Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 03 2008

On Matsu

dockI met Prince Roy last night after work at the train station, which was packed full of people wanting to get home for the three-day tomb-sweeping holiday. It was cold and rainy, not very appealing for travel. We caught an electric train to Keelung and walked down the rainy street by the terminal to a port building, by which was docked the Taima ferry, a mid-sized ship painted orange and white. Only a handful of people milled around the departure lobby when we picked up our tickets. Fortunately we were able to switch out the 4-person cabin PR had reserved for a two-person stateroom in first class. “You should twitter this triumph,” PR said.

departure“I’ll wait until we’re actually in the room and sure that it’s ours,” I replied, skeptical of our good luck. After dinner, we came back to find the waiting room packed with people, a good half of them soldiers dressed in their warm winter fatigues. A group next to us was being introduced to each other.

“She’s American,” one said, about one of the group. “I mean, she’s half American.”

“Oh, I didn’t know whether or not to speak English with her!” another replied, adding the customary “My English is very poor!”

Boarding was announced, and a crude line formed. We went through security, including X-ray machines and the like. Thankfully we didn’t have to take off our shoes or get rid of liquids. A walk across the gangway later we were shown to our stateroom, which was full of another person’s stuff.

cabinOf course it is, I thought, while PR fumed at, among other things, the apparent lack of organization. The stewards took his ticket and went to find the other party. They were sure that there was a mix up with the tickets, and I wondered where they would stick us. Eventually, however, the other party, a young couple, returned, surprised to find us lounging in their chairs amid their luggage watching their TV. It turned out that they had misread the cabin number. The place was ours, and I promptly twittered the fact.

The boat’s engines ramped up, and we slid out of port, past huge container ships and Navy vessels, accompanied only halfway by the lackadaisical harbor pilot out into the open ocean. We watched the yellow lights of Keelung recede along with Turtle Island, which was silhouetted by a huge, single light behind it, a way to say, I suppose, “This is a huge island that you really shouldn’t run into.”

It was raining a little. We went forward to the lounge, where they were selling instant noodles and beer. Groups sat around playing cards. Later on we went up top to the helipad to look at the waves. My phone could get a GPS position, but Google Maps needs a phone signal to download actual maps, and there was no phone signal, though PR had one.

It was good to be on a boat again. I always enjoy such trips, even more than plane travel. It just seems more real and substantial to me, making the trip mean something different than just a small jaunt.

The lounge closed at 11pm, so we retired to the cabin and watched the same news cycle repeat itself a few times over on the one channel offered on the TV. The ride was smooth, with just a little gentle rocking, perfect for sleeping.

tugWe were awoken this morning by a loudspeaker in the room playing a song about how wonderful Matsu is. I opened the curtain to find it just outside, along with a Coast Guard vessel guiding us into the harbor. His Highness was still asleep and didn’t seem to want to get up, and I considered leaving him there for the trip to Dongyin, where the ship was headed next.

“What a desolate place this is,” I said as I looked through the mist at the mountainous landscape beyond the port. I couldn’t help it. It’s one of those Star Wars lines that just comes up sometimes. We gathered up our things and went below to the carpark area and out onto the dock. The crew let us off the boat despite the fact that PR’s ticket had never been returned to us after the cabin mix-up.

PR on dockOut on the dock all I could feel was the atmosphere of getting off leave, emanating in thick clouds from all the soldiers who had just disembarked and were being shuttled off to their respected bases. I called the hotel where we’d reserved rooms, and they said they’d send someone over. PR went to sit by the dock while I waited at the gas station.

We were picked up by a friendly taxi driver. “Please excuse the dirt on the car’s floor,” he said. “Soldiers, you know.” He took up a winding road to our hostel, which overlooks a nice little bay. I was surprised to find that my room came with a computer and Internet, so while PR finishes his night’s rent downstairs, I am writing this before I take a nap, as the room seems to be rocking a little; I either haven’t gotten used to land yet, or I’m really tired. Mark is due to arrive this afternoon by plane, as he couldn’t make the ship’s departure time. It’s cloudy and cool but dry outside, and completely quiet except for bird calls and the occasional barking dog.

posted by Poagao at 7:44 pm  


  1. I didn’t have a chance to visit Dongyin when I went to the Matsu islands, something about the ocean being too choppy that day. Anyway, enjoy your trip!

    Comment by Todd — April 3, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  2. “fuming”. Gee, thanks. Now no one will ever want to travel with me. Mark must have read this and I bet that’s why he backed out.

    Comment by PR in Matsu — April 4, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  3. Ha, I was being generous by not mentioning that you were actually fuming about colonizing Mars.

    Comment by Poagao — April 4, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  4. […] aside, it was a fantastic little excursion. Poagao is amply handling the play by play, beginning here, and I hope to have some color commentary up sometime this weekend. Until then, though, it’s […]

    Pingback by Prince Roy’s Realm » Blog Archive » Stranded in Matsu — April 7, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  5. I’m kind of fuming about that too, PG. I grew up hearing all these wonderful stories from my gradfather about how people thought the idea of going in space was completely absurd and then he lived to see Apollo touch down on the moon! We could have a whole city there by 2010! Martian colonies, too!

    Well, I feel gypped. Challenger blew up while I was a little kid, MIR fell out of space infested with some kind of space-mold, and nobody’s even gone back to the moon. Peh. What a way to NOT live up to expectations! At this rate, we’ll all be living in caves again by the time I’m a grandparent.

    Comment by Mark — April 14, 2008 @ 11:14 am

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