Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Random Travel Update 5

Last location: Kenting & Jialeshuei, Taiwan
Arrival Date: September 23, 2007
Departure Date: September 25, 2007

Current Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Arrival Date: September 22, 2007
Departure Date: September 26, 2007

Next Stop: Seoul, South Korea

Traveling is a mix of wonder, excitement and gut-wrenching nausea. It is BBQ season here in Taiwan, which means the streets and markets are filled with a smoky, rotten, gaseous scent that makes my stomach turn and my nose twitch. Taipei and Kenting are the first cities I have encountered that go out of their way to flavor their air with noxious fumes. Aside from BBQ, the cities here are pretty clean and much better smelling than the urine-entrenched streets of Paris and (occasionally) New York. I think it helps that every metro station here comes equipped with several restrooms. Brilliant. Almost makes up for the lack of sidewalks.

On my last visit to Tucson, I met up with some long lost relatives who had just adopted a puppy. I envied the fluffy week old pup with her boundless energy and a seemingly endless passion for her every surrounding, from her little basket bed to a patch of grass outside. Today I am that puppy. I have never been so happy to sit on a bus for an hour on the way to the airport before. I can't sleep, I just stare wide-eyed out the window absorbing every detail of the world passing before me. Naivety is my greatest attribute.

I cannot write too much now, my brain is still processing the excitement of the last ten days. I can say though that everything is going marvelously. My travel buddies are great. Everything has gone according to plan. Never mind the fact that few, if any, plans were ever made.

Yesterday we took a cab from Kenting National Park in southern Taiwan to Jialeshuei (pronounced shallow shway), a fairly remote surfing beach down and around the tip of the island. We rented boards and I tried surfing for my first time. It was great fun, but I will have to invest in more secure water-wear before attempting again. We spent the rest of the day on the beach and then the five of us managed to snag a van all the way back to the high speed train station three hours north for only NRT1800 ($60). It sure beat the smaller cabs we had been squeezing into previously. We arrived at the station just in time to get the last three tickets available for the evening (getting two more required an additional effort, but it was eventually accomplished through a negotiation effort on the part of Chad and myself.)

The high-speed train is brand new and, from what I hear, one of the fastest in the world. It took us from southern Taiwan to Taipei in just over 90 minutes. Smooth ride too. We arrived back in Taipei at 9:45pm and met up with a friend of a friend who lives in the city. She (amazingly) spoke and read Chinese and took us out for the best food I have had since I arrived: sautéed spinach and thai-style tofu-plus Taiwan beer for only NRT100 ($3) per person. I was thrilled.

Today consisted of a 15 minute walk to the metro, about as much time on the metro to the bus station and then about an hour on the bus to the airport. I am here now, typing at a free internet access terminal next to our departure gate. My flight to Korea will take about two hours from the time the plane leaves the ground and then I will take another bus about an hour back to Seoul and then take a cab five minutes or so back to Adam's for about W1900 ($2) for the three of us. It is 12:15pm and my plane boards in 20 minutes, so I will be editing and sending this email from Seoul.



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