For years I had wanted to go to Australia. Twice I planned to fly into Sydney for New Years Eve, and twice those plans fell through. When I started this trip, I knew there was always a possibility that I’d end up in Australia, but I knew there were so many reasons why I shouldn’t go. Who goes to Australia in the winter? Do they even have a winter? Where do you go after flying all the way down there? Eventually I found the answer to all of those questions and more.
I should have seen this coming from a mile away, but I didn’t. It’s my last day in Taiwan and there’s a typhoon on the eastern coast casting rain showers in my general direction. This is the fifth typhoon to come through in the two months I’ve been here – fortunately none have been more than a nuisance. Typhoon aside – my final week in Taiwan was a huge success. I jumped into a bus and rode south to Kaohsiung – the second most populated city in Taiwan – and had a pretty great time.
It’s Sunday night and yet again I’m at a coffee shop. A few feet away at the tables to my left, right, and the one directly behind me, are groups of people studying the pages of their bibles. In front of me are two tables of people having conversations with each other over lattes and frappuccinos. Over in the corner, there’s a girl sitting below two large panes of glass that let the red and white lights of the city train illuminate the darkness in the background as her boyfriend snaps another picture with his camera. The two girls on my right now have their heads down in prayer while one reads from a devotional book. Taipei may technically be a part of the Far East, but at times it’s as Western as any other city I’ve visited on this trip.
One week after being unceremoniously dumped in Taipei’s city center an hour after midnight, I’ve felt this massive city shrink in scale as I’ve familiarized myself with its public transportation system and started to explore. I’ve also started to get a feeling for how small Taiwan is itself – taking a 3.5 hour train ride halfway down the eastern coast of the country to visit one of Taiwan’s most scenic destinations …and then a Typhoon crossed my path.
Mooloolaba. It’s a mouthful. It’s also the name of a town in Australia on the Sunshine coast region of Queensland. Unofficially – I think it’s also the Australian version of Florida …there are seniors in campers EVERYWHERE!!
“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” In Dante’s The Divine Comedy, these words are inscribed over the entrance to Hell. While I absolutely love Singapore, these words should be printed on the bus tickets alongside the “DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW” as an additional warning to all backpackers entering the country. Singapore is expensive. Singapore isn’t just “Asia” expensive – it’s “Miami Beach during the Superbowl” expensive.
Visiting the cool mountain air of the Cameron Highlands immediately after the hot sandy beaches of the Perhentian Islands has been a wonderful exercise in contrast. On the islands the average high and low temperatures were 93 and 72; in the mountains the high was 72 and the low was 70. On the islands you could stare across blue waters as far as your eyes could see; in the mountains you could stare at tea plantations and strawberry farms until your neck hurt. The list goes on and on: fresh fruits and food, internet connections, and coffee.