I stepped off the train in Hualien and knew it was going to be one of those nights. Five and a half hours ago I had boarded a train in Kaohsiung in weather that might have been considered decent but as we moved steadily northward it became apparent that decent was going to turn into crap. For most of the journey rain pounded brutally against the windows creating an opaque shield preventing me from seeing what had been described to me as ‘breathtaking scenery.’ In its own way the weather was beautiful but it would have been nice to see some blue sky and ocean disappearing into the distance. ‘Oh well…win some lose some’
My time in Koahsiung was over. Five days of, well, I don’t really know how to describe it. I wouldn’t call it sightseeing, no, not at all, even though I went to some of the major areas. I wouldn’t call it relaxing either. I would describe it more as experiencing Kaohsiung.
For the five days I was there I moved around and began to think like those around me at the hostel. Most of the people there were in one stage or another of finding work in the city as English teachers and the place was thick with the buzz of possible work (not to mention drama, lol). I almost began to search for a job myself but after some serious thinking about my life goals I decided against it. At 29 years old I no longer have the luxury of ‘taking a year’ to do something like teach English because I want to see a country, especially since that’s not my desired career.
Let me tell you, that was a hard decision to make. The country, the people, and the opportunities open to me in Taiwan sang like a sirens call after my six long (but fun) years in Japan. My birthday, after its spectacular opening, was spent wandering deep in thought through the streets of Kaohsiung. A voice in my head began to whine, ‘I could have, should have, would have…’ but I came to the realization that I didn’t know then what I know now so that kind of thinking is pointless. The saying goes, ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ and it is so true.
It was nice to get to know a city. I moved through the streets taking note of useful shops, cheap movie theaters, and other little bits of useful information. The recommended places to see in Kaohsiung I didn’t really visit yet oddly enough I think I saw more then any normal tourist. Why? Because I wasn’t in any sort of hurry or have any sort of itinerary.
I got to know the man who ran a corner restaurant thanks to my buddies Aaron and Blake. A man who always had a smile for us as we came to buy some breakfast and was so excited to teach us bits of useful Chinese. Like how to order tea in the size we wanted. Whenever we came by to grab something he was always tickled pink to hear us use the phrases he had taught us.
My first night there I tagged along with Aaron as he met a friend from Canada (a 9 year veteran of Kaohsiung). His friend took us to a night market and followed that up with a local pub (Western style). Walking along with him and his friends made me feel like a ex-pat just out for a night on the town. I almost felt like I was back in Japan, except for the fact that Japan doesn’t have night markets.
How much time did I spend just chilling and talking to people? I have no idea but it was a lot. The seats out front of the hostel are sure familiar with my butt and more then a couple bottles of beer passed through my hands as the hours disappeared into the night.
The shave, the club, my birthday, I’ve already talked about those…
As the train pulled away from the station I couldn’t help but say in my head, ‘Ahh, Kaohsiung, how I shall miss you. Your sights were okay and your skies smoggy but your charm was undeniable.’ My exit had been short, quick, and with little thought. Another day and I might have stayed much longer…
My mind snapped back to where I was, in Hualien with rain falling all around me. In my haste to get out of Kaohsiung I had forgotten to write down the directions to my hostel so I was in a bit of a pickle. Not to mention that it took me a few minutes of hard concentration before I could recall the name of the place, Amigos. Luckily the tourist information center located just across from the station (and through the rain) knew the hostel and how to get there. Five minutes and quite a bit of wetness later I stepped into the light and onto the porch of my next temporary home, and what a home it was…