I took the train the other day. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I’d taken it out of the city.
I’d been thinking about going back to the surfing spot my roommate Zoe and I had gone to last time. I remembered that there was a train station near by, within walking distance and I remembered the name.
That morning I vacillated between staying in town and actually taking the plunge on this random adventure. As many of you know me, I took the latter choice in the end.
- I don’t know how much the ticket will be.
- I don’t know at what time the train leaves.
- I don’t know how long it will take me to get there.
- I don’t know what the weather will be like.
- and the biggest of them all- My phone battery is at 20%.
- I’m already at the train station, I can ask how much it is.
- I still have enough juice on my phone to figure out how long it will take me to get there and what the weather will be like.
- The ticket is only $101NT ($3.36USD)
So I buy my ticket, am told at what time it departs and what platform to go to. I have less than an hour to find some food to eat/take with me, and see if I can charge my phone somewhere. There are a lot of charging port around the MRT station, but I had to choose between charging my phone and not eating anything for the next 3 hours. I decided to take my chances and see if I could charge my phone while eating. Most places have plugs right?
Wrong, so wrong.
I ended up going to eat at a place that had delicious looking chicken sandwiches . Too bad it took about 25 minutes between getting my coffee and actually getting my food. By the time it arrived I only had about 20 minutes to eat, pay, and find my way back through the labyrinth like passageways from where I was eating and the actual platform. I didn’t get to charge my phone at all :/
I ate only half of my sandwich, had the rest boxed up with the 7 other french fries on my plate, grabbed my backpack and took the stairs 2 at a time as I tried to follow the signs that lead me to the actual train station.
Perhaps there would be some plugs of some sort down there? Nope.
So I sat on the slightly grimy blue seats waiting for the train that would take me out of the city and to the coast where I had no idea what exactly I would do.
Slightly paranoid about having gotten on the wrong train or misunderstanding the ticket (was there a transfer that I was unaware of?) I wrote down the names of the 19 stations between Taipei and Daxi, checking them off as I passed each one. My phone had died about 15 minutes out of the Taipei Train Station, and with no book to distract me I just enjoyed the view out of the windows. Watching the buildings melt and mountains rise around me, with rivers crisscrossing underneath the tracks every few miles, I couldn’t help but smile and think about what I would do once I reached Daxi.
There were so many things I wanted to photograph and more than once I reached toward my dead phone so I finally zipped it up in my backpack next to its useless charger. I haven’t been on a mini adventure in a long time where I didn’t have either a phone, camera, or a book with me. I didn’t know what to do with my hands nor my thoughts. I was excited and anxious at the same time.
Once I reached Daxi, I went to the tiny bathroom outside and put on my bathing suit, the only thing I’d packed that was of any use. I crossed the street, grabbed some cold beers and water from the fridge outside the door and paid the old man sitting behind the counter watching some kind of local soap.
I saw a timetable underneath some protective plastic sheet on his little booth and asked crudely if these were the times for the trains back to Taipei. He said yes and pointed at the next train back, which was in about 20 minutes. I tried to ask him when the last train out was but he kept pointing to that one train. I remembered that before my phone died I had briefly looked up times for the trip back and remembered that there was a train around 6 or 7pm so I wasn’t too worried. I thanked him and walked down the street toward the small beach.
As I looked out toward the waves I only saw 2 small figures in wet suits enjoying the small sets on their shortboards. I walked past them and dropped my things off at the tiny open shack, really just some thick wooden pieces with a dark blue tarp hanging between them to keep the rain/sun off of you and your stuff.
I went into the water and enjoyed the cool clear soft waves as I swam around for a while, floating on my back and enjoying the view of the mountains behind me across the beach. About an hour after I’d arrived (my non-educated guess since I had nothing to tell me the time, the sun peeking out of the cloudy sky didn’t really help either), the surfers headed out and I saw another surfer arrive. By then I was the only person in the water and I was kind of enjoying the solidarity of it. He paddled out toward me and asked if I knew Chinese. Nope.
He pointed at his surfboard and then at me. Sure, why not? I thought. So I strapped the leash to my leg and took off on a few waves as he walked out of the water and waved at a group of about 6 other people who’d just arrived. I rode a few more waves before heading in and handing him back his board. With the help of the group of people who’d just arrived they helped translate that he was telling me I could use the board no problem and that I would rather just take turns.
It turned out that he was a surf instructor and they were all here for their first lesson. I hung around watching the lesson and when they went in to the water I saw them all catch their first wave, stand up, and ride it in. It was awesome!
10 minutes later I was walking toward a grey van packed with about 10 other surfboards. The surf instructor had pointed and motioned for me to grab whichever one I wanted to use. Sure, why not?
I grabbed a longboard and enjoyed the next few hours surfing. While we’d been out surfing, a group of about 15 kids and a few moms had joined us in the water. The majority of the kids were on shortboards with a few on boogie boards. The surfboarding kids were swapping their boards every once in a while with different shortboards from the back of the grey van and I thought that was so awesome, to be able to hang around after school and just surf.
I didn’t want to impose any longer once I saw that the sun was going down, so I washed off the board, put it back in the van and thanked the group of people who’d helped translate and the surf instructor and headed toward the train station.
I managed to ask the time off of some Indonesians who were waiting for the train going the opposite way and knew I had about an hour to kill before my train arrived. I looked across the street to see if anything was open where I could possible grab some food or charge my phone, but by that time even the small convenience store had closed. I still had one beer left over from my initial purchase so I just sat at one of the lone benches and drank it slowly wondering how much longer I would have to wait.
Waiting with no concept of time is a strange feeling.
I eventually made it back to Taipei, went to my favorite bar for a cold beer and hung out with the bar tenders and some expats from Redondo Beach in a nearly empty bar.