17 September, 2008

Bones, trains, and ghouls

Taipei, Taiwan - I visited grandma this morning. Although I didn't think much of it before, it was important for me to pay my respects to my maternal grandmother; she did raised me in my youth while my parents were frequently away.

Grandma's remains were cremated upon her passing last year and now reside in a Buddhist temple in Xindian, a Taipei suburb. I said bones because unlike the American cremation system, the Taiwanese cremation service incinerates the flesh but leaves the bones intact. Since the location isn't serviced by the Taipei Metro, mother and I bumbled about the Taipei city bus system until we found the correct service that got us to the temple.

After dad's wake and cremation on September 19th, I plan to leave the next day for Hualien, a seaside city on Taiwan's east coast. The city is famed for its scenic coastal highways (I plan to hire a motorcycle when I get to Hualien), big wave surfing, and Taroko Gorge, a park that has been compared to Zion Canyon. I desperately need to get away from people. I know my family and my parents' friends mean well, but I just want to get through this process alone. Is that so wrong?

It is nice to visit a country with a proper rail system. Unfortunately, since Hualien is on the east instead of the west of the island, it's not serviced by the Taiwan High Speed Rail (台灣高速鐵路). The east coast, which faces the Pacific, is rocky, mountainous, and highly unsuitable for trains to travel at a high speed. But I've got the regular service, provided by the Taiwan Railway Administration. Trains leave Taipei Main Station every 30-40 minutes and the ride will take three hours. The roundtrip ticket is US$26 - not bad! I just bought the tickets this afternoon.

I am doing all these blogging from the Taipei Brewery, a former producer of Taiwanese suds during the early part of the 20th Century. It is now a non-profit modern/performing art complex that is host to art exhibits, black box theaters, and fashion shows. For some reason there is a Hong Kong group here this afternoon and they are throwing a Halloween in September party; so I seem to be the only person who isn't dressed like Mardi Gras in this café.

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