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Chapter Three: Old Friends
The next morning, we got up at a reasonable time (that is, reasonable for two people who had spent fourteen hours on a plane the day before!), and mosied down to the Concierge Lounge for breakfast. This was really an Episode of Familiarity, we were in the lounge that we had been in less than two years ago for Paden. The tables were the same, it seemed even the hostesses were the same. However, I believe that the Taipei 101 building was only at about 85 or so. Now it was complete, and filling the view from the window.
After breakfast, we went back to the room to pack for the flight to Tainan. Me, in my infinite wisdom and apparent long-term memory loss, was sure that the taxi trip to the domestic airport was a forty-five minute journey. So, with a flight leaving at Noon, I suggested we leave the hotel at no later than 9:30, giving us almost two hours to be sure we were okay with Security and the like. Well, fifteen minutes later, we were at the airport with an extra half-hour (sound familiar), but nothing more than a cursory glance at my Landing Visa to eat up that time. As such, we had time to look around a very small airport. Lynne wanted something to drink, and there were two soda vending machines at either end of the lobby. I took a look at the faire and decided that I wouldn't personally buy anything from it as there were no products with any English on them (save for the word "Sport" on one). Lynne, on the other hand, was more adventurous and bought one that looked like water. But I questioned her, asking, "How do you know it's not something like Extract of Turtle Bile?".
Into the gate area, another pang of familiarity. In fact, I'm sure we waited at the exact same gate for the flight to Tainan to get Paden. With still some time to kill, we took turns wandering the gate area and the lone gift store. A few tiny gifts for Paden ("Bob the Builder" puzzles), but that was all to occupy us for the hour. However, soon we were boarding the flight to Tainan.
We were forced to bring all our luggage with us this time. Last trip to get Paden, we left a suitcase at the Hyatt so that we wouldn't have to lug two suitcases and a car seat. Somehow, this time we were not as efficient in packing or we just simply brought more stuff; I think the latter was the cause. But we also had gifts and a lot more clothes and food for Emma, and these were spread between the two suitcases. Oh, well.... The flight was fast and efficient, and our decent over the shrimp farms (we were later told, we thought they were rice fields) was smooth. Once again, we were reminded of trips past as we boarded buses to the terminal.
At the Tainan airport, I did remember that the luggage claim area was the smallest I had ever seen, and my recollection was correct. Our two suitcases and car seat made it seem even smaller as they seemed to cover most of the exposed conveyor belt of the baggage carousel. But suddenly, above all the heads of the other passengers and just outside baggage claim was Mei Chun, waving frantically. Mei Chun is a volunteer at St. Lucy's, and we had met her last time with Paden. She is the most gracious host, treating us to dinner last time in her home with her family. We had been in touch with her during Emma's adoption, and we were extremely exited to see her. She offered to meet us at the airport, and it was wonderful to see her smiling face once again. Mei Chun is also a most accomplished artist, and we remembered the beautiful artwork that adorned her home.
After hugs and greetings with her and her husband (who was not sure he remembered me until Mei Chun recounted that I was the one "who always wore the Hawaiian Shirts"), we rode off in their car to dropp off our luggage at the Hotel Tayih Landis and then proceeded on to see the An Ping Castle. The castle was an important footnote in Taiwan history as a port built by the Dutch. It also had it's place as a military base, as denoted by the many old rusty cannon that surround the lower plateau. Most of the signs were in Chinese, of course, but Mei Chun and her husband dutifully translated them for us.
After the tour of the castle, we wandered through some of the back streets and temples of that area. There was a small faire there, selling more "souvenirs", toys, and exotic (to us Yankees) foods. One treat was the "Shrimp Chimps", deep fried in what looked to be a large wok. Mei Chun bought us a bag of the seaweed-flavord chips. I fear my cholesterol level for that week was a bit higher than usual....
We were then treated (again!!!) by Mei Chun to a shrimp restaurant, which Mei Chun claimed was the best in all of Tainan. It was easy to see how she could make this claim; the shrimp was wonderful!!! Even though Lynne is usually the more adventurous in dining, I tried everything presented to us and did not find anything I did not like.
From there, we went to their home and walked to the local market place, what we would probably refer to as the "Farmer's Market". Here, I was not as bold, there were many different foods that were being offered for sale that were not really appealing to me. It was quite different than the "sanitized" versions of the market we see here in America. Even our own "Farmer's Markets" are quite tame in comparison. But it was fun to see the people and culture, how this is an everyday event for them, the same as our own grocery shopping. Again, our most gracious hosts provided dinner for us, and then a visit to the Night Market. This was more of a county faire in the summer, but with still the flea market feel. It was exciting and full of energy, and foods that I would definitely not be bold enough for.
Finally, we were tired enough to head to the hotel, and the next big day....