Memories from my 3 months in Taipei, Taiwan.
Memories from my 3 months in Taipei, Taiwan.
After spending 5 months in Hong Kong I moved to Taipei to do a photo
exhibition and try my hand at English teaching (something I had never
done before). Luckily I had some friends already living there which
made the whole transition MUCH easier.
A few days into my new adventure, after getting used to the insane traffic, vibrant streets, great night markets, excellent food and friendly people my good friend Tom flew in from New Zealand to take part in an exhibition with me and a local Taiwanese photographer. We set up our shots, spent hours making the cafe look presentable and then were overwhelmed by the amount of people who came opening night and ended up chatting and drinking until 5 in the morning. The next day we decided it was about time to SEE some of Taipei.
Tom and I met at PS cafe and we headed by MTR to the tallest building in the world (soon to be second) the 101 tower. The sky was angry and we felt his spite the entire walk past futuristic malls, copies of the statue of liberty, Starbucks and KFC’s littering the streets like a bad cold. There wasn’t much to do apart from stare at the building shrouded in mist and a sheet of precipitation. A bookstore, a meal, an escalator or two, a train home, a cafe full of people, a few drinks, a walk to an Italian restaurant, a full stomach and off to the EDEN club which was packed with dancers and a few familiar faces strewn against the walls or cowering on seats trying to escape the massive beats from the sound system. I stood by the wall (my usual position), drinking a corona (not my usual beer), talking to Brent (not my usual companion), getting given free tequila by Taiwanese guys (not a usual occurrence), looking at hundreds of pretty women and thousands of hungry guys parade and prowl (a usual occurrence), leaving after a couple more beers with James at the bar and a few more outrageous stories (becoming a familiar occurrence), Tom and John (out-danced) return and we decide it time to leave and see what the stars look like outside, but alas! the rain has left its marks on the sky, and the stars are stolen!
Next day we took scooters and drove through the most insane traffic over to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial. The whole morning was spent in this incredible monument and grounds, exploring the galleries and temples and basking in the sunlight in the gardens.
Sunshine bright we exited the building, seated at the cafe, latte’s ordered and our friend Robbie waited upon. Robbie arrived, looking hung-over, we mounted the scooters, 3 bikes, 6 friends, off to Wulai for a day of relaxation away from the big city.
Swerving in and out of lanes, overtaking buses, taking corners too fast, chasing each other like teenagers (what enormous fun)…jared on the back of our scooter looking slightly scared at times.
Wulai is a beautiful small village set in a valley, the ride there reminding me at times of the Taroko gorge, stunning. We set upon the village, I ate steaming hot sweet corn, wild boar and a small bird? Took some photos, then returned to the bikes to climb the hills and lower into the valleys.
We drove like devils for half an hour, taking blind corners at 80, passing small villages (some explored, some left), finally arriving at a check-post where our names were signed in black ink and onwards we drove, curving and snaking our way into the future.
A river was seen, a steep road challenged, bikes parked, feet put to use, stones navigated, rocks jumped on or over, a river crossed, a spot found, a pool tested, a book opened.. a quiet, delightful afternoon followed..
After a rock fight and attempts to splash each other with stones we retreated back to the bikes, set the headlights to home and without any major accidents (a miracle in itself) we arrived back at the cafe, ordered another coffee and a huge sandwich and exhaled. Back home for dvds and tsingtao, a fitting end to a fitter day. I love Taiwan.
Today Taipei stood still and braced itself. Trees were uprooted outside our house and I woke up numerous times to the sound of whuuuuur whoooooooo waaaaaoooooo outside the walls. The windows were leaking, the whole city was off work, the streets were flooded the night before already, the trees were being punished, finally, for harbouring all those damn birds that shit on you as you walk beneath…
The weather was moody and disgruntled. I stayed in almost all day, playing Fifa 2002 against John, eating some peculiar snacks that tasted great, finally leaving the house to go eat shabu shabu (hot pot) down the road… which was great.. beef, prawns, fish balls, salads, sweet corn, etc etc all in front of you on a plate with a big pot of boiling water in front of you to cook it all in… then back to the apartment, Ange came over and we all watched the station agent before heading to our respective beds and calling it a night……Jared and John hoping that tomorrow too the typhoon would
be so bad as to cancel school again…….high hopes..
Today for the third time in my life I was in an earthquake. Ok, it’s not a lot of times.. but this one was different.. I was sitting alone, on the 32nd floor, writing on the laptop when the room started swaying and things started rumbling… I ran to the doorway (as I had been told, although on the 32nd floor what difference would it make?) and tried to stay calm (that failed).. and just rode it out… pieces of some ones roof started falling to the ground and then I really panicked… but then as quickly as it came it was over and I went back to the computer, shaken up, and continued writing… thankful that I wasn’t at the bottom of a pile of bricks and mortar.
My friend in Singapore then wrote me and told me it was on the news over there… Technology is fantastic!
AND IT ALL ENDS
an amazing month. an absolutely touching and great time. made many new friends, fell in love with a completely strange country, spent time with John and Jared and of course Tom, while he was here, survived a couple of earthquakes, a typhoon, some reckless scooter rides, and came out of it having found another place on this earth that I could easily live.. if only we lived 5 lifetimes.
The JAL jumbo jet lifted off the Taiwanese tarmac and headed west, towards the glistening city of Hong Kong, snuggled tight between mountains and sea. The red wine brought nostalgia with it, a nostalgia I could not deal with, and didn’t understand. I tried to read, I ate, I leaned back and thought of sleep.. before I knew it we had landed and the baggage claim and immigrations awaited.