Sunday, May 25, 2014

10:44pm Sunday

I've just arrived in Sydney after almost two weeks in Taiwan, and am a bit jet lagged, mainly due to overnight flights, not time differences. To be in Asian without being expected to conform to the culture is relaxing. The psychological infrastructure is such that I always feel well-treated. The pressure to be socially lugubrious, which would probably be debilitating if I were a citizen of Taiwan, makes for a smooth ride in all daily interactions. Just don't get angry, and everyone will ensure you have a pleasant experience.

I had barely arrived in Kaohsiung when my taxi driver recommended I visit Alishan, a scenic area some hours away. I believe I only saw one other foreigner in the city, which isn't recommended by Lonely Planet, even though it has some interesting attractions. What made Kaohsiung special to me was Lora, the interpreter that I made friends with on a white bench in an exhibition in the Fine Arts museum. She has translated a couple of Jodi Picoult books into Chinese and has a refined elegance about her. Originally from Taipei, she moved to the southernmost Taiwanese city to pursue a more laidback and friendly lifestyle. The capital is just too hectic for her.

I was surprised at how many people had enough English language understanding and ability to help me get by. During my first trip to Taiwan there were a lot of phone calls made to friends and family members who could help me out, but this time around even the taxi drivers seemed to be well versed enough in "the international language".

For the first time in my life I tried cuttlefish, which was prepared outside the air conditioned restaurant in a mixture of a stall and permanent kitchen. I removed the onion piece by piece until it formed a small mountain in the centre of the table, then dug into the flavoursome soup. This was in Jiali, where I also saw a small ginger dog wearing white sunglasses.

If I had to choose between Taiwan and Thailand for 'friendliest location in Asia' I would have to do some serious consideration... perhaps it's best to call it a tie.

Where to next? I have my sights set on Ireland, Norway, Finland and Spain.

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