Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 4: To GaoXiung

A river in TaiNan city (I think)

I left Sandra’s house at about 2PM. Clear skies, sun ahead, guiding this solo biker. It amazed me how far I had come, and had not yet thought of stopping. It also amazed me how boring it can be to ride a bike for hours on end, never feeling like you’re getting anywhere, but going on the faith that if you keep on going, you will eventually get somewhere.

Road to GaoXiung

At some point, you forget your legs are moving, autonomous circles revolving around the hub again and again; there is no pain, only a dull numbness reminding you that your legs are still attached; thirst, like hunger, is relative, and food is no longer thought of as pleasure, but necessity. Like a car gets no joy when gas is added, so too, the body is no better off when food is consumed, excepting the caloric intake that keeps it going. Food is chosen not by taste, but by a careful balance of subconscious nutritional factors to keep the body and mind in a state of functionality and satiation. This seems parallel to the Buddhist thought towards food. In all simplicity, food is to fuel our bodies to barely stave off death. Once this is achieved, food serves no other purpose; no consideration of flavor, temperature, spice, appearance, presentation, balance, etc. that French chefs live by.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about GaoXiung, seeing as how I got lost in the outskirts of the city, passed the train station which was my initial destination, and circled around back towards the city center, all under the veil of night. What I can say is that the streets are broad and roomy, sidewalks are actually made for walking (not parked cars), and the night market (I’m not sure which one) is packed at 10:00PM.

I arrived at a hotel, the front desk saying that they were full for the night, being New Years and all. Undaunted, I hit the streets and ran into a fellow biker who apparently knew the area well enough to direct me towards what would be my final resting spot. It was about 9PM by the time I actually got there and settled. It felt good to be out of the dark and into a hot bath. This was my first night alone and a bit lonely, but endurable.

My room in GaoXiung

After the heat soak, I decided to walk about, albeit carefully, on my injured legs, and find some diversion to keep my mind off being alone. In the streets were throngs of people milling about, scuttling to and fro, buying/eating/drinking/watching/talking/standing/walking, an environment only a night market can create. I bought a cup of watermelon juice, a perfect invention for thirst on hot summer days, and waddled through the night market in search of something to eat. The night market, like most in Taiwan, was centered around shops and vendors selling clothes, jewelry, accessories, and the like. Food wasn’t much to be found. I eventually wound up in a foreign owned Mexican restaurant. And against my philosophical digression about food above, I enjoyed the hell out of it. This was some of the best Mexican food I’ve had in a while, and whether this was due to my uncommonly stressed system, recent increase in dosages of Taiwanese food, or was genuinely good, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that the chicken enchilada I had with rice and beans all topped with cheese and what the chef said was a new experimental sauce, was a culinary highlight of my trip, if only for the fact that it was something I hadn’t tasted in a while. Screw esoteric food-haters. This food was pleasure. If I drank alcohol, an icy Corona would have made it so much greater—but substituted apple juice served well enough. I read Walden and reveled in the aftermath of an enchilada slaughter. I think he would have been disappointed in me for my attainment of gratuity from food. I don’t care.

Soon after, I headed back “home” and decided to call it a night. I would have another long ride to KenDing the next day.

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