I’m not posting these journal excerpts as frequently as I’d hoped! I guess that means my life back in the States is every bit as exciting as our travels. 😉 Read the previous excerpts, posted Oct 12 (and the day after), Oct 17 (and the day after), and Oct 19.
From my travel journal, Monday 26 September 2011, 9:30 AM in Taiwan (4:30 PM on the 25th in CA), train from Hsinchu to Hualien (four-hour ride)
This is really a glorious train ride — we move in and out from dark joggly tunnels to eye-blindingly brilliant seashore (never with anyone on it) to rice paddies and towns and gardens to enormous mountains heavily furred with trees.
Every now and then one of these mountain areas will emerge caped in mist and the whole thing looks like something out of an ancient painting.
I feel as if we are satisfying every requirement on some beautiful-natural-feature checklist, except maybe rock formations, sand, and waterfalls (and we saw those over the weekend, at Yeliou and Xiao Wulai).
I guess we haven’t seen a whole lot of floral variety, nor any wildlife save waterbirds. But we’ve been passing waves and still water, big rocks and gravel, wild forest and cultivated backyard plots.
And every so often one of the brightly colored, shining, elaborate temples we’ve seen everywhere — nothing understated about them, just a riot of ornate color. I like them very much.
12:07 PM, King Cheng Hotel lobby, Hualien
We’ve arrived!– having successfully fended off a taxi driver, spoken to the hotel front desk staff, ordered and eaten lunch, and attended to my blister with ointment, a dressing, and ice. Now Erik and I are waiting in the (thankfully both comfortable and attractive) lobby while Shra and Devin explore the town. And there’s wifi!
The taxi driver at the train station was nice, actually, though persistent — he saw my hesitation in choosing my Mandarin words and mistook it for pliancy in deciding a course of action. When we got off the train we had to walk a short distance to the visitor info center, where the hotel shuttle was to meet us, and in doing so had to cross the crowd of waiting cabs. This particular driver wasn’t the only one to hail us, but the others left us alone after we shook our heads. This guy — a darkish-skinned middle-aged man with a helpful, reasonable manner — followed us anyway, telling us how much more direct and inexpensive a taxi would be compared to a tour bus. Shra couldn’t think of the words to tell him we didn’t need a ride, but when I saw he wasn’t giving up, I said “women yijing you,” (“we already have”). He thought we were just putting him off, so he kept at us, until I added, “yijing fu,” hoping I’d correctly remembered the word for paid.
By this time we were in the visitors’ center, wondering where our contact person was, and the visitors’ center staff were greeting us… all the while the driver was still talking, explaining that if we had already paid, we were in the right place to wait, but if by chance we had not, his taxi would be better… Finally Erik kicked in with the Taiwanese, and the driver’s courteous smile grew into a broad, genuine grin. The two of them had a little conversation about the deposit we’d already paid… and our origins. I heard the fellow ask what sounded like “Shingapu?” (Singapore); he found our mix of languages curious and amusing. Erik explained that we were from the US and that he had learned Taiwanese from his parents. Then Shra waved us over to the shuttle, which they had located. We waved and thanked the taxi driver, who nodded back, now beaming with true friendliness. When we arrived at the hotel, we had a similar experience with the front desk staff (the girl kept exclaiming at Erik, “Are you for real?!”) — I think our motley group is giving the locals lots to laugh and talk about!
I must buy a new notebook the instant I find one for sale — only a few pages left in this one!