Five movies, three meals, two snacks and a rough nap later, I finally arrived at Kaohsiung International Airport in Taiwan. I’d visited this country just last year in August, but having endured two more semesters of college since has provided a clean slate as to what to expect.
The dreaded 18-hour flight was better than I expected. Cathay Pacific has always been known for their excellent service, and this time I got to see it for myself and I must agree with the repution. Having just experienced the terrible microwave dinner the American Airlines served during my trip to Europe, the Asian cuisine was quite a contrast! I’m amazed how they managed to keep the rice soft, the meat moist, and the fruit fresh. The flight attendants weren’t rude and obnoxious like most domestic American airlines, and were prompt upon request. I’ve flown United, Delta, Southwest, American, China, Malaysia, and EVA, but Cathay has officially won a spot in my heart as my favorite airline. I gotta give a shout out to those folks!
I’ve tried to get myself emotionally ready for Taiwan’s intense heat and humidity, but the moment I walk through those double glass doors has always been unexpectedly extreme. There’s the immediate full-body persperation, the sudden condensation on all objects (especially my phone), and an abrupt realization of how itchy your scalp feels after not showering for 30 hours. It doesn’t help that in the city, there is no such thing as a “breeze,” just movement of incredibly warm air.
Heat-trauma aside, we were fortunate enough to visit Kenting the morning after I arrived. I shoved my jetlag and new-found culture shock aside and enjoyed the tourist town of beaches, floral pants and flip flops. We’d generated a whole group to go, which unforuntately meant it had to be a Saturday. If you don’t know much about Taiwan, learn this fact: Don’t go anywhere that “attracts people” on weekends.
This is what an average beach looks like on weekends:
The sad part is, this was the LESS popular beach. And it was also May 26th, meaning summer vacation wasn’t even gonna start for most Taiwanese students until a month from then.
Here are some weird things that Taiwanese people love to do at the beach:
1. Lay a giant watermelon on your friend and slice it open with a Kendo sword as you yell insults at him.
2. Run around in a speedo and pretend you’re superman as your friend takes pictures of you.
3. Show some patriotic spirit. (For those who don’t know, that’s the Taiwanese flag.)
3. Take pictures with the coast guard in their awesome bright orange uniforms. (this was taken a week later, when there was a typhoon warning and they came to kick everyone out of the water.)
4. Shamelessly stare at other people.
5. Play with your expensive technology.
6. Play with other people’s dogs.
All weirdos aside, we were able to stay at the local temple in a room that could fit 10 beds for only NT$3000 a night (US$100). We could only gather 7 people total, but it was still a great deal after we split it. It was meant for worshipers who travel long distances, but we could tell they were used to tourists taking advantage of it, being only 30 minutes from the beaches.
The room was literally a huge row of beds, and the bathroom had a row of five sinks and four stalls.