I am definitely getting slower at writing the blog at the moment – much of the reason for this is because I have a new distraction in my life, in the form of an Apple MacBook. I have spent many happy and unhappy hours fiddling, fettling and making things work in the way I want. Finally, I have backed up the whole web site, and things are returning to normal, somewhat.
So, these words a touch old but I hope they are still okay.
Mum & Dad’s second visit to the island was a welcome break from the ups and downs of life in Taiwan. I really needed it, though I did not realise just how much until I saw them face to face in their hotel room. The benefits of Skype, especially, have meant that we are in very close contact much of the time, even if I really should call home more often.
Veterans of Taiwan, we decided to head away from the smog of Taipei and away to the tropical south of the island. However, as you will see we managed to choose the ‘tropical storm’ variety of the term to accompany us on our way down south.
The first aeroplane delayed, then cancelled. After a two hour wait we finally boarded and were on our way. It was about half way through the flight that el capitain informed us that weather conditions were difficult on the final approach, ie: they could not find the runway through the clouds. The second aeroplane made it to Taidong, and then returns to Taipei.
These delays were already quite enough for me, so I cannot really imagine how dispiriting it was the folks as their bodies were still navigating jet lag. So it was with this that the final aeroplane of the day boarded, minutes before we were considering renting a car or staying in and watching Television. Aeroplane three lands in Taidong!
Rather a slap in the face!
I remained in fairly close communication with Erin and she made sure that the local travel agent in the south knew to pick us up, and he gleefully drove us down to the dock side, all the while chewing betelnuts and spitting the bloody expectorant into a cup on the dash board. Arriving at the dock side, it was clear he and his wife shared the same past time – she also looks as if she had wrestled an impala to death on the planes of Africa.
A short wait, some food and finally we board our boat for Green Island.
It was pretty clear from the get-go that many of the people on board had never been on a boat before. The crossing is notoriously choppy, so we nabbed our seats near the back, away from the bow and the inevitible lurching. As we breached the main harbour wall screams of joy erupted from the front as people enjoyed being chucked around by the waves. Screams were replaced by silence, and silence by the sounds of fifty Taipei land lubbers on their first (and surely last) boat trip. Indeed, I personally felt pretty uncomfortable by the end and was glad to be on land again.
Before the waves
The traditonal thing to do on Green Island is to rent scooters and buzz off around the island chasing a stream of people doing exactly the same thing. We were not completely sold on the idea, but upon seeing the weather reports we thought it would be better than braving wind and wet up in the hills. And it was really, really worth it.
We snatched a quick ride after renting the scooters in the evening and headed out as far as we risked taking the fuel tanks (thoughtfully siphoned off, bottled and resold by the friendly locals). I had my girl on the back (Mum) and Dad had a steely look in his eye that I am pretty sure I only ever saw once before. Dennis Hopper I think. Certainly he had some sort of sound track that I would have loved to have been in!
The next morning brought more grey weather, rain and wind. But it didn’t really matter as it can only get so cold in the south of Taiwan. The island is certainly beautiful, baron and even more battered by nature than the rest of the island. Passing the occasional army camp slowly sliding into obscurity and rot it was clear that this place was probably not highest on the list of places the young men were enlisted to.
Waves smash into the rocks
Dad tastes the salt spray
Dad made me do it – Mum enjoys her camera
Not quite the same as a Norton … but still the thrill of the open road claims this survivor of the 60s
Looking towards the southern tip of the island
Dad tests another ‘tai wan pi jiu’
There is no escape from 7-11 – students seem to fill many of the nooks and crannies of the island, as they came to celebrate their graduations
We were also lucky enough to be on the island for the first England game of the world cup … thus initiating the frustration and pain of the coming weeks, and all in glorious Japanese mono. For those that are interested, here is a quick introduction to some terms in Japanese:
Corner Kick = “koh nah ki kuh”
Crouch = “krow chu”
Shoot! + “shu tu!”
Lampard = “lan pah du” (also directly translated as ‘cock’ in Taiwanese)
The fun of the journey to the island was neatly mirrored on the way back to Taipei. The boat trip was marginally smoother and the betelnut-crazed tourist guide picked us up again. It was pretty clear straight away that we were in for more fun and games, and this was confirmed as we slowly saw the colours on the schedule change from green, to orange and finally red (bad news).
Time for catching up on Chinese homework
In the wait, we managed to squeeze in a trip to see the balmy delights of downtown Taidong. It didn’t take long. A Japanese-style Western-style steak restaurant, a pile of magazines and some quick coffees and we were on our way back to the airport. Nerves were marginally frayed after we heard the news that the east coast train line had been knocked out, but within minutes they finally announced the golden tickets and allowed us to board one of their fleet of grounded aircraft.
“Can we PLEASE go back to Taipei?”
WE LANDED AGAIN! – to glorious sunshine though?
Ironically, within half an hour of taking off we were flying in wonderfully clear and calm conditions and I was able to pick out our route home out of the window. I was more than a little alarmed when I realised we were heading way further east than I expected, making a heading direct for Taoyuan and the international airport. Not again! The last time I came back from Kending we ditched there (that time we were struck by lightening, of course), but it turned out it was simply a holding pattern, and we began our final descent into Taipei. At last.
I swear, the weather system in Taiwan is broken.