22 July 2008

Beach Bum

My nose began to peel today. I'd been expecting it, though. Some pretty intense days on tropical beaches merit such dermal behavior, no matter how many coats of SPF 45 one slathers on. Let me explain.

The bottomside of the British Consulate

Saturday, July 12, a heard of Grand Valley students headed off to a Rock festival at Fulong Bathing Beach(福隆海水浴場) as a sort of last hurrah before their return home. We didn't listen to much music, but instead shirked the official swimming area for more exciting ventures. If you followed the link to the Fulong Beach wikipedia site (above) you could see a picture of the extensive beach-front with the little buoyed off area for swimming. This year was about twice as packed as that picture shows, and the swimming area about 4 times. Needless to say, we didn't want to be in a suss-pool of humanity; we opted for a cozy beach area across the little stream that emptied into the ocean there. We splashed, laid out on the beach, and sat in the surf like we've seen big beautiful black ladies do in Michigan. It was a blast. 

Then, this weekend, Pat and I decided to go with a group of students from the Mandarin Training Center (having been ruthlessly left behind by our Grand Valley friends) to the southern tip of Taiwan. It was good timing, too, as a typhoon struck the Northeast side of the island as we were heading South. On the way, we stopped at Kaohsiung (高雄, Gāoxióng) to ride the tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan, which is so high because of its placement on top of a mall. The bird's eye view of that city was interesting, but it wasn't night time. I'd be quite interested to see it at night. And when it isn't raining.

Windows in a dungeon?

Before we got settled into our lodging, we stopped at the Former British Consulate just outside of Kaohsiung. It was interesting, complete with an awkwardly short basement, with tiny passages (that's me in one at the top of the page) into other, even smaller rooms. A place of torture and misery for legal offenders? Maybe. An elaborate cellar for storing sensative foods served at the Consulate? More likely. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of English taste with the Chinese flavor. The brick building at the top, square and, well, western looking, had been retrofitted with cement downspouts shaped like bamboo. There was even a temple at the top of the bluff overlooking the ocean.

Terraces at the Consulate

Later on, having arrived at our quarters, we got a good night's rest for the following day. On the way to the bus, we found that the lodge that we were calling our temporary home was also home to a small number of fowl. And such a mood they were in. Apparently, they didn't want us to walk on the path that they were occupying, but hiss nor stink-eye could keep us away.

A. Anser Domesticus

On it was, to Éluánbí (鵝鑾鼻), the southernmost lightouse in Taiwan. It was visible from almost the whole park surrounding it, but few were looking bacak at the lighthouse with views like this:

Boardwalk in Kenting National Park

When we finally made our way to the lighthouse, we found it inside a courtyard, with whitewashed walls and buildings. It was kinda quaint.

Courtyard at the Éluánbí

I was amazed at how many people there were here. Our group only made up forty-some, but there were easily 4 times that many people swarming around the lighthouse and adjacent gift shop. 

Resting after a long hike in the sun

Following Éluánbí, we explored further into Kenting National Park, and finally came to the beach. After about 45 minutes of battling the 3 foot waves, I was whipped, and went under our parasol to relax and plug away at a book I've been hooked on.

I made lots of friends on the trip, and am looking forward to getting together with them once or twice before I head home.

The last two days, I've been relaxing, trying to recover from a persistent cold, and holding out from any last minute consumerism. I did get out to some new restaurants today, and explored a 24 hr bookstore more thoroughly than I had my first visit.

I finished my book Wicked on the trip down South (wonderful read, and jarringly different from the namesake broadway musical), and am anticipating a desire to read on my way back. I bought A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and The Communist Manifesto(Books are so cheap here!) Portrait is delicious thus far...

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