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January 13, 2005

Tai-wan, Tai-pei, and Thai-Lads (I Think)

Ok. So I don't think these blogs full of happy smiles are able to acurately show how tired I was (and am) from travelling. When I got to Taiwan I think I spent most of my time eating and sleeping. Or it could have just been Heather rubbing off on me. I'm still trying to figure that out. Being on the move for months on end can really take a toll. When Heather and I did go out on occasion she showed me her favorite little back alley restaurants. Remembering Heather is a food afficianado I knew I was in for a treat when she couldn't stop talking about duck baodzu, dumplings and noodle soup. We headed over to "the alley" and she proved her worthiness as an amature food critic. I'd have more pictures of all this except that I was really tired of carrying the dern camera everywhere.

Mom's flight was delayed 24 hours and instead of showing up on Christmas Eve she stepped off the airport bus Christmas Day just in time for dinner! We found a hotel room with one big bed, ate and all went to sleep dreaming of Mexico. We decided to save the exploration of Taipei until after we'd seen more of Taiwan. We booked train tickets and headed off to Hualien and Taroko Gorge.

I'm not sure what happens when Mom gets on the scene but Heather and I suddenly slip back into hating each other for brief periods of time. I spent most of my time on the train to Hualien tired and annoyed. We got to the train station with no idea where we were going or where to stay. In the midst of our confusion we were approached by a local Taiwanese named "Steve". He came up to us and offered to give us a lift to a nice hotel. "For free, for free. I just want to help," he said and images from southeast Asia started popping up in my travel weary brain. I was thinking: "Yeah, whatever buddy. We'll take your ride but we ain't payin'!!" As it turned out he was serious. All he wanted to do was help people out. In a world full of distrust and fear, Steve is proof that some people are still kind to strangers. In fact, after dropping us off he agreed to take us on a tour of Taroko Gorge! He drove us to the park gate and insisted on taking a picture of us. What a place!! Taroko Gorge has got to be one of the most beautiful places in Asia. It makes Tallulah Gorge look like a ditch in someone's back yard. A glacier blue river flowed through the bottom as steep mountains hemmed it in. I'd have needed a big wide angle lens to even capture part of the scenery we saw. Our own eyes couldn't see from top to bottom of the gorge! Little pagodas or gazebos were placed in stategic positions for enjoyable picnics with great views. We were amazed to say the least. Steve took us for a quick hike down to his favorite swimmin' hole before driving us back to Hualien. We wanted to at least buy the guy dinner. We agreed to meet again later that evening for some grub. Steve took us to a great little restaurant and before we could get to it he paid!! And we'd only met the guy that morning! After dinner he dropped us off and said good-bye asking for nothing but our friendship. It was a true example of kindness that we must pass on.

Next day we decided to rent a car of our own and head down the beautiful coastline. We stopped on some unknown beach for a lunch and a sniff of seabreezes before heading off. An hour or two later we stopped again to check out some locals fishing off the rocks. We played around and Heather let it be known how to style in the wind.

Taiwan has some strange (but interesting) tourist sites. We stopped off at a local cave for a quick genuflection to Buddha and QuanYin. We wanted to push our daylight before heading back and continued south all the way to the Tropic of Cancer. How did we know it was the Tropic of Cancer?! Didn't you know there is always some large, white phallic symbol on the side of the road that celebrates the demarkation of the Tropic of Cancer? Well, there is! We went inside and chanted aum with the great acoustics. Then it was back up the coast to Hualien and a taste of yummy shabu-shabu. Before turning in the rental car for good we decided to visit the Wenshan hot springs. Taiwan is full of these volcanically heated bathing ghats (oh wait - I'd better save that word for India). We climbed down to the water and ahhhhh - it looks like we'll have to spend another day in Taroko. The water was amazing!!! 3 pools of varying temperatures emptied out into the river where you could also sit and relax if the heat just got to be too much. Wow! What a place! Alas, you can't come all the way around the world to Taiwan and only see one place. We booked tickets on the train to Taitung and were on our way.

On the train we met an American who'd been living in and out of various places in Asia, including Taiwan, for the last 10 or more years. He seemed to know Taitung quite well and agreed to help us get situated. Once we got our hotel, and ate he took us out to a local bar where he had been invited to sing with the band - in Chinese! He sang a few songs much to our enjoyment and sat down before the main entertainment of the night came out to dance and sing. I don't remember seeing the pole when we came in but it sure completed the feeling that we had mistakenly gone into a strip club. Heck, they even gave lap dances! Uhh did I mention these women were uhhh well, men!! Yep. Sadly enough. These fine men were post sex change Thai lady boys. Yes, yes way!! Please refer to the picture with attention to the tears in my eyes and the uncomfortable hand placement. I didn't enjoy it that much!

After our night of excitement and being pressed for time we decided to just head back up to Taipei. Perhaps next trip we'll see more of the island. Anyways, there was still alot to do in Taipei. We got back to town and kept pretty busy. Our first stop was the Longshan Temple where it seems every Japanese tourist decided to meet us. Mom doesn't like crowds, especially loud ones. Locals tried to pray amidst the noise. I hope Buddha heard them! We couldn't take it and had to leave in search of some special Chinese tea for Mom. We not only found the tea but probably, also found the only chiropractor in Taipei! I got a much, much needed adjustment and the next day felt that unshakable cold start to slip away! I felt energized for a visit out to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. This place was huge. Its probably one of the biggest monuments in Asia. The Taiwanese loved their leader I guess. We played in the courtyard doing our best China hat impersonations before getting our pic snapped by a local who cracked us up by plainly letting us know "all foreigner look same!"

Our time with Mom absolutely flew. Before we knew it was time for her to go! We were all really sad to seperate. Its not often that the 3 of us get to spend time together and in general, enjoy ourselves! But in the end it was another fantastic experience. Momma cried on the way to the airport after we left Heather at her dorm to rest. She cried again when I dropped her off at the immigration gate. So did I. It was emotional day for sure. Two days later I had to go to through the same thing when I left Heather. She took me to the airport bus stop and we said our good byes. I couldn't help but cry as her bright red cordoroy jacket slipped away in the crowd. My sister, my friend. Who'd have thought we would ever miss each other? So I caught my flight to Hong Kong slept in the airport and am waiting to meet Amanda in Bangkok for the last leg of our journey. 4 weeks in India, and 4 in Europe before I make my one week re-entry with my uncles in NYC. Man oh man the time just flies.

See you in India!!

(I am now in India and the internet connections here are the worst yet. It may be a while before I get to a decent internet to work on the blog. I'll keep you posted.)

Posted by Josh on January 13, 2005 12:47 PM
Category: Where are we?

I really liked this blog. But you didnt tell them about the Thai food and the Indian food that we had in Zhong Xiao Dunhua. And, what about the black bone chicken!!! Ah well, you see here I go on about food again! I miss you and I am thinking of you often. India must be crazy!

Posted by: Heather on January 19, 2005 01:45 PM

Hi Pal. So glad you had a great time with Mom and Heady. Hope to talk to you soon. Great Blog...once again!Love, Dad

Posted by: Steven on January 19, 2005 04:51 PM

Hi Pal. So glad you had a great time with Mom and Heady. Hope to talk to you soon. Great Blog...once again!Love, Dad

Posted by: Steven on January 19, 2005 04:52 PM

Josh your commentary is great. The male stripper was hysterical. Your so sweet it made me cry to hear about all the crying and Heather's red jacket slipping through the crowd! I love you guys and stay safe.

Posted by: Andrea on January 20, 2005 04:30 PM
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