Tuesday, February 20, 2007

pain train

Alishan was the place I was most excited to see in Taiwan, and really pushed the whole family to visit with us. I had seen so many pictures on the internet and in guide books and was really looking forward to the cherry blossoms, trees, train ride, and hiking trails. Wow. Too bad I wasn’t looking forward to crowds, back pain, and a day spent mostly in the car, because that is what we actually got.

We met up with Somebody’s family early in the morning and took two cars so that we could all fit. We drove for hours up winding roads, through tea plantations, fog, and beautiful scenery.

Near the top of the mountain we parked the cars and got on a tourist bus that took us to the train station. Have I mentioned the squatty toilets yet? Because this is the kind of toilet that I learned how to master while in Taiwan and China. The first time I walked into a bathroom stall and saw one of these I turned around and walked right back out. Somebody talked me into giving it a try, probably because he knew that I would have to learn at some point. That first time I took off all my clothes, just to be safe. Also because I had no idea how to use a toilet in the floor with clothes on. By the end of our trip, though, I was a master of the squat toilet. I still had to carry around toilet paper (never provided) but at least I could leave my shoes on. And thank goodness, because the floors were always nasty dirty.

So, we took the bus to the train station and bought tickets just barely in time to catch the last train to the top (where Alishan park was located.) I, mistakenly, was under the impression that when you pay for a ticket on a train that you were paying for a seat. Nope. We were paying for the privilege to ride the train, and we stood for that hour and a half ride up to the top of the mountain.

Lest you start to think I complain over trivial things (stop looking at me like that) this was no smooth ride. We were crammed in, the train rocked and shook, and during one particularly powerful lurch I was thrown forward and slammed my knee into an armrest. Nice bruise. This ride was the event that turned the tide of my health and enjoyment of the trip. By the time we got to the top, my back was so sore that I could hardly walk. Good thing we only had 25 minutes at the top before we had to catch the last train back. Yeah. Someone should have mentioned that to us. We, honestly, had only 25 minutes off the train before we had to get back on. We saw nothing of the park. We grabbed something to eat and got back in line. Worst. Trip. Ever.

In the little town were the train stops we were able to do a little shopping (more browsing) and hiking. Somebody’s mom found us some ice cream because apparently I made my desire for ice cream pretty well-known. It wasn’t Dreyers, but it was pretty good.

My dad found the hiking trails and was trilled to be able to wander off on his own for a while. We learned to give him a time limit on his wanderings so that he was sure to return. I think it was probably frustrating for him to have us move so slowly behind him. It’s a good thing he had opportunities to explore at his own pace.

Luckily, on the trip down we were able to secure four seats. Unfortunately, there were eight of us. We shared. Sat on laps. Took turns. Somehow we made it back okay.

After we returned to Tainan (it took HOURS because of a huge traffic jam) we went with Somebody’s family to a nice restaurant for dinner. They served a lot of fish, but it was yummy fish.

Things I want to always remember:
* How beautiful it was to drive through the mountains. We passed through four climate zones, and so saw many varieties of trees, including a poinsettia tree.
* The huge ditch on the sides of the road to catch the rain water.
* Looking at Somebody sitting next to his dad and seeing, for the first time, where Somebody got his gorgeous eyes.

Things I will never forget:
* Trying to follow Somebody’s older brother as he drove to Alishan. He is a crazy, fast driver, and we almost lost him several times because he would weave in and out of traffic.
* Realizing that I didn’t have a seat on the train-ride down and being unable to not cry about it.

1 comment:

Karla said...

Oh man! This got me rolling and then of course I had to explain myself to several people around me.