All entries for Tuesday 12 July 2005

July 12, 2005

My orange motorcycle

The day after my climb, I woke up early again to set off to the beach. I met up with the lovely Jia-zhen and we set off with some friends to Kenting. Another long drive, but this time in a smart car at speed, and we arrived at this famous tourist spot in the south. The sea looked great, but as is normal in Asia, we must eat first. After our lunch, we found cheap (but very friendly) hotel to dump our bags and then we hired a motorcycle.

In case I hadn't mentioned this before, last week I learnt to ride a motorcycle. Well actually, I didn't really get any tuition, I just experimented (Empirical Modelling style!) and found it to be quite easy. The difficult part is when you introduce other vehicles to the road, and traffic lights, and odd driving conventions (like when you need to turn left you have to go right first and then wait to go straight on). I once got asked if I have an international driving licence, and I said, "Yes, of course, I have a British licence". As the week went on I began to get more confident at this city driving and now there are few people that overtake me. I can't wait to try my skills in Bangkok!

Anyway, back to the story, we hired a motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle though, I managed to get hold of the funkiest, gayest, bright orange scooter you every did see! I became my friend and we went everywhere together. I even took it for what was a 2 minute walk to the beach. So we spent the rest of the afternoon under an umbrella on the beach, occasionally jumping out into the blistering sunshine for a dip in the sea. The water was quite rough for the Taiwanese, although nothing like Burton Bradstock can be. As soon as I got past the rollers I start going for a good swim. Within moments there was a whistle blowing at me and some old guy was waving me to come back. He looked quite agitated so I obliged his request and returned to the shore. I couldn't quite understand if he was a lifeguard because he didn't look like he had the ability to swim. The water was lovely though, fairly clear despite being rough — perfect for swimming. I didn't spend too long before getting back underneath the umbrella and cooling off with some iced tea.

For dinner we went to the vegetarian restaurant, and then wandered around the busy night market. There were plenty of snacks on offer, and I did my best to sample as many as my stomach could handle. I must recommend the fried mushrooms — I don't know what they are called but they really are amazing. I also had another of my favourites, pearl milk tea, and a selection of sugary sour plums before giving up for the night. A walk along the beach watching the stars finished the day off perfectly.

The next day we woke up late and had a kind of brunch which included warm soya milk. Then we boarded the cute orange motorcycle and headed off along the coast, stopping at various viewing areas and the occasional beach. They were all very quiet and unspoilt. However, my skin was beginning to get spoilt. I had made the big foreigner mistake of not bringing lots of clothes to cover my skin — let alone sun-screen! I knew I was burning up so I went for the shade and some coconut juice. On the ride home, the sun continuously battered my arms, and likewise, having honed my driving skills, I battered the motorcycle driving it flat-out through the country roads. Great fun!

By the evening, my skin was a little bit sore, but we ventured out to watch the sun go down. We drove right out into the middle of nowhere to a place that had been recommended to us. I was worried at one point that we were lost, but then we turned a corner and there were hundreds of motorcycles and cars. It appeared that half of Taiwan had turned out to see the sunset. These people really do go crazy for sunsets. So we watched, with the masses, as the sun disappeared into the sea. The people cheered and took photos — anyone would think this only happens once every hundred years.

Back in the town, we went for a Thai meal — which I ate with chopsticks! Then it was another walk around the night market, including snacks, before riding home on my orange motorcycle.

Climbing a mountain

Last week I was pretty busy with the conference, and even busier going out in the evening. On Thursday night we had the conference banquet at the Grand Hotel. Indeed it was 'grand'. A very posh place, with an even more impressive buffet — I have some photos!

Friday was the final day of the conference, so we said our goodbyes in the afternoon and the evening a few of us went up the 85-floor tower again. The band were there again, playing some quality tunes to accompany the romantic image of Kaohsiung city at night. When they played 'Killing me softly', I was starting to think this was the most perfect place to spend an evening.

I arrived home pretty late, to find everyone in bed and to be given the news that tomorrow we would leave at 6am to climb a mountain. I was not in the mood for sleeping, and I had to force myself to get a few hours rest before rising again. As usual I had no idea what I had let myself in for, but as ever I was optimistic that this would be an interesting (and unpredictable) day. We set off on what was to be a long drive, having met a couple of Canadians who would join us, and got a quick bite to eat at a local street seller — my favourite: soya milk and red bean buns.

The journey was long, and reminded me of the Mexican roads in Baha California. Once out of the city we were in the mountains for several hours, on twisting mountain-edge roads, before reaching our chosen mountain named Taguan — reaching 3220 metres into the clouds. The roads were not as bad as Mexico, but the mountain path was more of a challenge. We started off at a good pace, but soon we slowed down as our bodies complained at the lack of oxygen. My head was pretty light for the whole climb, and although the air temperature was cooler than the city, there were sections in direct sunlight which I could feel were burning my skin. As we got higher, the climbing got more difficult, the path got narrower, and we seemed to be getting closer and closer to the edge. There were places were the path seemed to be on edge of hundreds of metres of nothingness. The view was spectacular though! It took us over 2 hours to reach the summit of Taguan, by which time we were completely in the clouds and couldn't see much. It was colder than England up there, so we ate snacks to keep warm and other climbers offered us coffee. We didn't hang around too long before beginning the descent. This was slightly less demanding than the climb except that it was quite stressful for the knees — and my flip-flops! Most of the Taiwanese were pretty impressed that I accomplished the climb in flop-flops as most of them looked like they were going to climb everest.

It was a great feeling to reach the bottom again, and I celebrated by eating plenty of food. The drive home was long and by the time I got back I was ready for an early night.

Quote of the day Go to 'Today's Quote'

John Irving
"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."


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