My watch is telling me it’s 8:15 a.m. My cell phone, however, which just performed its automatic update, is telling me it’s 11:14 p.m. This means, if I’m calculating correctly, that except for an accidental twenty minute nap while watching a hopefully pointless romantic comedy on the airplane, I have now been awake for 28 hours. I can’t remember the last time I did this (wait, have I ever done that?).
I’ve been awake longer than I can ever remember and yet: I’m sitting in my surprise upgraded room in the superbly spiffy Dandy Hotel in downtown Taipei eating the Hershey’s kisses that were sitting pleasantly on my pillow. (From what I gathered at the reception from the hopelessly sweet but nonetheless impossible to understand concierge, the hotel upgraded my room to a suite because they didn’t have time to prepare the room I was supposed to have. How my room wasn’t ready at 10:30 p.m. is baffling to me, since checkout is 12 noon…?) Anyway, I’m not sure how to use any of the four digital remote controls sitting next to the bed, and I’m not exactly sure how to flush the toilet or how to turn on the light in the bathroom (still working on that), but I’m smiling, I’m awake, and I’m exhausted. My knees are sore for sitting still for 15 hours, and despite drinking about 6 bottles of water on the plane, there’s a dull pain between my eyes. I went next door to the infamous 7/11 mart, the mart company that has literally taken over Taiwan with its lure of all-in-one shopping, and attempted to buy an ibuprofen, but after combing through the aisles and having literally no idea what any of the pill bottles were actually advertising, I settled for a warm pork dumpling (from a microwave, no less!) and another bottle of water. What a relief to discover that bottled water looks the same everywhere.
Our drive through Taipei was, surprisingly, a lot like I imagined: flashing billboards, huge Chinese characters advertising all sorts of products, ideas, and slogans I can’t read, sleek skyscrapers and ultra-fast highways, mini-marts and grocery stores with animal parts hanging from the windows, women holding umbrellas and hustling down the streets in the drizzly rain, men on motorcycles, a near-death experience when my taxi had a stand-off with another taxi on the windy, one-lane cobblestone road leading to our hotel….you know, the traveling usual 🙂
So now, having been awake for 28 (is it 29 now?) hours and having had my fill of pork dumplings, I am going to try and lie in bed, close my eyes, and dream of tomorrow. The mountain biking tour was cancelled because of the impending rain, so I’m going to sleep in, have a wonderful buffet breakfast, and take a bus to the fantastic National Palace Museum. For lunch, I’m going to order something off a menu I can’t read, and after lunch, I think I’ll be going with Matt, the fellow writer I’m traveling with, to a graffiti/street art festival (celebration? honoring?). I hope to top off my day in Taipei with a visit to one of the renowned night markets, which, I’m told, take a brave stomach and an open mind. Bring on the squid parts and stinky tofu!