Friday, May 23rd 4:10 p.m:
The school bells chimed, and it was time to kick off a wonderful 12 day summer break. With my second quarter under raps I figured it was time to go out and hit the town, no matter how early, and that is just what I did. My classmate and I went over to a local pub and had a few drinks, chatting the night away and making plans for the real vacation, 3 days in Kending, the Southern most tip of Taiwan. After the plans were set, it was time to really start the evening so we headed over to Room 18, a club in Taipei's 101 district for a night on the town. The cover charge was steep, and the drinks were pricey, but the club was a ton of fun. Me and some friends danced the night away and I ended up getting home just in time for breakfast. Gotta love Taipei, the nights end late and the days start early.
If I thought I was going to get a lot of R&R before my big trip, then I was way, way off. Saturday night I was back out on the town. Me and some friends headed over to a great Japanese restaurant to have a little going away party for a good friend of mine, and fellow class mate Xiao Ling, who was heading back to Thailand. Being a vegetarian and heading to a Japanese restaurant is not something I would normally even dare to do, but I am not one to be picky and choosy, I was hoping they at least had a Salad that didn't have some kind of seafood mixed into it. And I was not disappointed. The restaurant ended up having a great Tofu Salad that was absolutely sensational. As if the tofu salad wasn't enough to hold me over then the appetizers and white rice, did the trick. The night, however, did not stop at dinner. Afterwards it was over to Hips, my friends favorite Night Club, for a little P-A-R-T-Y, the club may not be the best in town, but it does boast a fairly inexpensive entrance fee and the best perk of them all... 喝到飽 he2 dao4 bao3 ("drink till full"). The rest of the night was filled with great music with great friends. And don't worry, even if it is all you can drink, I was sober enough to enjoy a nice 5:30 a.m. sunrise to cap off the evening, and have a nice conversation with a cab driver who was working the graveyard shift.
Fortunately for me, I did take a break on Sunday and Monday. I did some reading, watched some Chinese TV shows and started to teach myself Bopomofoㄅㄆㄇㄈ, otherwise know as 注音符號 zhu4 yi1 fu2 hao4, one of the seemingly millions of pronunciation systems for Chinese characters. This system, unlike the Roman Pinyin system that is used in Mainland China and most of the rest of the world is a much more exact pronunciation system, consisting of 37 letters and 4 tone marks, it is a comprehensive system that can transcribe all the possible sounds in Mandarin. All one has to do is put the parts together and presto, you are speaking perfect chinese. Generally speaking Bopomofo is harder to learn for westerners because it uses its own type of character system, but that just means DRILL, DRILL, DRILL! I am sure that learning Bopomofo will be a bit of a struggle, but it should help me out in the long run, plus once I learn how to use it I can start typing in Chinese on my cellphone!
Tuesday was the big day, our three day trip to Kending. Our train left at 7 a.m. and arrived in GaoShong around 11:30. After that we took an hour and a half taxi ride and we were there. Kending is a coastal city that is surrounded by Taiwan's very first National Park. The scenery is amazing, the beaches are incredible, and the lifestyle... well lets just say it they run on beach time down there. I went down to Kending with six other friends, Masa and Naoki from Japan, Jason and Eric from the United States, Juan from Costa Rica, and Jean the one and only girl straight from Taipei. Masa, Naoki, Jason, Jean, and I all spent the full three days in Kending, and Juan and Eric met us in the evening on the second day. While Kending isn't large by any means it still would be rather impractical to walk everywhere, so we decide to rent scooters for our three day stay, at the outrageous price of 9.50 USD per person. We put ourselves up in a very nice hotel that boasted a nice view just across the street from the beach, and had a nice patio. Perfect for a late night snacks, chats, and of course a few 啤酒 pijiu's.
Our day time activities in Kending included hanging out on the beach, taking a nice scenic cruise to a beach 18KM away and doing a little surfing. I didn't try the surfing, the waves were not all that great on the last day, and I was already sunburned. The water in Kending was awesome, like that classic third cup of porridge, jjjjuuuussstttt right! By the time the sun had set we were all a little drained, but that didn't stop us from heading out for a few drinks and some nice meals. The first night we had a nice surf-and-turf style dinner, night two we stopped in at Amy's Cucina for some good Taiwanese style pizza. The food always hit the spot. After dinner we walked the strip like the rest of the folks and then headed back to the hotel for some R&R. The by far coolest thing about evenings in Kending are the stars. The sky was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of stars, a sight for sore eyes after spending 7 months in Taipei where on a good night you can only see a planet or two.
Thursday night my friends headed back to Taipei, but I decided to add another day to my vacation by stopping in Tainan. Tainan is Taiwan's old capitol city, and is full of tons of historical sites and plenty of rich culture. While I was there I got to enjoy the 安平古堡 An1ping2 gu3bao3 (Anping Fort), the old streets of Anping and the first Taiwanese Confucian temple 孔廟 kong3 miao4. While at the Confucian temple I met a very nice older Taiwanese man who took the time to help me really understand the history of the temple. How it was founded, what it's purpose was etc. etc. We ended up talking for over an hour before I was able to escape away to find some food and a coffee shop with AC. All that time in the sun had worn me out and I was ready to go home. I am glad that I made it to Tainan for a day, but I fear it wasn't enough.
I took the last train home on Friday, leaving at 8:30 p.m. and didn't get home till well past midnight. The train ride, as on the way down, was uncomfortably cold, my pants and long sleeve shirt were not enough to keep my comfortable. Some how I managed to get a little bit of sleep on the train, but when I got home I was pretty exhausted. I got a good nights rest and then spent the day recounting my trip to friends and just hanging out. Saturday night it was back on the horse again. My friends Masa and Naoki had a huge going away party at Hips and it was a blast. We ended up staying again till around 5 or 6 a.m. and then headed over to N.Y. Bagel for some rather good breakfast. I ended up calling it a "night" around 8:30 a.m. I went home thinking that my crazy vacation parties were over. Waking up on Sunday I found out that Naoki and Masa were heading out to dinner, so I decided to tag along for one last good bye meal. We went to Amigo, a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a huge meal, I don't think I have ever ate some much in my life. We had appetizers to split, individual appetizers, main dishes, salads, and desserts... my, oh my! After the restaurant we met up with a few more friends for one last night on the town together. We ended up heading over to a lounge bar called The Bed. The place had great house music, and we actually were hanging out on a giant bed, having a few drinks and reminiscing over the good times in Taipei. I have to say, one of the coolest things about living in Taiwan is my sense of international connectedness. Last night was all about enjoying the company of friends. Friends from different parts of the world, with different cultural backgrounds, and starting to understand the differences and embrace them. This week was crazy, it was the most fun I have had in a long time. I said goodbye, for now, to a few of my very good friends. At the same time, I made many more friends as well. Not sure what is in store for my last few days of vacation, but I don't think I will be seeing anymore sunrises for a while.
Saying goodbye for now to Naoki
Saying goodbye, for now, to Masa.
And making new friends, Ayaka, Jean, Juan, Jason and others.