Sunday, June 29, 2008

tea in Taipei...

Ok it's been a while since the last post. It's only been two weeks so far and already I'm lagging behind. I definitely will try and post more everyday though cause so much happens each day. It's just hard tog get it all down and keep it all up to date. I gotta warn you cause it's been a few days this post is gonna be a little on the long side. So I recommend waiting till you really want to procrastinate, or are REALLY bored at work to read it....but I can promise it's worth it. It's a post filled with near death by taxi, frog eggs, tea in the mountains....and gondola rides. (That's what we in the blogging business call a teaser).

So first off, updates on my living situation. I decided to take a job teaching kids, 450 to 620 five days a week. I was torn between taking an adult job and the kids. Both provided an ARC but after talking to a few people I decided against the adult school. The hours at the kids place suck but I hope I can find something during the morning to supplement, plus working part time at the other adult school should help too.

I moved to another hostel (for those keeping track, that makes 3 hostels and 0ne hotel since I got here on June 14th) and it's definitely the best one so far. The last hostel I stayed in was as the Brits say "a bit dodgy". It wasn't clean at all and was really big. So there were a lot of people and most of them have been there for such a long time and were kind of anti social. Anyway the new place is great in a good location, super clean and filled with cool fun people.

Where to start on this monster of a post? I guess first off, I've been feeling a little out of it lately, mostly cause of that shitty hostel but also cause it was my brother's 18th bday AND graduation on Wednesday. So I was pretty bummed not to be there for it. It kinda made me realize that there are tons of things I'm going to miss out on while I'm here. Kevin's bday graduation, his trip up to college, my cousin's wedding and one of my best friend's wedding as well. That's just some of the things that I feel worst about missing. It sucks not being there for all those people that I really care about during this important and life changing events. It definitely had me thinking that maybe this wasn't such a good idea and stuff...I mean let's be honest it's not all random ferry rides and adventures here, it's a constant challenge and missing my brother's 18th and graduation just reinforced how hard it'll be to be away from literally everyone I care about....

That being said, no matter badly I may feel about that I can't dwell on it cause I learned in my short time here that things can change in a second....now here comes the fun adventure story, enough sappiness....

So yesterday me and two other guys from the hostel decided to head out to Maokong, on the gondola. I might have said this before but Taipei is built in this valley surronded by all sorts of jungle like mountains. They have this new gondola that leaves from one of the last stops on the MRT. It goes up to 300 meters above and outside the city where they grow all sorts of tea and have beautiful scenery in the mountains, with hiking trails, random old temples and really amazing scenery. It's supposed to be gorgeous up there. We left the hostel about 12 and in about 40 minutes on the subway we were at the Maokong Gondola. I traditional Taipei fashion, it looked like a thunderstorm was approaching. So understandably they were closing the gondola until the storm passed. We thought it might be fun to hike the 4 km up to the top. But as we were debating what to do, a taxi driver offered to take us to the top for 300 NT (10 bucks)

Now what was great was that one of the kids is studying Chinese so he was able to joke and barter with the guy and talked him down to 200 for the three of us.....Well naturally it started pouring as we got in the cab. Now I'm obviously from New York, so I've had my fair share of scary, odd or gut-wretching cab rides....but this was by far the scariest, heart-stopping cab ride of my life. This guy put NY cabbies to shame. It's a thunderstorm first of all, and not just an ordinary one but a Taipei thunderstorm. The cabbie is flooring it swerving around curves, around scooter drivers, passing cars over the yellow line on this winding, uphill and now spillery road. Meanwhile me and my friends are just exchanging terrifying looks in the back of the cab. He would sip around a turn, and there'd be a car then and ever time it was like he barely missed falling off the cliff. I thought I was gonna die....it was harrowing to say the least.
The best part though was we were about halfway up the mountain, still pouring and a cop car pulled up in front of us off a side road. I was so relieved cause at least he would have to slow down a little bit. BUT this cabbie had the balls, hutzpha or whatever else you want to call it TO HONK AT THE COP CAR IN FRONT OF HIM! THEN AGAIN...this guy is honking at the cop car to get out of the way and speed up!

We all just exchanged glances and thought this cabbie was done for. haha it was so out of control, I really think that in and of itself was worth the 200 dollars in the cab and would have been the best part of our day trip....

At this point it stopped raining and after our pulse rates dropped, we were on the top of this amazing mountain. And sprawled out below us was the entire city of Taiepi. It was beautiful. I mean you could really see everything from the eastern most part to the south of the city. We decided we wanted to head to a teahouse but have no idea where to go, so as I've learned here, to get good anything, you have to go where the locals go. We followed a family and we're walking by all these tea fields on this winding road...
And they have these quaint little teahouses tucked into the mountainside...some you have to walk up stairs or down stairs to get to...others through the forest. But we don't know which is best. We keep walking and the family goes into one so we follow them inside. It's this great little teahouse decorated with all kinds of tea paraphernalia, clay teapots, little tiny cups, bags and bags of tea on the wall, crackers and little snacks for sale.

Now I was with a guy from Seattle and someone from Paris, and we don't now shit about tea. So we have no idea what the best one is. We decide to follow the owner's suggestion and go with "the most famous green tea" in Taiwan. How could we do otherwise? We buy a whole bag and then sit down on this outdoor table overlooking the entire city, valley and tons of mountains. It is sooo serene (even though it's still raining). She shows us weiguorens (foreigners) how to make the tea. It really is an art apparently. You have to soak the ta leaves in the water for 1 minute, and 20 seconds more each time after that. I gotta say, we brewed some pretty badass tea. Of course it starts pouring again. But it's ok cause we're under a little awning....drinking amazing green tea in a tiny teahouse overlooking Taipei was incredible something I never thought I'd do or be able to do. So peacefully, quiet I really felt like I was in Asia, with the family eating and drinking tea behind us, the mist rising in the mountains and just relaxing. I think if I can go there every once in a while and chill out and relax......I might be able to just survive this crazy adventure....

It really put things in perspective gotta take the good (drinking tea in the mountains of Taiwan) with the bad(missing Kevin's Bday) And hope the good out weighs the regret of the bad. I think it will...

Anyway we knew the gondola back down wouldn't be running as long as it was raining and none of us wanted to risk going DOWNHILL in the Taxi of death...so we decided to wait out the rain and just have more and more tea. After six hours of intermittent thunderstorms, tea tea tea, some snacks that resembled some type of jerky and a chill atmosphere just hanging out and it finally cleared up a bit. We walked back and the gondola was running again (it was 730 at this point)....and hoped on the gondola. This was great too, it goes slowly down the mountains and stops all along the way. It's soooo quiet and peaceful in this 5 or 6 person gondola and you can see the whole city all lit up....It was incredible that above a city with millions of people we were still in pitch black jungle and couldn't hear a sound....The city looked magical from that perspective. The whole ride took like 40 minutes to go down and I wish I could have stayed up there for a few weeks or so haha.

It really revived my hopes for this journey and put things in perspective. It was a fantastic day (also before we left we had a great meal of rice, roasted duck legs, veggies from a buffet for only about 100 NT (3 doolars) it was the best meal I've had so far in Taipei so I think helped make the day that much better)....

You have to take the good with the bad and things will work out. That's my Doogie Houser-esque words of wisdom for today. (Remember how he'd type his stupid little mottos and life lessons on that big blue computer? What a great show)

Anyway still gotta find an apartment and another part time job but ideally I want to just sit up there and drink tea, until I achieve nirvana....when I do I'll blog about it...just like Buddha himself I'm sure would've done. ...

Oh pics will be posted as soon as I find a good website to put it on...they are really nice...

Brian

2 comments:

Igor said...

Viani becoming a tea connoisseur...mad proud of yoU!

Zara said...

Good for people to know.