Okay, I'll cut right to the chase: Taiwan Trip Day 7 will forever go down in history as:
DAY OF THE MONKEY
Long story short: my poor roommate was attacked, MUGGED, by three of the little devils. (And they weren't all that little.)
I have never been so stunned--or frightened-- in my whole life. Monkeys might look cute and innocent on the surface, but wow, can they get mean. I was thoroughly impressed at how my roommate stayed so cool, calm, and collected as she divested herself of the creatures, talking to them in a quietly authoritarian voice (even whilst getting a huge bite in the process!), but it was a terrifying moment.
Personally I would have had a complete nervous breakdown. The worst part was that we were on a bridge stretching a deep ravine. One false step and . . . well, we won't go there. All I can say is, if you ever get the chance to see monkeys in the wild: run. (Needless to say I made the above sketch from an image on my camera at a later date. No way was I going to stick around for longer than it took to snap a photo or two.)
Before monkey madness, the day started out quite peacefully in this coastal village where we stopped for lunch and some sightseeing:
The restaurant we ate at was what they called "chef cook style." Instead of customers choosing meals from a menu, lunchtime clientele simply got what the chef made that day. And of course it was delicious!
But then it was back on the bus to monkey territory. If I seem a little obsessed, it's because a) I was really looking forward to seeing the monkeys, and b) then I was traumatized by their antics. I can't even look at monkeys on TV at the moment. However, for your enjoyment, here they are again:
|Me, before witnessing "the attack."|
Here we tasted (and purchased) a variety of fragrant teas, the most-prized and expensive being a type known as "honey oolong." This particular tea gets its sweetness from cicada secretions. Yes. (By now nothing could faze me.)
Next stop: a "Buddha's Head" fruit stand. Each of these interesting little fruits is an exact replica of the tight curls atop the head of the familiar representation of the Buddha. Or this is at least what we thought. There seemed to be some difficulty in translation because sometimes they were called "Buddha's Hands." But to me they look like Buddha's head. Whatever they are called, they are wonderful, kind of like apple and pear custard.
And then our hotel--a lovely family-style hot springs resort owned by a friend from Ming Franz's high school days. What a treat! The sulphuric water scent was strong, but, oh, so healthy. For me it was pure nostalgia reminding me of my teenage trips to the hot pools of Rotorua in New Zealand, always with that smell hanging in the air at every turn. Here at the resort we could get the spring water in our rooms too, so naturally I took advantage of a long soak before bed.
|Resort koi pond. I fed them, too.|
Day 8 continued our up-close-and-personal portion of the trip, getting to see a side of Taiwan most tourists rarely see. After leaving Ming's friend's hotel, we next went to visit her former high school where one of her classmates is now the principal. (They were a very dynamic group!)
|These kids were the lucky ones. The rest of their classmates |
were busy cleaning and mopping the hallways.
|Wish my school had been this pretty.|
After a short tour of the school grounds, we then assembled in the library where Ming gave the school one of her books and we were all presented with official school tie pins and a morning snack.
And then we were off for lunch and adult beverages at the Tsingtao Beer Factory:
|Dragons love beer too.|
Where I discovered this poster:
|And had to know who these bad boys were . . .|
Before I could find out though, we then had the very special opportunity to visit with some of Ming's family living in her grandfather's one-hundred-year-old house. Parts of the home are still maintained just as they were in the past, and it was a unique privilege to be invited inside. I was especially taken with the family pet:
|It took me forever to realize this kitty|
didn't speak English, and that it was useless
to repeat, "Kitty, look up! Look at me, Kitty!"
Ming's family owns a nursery in the town, and they graciously next took us for a visit there. The plants were exquisite, nothing like the dry specimens we have here in Albuquerque.
|All that lovely mist . . .|
Cooled and refreshed, we then took off for Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, an architectural mixture of London, Barcelona, New York, Paris . . . It's beautiful! Here we stayed on the 39th-floor of a luxury hotel atop a posh department store with late night shopping. Dinner in the building's restaurant continued the family theme as we met with our tour guide's mother, sister and her husband, and their two adorable little children.
And then my solitary adventure began . . .
Remember the guys in the poster? I had the bright idea that I would try to find some of their music in that downstairs department store. Except I didn't know the name of the band, or anything else about them except they like Tsingtao beer.
So under the universal heading of "heavy metal" I bought what I thought would be some good old Taiwanese rock'n'roll. Carrying my daintily-wrapped package, I went in search of tea-towels, thinking that would be a nice thing to bring home. Except I couldn't get anyone to understand what I wanted. I even demonstrated what I thought "towel" looked like if you were playing charades. All that happened was the sales clerk started imitating my extremely strange movements until we were both doing this weird dance in the aisles and I had to shake my head, say, "Sorry, but thank you so much," and run away.
I ran so far I then got lost and couldn't find the exit to the hotel. To make matters worse, the loud speakers came on: "The store is closing in 1o minutes." In English, nonetheless. For which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise I would have had to have slept somewhere between women's fashion and men's shoes. I think I got out of there with 30 seconds to spare. Whew.
|Grateful to be back in our room with a view.|
|More exciting than New York!|
|Good night, Kitty!|
Highlight of the Day: Say it isn't so. Discovering that the CD I had bought was this: