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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Taiwan, Hong Kong (7)

Good Bye, Taiwan

After 10 days in Taiwan, it's time to head back to Taipei City, The drive was uneventful other than something like a shoe got kicked up by a truck and struck our car on the freeway. We arrived in Taipei in the afternoon and still had time to do some sightseeing but our energy had waned so much that we kept getting lost. After crossing the same bridge 3 or 4 times, we gave up and spent the night at a fancy hotel in  New Taipei City 新北市 (the periphery of Taipei City proper), with valet parking and all.

This was the first time I traveled to Taiwan, but somehow Taiwan felt close to what I imagined China ought to be. Remembering the blood mobile in front of the 2-28 Memorial Park before dawn 10 days earlier, I made blood donation my project for the next day.

I took the subway back to the 2-28 Memorial Park and found I was more than two hours early. Wandering around the park, I saw the same homeless man I met 10 days ago, I nodded and commented on the weather and suddenly he started to talk in Taiwanese rapidly, so fast that I couldn't make out a single word. He was a decent looking, if not handsome, man with long hair who could pass off as a Bohemian artist in different circumstances. I soon realized he was getting worked up and my sympathetic sighs and nods really had no effect on his ranting. After what seemed like ten minutes and many panicky moments later, I decided to pat him on the shoulder and make my exit. Incredibly, he stopped in mid-sentence and flashed me a broad ear-to-ear grin showing a couple of lonesome teeth. The transformation from an angry man to this comical face was so abrupt and complete that I was too stunned to respond. I heard him said "bye bye" cheerfully and disappeared into the dark near the gate.

The blood mobile opened at 10AM and I found 3 nurses in pink uniforms busily setting up the equipment. I quickly filled out some forms using my passport for an ID, that's when the head nurse shook her head grimly and said "Xi ni lo, xi ni lo." I couldn't understand what that meant till she showed me a pamphlet about West Nile Disease (Xi is literally "West", ni lo is "Nile" phonetically and hence my confusion). They were not accepting blood from Mainland Chinese because of hepatitis and Americans because of West Nile disease. By that time, a small queue of blood donors was already forming outside the door and I left feeling a little presumptuous. Decades ago, it was quite difficult to persuade ordinary citizens to give blood. Obviously, it was no longer the case and they hardly needed my blood.

Al that's left to do was to return the rental car and catch our flight back to Hong Kong.  At the mom-and-pop car rental company in 中櫪, we discovered the car had taken a severe beating, the Toyota emblem had fallen off and the hood had several potato sized dents on it. Since we didn't buy the optional collision insurance, I was a little worried but my negotiator-extraordinaire sister told me to just wait outside. After several anxious minutes, W emerged with the entire family in tow exchanging pleasantries, she later told me the damage was about 100 US dollars.

In a few hours, we would land in Hong Kong, a place where I grew up, but it has changed so much that I still can't wrap my head around it. For now, the Hong Kong portion of this travelogue has to be abandoned. There is a Chinese saying 近鄉情怯 which comes from these two lines of a poem: "近鄉情更怯,不敢問來人" - when I get closer to home, my resolve weakens and I dare not ask strangers (for information).


  1. if u visit Taiwan more often, u will realize it's in the middle of red-culture revolution by the green young students.
    if u visit H.K more often, u will realize it's more like China now. The old british status quo is gone.
    The new China patriotism and money chasing is fast replenishing the emptiness left by colony stage.
    The world is changing fast in past 20 years, same for life. 近鄉情更怯,不敢問來人, there's no 鄉 anymore.
    Happy travel and cheers...

  2. I'm afraid you might be right, I'm falling out of step with the world I knew.