Traintime: Taipei to Suao 蘇澳
She wanted me to hurry, so I hurried. A scooter ride to Chao Ma 朝馬, then a bus to Taipei. Hurry, hurry, hurry, because the train from Taipei to Yilan 宜蘭 left and such and such a time, and because we had to meet her friend's boyfriend in Yilan at such and such a time, and because if we didn't do all of those things everything was F*CKED and our vacation was ruined.
Funny thing was, I didn't even know where Yilan was at that point. I had this vague notion that it was somewhere north, somewhere "past Taipei," but that was it. My knowledge of Taiwan's geography extended only to a) the airport, and b) my apartment and its immediate environs. How was I supposed to know why we were so hurried? How was I to supposed know what the problem was?
On the bus from Taichung 台中 she was swearing. Swearing at the traffic. Swearing at the driver (in English, so he wouldn't understand). We had to go, we had to go, she said, and why was the bus taking so long? Who ever heard of a bus from Taichung to Taipei hitting traffic?
Then we were running through the train station. Was it my first time in the (enormous) Taipei Train Station? I think it was. Running and running and running, and I couldn't make heads or tails of anything. She went to get the tickets (I think), she led me downstairs (I think), and then we smashed our way onto a train that didn't have any seats left, where strangers looked uncomfortably out the window.
The train passed through endless tunnels. Where were we really going, I wondered. Wasn't Yilan near Taipei? Wasn't Taiwan a small island? How was it that an hour later we were still on the train? She wasn't very helpful in her explanations. All she could say was that we were in a tremendous hurry, and that her friend's boyfriend was waiting.
I began to notice the scenery outside the window. Gone were the high rises and rush hour traffic. Gone were the crowds I'd seen almost every day since arriving in Taiwan. The air got better. I could see the ocean. And were those mountains in the distance? Yes, I believed they were.
The train pulled into a train station. I don't remember which. It might have been Yilan. It might just have easily been Jiaoshi 礁溪 or Suao. Two of her other friends showed up and we found the friend's boyfriend, waiting outside.
I turned around to see a high school student laughing hysterically. "She's never seen a foreigner," her friend explained, and I felt like I was on the other side of the moon.
I smiled and got in a car with several other people. The friend's boyfriend was our tour guide. Where did he take us? Where did we go? I'd be at a loss to tell you. For me that whole weekend was a series of river valleys and restaurants, winding roads and oddly designed tourist traps. I remember going up Tai Ping Mountain 太平山. I remember the hot springs at Jiaoshi. But I couldn't tell you if we got as far south as Suao. We might have - I don't remember.
And why do I remember Jiaoshi? Because by that point she was feeling so sorry for me. I'd been trapped in a small car with her friends for days, none the wiser for all their Chinese conversation. What's one to do for a lonely foreign boyfriend? How is one to appease him?
Let's just say that our time in Jiaoshi was like being in one of the higher-quality porn movies. Everything was well lit, the performances were convincing, and everyone involved had a great time. Sure, it was a lousy weekend, and no, I never really understood what the big hurry was, but that hour in Jiaoshi was well worth the confusion, loneliness, and transit time. It would have been worth all of that and then some.
Believe you me.
Walking Around Dawu 在大武散步
Traintime: Fengyuan 豐原 to Taipei
Traintime: Kaohsiung 高雄 to Taichung 台中
My Sister's Visit to Taiwan 我妹妹來台的旅遊