Saturday, we were able to spend the day with some of our wonderful friends in Taipei. They fed us twice, took us hiking, introduced us to some of Taiwan’s hot springs, and patiently practiced Chinese conversational skills with me. There were many highlights to the day and we deeply appreciate the time we were able to spend with them.
Before we even met them at the MRT station, however, Greg and I wandered around our ‘old neighborhood’ in Tienmu. What a strange thing to walk nostalgically down streets in Taipei! We came to our apartment building to find Uncle Huang (all purpose handyman, doorman, grandfather) and the landlady sitting in the entryway like they were waiting for us. Imagine how delightful it was for me to have a simple dialog with them after having lived there for so long without being able to communicate with them. They were also hugs and bows.
Peter, Esther, and their three young children, picked us up at the Zhishan MRT station at 11 AM. They drive one of the ‘larger’ minivans we’ve seen on Taipei. Once we were added to the group, Peter wound through narrow lanes, then parked in impossibly tight places, all in an effort to pick up some lunch and take us to their home. They were going to just take us to the restaurant, but the kids wanted to show us their new home.
We were told how disappointed the kids were that our three youngest, whom they had met two years ago, wouldn’t be with us. After a bit of shyness, they decided Greg and I were reasonable replacements, and excitedly showed us their rooms, their turtles, their green caterpillars, and their bean sprouts. Soon lunch was set out and I ate my first snail. It was very chewy, which I am told is not true of all kinds of snails.
After lunch, we all piled back into the little van to take a windy, narrow road up to a trail head. This road was not isolated. There was frequent traffic necessitating passing within centimeters of rocks walls and other vehicles. Mirrors were more frequent than signs as they were provided to let oncoming drivers see each other approaching around bends. Greg had fun recognizing that he used to regularly ride his bike on much of the route. It got very foggy after a while.
When we reached the top, there was still dense fog, but the temperature was comfortable as long as there was no breeze. We joined the abundant hikers, most carrying umbrellas. Peter was pushing his oldest daughter’s wheelchair. He and Greg pulled ahead, while Esther and I came along more slowly while chatting in a mix of Chinese and English. She has learned more English since I saw her last.
When we reached the top, the fog cleared a little.
The kids, with encouragement from Greg, went around hunting miniature frogs and tadpoles.
Naturally, I also found some flowers and unfamiliar plants:
After a slow, wet, slippery walk back down the path, they took us to Beitou’s Thermal Valley to see the green sulfur hot springs which are said to have magical effects on health. The water was 90 – 100 degrees Celcius, which means close to boiling. In fact, Peter and Esther both told us that when they were young their parents brought them down there to boil eggs. There are sturdy rails blocking access now, which was fine with me. Just the steam was hot.
Peter then took Greg and I to a nearby business that had some nice pools for the hot springs, with three temperatures to choose from. It was a popular place. Greg was obviously distinguished as the hairiest man there. I was the tallest woman. It was relaxing, but I, with my low blood pressure could not stay in very long. Not an appropriate place to take pictures, sorry.
The final destination was an authentic Chinese buffet for dinner. I have no idea what most of the food was. All the table clothes were kind of sparkling pink. The chairs were fully covered with a shiny white fabric. There was karaoke going on, so Greg asked me to sing. Everyone else was singing in Chinese languages, but Peter went up and asked if they had any English songs. The music was being played live by a nice woman who spoke a little English. I ended up singing Amazing Grace, which we heard played a lot around here when we lived here. After a few other people has sung, Greg wanted me to sing again, and I thought I could manage a Carpenter’s song, “Close to You.”. The piano player welcomed me to come on Friday nights, as she plays there every week.
We were dropped off at the MRT station to make our way back to the hotel. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.