Goodbye, South Coast!

Stayed up too late last night hanging out with Sammy, his family and Achi at Bossa Nova. More fried tofu with Thai chile sauce — yum! Also ordered a Black Russian and a black tea, which cracked everyone up. I deserved to be laughed at — ended up buzzed and unable to sleep, the worst of both worlds! In between, Achi and I rode down to the Kenting night market for some more souvenir shopping. So fun, zooming down the highway on a scooter, hair blowing in the balmy night, zipping around cars and pedestrians. Picked up some excellent postcards, which will probably arrive after my return, but hey! still fun to get non-bill, non-junk mail, yes?

The guys gave me a ride to the train station today, made sure I had a ticket and knew where to go. Hugs goodbye and sincere gratitude for providing a perfect vacation. (You can have one, too! Email Sammy via here!) My bag, as I’ve mentioned, is now so heavy I can barely lift it. To get to the train, I had to struggle it down a flight of stairs, only to walk 20 feet and have to heave it back up. (Note to self: Next time you pack, leave the hardback books at home. And the third pair of shoes. Seriously.)

The four-hour train ride flew by like an early-90s independent film with little dialogue and lots of symbolism. Pondered the nature of journeying, of transition. Watched the scenery change from ocean to steep mountain range. Dove back into The Savage Detectives and felt my edges blur. On a train in Taiwan reading about Mexican and Chilean poets far away from home and alone, murmur of train on tracks blending with hushed voices hypnotic.

This book challenges me — it’s more intellectual than I’ve read in a while, stretches the craft of writing in a way that makes me wish I strung words together more often. I love the art of writing, am hungry to both sharpen and expand my own skills, yet despite my enjoyment of the practice, I fail to stay in shape. Enthusiasm is not the same as preparedness.

Squat toilet on the train. One must deal.

Mistro’s owner, Claire, met me at the Hualien station. We found each other easily. She’s sweet, eager to accommodate and already has me set up for an all-day hiking adventure at Taiwan’s must-see Taroko Gorge. For about $80US, a taxi driver will spend his or her day driving me from trailhead to trailhead. Seems a strange way to go about it, but the alternative is to join a tour bus, which would really limit my options. So I’m going with the taxi option. Shrines and waterfalls expected. Hoping to see monkeys, too.

Hualien appears more upscale than the other cities I’ve seen. Less random structures, more streamlined. This is based on the five blocks between the train station and the hotel, so I could be completely wrong. Both Claire and her place are cheerful, cute and welcoming. I confess to being a bit aware of being alone again, but am clearly in good hands.

Interesting tidbit: one of the largest great white sharks was caught (sad) off the coast of Hualien.