back. it is nice to relax with a cold 'taiwan beer' with friends and swap stories of our gaining footing, for some claiming ground. i am staying with a friend in the city and despite constant night battles with mosquitoes it beats the hostel's bedbugs and inconsiderate produce snacking rats that the girls are apparently dealing with. after only three days though of battling taipei zebra crossings, choking down mrt subway fees and scooter smog, feeling like a gutterpup next to shishi fake eyelashes and louis vuitton face-masks and i am ready to head back out.
this past week was a breath of fresh air gifted from each of taiwan's four corners-having literally circled the whole of taiwan by train. first stop koahsiung, tainan... and while plans for the second half of my trip were conciously redirected, mostly due to the torrential rain i encounted as i headedup the east coast, it was inspiring nonetheless. i had considered my stop after kaohsiung to be in taitung, where i would camp on some mystery beach with crazy geological rock formations. i arrived at the train station in kaohsiung and stopped at the english information center. the tellers stared at me with wideeyed perplexion and proceded to push a young thirteenish boy in my direction to stumble through proper explanations and directions. he was sweating as he stuttered out that part of the railway had been damaged by the typhoon, and that i would either have to take a two day bus ride, or take a bus to bumfuck taiwan and catch a train that may or may not have left yet. i decided bumfuck in lue of sore posterior. so the boy led me to the bus station and helped me buy a ticket. i was a bit unsure of the bus i was supposed to take, where it was going, and when i was supposed to get off. yet, after about a half hour wait i was shoved onto a bus without warning, and as the english signs became nonexistent i surmised that once traintacks came into view it would be a good bet that my stop was next. ... ah... powers of deduction. the train station was across from the stop and i was given a full five minutes to make it to my seat. all was well.
the ride was quite breathtaking. the southeast is a expanse of farms- bananas, tea, rice. green spectrum from lime to forest is colorcoating the landscape. the towns became quite rural and distant, while feral dogs wandered the wet fields. as the train began traveling north to taitung mountains began to loom over the train like a friend looking over your shoulder. the train, and i inside, seemed lego size in comparison to the surrounding jungle cliffs. as i arrived in taitung the rain had become uncomprimising. i decided instead to forge on to the small beach town of hualien, where i could wait out the rain and make new plans. i was disppointed with the infrequent stewardesses and their lack of lunchboxes, but was thankful for the delightful cabbage filled wontons i had saved from breakfast. when i arrived in haulien, after about four- five hours, i was quite exhausted, yet still i stubbornly refused the taxi cab drivers who would not only save me from getting lost (again...) but also soaked. i arrived at the hostle after dark and looking like a drowned rat... was given free beer and whiskey by a visiting group of english teachers, homemade bread, as well as convinced to go whitewater rafting with them the next day. unfortunately the water would be too high to raft due to the rain, but nice people nonetheless.
hualien is known to be the gateway to taroko gorge- taiwan's main scenic tourist attraction. yet, hualien the town is lovely in itself. it has a laidback beach town feel, with a chill vibe that is neither clean nor dirty, shishi nor rural, all business nor all pleasure. it also has amazing seafood, especially the oyster omlettes. the girl running the hostel and i became good friends. her name is yuchen. she is a traveling surfer (mostly to south america) on her off time, as well as boycrazy and music savvy. we went out for thai food, girl talked over coffee (the real stuff), and she introduced me to her bestfriend ling. we went to ling's house my last night in hualien. she is a dedicated buddhist as well as a studying doctor. her house was calming, despite the cieling leaking into buckets and pots on theground, with its makeshift buddhist shrine (coveting statues and incense), japenese tatami matts, and green tea. her small dog cookie was giddily running around us as we talked about budhism, travel, and spirits. apparently there was a doctor who performed illegal abortions in this same house back in the day. ling maintained that the spirits of those children still existed when she moved in. she couldn't sleep, dreams were heavy, and thus she constructed her shrine. she has slept soundly ever since.
i did trek into taroko gorge on my travels. the rain was slight, the gorge itself misty and dreamy. it was a scene right out of lord of the rings with rock faces towering into the sky and blistering small waterfall, after grand waterfall, slight waterfall after twin waterfall! it was awing. i walked along the mainroad with a fellow hostel dweller, as the trails were closed due to 'typhoon raids....' the gorge itself is massive, with water colored grey like that of an old elephant- wise and experienced. we walked about 16km hitched a ride from a german couple through the pitch black tunnels, got dropped off, walked another 15 min. before they came back to tell us the road up ahead was ...collapsed. it was such a great hike, beautifully cathartic. it inspired me to stop at a hotspring on my way back to taipei to soak my sore muscles. unfortunately i did not feel like getting totally naked (as was policy) and opted instead to soak my legs in the public footbath. shaped in an 8ft-8ft squre, cut into fours- square one lukewarm water, square two hot, squre three really freaking hot, and squre four boiling straight from the source. i almost went straight into square four... wherein my feet would now be blistered, but the little old ladies shouted "no!! too hot!! you sit here with us." aparently, cultural edicate requires cold to hot. my feet felt heavenly after.
so, i am heading to the tea farm this weekend. i talked with mr. chang. mr. chang does not speak much english so he handed me to his sister ling. ling said that if i show up on sunday i can come with them on monday to the 'deep mountain.' i do not know what this means but it sounds awesome.