Sunday, 17 August, 2014
“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” – Washington Irving
What a deep bloody quote that is to open a blog. What was I thinking? It’s Sunday frigging morning for goodness’ sake. Let’s try again.
“We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” – Winnie the Pooh
Much better. No matter how man abstract quotes you use from 19th century authors, nobody will ever quite get the message across with the same amount of class as the bear without the pants.
Basically, life can take friendships in different directions.
This is particularly the case when you meet many of your buddies on the travel circuit. Those pals don’t only leave down a completely different path, but they also entered from unfamiliar territory too – so, in many cases, you’re only gifted a very short period in each other’s presence.
Sure, you can read a Facebook status and hear about their life’s developments these days – which is nice. However, a few sentences doesn’t really come close to all the wild parties and weird adventures you once shared on a daily basis.
While you always hope to one day make the effort to reunite with those you’ve met abroad – it’s hard to be sure of when, or even if, that day will eventually work its way around.
So, I was naturally touched to hear that my good friend, Pete, had booked a flight to visit me in Taipei.
I met Pete in South Korea and kindly bought him a bird – you could even say that Baxter was our foundation for such a strong friendship.
Anyway, let’s get on to his trip.
I whacked my going out t-shirt on and waited for him at his hotel as instructed. As I sat in the reception area, I received a text, “Leanne, Alex and I are in a cab. We will arrive in ten minutes. They want to know the evening plan?”
Right. That was definitely a text that read as if I should know who Leanne and Alex are. Had he gotten me pet birds? Was this revenge for Baxter after all these years?
I anxiously played the waiting game.
His taxi pulled up, and much to my relief, I could see that Leanne and Alex were people rather than birds. I couldn’t tell you much more than that about them at this point though.
He then told me that he had met them at the airport and invited them to join us.
Pete’s definitely a more outgoing chap than I am. I don’t think I’ve even gone beyond, ‘this queue’s going slowly, isn’t it?’, with a stranger in an airport – let alone ended up on a night-out with them.
They are very cool people though, so it was nice to have them as company.
Before we hit a bar, I decided to take them to a dessert place for a round of baobing – this is basically a big bowl of shaved ice with a lot of jelly and fruit on top. It is very popular with the locals. In fact, any shop that sells the stuff usually has a queue going out of the door. The place we went to was no exception.
We eventually got ourselves a bowl for the table, took a seat and shared it among the four of us – they’re pretty big.
It was in that period that I realised how much my old buddy Pete loves eating. I never noticed in South Korea, probably because I was intoxicated most of the time, but this guy really does have the appetite of a hippo. We are close enough that I can say such things – Peter, you’re a bit of a greedy git, mate.
He rejoined the queue twice more, getting seconds and then even thirds – what a fatty. While we all dabbed at the food every now and again, in the most part, we were just sitting alongside him as he scoffed his face. The guy is not even fat. How is that possibly fair to all the overweight people that would have probably stopped at, say, two bowls?
Still, at least I knew I did well with my choice of a snack.
I couldn’t even tell you what Leanne and Alex thought about his appetite – mostly because I only met them thirty minutes earlier, and they were still pretty unfamiliar to me.
The night that followed was just like old times. We hit a bar, a club, got outrageously drunk and then I threw up – glorious South Korea nostalgia.
Pete was adamant that he wanted to do more than just get drunk while he was in Taiwan though, so the following day – while very hungover – we decided to take a trip.
Furthermore, he wanted to be spontaneous. Therefore, when we arrived at the train station, he simply pointed at a train and said, “Let’s take that one.” Leanne and Alex, who we had arranged to spend the day with, shrugged their shoulders to indicate that they were cool with whatever. So, we were about to enter the unknown, well, partially.
I needed to ask a member of staff where the train was going, which admittedly killed an element of adventure. However, you’re required to buy a ticket before you can go on the platform, and it’d be a bit stupid to be spontaneous about the ticket you purchase.
I discovered that we would be going to Keelung. I know that Keelung is along the northern coast, however, I didn’t know much beyond that.
I guess now was the time to find out what exactly the great Keelung has to offer.
As soon as we arrived, it started to chuck it down.
We ran into the sheltered part of the station, found the tourist guide centre and asked for some tips. The woman behind the counter looked at us as if we were eating glue, before replying, “Why on earth would you choose to come to Keelung on a day like today?”
Well, that was reassuring.
“Keelung’s feature attractions all involve the great outdoors – it has waterfalls, beaches and places to eat nice seafood. Unfortunately, the weather forecast suggests that Keelung will have heavy rain all day. Therefore, only a set of mugs would come here on a day like today – especially as Taipei is expected to be boasting such glorious sunshine.”
At least, that’s how I heard it.
Well, while Taipei was clearly calling our name, our pride wouldn’t allow us to just immediately jump back on a train. We decided to grab a cab and see a waterfall first.
The rain was so heavy though, that we would be restricted to the inside of our taxi as we checked it out.
I hope for the sake of Keelung’s tourism that this guy took us to the wrong place, because this was the most tragic looking waterfall I had ever seen. There was more water trickling down the car windscreen.
It was so bad, it was funny – so, in a way, that made it worthwhile.
I wasn’t exactly expecting Niagara Falls, but perhaps a bit more than the leaking pipe on show.
Needless to say, we were back in Taipei for happy hour.
Keelung does deserve a bit of recognition for its seafood though, we did have some cracking squid before returning to the promise land.
I’m pretty sure that this is now officially the shortest ‘trip away’ I’ve ever taken – a quick summary of our time in Keelung: shit waterfall, but good squid.
It was fun to see you again, Pete – I’ll make sure I find the time to return the favour and visit you in Japan. You now have that in writing!