My world walk blog - Taiwan #15
Sorry for any typos as my spell check is on strike!
I walked out of Taipei and on pavements where families burned fake paper money and printed gold bars. This is a tradition to honor their deceased loved ones.They believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife.
According to one ancient Chinese myth there was a monster named Nian who come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. That scaring off the monster practice became an integetal part of the Spring Festival. So much so that for days, if not weeks later firecrackers are still ignited. It became such an envoiremental problem that Beijing and 500 Chinese cities banned fireworks. In the end due to so much public anger this decision was reversed in 2006.
Walking out of Taipei that New Year Day I saw a vehicle which was obviously organised by the Chinese government. It was flying the Chinese and Taiwanese flags and I presumed the messages I heard were of unity. The Taiwanese people just seemed to be resigned to what may happen and just shrug off President Xi's recent message that the island will one day become reunited with the mainland and if necessary by force. I asked many people if that is the belief in Beijing then what is to stop the tanks from rolling in and annexing it in the same way that Russia did with Crimea. After all China has the second largest and soon to be the largest economy in the world and sanctions would have a lesser effect. It seems that the Chinese are wary of the American pledge of support for Taiwan but that they also want to achieve this by peaceful means. After all fifty or so years is pretty insignificant in the annals of time. And that exactly what's happening in Hong Kong and Macoa. Even though they were officially handed back in 1997 part of the agreement was for a fifth year democratic process to be respected. So, the Chinese are just playing the clock down. Interestingly one woman in Hong Kong mentioned to me that since 1997 there was a radical shift from a British culture towards Chinese. English was less mainstream in favour of Mandarin in schools and even British style fish 'n' chip shops declined.
Should a reverse display of Taiwanese independence be staged on the mainland I guarantee that vehicle wouldn't get far and the occupants would be locked up for a long time.
I made steady progress that day and walked through the suburbs. As on many occasions in Taiwan I stopped at a 7-11 convenience store for a microwave meal. One is never more than about fifteen minutes walk from these stores in a town or city. They also provide free wifi . I came upon a national park. The visitors centre would have been an ideal place to crash for the night as it had shelter, a toilet, electricity and even a hot water tap for my noodles and coffee. Yes I would have loved to have stayed there that night but my ferry to Pingtan on the mainland deparated at nine am and I had to be there a couple of hours early for the ticketing, boarding, customs and immigration process. I was tempted to set my alarm for four o clock but as it was still eleven kilometres away I didn't trust myself. The next ferry wound be in two days time and there was no backpackers hostel in the area. The cheapest accommodation was in the region of seventy Euro a night, so that was not an option. It would be too long two days to hang out and camp. So not to take any chances I cracked on and decided to get as near to the port as possible.
When I arrived a couple of hours later I tried to find a place to sleep at the port but I was stopped by the harbour police. They were a friendly bunch and some of them spoke English as the Taiwanese are more 'international'' minded people. The officers even gave me a sofa for the night in their games room. I laughed when the police chief upon offering me a shower suggested it was probably a long time since I had one! "No sir, only twelve hours!"
Once clothing becomes sweaty as mine had that day in the mountains, people assume it is because of lack of hygiene!
Next morning I had only a few minutes walk to the ferry terminal and was annoyed that because of the New Year period that I had to pay a twenty-five Euro surchage on my previously paid for return ticket. To add insult to injury my ticket costs four times what the locals pay and so too did this surcharge. So-called tourist rates should be illegal.
As always I had to politely request for a manual inspection of Karma as she is obviously too bulky to fit through the security x-ray machine officials are usually bemused and baffled by her! I slept soundly for the three-hour crossing.