You know it’s going to be an adventure when your cab driver has a Winnie the Pooh sticker on his car.
The thought warmed the cockles of my slightly travel-weary heart as Swag Master, MC and I clambered into the taxi at Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Three countries in one week is pretty epic, but there’s only so much airport you can take before the smell begins to seep into your very being. But I was eager to explore Taiwan, and the first stop on our list was Kaohsiung, home of the Lotus Pond and, well, that’s pretty much it (as we later discovered). Or at least that’s all we had time to do, since we were only there for a day.
After going through the easiest customs procedure ever – and by procedure I mean I literally just walked through the gate as the agent nodded at me – we stumbled out into the humid early evening, marveling at how a country that is so close to Japan can be so much hotter. No one spoke English, but the airport employees were eager to help us, and within minutes we were matched up with the Winnie the Pooh driver.
By some miracle he managed to stuff all of our bags AND us in the vehicle, demonstrating a skill of Tetris that should be applauded, before getting behind the wheel. And just like that, Winnie the Pooh morphed into Lightning McQueen, complete with at least three near death experiences. Why? It can be summed up in two words: moped mania. Taiwan is FILLED with mopeds, all of them weaving in and out of traffic with a bravado more fitting for driving a tank, not a spindly little motor bike. And rules of the road?
We did make record time, however, so there’s that. And we didn’t actually collide with anyone, although I still don’t know how as many moped drivers think nothing of basically using any intersection as a roundabout to circumnavigate pesky red lights. They make D.C. drivers look angelic in comparison. I’ve learned since to just not look out the front window…or the passenger window…really any window. Just sit back and close your eyes and wait for death. Or your destination. Whichever comes first.
As soon as the driver got off the main road he morphed back to being Winnie the Pooh; he was very concerned that we find the hostel, and even followed us into the building to show us which floor to go on – he made an x with his fingers, and for one moment I thought he was cursing at us or something, until Swag Master figured out he was telling us to go to the tenth floor. Oops.
The elevator itself was an improvement over Hong Kong’s, being bigger and not taking forever to arrive. But it was literally held together with duct tape. Duct tape!!! I know Myth Busters did an episode dedicated to proving how duct tape is THE supply to have in an apocalypse, but I really rather not have my elevator have any, thank you very much. And the doors! They are out to get you, so if you’re ever in Taiwan make sure you move quickly or the suckers will try to decapitate you…or at the very least bruise the living daylights out of you. But riding the elevator was absolutely worth it, because our hostel had this view:
Hah! So glad I invested in that new phone, because the camera on it is amazing!
Okay, flash forward to the next day: dressed in t-shirts and armed with water bottles, we braved the heat to grab lunch before heading for Lotus Lake to see the famed Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Legend says (ooooh, I’ve always wanted to say that!) that if you run into the mouth of the Dragon and out the mouth of the Tiger, you’ll have good luck. What that legend does not include is that there are stairs inside both, and if you run through it in the Taiwan heat you’ll be huffing and puffing for a good five minutes afterwards. I have since resolved to up my cardio when I get home, because apparently I need it.
But would I do it again? In a heartbeat, because just look:
Zapped by the heat, we returned to the hostel to bask in the frigid blast from our air conditioner, and settled in to watch a movie. MC and I were craving something in English – it does get exhausting being surrounded by people speaking a different language – so we selected the most British show we could find on Netflix: Paddington.
I’ve been craving marmalade ever since. I had to settle for Pocky, because this is Asia, after all.
The next day we packed up our bags and hopped onto the bullet train to our next destination. Any guesses where? Stay tuned!