Taiwan

Posted on July 28, 2018

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I found this blog post buried in my draft folder. No I haven’t suddenly skipped to SE Asia. I am still very much in The Caribbean.

It was pit stop I made in September 2017 after my cancer diagnosis was confirmed in The Philippines. It was also the last time I went on a bender…..enjoy!

Taiwan was never on the agenda. But after meeting a 20-something year old couple while diving in The Philippines it became somewhere I needed to visit.

Randy and Sharon – of all the Western names they could have picked – convinced me to go after they informed me it was just 90 minutes by plane. So five days later I touched down in Taipei. My plan was to stay a week, five of which would be diving. I needed a change of scene after my recent news.

Taipei is a fun, safe city. Everyone speaks Mandarin and few speak English. The metro is easy to use and the streets are clean. The young Taiwanese are hip, trendy and very friendly. Saturday night I had dinner with a perfect stranger. He’s a friend of my British mate who lives in Bangalore. An American student who is living over there after being awarded a scholarship to study Mandarin. Clever man. We ate dinner at the street market and then I gatecrashed his friend’s 30th birthday drinks. It’s been a while since I’ve had company and that night the alcohol flowed. Well I guess I needed a release. I started on vodka and ended on whisky with little memory of getting home and a tremendous hangover to deal with the next day. The Taiwanese love their bars!

Randy and Sharon collected me in a very fragile state on Sunday and took me to their favourite local restaurant to eat. I tried bubble tea en route. A milky ice-tea with small squiggy pieces of tapioca making up half the drink which you suck through a straw and chew. Weird! Arriving at this hole in the wall, Randy ordered a selection of dishes. It was packed with locals bent over double on stools too low and too small even for their small frames. We perched around a small table, befitting for a dollshouse and waited eagerly. A skinny weather beaten woman with coarse wiry dark hair and alabaster skin brought over a silver tray. Rice noodle soup with shrimp paste; boiled squid with fresh raw shredded ginger; the most delicious tofu dish I have ever eaten with raw veg. And a pork dish I tried and will never ever repeat. The oesophagus of the pig. So practically no meat and a whole lot of cartilage. An acquired taste. Not for me. Definitely not for me.

R and S are a sweet couple. They met at high school and are getting married this December. Sharon is more spiritual, Randy isn’t. Actually Randy couldn’t give a monkeys. He has a cheeky sense of humour and I think could easily be led astray. They both love travelling and wanted to learn about the countries I have visited. They are making a list for a future trip which they hope will be for a year.

Next stop was the most famous temple in Taipei Hsing Tai Hong. A very ornate chinese looking temple with hoards of people asking the deities for guidance. Sharon insisted I take part in this Taiwanese tradition. She gently nudged me towards the front where lines of people stood with bowed heads.

You collect two half semi circular plastic blocks that fit together from a container. There’s writing on one side of each block. You clasp them in your hand and ask a question to the deities while facing them and drop the blocks onto the floor. You keep doing this until the blocks land face up with the answer yes. So you may have to alter your question until you get a yes. Next you pick a wooden stick from a vertical stack with a number etched into it. Again facing the deities you take the blocks you ask if this is the right number to your question while dropping the blocks. If they land ‘no’ you pick another stick and ask again. I had to do this twice. You must get a ‘yes’ for your selected number. As you head out there is an office where you collect a piece of paper with your corresponding number. The paper is supposed to have your ‘fortune’ written on it. Inside the office you can get one of the temple staff to interpret and translate what the writing means for you.

My question, “Will I live a happy healthy life?”

My answer, “You don’t need to ask the gods that, you already know what to do to achieve this.”

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