Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taiwan Part 2:

Tuesday on Green Island

I woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise and no one else was around, save for a solitary fisherman.

I took the one cross-island road to see what the vegetation was like. I was startled when a few lizards jumped out from the side of the road and was even more unprepared for when I turned a bend and almost collided with a bull! I quickly continued on my way, only to come across a group of 7 walking in the middle of the road. I respectfully made my way around them, after they had moved sufficiently to one side of the road.

Green Island is a volcanic island and used to be called "Fire Burned Island". The uneven and rough rocks made it difficult to walk along the shoreline but I liked the unexpected formations of the large boulders.

The ferry was crowded but people quickly dispersed upon disembarkation. I assumed most were busy racing around on their scooters because very few people were out along the water. I parted ways with the Taiwanese couple at the ferry station on Monday but kept running into them. When I saw them on Tuesday morning they invited me to drive around the island with them. I dutifully served as photographer.

My favorite view was from a lookout point reached by climbing the "Small Wall of China":

20 Taiwanese high school students and I went snorkeling that afternoon. One compassionate girl came over to me and explained what was going on. She is starting college in the fall but had spent the last two years in Singapore learning English. I made sure to stay in her group. After wriggling into wetsuits, we went to the snorkeling area by scooter. The guide made us pick a leaf from a low bush and carry it with us. At this point I wasn't sure if the leaf was for good luck or what... Later we rolled the wet leaves in our hands and rubbed them into our masks to prevent the masks from fogging up (very successful!). After some short instructions, we split into smaller groups of 7. We were instructed to lock elbows inside of a life ring, four of which were strung together for our group. We marched out to the shallows and gradually assumed a floating position as the water got deeper. Our guide slowly tugged us to deeper areas and all we had to do was look at the fish and coral. The system was low effort on our part and low risk on the part of the guides. There were 20 other such groups floating around in this one area and I made sure to look straight down to avoid looking at all the dangling black limbs.

The guides scattered pieces of bread and many different varieties of fish darted up from the corals to feed. There were just as many brightly colored fish as plain ones, but the whole color scheme was such a novelty for me, since I've only been exposed to the cold waters of the Atlantic. Even though the coral only varied in hues of beige and white, it was the most interesting part of snorkeling. I could have spent much more time looking at all the intricate geometric patterns.

After snorkeling, I took a quick shower and then went to the main strip of shops and restaurants. I picked up some ice tea and then parked myself on a bench so I could watch the last bit of sun dip beneath the waves. I came across the couple again. The man came over to my bench and looked at my pictures before falling into conversation with some other men, both of whom turned out to be Ministers of Education. They were running a special summer program for talented high school writers and were hosting a workshop on Green Island. They were excited to meet me and took my contact information, inviting me back to Taiwan as soon as I could make it.

I went for barbeque with the couple and was able to solve the vexing question of how Asian women stay so tiny. This woman just didn't eat. She took charge of cooking and kindly let us chat instead. I was happy to stay away from the hot charcoals. I still don't understand why do-it-yourself barbeque is so popular in such heat and humidity! Even though we were on an open roof deck, I was sweating the entire time and wasn't eager to eat hot food.

I perked up when two Westerners showed up at the restaurant. So far, I hadn't seen any other white people on the island and was excited to have the opportunity to talk with other travelers. After finishing dinner with the couple, I went over and had a drink with them. The two men were Austrian medical students who had been working at a hospital in Taipei as part of an exchange program. We decided to go for an evening swim by the lighthouse where there was a shallow and protected pool. We got some beers from the local Seven-Eleven and stopped off at our respective hotels to get swimming gear. We had the beach to ourselves and spent a few hours swimming, talking and gazing at the stars. Once I admitted to knowing a bit of German, our conversation switched back and forth between our two shared languages. It was good practice for me and I think they were pleasantly surprised as well. We parted ways in good spirits, all of us relaxed and refreshed. Without a doubt, that evening was the most enjoyable one of my trip.

Reflections on Taroko Gorge and Taipei to follow...


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12:36 PM  
Blogger Katharine (K) Lina said...

Your pictures are beautiful! I'm so glad you went on that trip and met fun Austrians (are there any other kind?).

3:52 PM  

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