Monday, May 24, 2010

Taiwan Day 3: Kending National Park

Another night of little sleep (although progressively more than before, I think I had about 4 hours), and I was awake at some other awful hour of the morning when I should have been asleep. My wife woke up with a bit of a headache so on the way down to breakfast we asked the Hotel front desk where we might buy some medicine. Immediately they asked if we needed to go to the hospital, no, just medicine.

Breakfast was great again, although I tried to hold back since I was still full from the day before. At 7 am we were down in the lobby to wait for the tour bus. We told my friend about stopping by a pharmacy to pick up some Tylenol (she had lived in Canada so she knew the brand name). Naturally, they don't have Tylenol in Taiwan. So, if you are going overseas, make sure you know the medical name of the most common drugs you may want. For Tylenol it is acetiminaphen. The tour bus stopped by the pharmacy around the corner and we found the Taiwan version of Tylenol: Panadol (made by GlaxoSmithKline - actually the British version which is sold throughout the world). For those who think we pay an arm and a leg for drugs in the US, imagine this. I can pick up a knock off brand of Tylenol, in a 100 count bottle for about $5 in any city in America with a population of more than 5000 (and the name brand is still less than $10). The pharmacy we went to in this city of 1.5 million only had a 10 pack and it was about $5. Even taking into account economies of scale, that is expensive for an over the counter drug.

After the brief stop we were on our way to Kending National Park. We watched the Disney movie "Old Dogs" on the way down. The Taiwanese and Hong Kong people's impression of it: "Do Americans really take so many pills?" Convincing them that only old people do was a little more difficult since we had stopped at the pharmacy to get pills for my wife.

Taiwan was a little late in getting the National Park thing started. Of course when your country is being ruled or invaded by outsiders and then you are ruled by a military dictatorship for several decades while your standard of living changes from a third world nation to an industrial nation, that can put a damper on the recreational areas. The lower southeastern portion of Taiwan is part of Kending National Park, but it is really a conglomeration of parks with roads, towns, cemeteries, and even nuclear power plants in between. The other major difference with Taiwan national parks and the US national parks is safety. Go to the Grand Canyon and you have to physically climb over a fence to take a dive down the rock face. Kending, just step off of the rock cliffs or hop off the rock staircase and you get to plummet to the rocky crags below.

That being said, the views were absolutely beautiful. The second place that we went was a junky looking parking lot with a bath opening up into the forest. We were told there was a beach down that path. Sure enough, 100 yards down the winding path and the forest opens up to a beautiful beach with the prettiest blue water I have ever seen. It made the beaches we went to in California look like rejects. In spite of being at the beach, there weren't many people in swimsuits, lots of people went into the water in just their clothes. There were a couple of models on a photoshoot and they were the only ones wearing bikinis. The guys in our group (from Hong Kong) were excited to "see some skin" and had their girlfriends position themselves so that they could take photos of the models without being too obtrusive. My wife thought it was funny and took a photo of the guys taking photos of the bikini girls. We told them to come and visit us in the states and every beach in the nation would be full of girls in bikinis.

For lunch we went to a seafood restaurant and was served (guess what?) a 10 course meal. Once again we stuffed ourselves. In the afternoon it was a couple of more scenic parks and then down one of the market streets in a town (complete with three 7-11's, a KFC, and McDonalds). Lots of pictures were taken because we probably won't have a chance to go back there (besides there are lots of other things we have yet to see from Taiwan if we do).

The bus ride back to Kaohsiung began with some Karaoke (Mandarin and English). Then someone put the movie "Taken" into the DVD player. In case you haven't seen it, I am not sure what the plot is (more than likely something completely implausible), but the purpose was definitely to show Liam Neeson kicking the crap out of as many people as possible. I am sure he had some lines in the movie, but primarily I just remember him beating people up in so many different ways it was mind boggling. If you want a movie that has a coherent, memorable plot, scratch "Taken" off of your list. If you are just in the mood for non stop violent hand-to-hand combat, "Taken" is definitely one you should watch. (Oh yeah, and there was a Britney Spearsesque character, but I am not sure why she was in there).

Back at the hotel, my wife laid down for a nap, and I went window shopping. There was a mall in the lower floors of the hotel and I wanted to check out some prices on jewelry (pearls and jade) to help my wife figure out what she wanted. In one of the department stores, I spoke with a saleswoman extensively about the coral jewelry. That is what I really wanted to get my wife, a coral necklace. Unfortunately, the price tag on those was anywhere from $1000 (American) to $6000. Since I haven't been able to convince her on the utility of spending $4K-$6K on a Barrett 50 BMG, I can't see how she would strangle me for buying a $6K piece of jewelry. "But they had to kill some coral reef to make it, it is the ultimate symbol of man's dominance over nature!"

After looking for a while, I went walking about town. The streets were filled with small restaurants, 7-11s, and then other shops interspersed. I enjoyed walking around for an hour just seeing the area. One thing I did find was a laundromat right around the corner from the hotel. We could have washed our clothes there rather than the bathtub the the night before. Back at the hotel, my wife woke up and we ordered some dumplings and fruit from room service. I fell asleep by about 9pm (by this time I had gone 140 hours with maybe 16 hours of sleep interspersed). Suprisingly, I slept for around 6 hours.

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