Despite the pleas for me to change [cancel] my flight out of the Philippines, I decided not to throw a few hundred dollars down the tube and leave things according to plan. I arrived in Taipei late on a Friday night and was persuaded by my friend Grant to taxi into the city, rather than waste time on the bus. I'd only been in the country for an hour and I was already tripling my spending's from the previous week. I arrived at Grant's and was greeted with a "How are your wrinkles doing?" and "I bought you this drink but couldn't wait so I finished it", just the type of greeting I'd expected from this old friend. I easily could have crawled into bed and fell asleep but instead, I decided to join Grant and venture out to meet some of his friends/coworkers.
My first night included 7/11 delicacies, taxi rides, freezing cold pool halls, slightly warmer apartments, poker, chocolate, and beer. The fun eventually wound down somewhere around 3 am but I didn't find the comforts of my bed until closer to 4, to be quite honest I'm not sure how I made it that long considering I was tired at 10 pm. The next day Grant and I had plans to hike and visit some hot springs but after he decided to throw his phone in with the laundry our plans hit a fork in the road. Eventually, after breakfast in the park, a few visits to the phone store and one load of clean laundry later, we were on our way. Grant's upgraded his transportation methods from bicycle to scooter since my last visit so we were free from the grips of public transportation and rather weaving our way through traffic.
Temperatures were a bit cool for an enjoyable scooter ride but the convenience and price couldn't be beaten. After about 30 minutes of craziness in the city, we reached the mountain area where scenery greatly improved but temperatures also dropped. I was huddled in a ball behind Grant, thankful that he was taking the brunt of the wind, channeling the warmth I left in the Philippines. We were considering a climb up one of the hills for a good lookout over the city but cool temperatures and cloudy skies prevented us from doing so, instead, we continued on towards the springs. By the time we arrived our hands were frozen, my knees felt like they were locked in the sitting position and I had tears in my eyes, but at least we were there. It was only a short walk/hike through fields and down the mountain before we'd be submerged in steamy hot mountain spring water. Hot springs are probably one of the greatest aspects of Taiwan, they're all over the country and usually free, that is if you're able to get away from all the springs listed on tourist maps and guidebooks. Lucky for me Grant knows his way around the country and despises tourist locations so I was able to enjoy the springs like a local, plenty of stares included.
Sunday provided us with more rain and cool temperatures so the possibility of more outdoor adventures went out the window. The day was spent with more of Grant's friends who we initially met to borrow their shower, as the hot water at Grants apartment decided to stop working. We proceeded to brave the rain in search of lunch which thanks to Grant's girlfriend was some delicious Japanese food. The afternoon included rainy shopping (I needed more layers), board games and naps. Finally, we decided it was time to eat again, this time finding ourselves at a Thai restaurant not far from Grant's house. If it wasn't obvious enough that I was spending my day with expats our meal selections were proof, while I usually like to eat local both our lunch and dinner were a nice change of pace.
Although Grant was begging me to stay longer I had plans to head to Zhongli where I'd be volunteering at the DADA English school. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was up for some work after spending nearly a year without such a word in my vocabulary.
This country has a smell, I can't describe it and I actually don't know what it is, but as soon as I step out of the airport I know I've arrived. The land of night markets, bubble tea and so, soooo much food, your tastebuds will be tired.