As I believe I've said before (and if I haven't it should be known), organizing a trip on the weekends is like trying to find a Taiwanese man without a ridiculous-looking haircut - it's possible, but takes extreme patience and effort. Between the weather and the general lack of decisiveness among the Travel Buddies, it's amazing that we ever actually go anywhere. Once a decision IS actually made, there is also the problem of figuring out the logistics of getting there, though this is becoming easier now that we are all more familiar with the rails, the cabs, and bus systems. However, we still do a lot of standing around, staring blankly in random directions, sometimes whimpering. Carrie often openly weeps.
So after much stalling, mind-changing, deliberation and debate, we found ourselves on a slow train (as opposed to the High Speed Rail) to Taichung (pronounced Tai-Zong...kind of. At least, that's what is SOUNDS like everyone is saying...I just parrot people now in hopes of not sounding like a total idiot), which is somewhere to the South of Hsinchu and not really famous for anything in particular. It does, however, have over a million people, and thus we all agreed that it should be seen at some point or another. So, on the train we went, the weather slowly improving from dreary to not-as-dreary-but-still-not-sunny as we headed South, the noise from the tracks clinking away and adding rhythm to the ride.
Authors Note: Dear President Obama. Trains are cool. We need more of them in the U.S.A. That is all.
After arriving and figuring out which bus would not get us lost, we hopped on the correct bus and immediately got lost. Apparently we should've gone the OTHER way. Soooo, a ten-minute ride turned into an hour-long tour through the streets of Taichung, which wasn't all bad in the long-run. (Fun Fact: paying on buses is OPTIONAL. At least, this is how we all treated the bus system. No one seemed to notice). Finally, we arrived at our first destination: The National Museum for Weird Art That No One Understands. Haha, not really, but we did see some pretty crazy-looking exhibits that were obviously too deep for my tiny Modernist brain to grasp the meaning of. Carrie, Denise and I played some fun games, including "Name That Art!" ("This is is called 'Blue Square over Red Square'"...."You're full of shit, it's called 'Red Square UNDER Blue Square'") and "How Does It Make You Feel?" ("This one makes me feel anxious and frustrated" or "This one makes me hungry for peanut butter sandwiches cut diagonally with no crust"). Overall, a great experience, and it felt good to do something cultural for a change from our usual routine of...well...killing brain cells.
But I'll get to that shortly...
(getting ready to get lost)
(ostrich with his head in a submarine - makes complete sense)
(me still trying to understand the art I just saw)
(the view from the museum deck)
Next, to the hostel to stash our stuff and then out into the chilly April evening and the Taichung Night Market (it probably has another name...I don't know it). For those who don't know, a Night Market is usually a narrow street lined with shops, street vendors, and about 6 billion Asian people. It is loud and bright and a great place to feel totally OUT of place, but we're all used to that by now so we just go with it. On this particular Night Market outing, the goal was to try every possible food we could, no matter how strange is looked or foul it smelled. Though I can't remember all the delicacies, some of the highlights were:
- stinky tofu
- a corndog (whoa...hold on, don't go too far out of your comfort zone now)
- japanese mini-burgers
- mashed potatoes that tasted like cake batter
- mushroom tempura (tempura is japanese for "dipped in fried batter-y heart-arresting goodness)
- cold squid with mayonnaise (I'd eat anything with mayonnaise on it)
- something that was probably meat covered in some sauces
- corn on a stick!
- watermelon juice
After we all felt full and about to vomit, we went back to the hostel to change and pre-drink (Carrie found an alcoholic beverage called "The Cup" which happened to resemble the plastic urine-sample cups at the doctor's office - only in Taiwan...), then out into what Cynthia described as "the great Taichung Night Life". We found ourselves at a nice little bar/club called "Freedom", which offered an "all you can drink" special for $500 NT ($15 bucks). Mistake. Long story short, after much dancing, sweating, and tequila shots from an unknown girl literally pouring alcohol DIRECTLY into our mouths (I thought once you graduated from college you didn't have to do stuff like this anymore), we made it back to the hostel, but for all I know we teleported through space and time 'cause I couldn't tell you when or how this came to be. All I know is I woke up Sunday morning and the sun was shouting at me.
(Mike and Matt, 9 drinks down. It looks like Mike might be hallucinating, and Matt's face was frozen this way for the rest of the night)
(rehydrating, Mike catching the leavins')
Another beautiful day to be alive and experience the beauty of Taiw...but first, hold on...I think I'm gonna have to hurl....
(On the next Taiwandering: Taichung Part II: Lonely Planet is full of it...)