Had to travel for work for 2 weeks. Decided to try travelling even lighter than last time, so other than the clothes I was wearing I brought 1 extra set of (t-shirt, boxers, socks), laptop, charger, and some Taiwanese and Japanese cash. That meant I would have to wash my clothes at least once every 2 days, which didn’t end up being a problem. Booked myself a 7 hour layover in Osaka to see the city. I had planned to check out an Izayaka stall called 居酒屋とよ (Izayaka Toyo) that Sarah and I had seen on Netflix. Got there, huge line up, had some delicious sushi instead at a place called Hoteizushi (ほてい寿司).
Japan feels weird for me because I see Chinese characters everywhere so my brain feels confident when I walk into a shop but I can’t pronounce them in Japanese so all I can do is point and mime.
Next flight from Osaka to Taipei was delayed, arrived at 1am, subway was already shut down, had to take a taxi to the hotel.
On Sunday I set out to buy a small USB-C (F) to Lightning (M) adapter that would allow me to charge my iPhone with the Innergie GaN USB-C charger and USB-C-to-USB-C cable that I had brought to charge my USB-C laptop. I asked around at Syntrend market and most vendors said they’ve never heard of such an adapter but I got lucky with one little stall and managed to find what I was looking for. I didn’t have my charger with me so I planned to test it later that night. Later on Sunday night my coworkers and I got Indian food and went to the 通化夜市 nightmarket. Of course when I got back home the adapter didn’t work at all. Hmm.
Monday and Tuesday were regular workdays. I got a local coworker to help me buy a new adapter on 蝦皮 (http://shopee.tw). It arrived the next day and I found that it worked on my Innergie USB-C charger, but it didn’t work on a coworker’s HP USB-C charger, and it didn’t work when I tried to charge my iPhone via the USB-C port on my laptop. Looks like I’ll need to carry a separate cable for charging my phone until I can find a well-behaved Lightning adapter.
On Wednesday there was a lot of talk about typhoon Lekima that was getting stronger and was projected to make landfall on Friday morning. We had some great meals during the week: 牛肉麵, 魯肉飯 with 滷蛋, 炸雞, 珍珠包子, 蔥油餅, 紅油抄手, lots of 波霸奶茶 and some great Thai food.
Wednesday night I had to stay up late to talk to some coworkers in California. At 5:30am I got woken up by the earthquake and even though I only had about 2 hours of sleep I immediately realized it was an earthquake and all I could think was “god damn earthquake, stop shaking, I need to sleep”. Within a minute or two my phone received a government notification about the earthquake (wow). Thursday night we stayed late at the factory and as rumors grew that the government was going to declare a typhoon day and give most workers the day off, we all huddled around our laptops listening to the howling rain and thunder outside and hoping that our district would be added to the list. At 8pm we got the good news and we decided to go work from our office in Taipei 101 on Friday and see the typhoon from up high.
The next morning we let ourselves sleep in a bit and then ate the lunch buffet at the Grand Hyatt. Wow! Unlimited sashimi, and good stuff too. I wanted to be polite so I asked the chef cutting the sashimi “有限制吗”? He seemed to not understand my question. “刺身是无限吗? 有限嗎？” The guy beside me asked if I needed help. Am I pronouncing it wrong or something? “限量? 限制？ 有限制嗎？” Finally the chef said no, there’s no limit, get as much as you want. I think he was trying to imply that my question was silly. Ok buddy, we’ll see who’s silly.
I ordered an initial plate of 10 pieces of salmon sashimi, then went back for another plate of 20. A coworker said he didn’t believe I could eat all 20 pieces after all the other buffet food I had already eaten. What’s going on here? I’m from Vancouver, I’ve got a separate sashimi stomach. I wanted until there was nobody in the sushi line and I went up and asked for 20 more pieces. The same sushi chef looked me in the eye and said “20片夠嗎?” Ha, ha. Ok, give me 40 pieces.
I felt pretty sick by the end. The sushi chef had won and he didn’t even know it. I brutalized the office toilet for the rest of the day.
I had seen an ad for the 2019 首屆網紅直播大展 that was happening at the convention center beside my hotel. I decided to go check it out since Kevin has been suggesting that I try live-streaming my motorcycle adventures and they might have some nice helmet-mounted cameras or IRL livestreaming backpacks or something. It was mostly beauty products and stuff for livestreamers and influencers to promote on their streams, and a couple of Taiwanese celebrity influencers interacting with fans on a big stage. No hardware, no cameras.
A coworker and I took the train to Hualien. We rented motorcycles at the same shop that I had rented from last time because I knew they didn’t require an international driver’s licence. That night we went to the 東大門 nightmarket and got some snacks, played an archery game and won some little spinner things, and then took our food and our toys to the top of a hill and competed to see who could shoot them the highest. A girl thought my coworker looked like a famous soccer player.
Later that night we got some more 魯肉飯 from a little stall. The next morning we rode our scooters north up the coastline towards 大清水. We saw a big orange wasp-looking thing and I thought it might be an executioner wasp so I wanted to snap a photo to look it up later. We chased it around for a while, never got a clear photo of it, and later we looked it up and executioner wasps only live in central and south america.
We got stuck in a rainstorm on the way back towards Hualien and took shelter in a 7-Eleven. Once the rain stopped we rode toward the beach and stumbled upon a Taiwan indigenous peoples festival called 太魯閣達吉利生活節 in 秀林鄉. Some snacks and drinks for sale, dancing and singing performances, and a guy with a fishing net who taught my coworker and me how to coil and throw a fishing net.
Some girls at the festival wanted to take pictures of us, but mostly they wanted pictures with my coworker.
Then we went to the beach at (24.1662,121.6588) which was full of perfect skipping rocks. We saw them hauling fishing boats out of the ocean with a big cable on a winch, and we saw them moving the cables and ropes around with little SUVs. One of the little SUVs was branded Susuki.
We met some cute little kids who were curious about all kinds of stuff. The girl said she likes 庫洛魔法使 (Cardcaptor Sakura) but she isn’t able to watch it, which made us kind of sad to think about. The two kids were really curious about my smartphone, and they asked to see photos of some animals that they had never seen before (koala, leopard). They asked to see photos of genetic mutants (wtf?) and said they heard about a girl with no arms who can write with her feet. Then they told us some jokes, and I translated them for my coworker. Their jokes were bizarre, didn’t really have punchlines. I told them my 风筝的发型 joke and they laughed a bit, but then they were curious what happened to the student after they sailed into their air which isn’t really the point of the joke.
We had dinner in Hualien at a steak place with a salad bar, then took the train back to Taipei. We saw a bunch of military APCs unloading at the convention center, probably for some kind of army-related show that was happening.
I flew to Shanghai on Monday morning. The lady sitting next to me in business class was carrying a baby that had clearly pooped its pants, and the smell got worse and worse during the flight. I noticed some people giving me dirty looks, as if they thought the foreigner was the source of the smell. Come on people, I’m on your team. At first I wanted to complain to the lady, but since nobody else seemed to notice the stench I convinced myself that I would be a jerk to be the one to point it out. The baby fell asleep and the smell kind of went away, and then we landed and the baby started moving around and the smell came back full force. When we finally taxied to the gate and started getting off the plane, the mom carried her baby and rushed over to the bathroom. What the heck.
I remembered that I didn’t have any RMB so I had to take the subway away from the airport to get an ATM to withdraw some cash before I could get some food. I went to 世纪大道 and started walking around, and the first shop I found was a Tim Horton’s! I asked the cashier and she said this shop has been open since March 2019, and there are over 10 shops in Shanghai. Hah! I ended up stumbling upon an amazing steamed oyster restaurant called 蚝中蚝. I guess this is a new kind of restaurant, because I’ve never seen a restaurant like this in China before.
Work in Shanghai went well. On Tuesday I got stuck in a big rainstorm, the tail end of typhoon Lekima. On Thursday I flew back to Taipei and rode the train down to Gaoxiong, then took a bus to Hengchun, rented a scooter, and rode to Kending. After I had checked out the city a bit I rode down to the southernmost point in Taiwan, and on the way back up to Kending the road was closed because there was a land crab migration happening. Volunteers helped to catch the crabs on one side of the road, and then the crabs would be measured and carried to the other side of the road to spawn in the ocean water. I helped catch a few crabs which was pretty cool. Then I rode back to Kending and picked an arbitrary hotel to stay at. The lady at the front desk asked what I was doing in town and when I mentioned that I had helped out at the crab catching event she excitedly told me that her husband is a scientist who is closely involved in that effort. Later in the night I met him and he said that he had been working on crab conservation efforts for 30 years.
I checked out the night market and saw some standard things and some new things that I had never seen before, like catch-it-yourself shrimp.
The next morning I rode around a bit and got a delicious Yunnan-style breakfast, then went to check out the beach. I took off my shoes and rolled up my jeans but I ended up getting my pant legs soaking wet in the waves. I biked around for a while to try to help my jeans dry off.
Then I saw a deer farm on the side of the road so I stopped to check it out. There was one deer in an enclosure beside the road and as I walked up it grabbed a piece of branch from the ground and passed it to me through the chain link fence. I realized that it’s much easier for the deer to eat the leaves when a person is holding the branch, compared to trying to eat the leaves off the branches that are loose on the ground. There was also a kiosk where you could pay NT$50 and get some carrots to feed the deer. I laughed when I noticed there was a starbucks right next door.
I got back to Hengchun and I still had a few hours until my bike was due back, so I rode around some more to try to dry my jeans a bit more before I had to get on the long bus ride back to Gaoxiong. I passed a secluded spot near the edge of town by a river, and I decided to be clever and dry off my jeans and boxers. I took my jeans off and wrung them out, then I laid them on the concrete embankment in the sun and I started browsing the web on my phone. Then I decided to be even more clever and use my scooter’s exhaust to dry them off faster. I balanced my jeans on the scooter’s seat and installed one pant leg over the muffler. I revved the engine to produce more exhaust but I forgot that these scooters have an automatic clutch and I had to quickly slam on the brakes to stop the scooter from driving off. After 10 minutes or so that pant leg was dry and I was feeling pretty clever. I mounted the other pant leg onto the muffler and went back to browsing the web. After a few minutes I checked my jeans and both legs were almost completely dry and the beach sand could be shaken off. Out of the blue it started pissing rain and I laughed like a madman as I scrambled to collect all of my stuff and ride to shelter. It only took me about 2 minutes to ride back to the scooter rental shop but by then I was soaked to the bone.
Once again I took off my shirt and pants and wrung them out, and then sat in the scooter shop and chatted with the owner while we watched 賭神2. Then I took the bus back up to Gaoxiong, ate some tasty mall chirashi, and took a taxi to see the big buddha at 佛光山. I was rushing to see the buddha and get back before my train left, and in my haste I accidentally went the wrong way and ended up climbing a mountain towards the monastery instead of going directly to the buddha statue. I asked a female monk (a nun?) for directions and she said I had to go all the way back down the mountain and then turn left. I felt awkward running in such a calm place so I power-walked back down the mountain and went to the statue area.
Then I took another taxi back to the train station, and took the train back to Taoyuan and stayed at a weird hostel-style hotel with 1 shared bathroom per floor and no windows in the rooms. The next morning I flew back home.