[I realize this is getting long and irrelevant at this point, but these postings are more for my memory than your enjoyment. Sorry and I'll be out of Taipei stories soon :)]
I wake up early, as always, and it's looking grey so I decide to head out of the city to hot springs. It was only a 30 minute subway ride out to Beitou, and once I got outside the city a little I realized it was so worth it. There were trees and greenery everywhere! I haven't been outside of a city since I left NJ a month ago. I start exploring the town and run into two girls from Indianapolis who are teaching in Danshui, Taiwan. We chat for a long time and compare teaching stories and eventually part ways because they're off to go hike the national forest.
Beitou is absolutely gorgeous and there's nothing there except hotels, trees, and hot springs. All of the hotels have their own private hot spring access, but are considerably more expensive than the public hot springs. So I decide to go to the public hot springs (40NT= $1.50), strip down, pull out my camera and start taking pictures. It's really cool how it's set up. The hot spring flows in through a pipe (it's unfiltered) at the top pool and then each pool pours into the one below. I go to the top and start photographing. I notice this old guy waving in my pictures and just think he's doing it for the pictures. Then he tells me to "Stop taking pictures!!!!" Apparently it's illegal to take photos of Chinese people when they're not decent (we were all in bathing suits mind you). I apologize and go sit between two other old men in the spring with my tail between my legs. Ahhh it's sooo relaxing after all of the walking and traveling to sit in super hot water and just soak. You could feel yourself detoxifying. Ahh. Then the man who was yelling at me begins to tell me more about the hot spring. He gives me a run down of how to get the most of it and the history etc...Apparently the public hot spring is a lot nicer than all of the hotel springs because the water isn't filtered, it's pure from the source. And super hot! Vino, the old guy, informs me he lives in DC, is lawyer who travels the world teaching judges about American law, has two sons and is "55." More like 70. Anyway, we are chatting and he basically becomes my Taiwan tour guide and offers to take me out to lunch. I'm not one to turn down free food, so we're off. We go to this super nice hotel and I get a traditional Japanese eel lunch. yum! Over lunch Vino starts telling me random stories. Here's one:
In 1996 his wife was doing a charity event she does every year in Arizona. She and 17 other people raise money for cancer by jumping out of a plane and make formations in the sky. That was odd enough. Then the kicker. There was a freak wind tunnel (which I assume is a tornado) that rose out of the dessert and sucked her and the 17 other people straight to the Earth where they plummeted to their deaths. That really happens!? And there were thousands of people there watching including Vino and his two young sons! Needless to say he hasn't remarried since. Which is also probably due to the fact that he travels 40 days straight, gets 20 off, then does it all over again. And not only travels, travels all over Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Norway and the Balkans, all over South America etc. Sounds a little like Gannett only cooler. I mention to Vino I don't have a hostel booked for the night and I need to get back to Taipei to find one. He says he has to get back too so we take a bus together. Then he offers for me to stay at his hotel with him....um no thanks I think I'll get my own hotel. So I go and book a hotel, the only room they have available is at 10:30 pm. haha great another Love Motel. Whatever, it's my own room and it's cheap. Vino offers to take me out to dinner to kill time. Ok more free food, fine. We go to the ex-Hilton, now called Cesar's, for a buffet dinner. Oh my word. It was massive.
Round 1: sushi
Round 2: Chinese
Round 3: ice cream and coffee
round 4: fruit and cheese
round 5: dessert
Ahh it was so good and I was stuffed. Vino was super interesting and told me very interesting things about his family, Gambinos, from Sicily where they make their own wine and grow their own olives. That would be the life. We also get to talking about relationships and I mention I came here single. His exact comment; "You don't bring a sandwich to the restaurant." ahhh haha He also let me know his feelings on age; it's just a number. It shouldn't matter how old you are if you really connect with someone...yeah it does matter when you're old enough to be my grandfather. Ew. He's becoming a little more persistent about me staying at his friend's apartment or in his hotel room. I decide it's enough and we should part ways so I'm off to the night market.
Shihlin, where my hotel is located, has the largest night market in Taipei (or the world?). There is more shopping, food, and entertainment than you could ever fully experience. There was even a whole road dedicated to selling animals. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, a goat! and more. It was nuts. I spent hours walking around taking in the sights. I eventually bought a watch, which stopped working 3 hours later, 4 scarves and some ice cream because I obviously didn't get enough at the buffet. And there were no snakes! At 12 I head back to my hotel, and settle in for the night. I put on TV and lounge. Somewhere in between sleep and awake, I feel my bed start shaking. Given the nature of my hotel I figured it must be the bed vibrating although I couldn't figure out what I did to turn it on. Then it doesn't stop. I get out of bed. I'm still shaking. I am fully aware that 2 typhoons are on their way to Taipei so I begin to think that my hotel on the 8th floor is starting to blow over in the wind. I look outside and no wind and no rain. What is going on....?? EARTHQUAKE!! I start freaking out making exit plans in my head (alright if the ceiling starts collapsing jump out the window. Lara does this sound familiar?) When it finally stops after a minute, I go out to the office. No one there speaks English so I start reenacting the shaking and the desk clerk just nods and says "Go back to bed." uhhhh how do I sleep after I thought I was about to die in a Taiwanese Love Motel? Eventually I fell asleep and forgot about until I read it in the headlines on Day 5.