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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three strikes, yer out!

Strike One: I rode over to Dia, the biggest swimming pool in Fengyuan 豐原, after lunch in the hope of cooling off on this hot and humid summer afternoon. Unfortunately, being summer vacation, the place was full of children. As I pulled into the parking lot, a large tour bus had just finished disgorging the last of its kiddie occupants, all lined up and ready to go inside. A look through a window confirmed that a quiet swim was going to be out of the question, so I gave up. Unless I'm with Amber, being a hairy barbarian in the midst of a throng of unsupervised screaming little shits isn't my idea of summer fun.

Strike Two: Seeing as swimming is out of the question until September (after the ガキ are back in school), I rode off in search of the elusive Nank'eng Hiking Trail 南坑登山歩道, somewhere in the hills of Fengyuan behind Chung-cheng Park 中正公園. There were signs on the road pointing the way to this:

"Coffee", "simple meals" and, worst of all, "karaoke" 卡拉OK hardly conjure up images of trekking in the great outdoors, and truth be told, I'd been here a couple of times before. On the first occasion, I was chased off by a pack of dogs, and on the other, by a middle-aged woman who insisted there was no hiking trail despite what the sign on her building said. Today there were no dogs or people around, and I found the "trail". Or rather, I discovered a small paved road leading up to a clearing that at one time had picnic tables and, presumably, a nice view of Fengyuan below. Presumably, because it was hard to see anything through the bushes, reeds and weeds that Nature had been using to reclaim the clearing.

Strike Three: On the way home, I stopped off at the city hospital. Not to visit any sick friends or relatives, fortunately, but to buy English muffins from the convenience store there. It's the only place in town that I'm aware of that carries these welcome treats from home, but on a day like this one, I wasn't too surprised to find that they were no longer in stock.

Oh well, the great thing about baseball is that even the best teams lose ⅓ of their games, and the best hitters fail at the plate 70% of the time. I did enjoy riding around on some back roads that I hadn't been on in quite a long time. One route took me to the public mausoleum, overlooking the city below:

One thing I'll never understand about the local culture is why the dead are given what would be considered prime real estate in the West, while the living cram themselves into barely habitable urban areas:

I'm sure I'll get on base the next time I head out.

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