Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 10 2010

Hengchun trip

We met up at the train station once again on Saturday morning, tickets in hand for a high-speed trip south to Kaohsiung. I always enjoy the bullet train. Once there we boarded a van that would take us out to Hengchun for the folk music festival where we were to play at 5 that afternoon. The driver was, uh, a bit capricious with his lane-changing, but he got us there in a reasonable amount of time.

We disembarked at the old city gate featured in the film Cape No. 7 to find a large stage erected in the middle of the square. As we approached this natural target, the guys setting it up told us, “It’s not for you. This is for the Father’s Day show.” One of them pointed at a small area by the old city wall. “Yours is over there.” It seemed that the organizers wanted approximately 27 bands to play, all at the same time, all around the city.

Shrugs all around. We’re used to it. A trip to the nearest 7-Eleven (located quickly with Google Maps) later, we were sitting under the mosquito-infested trees while a fat, bald girl in a pink jumpsuit scolded Sandy Wee for spilling his drink all over the table. Slim thought she must be some kind of all-knowing medium. Conor climbed the rocks by the park, and an old man stared at us from his electric barcalounger.

The weather was fine, interesting clouds rushing overhead thanks to a tropical depression forming out in the ocean to the west. Our stage was directly behind a row of beeping pachinko machines. Our quick soundcheck melded into the start of the show, as only one young woman was really involved in managing the show, and the crowd consisted of several people sitting on scooters by the side of the road, and the bald medium girl, now in a green jumpsuit.

Photo by ThumperAs we played, occasional squalls of rain came and went. Our music mixed with the pachinko machines as well as the band over at the Father’s Day stage. I was feeling alright, mellow and into the groove of things. It was good to get out of Taipei, and I was with my friends, doing what I liked to do.

After six the rain picked up, the Father’s Day Orchestra threatened to overwhelm us, and David’s voice was flagging. We’d done our show, and that was it; we disbanded, and Slim and Thumper disappeared. As they do.

The capricious van driver took the rest of us to a restaurant on the outskirts of town, a regular-looking place that could have been someone’s house, including alter and living room. The food was good, though, featuring local yam leaves, vermicelli and fried rice. A couple of other foreigners joined us, including Jason Green and his wife.

I was waiting for some more delicious vermicelli when the driver got itchy and wanted to leave; he’d eaten and wanted to go. Now. So I stuffed my face with whatever was left on the table, and we proceeded on, crossing dark fields to our hotel on the coast. Or hotels, I should say; David, Robyn, Sandy, Jojo and Sandy Wee were at one place, while I was next door, and Conor and Kat were at yet another place, all located within a small community across the road from the beach.

After settling in (I had one small room, which was nice, but…small. Good enough for one though), we went down to the dark beach, where Sandy and Conor decided to go for a swim. I walked up the beach a bit, letting my eyes get used to the darkness, as the star-filled skies were clear enough to see the Milky Way. Venus, or possibly Jupiter, was brilliant, outshining all the other points of light by a good margin. It was magical.

Magic of another sort was happening up at the beach, as Kat caught Sandy and a quite-naked Conor in various compromising poses with her camera, no doubt planning an expose in the next Apple Daily.

Later on, after the others went prudently to bed, Conor, Kat and I walked down the road to Jonathan’s, where Slim was recuperating from the day. Jonathan rents the place for a pittance. We sat outside in front chatting. Well, others chatted. Slim was in full stream-of-consciousness mode. Conor told me that Thumper had missed the last train and was sleeping at the station. The news made me tired, and we walked back over the bridge making waterdrop noises to amuse the various ghosts. “I want to do something outrageous!” Kat said. But she didn’t. Or maybe she did, when nobody could see.

I was awoken the next morning by the chirping of a gecko above my bed. The air conditioning was aimed directly at my head, which didn’t make for the best of nights. The pillow was also too high, and there was hardly any water pressure in the shower. I was glad to see the gecko, though; I suspect it was on duty eating various insects all night.

Outside, the others hadn’t woken up, so I plodded up the hill looking at the rest of the little community. I came across an old lady sitting in the shade. She was old enough that she didn’t really do Mandarin, so we spoke in Minnan. She said she’d lived there all her life, before then-President Chiang Ching-kuo decided to construct the group of villas for the fishermen of the nearby village.

Eventually the cries of Sandy Wee alerted us to the fact that breakfast was imminent. A kiwi smoothie accompanied my omelet and toast; delicious. David was decompressing after a long, hard week of feature-writing, and all of us luxuriated in not having anything specific to do that day.

After breakfast we wandered down to the beach for a dip. Easy dipping was off the schedule, however; delighted surfers, mostly well-built young men, told us that, due to the tropical depression, recent rainfall and other conditions, the waves that day were spectacularly big. They all rushed out to take advantage of this bounty, while we just swam around being walloped repeatedly by enormous walls of water. They seemed to come in threes or fours and were a lot of fun, but tiring after a while. I swallowed so much salt water it made me thirsty.

I walked over to the river mouth and found the water there unpleasantly warm. Dark clouds were rolling in by that point, and we began to think about the trip back. The driver this time was far more professional and efficient, taking a series of detours that included a stop for gas and tasty sesame baozi, as we traversed gloomy fields and orchards trying to avoid the weekend crush of Kaohsiung-bound traffic. The raindrops squiggled across the windshield, pushed by the wind into movement resembling microscopic organisms.

The bullet trains were completely booked, but we got open seating tickets and, after purchasing food from various sources, we got seats on a train back for Taipei. Conor was a bright, alarming shade of flaming pink, and David complained of sunburned shoulders. The trip was a swish and a click back to Taipei, and I crossed the bridge at Bitan just before they closed it off for repairs.

posted by Poagao at 5:48 pm  

1 Comment »

  1. That was definitely by far and away one of the more memorable Rambles we’ve had. Damn! but my arms were sore the next day and I had a massive graze on my knee from getting scraped along the seabed by a wave.
    Sandy Wee’s sheer and utter delight at the aquarium was a joy to behold, which was just as well as it cost NT$700 to get there, NT$450 per head to get in and a further NT$700 to get to K-Town.
    Bugger about the bridge, though. Ima hafta ride my damn scooter to get a roti tonight. It supposed to be completed by the 19th I think. Plus, you can catch a free shuttle bus from the bridge to the MRT every 10 minutes, they say. I’m just taking the #643 instead.

    Comment by sandman — August 11, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

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