A Pause Before Lukang

7:45 am

I’d rather be waiting for a train than a bus. Trains have an elegance to them I have learned to appreciate since in Japan.

Maybe it was just the fault of the bullet train there. Those were things of beauty. So much so that my sister, when she arrived in Tokyo, became completely obsessed with these technological marvels to the point we had to return to a particular toy store to buy the rest of their bullet train paraphernalia after we had only bought half of it on the previous visit.

Cute mascots aside, the shinkansen was indeed the way to travel in Japan. Gliding just over the ground at 300 kilometres per hour can’t be beaten.

Certainly not by the folks here at Ubus, Taiwan. Fine folks though they may be, I am not expecting the quality ride of a bullet train on my eventual departure for Lukang this morning.

I could have taken a train and I probably should have. But, when talking to the manager of the hostel at which I stayed last night, she suggested taking the bus. Cheaper and faster were the selling points. And considering that I’ve incurred some unexpected costs in the last couple of days, the cheaper part sounded especially attractive.

But it turns out I would only be saving a couple dollars and maybe a half hour of time. The problem is this two hour wait I have before boarding. Who knows how frequently the trains run. What I should have done was check the price and time here at the bus station and when I found out about the two hour wait, I could have easily headed over to the train station to check their prices and times. Alas, 20/20 hindsight, but hopefully a lesson learned and on the way back, hopefully, I will be more awake to take advantage of what should have been a little common sense.

Speaking of common sense, I truly that picking up all of your belongings is just one of those things you happen to do when getting up to board a train. Me, not so much. And yesterday, I finally bid farewell to my tripod.

That little camera stand is now in the hands of someone else. And really, I think it would be happier there. It has always been trying to escape me by camouflaging itself into the ground when I go to pick it up when picking up my things. The thing was just waiting for this day when I would leave it behind long enough for someone else to come along. I thought I had treated it well, but apparently it was disgruntled.

No, yesterday, it happened to blend in with a train platform on the Taiwan metro. When I went to board the train, there it lay, stealthily dodging my gaze. I boarded the train, sat down then realized something was missing. I darted off the car before the doors closed, but in one of my more idiotic moments simply assumed that I must have left the tripod back at the hostel. I didn’t even think to look at the bench where I had just been sitting. But, I suspect that even if I had, that wily former tripod of mine would have scurried behind a bench leg and out of my view. That thing really didn’t like me. I know it.

So, instead of my planned itinerary of fun and photos for the evening, I got to go on a shopping trip. It didn’t last long. After wandering to the area where I was likely to find a camera shop, I soon spotted a Leica logo and followed it into a small used store where a tripod almost identical to my old one awaited me. Easy! And the shopkeeper’s wife told me I was handsome too. Mind you, she was in her sixties and probably not my type, but still…

Damn it. As I have been writing this, a bus has boarded for Chanhua, a city very close to Lukang. It’s boarding an hour and a half before my bus. And they didn’t give ma an option to get on that bus at the counter! Grr. I know I have to be a patient person to be a traveller, but I think Japan’s unfailing adherence to schedules has spoiled me. Oh well. With my laptop here, I can use the time productively.

Since I have the time here, I might as well chronicle the rest of yesterday’s fun. Aside from the tripod incident, it was a great day. My first stop was the National Palace Museum where millennia of Asian art makes its home. I think my favourite would have been some of the jade carvings – there was one plate in particular that caught my eye. It wasn’t the most practical of dinnerware, but then again, who eats off jade? It was full of hundreds of holes that surrounded a slithering dragon. Actually, It might have made a good sieve.

After the museum, I wandered over to the Shilin gardens. They used to be a part of the grounds for the estate of a dictator. Well, apparently, this particular dictator had a lot of fun exploiting his citizens because his gardens were pretty nice. Nice enough for at least a dozen pairs newlyweds to be taking their wedding photos there. Around every corner there was a new bride and groom with a photographer ordering them around. I found it odd that all this was happening on a Monday, but I’ll just chalk it up to being an ignorant foreigner or something.

Next was my fun with the tripod. But after securing my new three-legged friend (who will never, ever be leaving my side, by the way), I headed over in the direction of Longshan temple. Even during the evening, the place was buzzing with the activity of worshippers. I wandered about and tested the new tripod, all the while thinking that I’ll have to go back during the day to see if some of the people there will consent to a photo or two. The darkness didn’t make for the best portrait lighting, so I think I’ll have to return when it’s light out.

Cross your fingers that my bus has a speedy passage to Lukang and I can have a good time taking some photos or the old city there.

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