February 7 -The passage from Yantian to Taiwan was on flat seas but the wind blew from a direction that allowed some of the ship’s exhaust to seep into my cabin. As a result I slept badly and missed the morning entrance through the breakwater and into Kaohsiung.
The port employs strange looking conveyances to move containers to and from the many gantry cranes. They are filthy and roar around the container stacks making loud warning beeps. The driver sits at the top in a glass booth and they steer the beasts over the containers, straddling them, and can raise them up three containers in height for stacking.
The City is large and flat, with canals running through it at points. The most common personal transporter is the scooter and they are everywhere, some ferrying whole families. I saw a young woman put her two small helmetless kids fore and aft on her Yamaha and blast off.
The mall offered a free wi-fi connection in the food court and I hammered away on my computer for an hour or so, my first Internet access in 20 days or more, hence the flood of recent posts. I noticed that the driver was waiting for me a couple of tables over so I told him I’d pay for his time. There was no meter in the cab but an official government poster on the dash read that there was an additional charge of $50 Taiwanese for an all-day fare, or about $1.72 US. I did mall stuff, yada yada.
I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face
Pajamas, a hairbrush, new shoes and a case
I said to my reflection ‘Lets get out of this place’
I know very little about Taiwan other than the antipathy between it and China proper, despite their common history and current shared interest in capitalism. Without Internet access I wasn’t able to read up in advance so we just drove around sort of aimlessly for a bit before heading back to the ship. I did stop in one old section of town on a vague mission to buy myself a watch (I’d left the one friends gave me at home, doh). The area had that “open storm drain” odor, as had the older parts of Yantian. There were no prices on the watches, and the proprietor was busy attending to another customer so I took my case of pre-bargaining jitters and bolted up the street for gawking. I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain says, street food looks risky; there could be duck’s pizzle in there. One older fellow was displaying a shallow pan of material that looked insectoid. Maybe if I had been hungrier. The driver is a music fan and put on a Chinese singer doing Simon & Garfunkel hits in English on the way to the ship.
Shore leave is no way to see a city as large as Kaohsiung, which explains why none of the crew went to town. We left after sundown and I again got to watch the process from the bridge. It was a warm night with a bright moon and I stood out on the bridge wings taking in the lights and fireworks over the city as the New Year celebrations continue through February 10.