Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taiwan Revisited, Part II: Toroko Gorge Arrival/Taipei Escape

For the past 1/2 hour my school principal has been playing the tuba, badly, in the teacher's lounge. Since this renders any real work or concentration impossible I am taking this time to put out the next section of my Taiwan travelogue. Enjoy.


Dear Terry,

I am e-mailing you from the Taroko Gorge Youth Hostel, where I will be staying with Simon for the next two days. So far Taiwan has been... mixed. On the negative side of the spectrum I had some disagreements with my travelling companion and lost my wallet, but on the bright side I saw a live snake being gutted before my eyes and Simon lent me a pile of money. Soooo... I'd say it's about 50/50 right now.

Snake stall man preparing shots of snake blood:


Taiwan is definitely different from Korea, whatever your expectations may have been. It's kind of like Korea's dirtier more superstitious cousin. The buildings are all coated in layers of grease and smog and the food is likewise greasy and questionable-looking. I've been trying to keep an open mind though. Last night I went to two night markets in Taipei, one of which contained the snake-gutting locale of earlier mention. There were a lot of strange sights and despite it being a Friday night and it being on the "must-see" list in my guidebook there were hardly any foreigners. Seoul feels very much like an international metropolitan city but Taipei felt much more... alien. One of A's friends who I was with on New Year's Eve said that Taiwan is much more "authentic" then Korea, but I think it's a mistake to equate dirt with authenticity. However, you know of my passionate love for cleanliness so maybe it's my bias that's the issue.


I will say one thing for Taiwan--the temples are amazing. It's like Las Vegas and Buddha got busy with it and produced a side-show freak. Everything is neon and color and incense and insanity.


I went with A to one of the big temples in Taipei and I guess because it was New Year's Day it was full of worshipers lighting incense, doing physically demanding series of bows and piling tables with offerings of inedible looking candies and fruit. It was pretty different... or to reference one of our favorite quotes, "pretty fucking foreign".


Anyway babe, there's not much more to tell. The next morning Simon and I took a train to Hualien and then taxied it up to Taroko Gorge. It's dark here so the many natural splendors of the Gorge are lost on us but I think we're going to walk into the two-store town and poke around a probably drink some of the Jack Daniels Simon brought. We had a fun and alarming incident earlier where Simon tried out his new camp-stove and burned off a small portion of his arm-hair but your personal baby remained unsinged. Some of us know better then to poke small burning metal containers of pure alcohol with sticks.


I miss you very much and your ears should be burning since I've been talking about you non-stop. I wish you were here with me but I'm also looking forwards to telling you all about my trip next time we skype.


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