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Off the face of the Earth, or Thereabouts...

No I didn’t vanish into the nether-dimensions…just flew around the globe to visit Taidong for a few weeks of R&R. The beach at Sanyuan is still gorgeous, as long as you don’t turn around and look at the monstrous empty Meiliwan hotel that corrupt politicians built on top of it (and which is still in legal limbo for now). But yes, you can swim in balmy tropical water in October at Sanyuan, and we did!

There is still a little driftwood in the currents, left over from the previous year’s horrible mega-typhoon, Marakot, which caused massive landslides up and down the coast?called by the locals ????). The government has for the most part dredged it up and sold of the valuable logs, leaving mountains of driftwood here and there, piled up like the bones of mountain spirits.

On the road back from Dulan, we stopped for fresh coconut juice at our favorite stand. The proprietor is handy with a machete and the juice is not too sweet, but hits the spot.

Although I knew that Sophia’s dad built the pagoda at the base of Carp Mountain, I hadn’t really visited it close-up before. There were some really fun details, including the stone lions at the base. When we mentioned it to him, he insisted on driving around to look at a Taoist Temple and a Mazu Temple that he also built.

We also tried to watch the sunrise - over and over again! It was easy enough to catch on the roof of our house in downtown Taitung, but more elusive at the overcast coast of Jialulan lookout point. On the other hand, we did make friends with the rare Jialulan Wildcat. He got bored with us and walked down the hill to terrorize a pack of wild dogs. When the dogs finally realized they outnumbered the wildcat they tried to chase him, but he merely jumped into a pile of wood that they couldn’t fit into and yawned.

When the idea of Boston finally begins to fade away, like some sort of bad dream in a bus station, it’s reassuring to know that you can find an unattended bamboo to hide under and drink in the warm mountain air while gazing at the lump of Lu Dao (Green Island) away on the horizon.

The trip just wouldn’t be complete without a thorough soaking at the Zhiben Hot Springs. It was a little misty and quite early, but still pretty mellow to gaze out from the spa at the green slopes, while getting your muscles pummeled by mad jets of hot water. Always good.

It was such a short trip, really. Fortunately there is a tribal hot-line phone for some last minute chatter before boarding the Dash prop plane back to Songshan Airport. From Taipei we jumped on the High Speed Rail to Taichung. Those guys aren’t kidding! The train was pushing 300 kph on several stretches of the 50 minute ride. But they were running three minutes late by my watch, I’m telling you!

I just had to catch the smooth entrance of the train to Taichung station on video…though my friendly wife likes to kibbutz my staid documentary. Anyway, we made it on time for her fancy haircut at the salon, where I was supposed to just sit around like a chunk of clay leafing through Taiwan Vogue. Fortunately I got my own scalp massage and haircut, and I even had a couple of hairs left when it was all over! But Sophia’s style was cuter, I’ll admit.

In Taichung I made a new friend, Li Youwen, who I swear is the spitting image of Hunter S. Thompson. He was quite a character, and we got along really well. After a big buffet lunch, we also got together for dinner at a local outdoor seafood grill, right on the streets of Beitun.

Back in Taipei we treated ourselves to the new Tsui Hark film: Tongtian shentan: Di Renjie, which is an adaption of the Judge Dee character (known in the West from Van Gulik novels). More on this great movie here!

In the airport on the way home we happened to meet Master Jingzhao, who we knew from a Dharma talk that we attended at Massachusetts Buddhist Association.

Master Jingzhao told me that I was pretty easy to recognize. I said: “That’s really convenient, because if I forget who I am, I can just ask someone else.”

And on that Zen note, we climbed aboard the winged tin can and flew back to Boston, scooping up a neat pile of wasabi-flavored KitKat (for real!), Kanjinch? mochi, Frisk, Xylish, and other irresistible Japanese snacks at Narita Airport.