I arrived in Taiwan with a handful of Singapore dollars in my wallet and a poorly printed Google Map with barely legible Chinese characters directing me to my ultimate goal in Taichung. To get there, I first had to get a bus from the Taipei airport. This seemed like it might be a challenge when all of the three bank machines in the airport rejected my credit cards.
After trading in my handful of bills, I had enough NT for a one way ticket and a can of tea. It was all riding on my creased and faded printout now, it better not let me down. I dozed off on the bus immediately, opening my eyes every once and a while to glimpse misty hills or dry sweeping river beds or flowering trees along the highway.
When we arrived in Taichung I forced myself awake and started looking for street signs to get my bearings. The pinyin threw me off at first, as the version used on the signs was different from that of the map. I found myself doing what I used to do in Holland, sounding out the names in different ways to decypher them, and it more or less proved useful. I managed to get off at the right stop, and by the time I did I already knew which direction to walk in.
I have had trouble explaining to people why I enjoyed my time in Taiwan so much. There is little for me to catalogue or recount, which is probably why it was taken me so long to write this, the effective conclusion to a six week travel narrative. It is difficult because I actually did very little by tourist standards, given how much time I spent there. The food was great, but I didn't really go on a culinary tear. The beer was cheap but I hardly went out on the town every night.
Taichung is the city of my dreamscapes, a bizarre mishmash of blurring and jumbled chaos, vivid lights and murky refuse, where the roads are quietly dangerous and the streets tangle like brambles. Perhaps it was not much more than the wonderful feeling of walking through the street and being left alone, of never having someone try to sell you something either in person or through a poster. It was nice to be functionally iliterate, publicly mute, to wallow in the unintelligible. You can keep your beaches, that's my kind of vacation.