Perfect. Our trip to southern Taiwan cannot be described any other way. I told you I was going to emerge a different, refreshed person soon and it happened while I was scuba diving in the blue waters of Baisha Beach. Let me start from the beginning: We took the High Speed Rail and then a bus. No hiccups in the traveling. In fact, we arrived exactly 9 minutes after the time we told the hostel we’d be there. Carrie had just thrown out 3pm when she reserved our two dorm room beds, and when we looked at her watch upon arriving we were shocked. No way! Though we often feel like little babies in this country, needing people to translate or explain how to get somewhere, events like this recent trip make us feel like Vikings.
We walked the two minutes from our hostel to the South Bay beach and discovered that it is similar to the way the British traveler at our hostel described it: crowded and full of litter. The trash isn’t out of control or anything, but it keeps you from having that special feeling that you hope for when on vacation. The beach was definitely beautiful despite this, with mountains and cliffs on all sides and nice light sand.
Luckily the British girl also confirmed what we’d heard about other beaches nearby. There’s an amazing more private beach about 15 minutes away by scooter. And a scooter can be rented a couple doors down for about $12 USD per twenty four hours. No license, prior experience, or sanity required. Yipppeee! Oh, and the British girl had a sunburn even though she “did the sun cream”. We smothered ourselves in sun cream and headed out to rent a scooter and not crash it.
Carrie insisted that she be the driver. Confidence is half the battle, so I figured that this combined with her having been a pedicabber for the past couple years was a recipe for success. The problem was, though, that when the moment really arrived, there were some obstacles to overcome. How does one turn on a scooter, start a scooter, and put gas in a scooter? I don’t think the people renting it to us would be thrilled if we had asked for driving lessons first. She was pretty nervous, and I was nervous for her. She suggested we look up how to ride one on the internet so we could at least go into this fraud knowing exactly how to start the thing and drive off. Then, once we round the corner, we can fiddle around on it, teaching ourselves how to stay alive.
We watched videos online, and then, as usual, a Taiwanese person came to our aid. He offered to go to the scooter rental place with us, translate, and also drive the scooter down the road a ways where he can teach Carrie how to ride. Renting it was easy. I’m not really sure what our friend told them, but all we had to do was sign a paper and give them money. Then, it took Carrie about 5 minutes to learn everything she needed to know, and we were off. Our friend also offered to go with us to Baisha Beach so we could follow him in his car and not get lost.
The beach was awesome! Clear waters, coral, colorful fish, mountains around us. Carrie and I were surprised that the weather was considerably different than in Texas. You do not feel the sun burning your skin within 5 minutes. It can burn of course, but it just isn’t as hot in Taiwan, even in the south.
The fish were amazing. I rented a snorkeling mask for 3 USD and spent several hours floating at the top of the ocean staring at the fish and sea life living on and around the rocks. Some of the more memorable fish I saw were ones with yellow and black stripes, neon green and orange lines on an indigo background, yellow and orange and green patterns on an electric purple background, and flashy small white fish traveling in schools. I saw fish with extra pointy noises, split tails, and long skinny stringy things hanging over their heads.
One time I was swimming over a large rock and saw a fish poking its head out of a rock. It was not moving at all, but was clearly alive. I was about to swim right over it and would have been very vulnerable if, say, it was really an eel that decided to slither out of there and bite me, or whatever eels do to people who float 2 inches above their heads. I then noticed the same pattern poking out of a rock a little ways away. Is that its tail? Its friend? I couldn’t tell. I quickly swam away, having thoroughly frightened myself. I was venturing farther and farther from the shore and the crowd of people, so my imagination began to run wild as I swam into many areas with an eerie silence and less sunlight. I saw a strange looking fish that was very long and skinny, similar to an eel though I’m pretty sure this was not what it was. Bigger and bigger fish could be spotted out here. I swam near a sea urchin, and I also saw many hermit crabs. The hermit crabs were inside shells that looked as if a creative 9 year old had painted them with muted blues, reds, and oranges. My favorite hermit crabs were two who had their pinchers and legs all up in each others’ business. They were either playing, fighting, or engaging in some kind of mating ritual. My imagination told me it was the first one because they just looked so happy and calm. I stared at them for a long while.
It took at least eight hours for the indention from the goggles to disappear from my forehead later that night.
It was worth it. I felt so refreshed and at peace. The time I spent hibernating in my room combined with this experience in nature was beginning to make everything seem so clear. The expectations I had for myself were imposed. Who cares who imposed them (me, society, my job); it doesn’t matter. The point is that they aren’t mandatory, and I can unimpose them. And, when I’m exercising or in nature, or exercising in nature, I usually have an easier time freeing myself from these unnecessary worries and goals. And most of them are unnecessary, aren’t they? It’s nice to just focus on eating, sleeping, and laughing for once. I’m immensely thankful that my current situation allows me to have fewer responsibilities.
Anyway, that night we met a trio of travelers from Korea. We hung out with them a bit that night, but it wasn’t until the next night when the fun really began.
To be continued…