The third day of our trip Carrie and I decided to return the scooter and catch a bus to Kenting National Forest where we planned to do some hiking. We eventually figured out that there aren’t any hiking trails at the main entrance of the forest and resigned to walking up the main road. A sign told us it was 4 Km long. Hmmm, that’s quite a ways, especially up a mountain. We decided we didn’t have any other enticing options and went for it. Around every bend we’d see some kind of opening that looked like it had the potential to be a trail, but it never was. Carrie was losing hope. She suggested we pretend to be refuges escaping a battle below. Brilliant. “And we are going to the top of this mountain to find a certain plant that will heal our father’s illness before we retrieve him and flee the country,” I said.
“Yes, medicine and gold,” Carrie added.
“And we have to dress like men so we don’t get spotted and raped,” I pointed out. Well, that scenario gave us enough energy to walk just far enough to be too far to turn back. But, our feet were getting very sore.
I asked Carrie how she feels about hitchhiking. “I’m not against it,” she said and added, “I’ve read that people have a lot of success with hitchhiking in Taiwan.” Hmmm. Carrie and I talk so much that I forgot about this idea until my feet reminded me again. I stuck out my thumb and watched a van drive past us. Another car began to pass, and I stuck out my thumb again. Carrie began to shout, “Look up there!” The first van had pulled over and was waiting for us! Amazing. The very first person stopped. This is so easy! We ran over and climbed into a pleasant smelling air conditioned van, the kind with leather seats and televisions installed in the the head rests. The parents were smiling in the front seats, and their two daughters were busy squishing into the back seats so we could have the middle seats. The older daughter, who looked 14 but was 17, spoke perfect English. She asked us a few questions, and we answered and said “Xie xie ni” a bunch.
Once we were at the top, we went off on our own. The trail was concrete and the nature around us was somewhat manicured but rapturing: large spindly trees, dark soil, loud insects. We saw a cactus garden, almost stepped on a huge centipede, explored a cave, and best of all, watched a family of monkeys make their way through the trees. At the beginning of the hike, Carrie suggested that if we see something strange, we calmly tell the other person. I think she said this because I had kind of jumped when I thought I saw a lizard skirt across our path as we were walking. She decided on a code word to say in a normal voice to alert the other person to the presence of the unidentified nature creature. I think she said the code word was “oogly boogly”. Anyway, when I saw the centipede, I blurted out, “HOLY CRAP!” and stopped mid step. When Carrie saw movement in the trees from the monkeys, she pulled a mom arm on me and yelled, “Oh, sh#@!” So much for oogly boogly.
Anyway, the monkey family was incredible to watch! I’ve seen quick glimpses of monkeys in their natural habitat before, but this was very different. We stood there for about seven minutes, watching them swing from tree branch to tree branch right across our path. Two of the three were young. I could hear what sounded like the father; they were heading toward him it seemed.
Once we exited the hiking trail, Carrie bought a drink at a vending machine and we sat down to continue our ongoing dialogue about life. After a while the girl whose family drove us showed up and asked if we wanted a ride back down. YEAh, we did. We chatted with her, Megan, and right before they dropped us off on the main road, she got our email addresses. At the time of this writing, she’s already added me to Facebook. I find it interesting to think about the parents’ view of the situation. They obviously took a little pity on us, but I also think they enjoyed seeing their daughter converse so easily with two Americans. They did, afterall, pay quite a lot of money for her to attend a private English kindergarten from age 2-6.
That night we sat outside our hostel with the other foreigners who were staying in our room. They really like their jobs English teaching jobs at a public school in Korea and told us all about their experiences and how they’ve been able to save tons of money. I’ll tell you more about Korea on another post.
Carrie and I had been into the town of Kenting earlier that evening and the evening before, so we knew what that was all about. It was much livelier than this little street in South Bay where our hostel was located, but not lively enough to warrant the effort of going there again. It was mostly just families. So, the five of us were just sitting outside our hostel talking until the guy from South Africa (Johnathan) and the guy from Chicago (Joe) decided to go to 711 to buy some beers. In Taiwan 711 is an extremely common convenience store where you can see many people at any hour of the day or night. We went with the guys even though we’d just returned from buying snacks there with the girl from New Zealand (Gina).
With our beers in hand we all decided to walk back along the beach to see if anything fun was happening. We passed a group of young Taiwanese kids hanging out around a fire, and then we came to the back of a large hotel. On the stage was a live band and about three groups of people drinking and watching. We sat down, ordered some drinks, and within five minutes we had been formally welcomed by the singer and invited to dance on stage with the dancers who were part of the entertainment for the night. These Filipino girls weren’t wearing a whole lot of clothes, and the clothes they did have on were extremely tight. They played an American song and a South African song for Johnathan. The American song was a catchy (aka annoying) club song. Despite our soberness and the onlookers, the four of us danced and let loose with these two dancer girls. Then Johnathan and Joe took turns singing (shirtless) on stage with the band. There was both a female and male Filipino singer, and they were very talented, taking requests and nailing each song. By the way, this is the first full band I’ve seen in Taiwan thus far, so that alone was exciting.
The dancing continued when more club songs were played. Our good time was rubbing off on the crowd, and they began to come to the dance floor too. Johnathan and Joe were really good about dancing with all these people, guys and girls. About 10 of them were crowded around us, watching and waiting for these two guys to pull them in the middle of the circle to dance. We were sweaty and my feet were black by the end of it. At least two hours had passed, and the place was closing. Here is a photo of us on the deck after the dancing. I’m not sure why I was holding onto Carrie while turning the opposite way.
Carrie suggested we go swimming in the ocean. We tried to invite some of the Taiwanese people who had been dancing with us, but they said they have to go to bed. We trouped off into the ocean in the dark. It didn’t take long for Carrie and Joe to spot the large rafts that people pull on the back of their boats. We swam out to where these 15 rafts were anchored. Our mission became to jump from raft to raft. Right before we got to the last one we heard Johnathan yelling from the shore. “WHAT???” I yelled back at the top of my lungs. If it had been day time, there would have been no possible way we could have heard each other, but in the dead of the night, the sound travelled much better.
“Security!” he screamed. Joe started swimming back immediately, but Carrie and I still wanted to conquer the last raft in the series. We couldn’t stop now that we were so close, and plus, as Carrie said later, we’re not accustomed to moving toward the police when someone mentions their arrival.
It turns out the security were just doing their normal rounds and either didn’t know or didn’t care that we were in the ocean. After playing around a bit more, we went back to the hostel. We soon decided that we need to visit 711 again, for more beer and some food. Johnathan bought two hard boiled eggs. These eggs are sold at almost every convenience store in Taiwan. They are brown colored because they are soaked in tea.
Back at the hostel, he dropped his peeled egg on the ground and it was covered in dirt and hair. He washed it off with beer as Joe began peeling the other one. Joe took a bite of it once he peeled it, then he handed it to me, and I took a bite. I started laughing because now half the egg was gone, and all Johnathan had left was the one previously covered in dirt. Then Carrie took a bite of the good egg too, so now only a tiny bite remained. I was cracking up. I suggested that he go back to 711 while Joe kept trying to get him to eat the egg that had fallen. “I just can’t bring myself to eat it,” Johnathan admitted.
He decided to go back to 711, and I accompanied him. He was in his pajamas. I couldn’t hold in my laughter, and I didn’t try to. The people in 711 were giving many side glances toward us. I could just barely imagine what they were thinking about this man in his underwear buying eggs. The employee must’ve really thought we were strange since it was the fourth time he’d seen me that night. I’d been there earlier in the day too, but he hopefully wasn’t on duty yet. Then Johnathan started asking some young kids questions about the food. To make a long story short, we ended up sitting outside of 711 talking to these three high school kids in bits and pieces of English while they ate the eggs Johnathan bought for them. After about 45 minutes, Carrie and Joe showed up looking for us. The Taiwanese boys laughed so loud when they saw them arrive. “There’s MORE!” they must have been thinking.
The next morning I told Gina all about our escapades of the previous night. “Awww, I really wanted to swim out to those rafts”, she admitted.
“Well, you can go tonight with Joe since he didn’t actually complete the mission in full.”
On the way back to Taipei, Carrie and I had some great discussions about our futures and other important life topics. I felt cleansed and peaceful. As I said, the trip was perfect: lazy beach naps, midnight swimming adventures, and 711 visits in our undergarments. Exactly what we hoped for.