostering (let’s call her “Munchkin” for this post), and the three of us spent our time exploring Taichung and finding some new places that Charles and I can return to. It’s easy to feel out of touch with nature while living in the big city, so we looked particularly for some natural spots. We had a wonderful visit, and I’m so glad Ashleigh and Munchkin came.
I picked up Ashleigh and Munchkin at the HSR station in the morning, and we stopped by IKEA on the way home. We bought a few things that I needed, and we had a nice lunch of Swedish meatballs. It was fun shopping with another woman who could help me decide on curtains and colors; Charles usually doesn’t have a strong opinion when it comes to decorations. We came home, and Munchkin took an afternoon nap. I took the opportunity to nap too, and that was refreshing. Charles came home from school, and we decided to go to Chili’s for dinner. This was a treat for Ashleigh since there is no Chili’s in Kaohsiung.
On our second day, Munchkin napped in the morning, so we took an afternoon outing after lunch. We went to the Taichung Metropolitan Park. It’s a big park with lots of wooded walking paths, a man-made lake complete with ducks and geese, open areas for flying kites, and many unique structures. The weather has been dry recently in Taichung and we’re in “winter” now, so everything was pretty brown. I think the park would be beautiful in the spring or summer.
For dinner, we visited our favorite pasta restaurant that is just a block and a half from our apartment. Then we topped off the evening with delicious and creamy ice cream from 7-11. After Munchkin was in bed, we started watching Mary Poppins. We all just recently saw Saving Mr. Banks, and it made us want to watch the original movie again. We got tired and didn’t finish the movie until the next night though.
On the third day, we did the morning nap thing again for Munchkin, though she didn’t sleep very long. Then we went in search of the Dakeng Scenic Area hiking trails. Charles and I see signs for it all over the place (we’re not far from it), but we’ve never actually gone and tried to hike. Ashleigh, Munchkin, and I drove around lost for a little while, and then we finally found trails 9 and 10 which are supposed to be some of the “easier” trails. We parked the car, loaded up our bags with cameras and water bottles, strapped Munchkin to Ashleigh’s back, and started up trail 9. Little did we expect that it was going to be uphill the WHOLE way! It was worth it for the view though. Once we got to the top, we decided to turn around and head back the way we came instead of finishing the trail. We had a lot of fun taking pictures, especially at the top. Oh, and I’ve never seen so many people hiking with umbrellas…only in East Asia.
On our way home, we stopped at another famous site in Taichung: the laughing Buddha. Here’s a funny story: On our second day together, on the way home from the park, Ashleigh said, “What’s up with that big Buddha that’s on your road? Sara and I saw it on the way home the last time we visited.” I had NO idea what she was talking about. I’d never noticed a Buddha. Well, we drove by, and sure enough, there was one of the biggest Buddhas I’ve ever seen. It’s ON OUR ROAD, and we’ve passed by that part of the road several times. The Buddha is HUGE and can easily be seen from the road, though the tall trees along the sidewalk in front of it do block it until you’re right there. I don’t know how in the world Charles and I have never seen it. Interestingly, this is a site that Mom and Dad have talked about several times because they remembered it from when they lived in Taiwan. Who knew that Charles and I live only about five blocks away from it? We still can’t stop laughing about the fact that we’ve never noticed it.
For dinner, we were going to cook, but we got lazy and had Pizza Hut pizza instead while finishing Mary Poppins. The next morning, I drove Ashleigh and Munchkin to the High Speed Rail so they could head home. I’m so glad they came to visit me, but it was hard to say goodbye. What a great three days!