Don’t you just love a scavenger hunt? Well anytime you Google directions and you get this response back expect it to make for…you guessed it….another adventure!
My hostel, WOW Hostel, was the only easy thing to find in Hualien as it is 220 meters in front of the train station and you can see the darn thing as soon as you exit. Why? It is the Empire State Building of Hualien and it is painted GREEN! Thank God!
If you are like me and don’t speak or read a lick of Chinese, staying at WOW in Hualien is probably a very good move particularly given it is affordable at $15 USD a night, clean and has a lot of nice little amenities that you don’t get at most hostels.
But, given that this is meant to be an adventure, after I was safely and securely in the place I was going to stay for the next couple nights (and, more importantly, I didn’t have to carry my dang pack), I thought I might tackle something a little more difficult – my first real Chinese Scavenger Hunt! I was armed with a map with everything in Mandarin except street names; there was a circle around a BLANK SPOT on the map to show me where I was to go; and, I had the handwritten name of a restaurant in….of course…. Mandarin. That’s it.
The prize??? A hole in the wall restaurant serving the best beef and noodles in Taiwan. Yes, I was on a mission! Now, Hualien is no small town – quiet on this side of the town – but not small. So I smiled politely at Zoey (the young lady at WOW who made the recommendation) knowing this was absolutely going to be the biggest exercise in futility I had ever experienced and knowing in my heart of hearts that I would give up and end the hunt rather quickly. However, I forgot who I was for a moment! I was a determined little thing and when I get determined and I want something there is not much, if anything, that will stop me. Just ask anyone who has ever met me. I mean think about it….I’m on Country 72 or 73 at this point after setting out a mere 17 months ago to see all the countries in the world! How long did it take me to make the decision to sell everything I own and do a round the world trip? 17 minutes. How long did it take me to actually sell everything I own and leave for the round the world trip? 17 days. See what I mean??? So off I went with my bullheaded, starving self and low and behold despite not being at the cross streets Zoey circled, I found the darn place! And, no, it did not take 17 hours 😉
Zoey was right – best damn beef and noodles I’ve ever had. It had wide thick noodles, perfectly cooked and seasoned beef with some kind of leafy veggie I wasn’t familiar with but now long for, a whole lotta garlic, gravy and perhaps some fairy dust. I wanted to lick the plate but I’m sure they frown upon that here.
Point: I have yet to be this proud of myself to date with the whole language barrier thing (even when I learned Spanish in South and Central America) as I “read” MANDARIN! Of course, I’ll probably find out later that what Zoey spelled out on the piece of paper is the word “restaurant” in Mandarin and every restaurant in Taiwan probably starts with that!
So how did I learn to “read” Mandarin? I treated it like a Van Gogh. Think about it. When you see the above painting by Van Gogh, you know it is Starry Night. You see swirly white, you see the yellow half moon and you know it’s Starry Night. You also all of sudden realize while you are writing this blog entry that Van Gogh paints like a child BUT you also know its a Van Gogh. That’s what I did. I started treating Chinese like pictures/paintings rather than words. Words have an alphabet. Chinese has a…..well….not an alphabet. And that’s how I became trilingual or at least that is the lie I tell myself!!
Now, it’s your turn! If you are in Hualien, try this Chinese Scavenger Hunt. Try to find this massage parlor on Guolian 11th Rd. For $700NTS or $22USD and get yourself a 90 minute foot reflexology massage and shoulder rub. I must say I’ve never felt anything like it…not in Thailand, not in China, not Vietnam, not Anywhere. It started out so unbelievably painful tears came to my eyes! However, after relaxing into the pain, it was almost orgasmic (close your ears parents or, in this case, eyes!). Interestingly, I don’t know if it was the reflexology points, the full moon, Jennifer Thomas’ playing piano in my head phones, a thought or two about where I was but my eyes almost filled with tears for a brief moment not from the physical pain this time. I’m not sure if they were tears of veritable happiness or insipid loneliness. There is a very thin line between these emotions I’ve learned. If it is loneliness, it might be that I haven’t communicated with anyone via WhatsApp in almost a week. In fact, for the first time since I started my travel over 17 months ago, I think there is a chance that if it wasn’t for FB, no one in my world would know where I was and no one has asked in weeks. How do I feel about that? Not sure. Just strange.
Anyway, it could just be I just need a little rest so….That’s all for now from Hualien.