A little excerpt I wrote in my diary in cattle class economy on my way to Taipei…
‘The dude next to me, lunges forward for the hot towel, wipes under both his pits elbowing me in the face, than vertically between his man boobs.He then spreads it across his face.With his 2 index fingers,one in his nostril through the towel,he digs in a clockwise motion then with a jolt forward, the towel lands on his lap to reveal his gold nuggets!!I have a feeling he has done this before…’
Now I have never been to Taipei, nor would I thought it would be high on my to-visit-list. Preconceived notions of obnoxious, rude, arrogant, table throwing politicians punching each other in the nose conjure up images from the programme that was vaguely titled ’20 most craziest moments on TV’. After watching that brief stint I had no intention of visiting such a barbaric place. Moreover I had the blessing of living with a housemate from China, who made gurgling noises every hour to condense his phlegm in this throat into a spit ball, before aiming it to the nearest object.Back to the case at hand, so anyway I thought Taiwan must be close to China, or is in China right? So I must expect the same of the two? What little did know of this place I was going to visit for 6 days. Sometimes when I travel I am to some a maniac. gathering all the research, planning meticulously and even printing out a schedule to follow everyday. Most times placing a conversion chart of the currency exchange of denominations of 5,10, 50 and 100 dirham = (whatever currency to the city I am heading to) into my wallet.
However on this trip, being able to speak some Mandarin, I thought Fuck It, let me go and just expect nothing. No expectations=No dissapointments. I arrived into Taipei international airport and boarded an hour bus ride to the city and checked into Brother Hotel. Yes Brother. I was sold on its motto, ” We treat our guests like our brothers”. Tacky with a sense of humour.
I spent the next day visiting the Taroko Gorge, which meant I had to fly in a small propeller plane to Hualien. While i was boarding the plane, a picture of a woman crushed under a boulder with her head in smithereens was plastered all over the front page of a tabloid newspaper lined neatly on the counter top for passengers perusal. Great I thought. What a delight to be informed in such a manner. Upon greater investigation into the matter the story explains how she had worn a hard hat at the Gorge throughout the tour, and within moments after removing it to return, the falling boulder falls and decides to crack her skull open rendering her to death. Beautiful.
“Welcome to Hualien, where the gorge is gooorgeous and the marble is marrblelous!!!” shouted the Taiwanese guide arms flapping. She was my kind of women.
Day 3 was spent wondering around Yangminshan National Park and Beitou hot springs back in Taipei. Upon checking my clothes and belongings into the locker I knew I couldn’t take my camera with me. I locked my locker and proceeded to investigate my surroundings. To my shock, horror and slight fascination, I stumbled into the making of GERIATRIC’s GONE WILD!!! Male senior citizens stark naked doing Tai chi. Many were stretching and some smoking with one leg up so their “matured prunes were squashed in plain view for me to witness”. I swear this is where they bring the old men from their nursing homes to ‘enjoy’. I couldn’t turn in any given direction at any given time and not be staring at a forest. If women have bushes. Men have forests. Some foliage was so dense, you could not see anything that was hiding underneath.( not that I was particularly looking. It was just black. You couldn’t avoid it even if you wanted to). Clearly manscaping has missed its mark on an entire generation.
Day 4- Visited Jioufen, Bitou Cape and Nanya Rock Formations.
The lasting impression that lasted on me was from Jioufen old street. Absolutely charming, quaint and enriched with character. The red lanterns,foggy atmosphere and narrow winding pathways add a certain mystery to this enchanting site, perched high up in the mountains. Certainly one of my favourite places I’ve visited in Taipei thus far.
Day 5- Wondering around Keelong Harbour, admired some scenery in Yeliou.
Day 6- Time to leave.
Nutshell: Taipei offers many attributes to the discerning traveller. It has GREAT street side food that could feed any budget. One can never truly go hungry with an abundance of night markets scattered all over the city.The Shilin Night Market being my favourite.People are pleasant, considerate and very orderly. I had strangers showing me acts of kindness everyday from food stall owners to retail assistants and passerbys I stopped to ask for directions. By the end of 6 days I realise how nice Taiwanese people are. They are generally helpful and speak with a very soothing tone to their voice. Shopping is fair at my favourite street, Simending. most items are a little too cute and teeny bopper but I found several unique jackets which sit proudly in my cupboard now. Taipei has made me want to visit more of Taiwan and am also considering opening a male manscaping business.