Happy Lunar New Year – Monkey Style from Taiwan!

Traveling on busy transit can be tough.  Lunar New Year makes that even crazier here in Taiwan.  In the last week I’ve been shoved and contorted into tiny spaces next to the bus driver, train conductors seat and sat cross legged hidden on the floor next to a luggage compartment.  To say its been uncomfortable would be like calling a stabbing “unpleasant.”  Despite these less than ideal conditions Lunar New Year in Taiwan has had plenty to love but lets bring it back to how my year of the monkey began with me contorting like an orangutan.

If Taiwan were a US State it would be 42nd smallest yet still has about 23 million people crammed into it.  Welcoming the year of the monkey gives the entire country a week long holiday so its easy to see why every bus, train and walkway is swarming with people.

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Other than the crowds Taiwan itself has been lovely.  I spent my first week couchsurfing which seems to basically be an exchange of English practice for a few nights on a couch and a meal or two.  The locals are super friendly and have been nothing but smiles even when I get shoved into their face by the lady behind me (in that case we both do this half bow/smile and giggle to ourselves awkwardly).  I lucked out and got the sunniest week in the wettest city but will be leaving the rain shadow soon and hoping for good weather to trek through Taroko gorge in the next few days.

I’m actually writing this with my back to the conductor’s door squatting beneath his window sitting cross-legged hoping another Taiwanese local doesn’t get the same idea.  The lady who grabbed the spare seat smiled at me with approval  when I sat down.  I told her where I was going and it was apparent that our verbal communication would end there.  In every instance I’ve managed to somehow communicate despite the only Chinese I can say is “hello,” “thank you” and a poor attempt at “bathroom.”

I’m trying to learn the numbers and have so far discovered that 4 sounds the same as 10 and I can’t pronounce anything past 1 correctly anyway.  Chinese has 4 (or maybe 5) tones in every syllable.  They can all be long, short, high or low… and maybe flat?  But that could be the same thing as long.  Say one wrong and you’ve created a brand new word.  I think that means I better learn the word for “beer” and stop there.

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Well now its 3 of us in this not so secret hideaway on the train.  A Taiwanese dude is snoring through my headphones and I don’t think I can un-pretzel my legs.  Did I mention how packed Asian transportation sucks?  Hopefully this lady is looking out for my stop because my complete lack of Chinese makes understanding the conductors loudspeaker like listening to Black Sabbath and trying to pick out which drug Ozzie is on.

Good news.  The lady next to me just said “no Ruifang” and shook her head smiling.  I smiled back and kept writing cause we can clearly only communicate in sentences consisting of “yes my stop” or “no my stop.”

Here have a photo of that lantern festival that brought me the worst travel cramps ever and a case of “I don’t care if it smells I’m sitting here and fully expect my legs to fall asleep.”

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No wait those were puppies.  Found them two days ago and lost a good half hour rolling around with the cuties.  Okay here’s the lantern festival’s sneak peak!

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Oh hey look!  Ruifang next.  That means its time to unwind my legs and shake the life back into them. Thanks for reading.  I swear the article about the festival will be out soon!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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