We love this country.
The people are consistently surprisingly nice, sweet, helpful and…well…there’s no other way to put this – adorable. From the little kids to the elderly, they are all totally awesome. I’ve never really thought twice about Taiwan or the Taiwanese. But that’s why we’re here, so that we would. So we could learn about them and be around them and have some understanding. And so far what we understand of this country and its people is that they are awesome!
We’ve had a great two weeks here already; it’s hard to believe we’ve been here that long. There was something about arriving in Taipei that put me in a vortex of time…something that said, sit. Relax. Catch up, breathe. Stay awhile. We still intended and have even tried to do the sight-seeing every day thing, but Taiwan is just telling us to chill the f out and enjoy it however we want, at our own pace.
So we got to see the amazing Taipei 101 building, the National Palace Museum, the fun Xinmeng date-night district with its cinemas and shops and street food vendors, and probably best of all…I got to meet up with a friend that I’d not seen or spoken to since 3RD GRADE!! He and a friend kindly guided us through the biggest night market in Taiwan and deciphered all the Chinese characters and various animal bits on offer on a stick, deep fried, battered or chopped into bits. It was awesome. I even tried chicken feet. They were soft and practically melted in your mouth, which somehow I found more disturbing than if they’d have been crunchy as I was expecting. Anyway the tour helped a ton in getting us more confident with the many foods on offer, especially with his assurances that while this may be strange food to us, it’s not nearly as freaky as it will be in China. Uh… great.
We visited the cute little mountain gold mining town of Jioufen, which apparently the downtown was used as a model for the incredible film Spirited Away (random?), with its red lanterns and ass-expensive but very cool tea house experience, then headed south to Taichung where we saw the 2nd largest laughing Buddha in the world (?!) and walked around, sampling its night market fare. And today we did a day trip to Lukang and saw some awesomely beautiful, colorful temples, gobbled up all the specialty food we could find, perused the streets and back alleys, had fun interacting with the local vendors, and just had a basically great day.
This evening we scrapped the rest of Ray’s perfectly-designed itinerary (I know how it feels, buddy) and quite merrily completely changed our plan to something that fit not with what we “should” do but with what we really wanted to do, and furthermore what was calling us. Do you ever have those moments where you have this plan and it’s what you’d planned based on what seemed best at the time, but then you’re just not feelin the love with it and it turns out to be a real bitch to get things to fit together right to make it work? Then you start looking at alternatives and something (often random and for reasons unknown) really jumps out and grabs you, then all the pieces start falling together way more easily? That’s what Sun Moon Lake and the (former) Alishan Scenic Railway – pre-typhoon last year : ( – wasn’t to us, and what Kaohsiung WAS. I mean, I love dragons and I love tigers, and I think I could really like pagodas too, so… you just can’t go wrong with THIS!!
I’m not aching for Home, but I’m aching for A home, and have been for a long time. I’ve got my sights set on Japan in January for a blessed three months, but a long four months of lots of (awesome) traveling stands between Here and Then, so I am happy to find a homebase whenever we can in the meantime. So I’m really looking forward to this next little adventure (albeit a mere 5-7 days it may be) and whatever lies in store for us in Kaohsiung that felt so right, when the “big tourist spots” did all they could to politely turn us away. Ray took it all in stride, by the way. I warned him when he took over the helm, “Remember: Chart out the best possible itinerary and route that you can with all the information you can gather. Then put that as your back-up plan, and you’ll be happy.” So when his perfect plan tanked tonight based on those intangible voices of life whispering in our ear, we celebrated with a couple of well-earned beers, and a couple of rounds of our new video games. Because we could, and because being able to do what we want to do for whatever reason we decide we want to do it after all, well that makes us damn happy.
Life is good in Taiwan. : )