Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Stolen bicycle. Leaving Taiwan because I like beer. Finnish sauna.

Flying

I forgot to mention something that happened on my last flight to Manila. I was looking at the Manila sprawl below when we started circling the city. We circled maybe five times with no explanation from El Capitano. I was beginning to worry as the Philippines is known for its random coups, shootings and Muslim extremists from Mindinao. Was there an incident below? We finally landed safely with no explanation. I dislike flying at the best of times and these little incidents do nothing for my composure.

This reminds me of another flight from KL - Jakarta last year where we hit extreme turbulence. I thought we were doomed. My stomach was somewhere on the deckhead. My knuckles were white from gripping the armrests. Strangely, everybody else was composed?

What's wrong with me? I hate being confined with no control. I critically observe the aircraft's systems and dwell on the multitude of things that could go wrong. Probably not the best way to relax yourself. I think of vector forces as the plane banks just after take off. I think of aerodynamics when I see the control surfaces change state. I look for the sun to check heading. I listen for the wheel assemblies working. I always try to get a good look at the pilot to see if he's pissed. I worry that crazy terrorists will take us all hostage. Mid-air collisions etc. I can't help myself.

I hate airports, checking in, ridiculous security, immigration, wanky business travellers looking smug, taxis ready to screw you, the seats, the toilets, all the rules. They made me throw away a half-full bottle of water and some toothpaste at Taipei last time! I hate the whole flying experience - shite!

I ended up ranting quite a bit there.

Stolen Bicycle

I can't believe it. Taiwan is probably the most crime-free country on Earth. This makes the theft all the harder to take.

I was sitting in the Internet Cafe last night with my bike in view at the glass doors. After the hour was up, I walked out and my bike was nowhere in sight. I asked the staff if they'd moved it but I knew they hadn't. I was cluthching at straws. A lad came out and I asked him if he would kindly run me home on his motorbike. Nobody seems too bothered about it. Although general crime is unusual, bike theft is more common. This means I have to walk 3km to work today. Gutted! I liked that little bike.

It wasn't even worth stealing. It was a crap ladies style bike but I had grown attached. Why do people steal things? Bastards! Perhaps karma will catch up with them.

Beer

I'm partial to a beer now and then (有时候我喜欢喝啤酒). I blame this on my Britishness. Taiwanese can live their whole lives without ever visiting a pub. In fact you don't really see pubs here. After a while I start craving a beer and a bit of crack in a bar somewhere. It is, after all, who I am. This activity is an integral part of the fabric of British society. It's as entrenched as fish n chips and Sunday roasts. The fact that when I do indulge I binge to excess is besides the point.

It was with this in mind that I headed, via bus, to Tainan city last Saturday. I left the sticks at about 1300 eagerly anticipating a boozy afternoon in an expat bar. My mouth was watering at the prospect of some English language patter. It's a good job I can speak basic Chinese. I alighted the bus smack bang in the middle of busy Tainan, I asked many locals where any pub is. Nobody could tell me anything. I gave up and adopted a new approach. I went to a 4star hotel and asked the reception girls. Only one could speak English and she assured me that there are bars here but they don't open until 1900.

There must be one open now?

I joked that I wanted a beer now and she said it was impossible unless I go to 7-11 and buy some cans - not really my scene (did she think I was a tramp? - quite possible given my attire these days). I explained how Taipei has bars open in the afternoon but she said "This is Tainan". TIT? FFS!

Bear in mind that Tainan is a city of +1M people and it's Saturday afternoon. She gave me a Chinese magazine with the names and addresses of bars and I walked around finding them one by one thinking at least one must be open. I should've listened to her, they were all closed.

I walked around the tourist sites with my face tripping me up. I was so disappointed. It was FA Cup final day to add insult to injury. I fancied watching Pompey in the cup final, the place where I served my Royal Navy apprenticeship. I chilled out at the park and considered some of life's options. I didn't fancy waiting until 1900 and then spending the whole night here so I headed back to the sticks in a 'mission failed' frame of mind.

Leaving Taiwan

It was at the park where I made some decisions. I decided that when I leave Taiwan next time, unlike the Terminator 'I'll not be back'.

I like Taiwan and its people. I've learnt a canny chunk of the language. However, there's no football or bars. I don't want to watch this stuff everyday but I'd like the option. Similarly, I don't want to go to bars everyday but I'd like the option. Basically I'm bored. There are no releases for me here in the Taiwanese countryside. I've had a great time and I've had a wonderful insight into Taiwanese life and culture which I'm very grateful for.

Having just spent a fantastic two weeks in the Philippines I think I'll go there for a couple of months. I can hang out with Don. There's also tropical blue seas for swimming in everyday, jungles to hike, football to watch, bars to drink in and even Tagalog to learn. It has to be easier than Chinese! It's also my ambition to finally visit Boracay although I'm beginning to doubt I'll ever make it there!

Love

I asked Zi Ting to come with me but I know she won't. She's a country girl close to her family. She has a successful business. It's too big a leap for the lass. I love her very much but I can't reconcile my lifestyle with a relationship until I know I've finished being a free spirit.

My next challenge is to not fall in love again. This could be difficult as your heart sometimes rules your brain. She's planning to visit me for a few days in the Philippines. I'm arranging everything for her since she's a little apprehensive about the whole thing. She's never left Taiwan before!

I hope she comes as I think it would be interesting for her. Also a good opportunity to practice her English.

Why am I considering leaving an adorable lass to carry on gallivanting around the World. Surely I should be asking for her hand in marriage instead?

Marriage?

That's just sent shivers down my spine.

Marriage? Kids? Perhaps not.

Not yet anyway. One day maybe.

Real life is still just too scary!

再见

Dodgy

Last week we rode out to the mountain farms to buy some fruit. We bought so much stuff that we could only just fit it all on the bike. It was a dangerous ride home as I had to keep the watermelon and jackfruit from sliding off the bike. We also had pineapples, mangos and bananas underneath the seat. All the shit we bought could've filled the boot of a car and we tried to take it home on a scooter! We even drove illegally along a 'no-scooter' freeway for a while. We were just asking to be pulled over. Idiots! Luckily there were no coppers.

Skinny dipping

Yesterday we went to a beach to eat fruit as the sun set somewhere over China. We arrived at about 1600 and I fancied a dip. Since the beach was deserted I decided to swim naked. I love doing this. Zi Ting was laughing as I stripped down to my birthday suit and ran into the sea.

We then walked to the end of a harbour wall that stretches about 1km into the sea. We planned to watch the sun go down from the very end. We passed a few groups of people fishing from the rocks along the sea wall. The beach wasn't so deserted after all! They laughed as we passed - very embarrassing. They must think I'm crazy as I couldn't imagine any Taiwanese doing this! Most of them can't swim and are afraid of water. Let alone getting all their kit off in public - no chance!

It'll give them something to tell their families at supper time.

Finland boner

This naked tale reminded me of another embarrassing incident. As a 20yo in the summer of 1994 I'd just returned to Blighty after a six month deployment on HMS Coventry. I met Katya in an Athens nightclub while on RnR. It was love at first sight and we continued to mail each other regularly while I was at sea. We had to hand write the letters. Imagine that today? It's almost impossible to conceive.

She invited me to Finland and I shortly found myself meeting her in Helsinki before we took a sleeper-train to her home in Oulu in the North. Everything was going hunky-dory until she asked "Do you like saunas?" Having never experienced one I said "Yeah, I think so."

She seemed pleased and took me straight to her home's very own sauna. Her Mam, Dad and brother were already inside. I was still fully clothed as I watched this Nordic beauty strip down. She was 21 with a great figure. I thought she was going to wear a cozzy or something, but no, she stood there naked. Ready. I was staring at her body until she gestured for me to follow suit.

I was only 20 and I'd been at sea for six months. I was aroused. Very aroused. She was not only beautiful but naked and beautiful. It was all too much. I said that I can't get naked right now. I was suffering from a cocktail of arousal, shyness and embarrassment. She started tugging at my clothes telling me "Don't be silly, it's OK"

"But in England we don't get naked in front of people" I stammered, trying to delay my strip and subsequent embarrassment.

"You're not in England" as she pullied at my T-shirt.

"But I'm still English. Look, give me five minutes"

"OK, five mins" she joined her family in the sauna.

Had it just been her in the sauna I would've gone in no problem. It was the fact the rest of her family were inside and I had a boner!

I stripped down and started showering in the small shower just outside the sauna door. I was willing my boner away. I was thinking of Thatcher, work, graves........anything to make this erection go away. However, the more I willed it away the more prominent it became. Nightmare. After a couple of minutes Katya came back out. She grabbed my hand and dragged me into the sauna despite my protests.

Next was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life. I was standing in a sauna in front of my beautiful naked girlfriend, her naked Mother, naked Father and naked brother with a gravity-defying boner that a porn star would be proud of. They all chuckled as I tried to explain how we don't have this kind of thing in England. Gladly, after seeing her Mam n Dad in the nude my boner began to wilt. I relaxed and began to enjoy my first naked family sauna.

To conclude, beware that the Finnish get naked a lot. Even gorgeous lasses! Bear this in mind if you plan a trip with a enraged hormonally challenged young man!

Zaijian

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