Tina and I got stuck in the mountains last night.
By "stuck," I mean missed the last bus back to the city and decided to stay in a random hotel resort on Mount Yangming with the help of our good friend Visa.
We took a bus from Jiantan MRT Station to the Yangming National Park and wandered around, prattling about the beautiful scenery: the betel nut trees that I mistook for palm trees, the mist around the green peaks, the brown hills in the distance that looked like the backs of bison.
Off the main road, we descended a steep set of stone stairs, each moss-covered, jagged and cracked. We played under the green canopy and took pictures around a waterfall that fed into a milky, light blue stream.
"Somewhere around here, Goldilocks is discovering the bears' home."
I was posing by the water when a black cat walked across the stream's stepping stones.
"You weren't kidding about seeing lots of black cats in Taiwan," Tina says to me.
In Taipei, for me, they have foreshadowed good things.
It was twilight when we trekked out of the park, admiring the trees as dark forms against the grey backdrop, like they are in Chinese paintings; but by the time we reached the main road, it was dark and cold and we were tired and hungry and had to pee.
A sign at the bus stop invited us to Calla Young Garden Resort for dinner and a dip in their hot spring baths so we accepted the offer.
We waited at the road side for 45 minutes before catching a red bus going back up the mountain. Tina had an argument with the driver, none of which I understood except when she declared him to be "an asshole." The bus hurtled along the tortuous roads for another 30 minutes.
We got off, nauseous and stressed, in front of the hotel. The perpetual smell of sulphur made me dizzy but it made Tina hungry. "Delicious," she said in the bus.
(When she was a girl, the children used to boil eggs in a sulphurous stream in Beitou; the city blocked access to it after a child fell in and was burned.)
We did a hot-cold circuit in the resort's hot spring baths which left me exhausted and weak in the knees. One tub had a row of shower heads, which curled like faucets over your head, and were meant to massage you with the water pressure.
I tried hose with the lowest pressure. I imagined a big Swedish masseuse hacking at my shoulder blades with her massive man paws.
"Tina! You have to come try this. The water beats you and removes your clothing!"
She was busy making human soup in a 43 C bath.
I was glad that a hotel employee warned us about the shower or else I would've stared into the nose and gotten a black eye.
I didn't want my loved ones to worry if they couldn't reach me last night so I asked the front desk to send Sean an e-mail. He later called: "I got a strange e-mail today from a Frank Lin. It said, 'I'm staying at a hotel on Yangmingshan. Signed, your dear daughter."
Yeesh, maybe I should not be skipping Mandarin lessons this morning to play in the mountains.
New mountain friends, at breakfast, in the park, by the pool: