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Antonio Graceffo
"Two Seconds at Sun Moon Lake"

Antonio GraceffoTwo Seconds at Sun Moon Lake

By Antonio Graceffo

Copyright © Antonio Graceffo, 2004

Cold, hazy, rainy, gray, stupid, no restaurants, no ATM, No Internet, nothing to look at, nothing to do, no services of any kind, tired, sweaty… After riding my bicycle 180 km I was finally standing in front of Sun Moon Lake. Yipeee!

"Smile and do the victory sign," said the stranger who was taking my photo. The flash went off. He handed me my camera, and gave me the Taiwanese third degree while I stowed it.

"Where do you come from? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Can you use chopsticks? How long have you been in Taiwan? Why do you speak Chinese? Are you a teacher?"

I looked in vein for the printed cards I normally carried with all of the answers.

"Brooklyn, four, yes, two years, because I have to, no, a writer." I blurted out, answering as fast as he had asked.

"Vacation?" he asked.

In the Taiwanese mind there are only two conditions under which a foreigner can come to Taiwan, teaching or vacation. Since I wasn’t a teacher, I must be on vacation.

"No, I’m a writer. I go to different places in Asia, and write stories and take photos for magazines."

"Oh!" He said, with great understanding. "You are on vacation."

Now I looked in vein for my can of pepper spray. I really need to learn to pack my things better.

Why don’t they get it? I have yet to meet even a single Taiwanese person who understands what it is I do for a living. I show them the photos. I show them the magazines. I even show them the websites. And yet, they just nod and say, "Oh, vacation."

"Yeah, vacation." I agreed.

I got on my bike, and began the long journey home. For some time I had suspected that I was a little burned out on the Taiwan experience.

The trouble started four months earlier, when I was planning my trip to cycle all the way around the island. The difficulty I had in buying panniers, gear bags for my bicycle, was so intense that it ended my honeymoon with this island non-nation, and signaled the divorce procedures looming on the horizon. Actually it started even before the panniers. I had gone to every bicycle store in Kaohsiung in a failed attempt to buy toe-clips. Apparently, they sell bicycles in Taiwan, but not components, which really astounded me, since, when I was racing bicycles back in New York, about half my equipment was made in Taiwan.

I went from store to store, first asking, and later begging people to sell me toe-clips. But no dice. They said things like "toe-clips are dangerous." Or "You could fall, and get hurt." This was coming from the same beetle-nut chewing, KTV hanging, Kaoliang drinking, squats when he’s talking, Tai Ke who was riding a scooter at 80 kmh, the wrong way, on a one-way street, with his wife and two kids on the handlebars, none of them wearing a helmet.

First, I insisted that I had years of experience with toe clips. Then, I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t asking their permission to buy. Finally, I said that I would be willing to sign a hold-harmless waiver, saying that I wouldn’t sue them if I were injured in a toe-clip related incident. After all, we know how common personal injury lawsuits are in Taiwan. But they wouldn’t budge.

A web search revealed that Giant Bicycle Corp of Taiwan is the largest bicycle component company in Asia. But, in true Taiwanese fashion, there was no contact information on their website, neither did they publish a directory of store locations. In the end, I resorted to the Taiwanese research method. I asked a friend, who asked a friend, who asked a friend, who, it turned out, knew a guy, whose cousin’s mother’s neighbor had once ridden a bicycle all the way to Seven Eleven. Being that we were both long distance cyclists, practically brothers under the skin, he told me, in the strictest confidence, about the well-hidden, secret Giant Bicycle outlet in Kaohsiung.

Stepping into the aluminum building, the first thing I heard was the puppet show on TV. Several barefoot adults, with that slow inbred look, sat around, with red spittle oozing down their chins, glued to the TV, unaware that there was a huge world outside. I hadn’t been home to America in more than two years, but as far as I could remember, this was the part where the bright-eyed workers, who lived on commission, would come running over and ask if they could help me. Instead, their Taiwanese counterparts took several minutes to even recognize the fact that I was standing there. And when they did, they just shrugged, and shook their head "no."

I hadn’t even asked for anything, and they were already disagreeing. My trip around the island was already getting off to a bad start, and I hadn’t even left yet.

On TV, the Monkey god was just about to throw a fireball of intervention, to save the lives of the star-crossed lovers.

"I need toe-clips for my bicycle." I said, skipping the greeting.

"No!" Shouted the man, who I took to be the owner.

"No, what?" I asked.

"I don’t speak English." He answered, in that heavily accented Mandarin that, after two years, is starting to grate on my eardrums like someone dragging their nails across a blackboard.

"We are speaking Chinese." I pointed out.

There was a long pause, where he looked very confused. Then, an unfamiliar wave of comprehension washed over his weather-beaten face, as he realized that he did understand me.

"I need toe-clips." I repeated.

"No." He said, and pushed several more leaves in his mouth.

"No what? No you don’t have them? Or no, you won’t sell them to me?"


I was about to do something terrible, when his wife jumped in and saved her husband the humiliation of having his chaw shoved down his throat.

"We don’t have any." She said.

I still wasn’t convinced that my question had even registered. When I asked it, the lights were just coming on, but I didn’t think anyone was home yet.

"Do you know what it is that I want?" I asked.

The wife looked confused.

"Do you know what it is that I want?" I repeated.

"No." She answered in a whisper.

"Then how can you tell me that you don’t have any?"

"Sorry." She said, sounding like a hurt twelve year old.

"I need toe clips."

"We don’t have any." Said the husband.

"This is Giant. You have toe-clips. I don’t care if you have to go to Taipei to get them. I’ll wait." I sat down, and made myself comfortable. I took a book out of my backpack, and began reading.

Slowly, the wife got up, went in the back, and returned two minutes later with toe clips.

"I’ll take them," I said.

She started to put them in a bag.

"No, I want them on my bicycle."

"There are tools over there." She said, pointing at a pile of rusty junk.

"You’re kidding, right? I want your husband to put them on."

Painfully, the husband got up, and mounted my toe clips. Of all of the countries I have ever lived in, these guys get the lowest score for mechanical ability and job pride.

"Now I need panniers." I said, not knowing that this was the beginning of the end for me in Taiwan.

In all fairness to the owners of the Giant store, I will admit that I did not know the Chinese word for panniers. So, I pointed at the rear wheel, and said. "I need bags that go right here, on the back of my bicycle." Once again, "Bags that go right here, so I can put my things in them."

Of course I had to say it eight times, until my words had penetrated the thick cloud that protected their brains from new information. The wife disappeared into the back of the shop, and returned with mudguards.

Confused, but not surprised, I took the mudguards from her hands, and said. "Are these bags?"


"Can I put my things in here?"


"So, this isn’t what I want, then is it?"


"Then why did you give me these?"

"I don’t know." She said.

"Do you have bags?"

"Come back on Friday."

At this point, I felt very lucky to have bought even my toe clips. I felt especially lucky not to be any of the people I had met thus far in my journey. So, I took the toe clips and left. I later found a plastic pickle tub, which I mounted on the back of my bike, in half-assed fashion, and made it about halfway around the island before it broke. I replaced it with an egg crate, and made it to Tainan, about 50 km from home, before it broke. In Tainan, I had been forced to buy a backpack to make it the rest of the way home.

Now, for my second, long distance bicycle trip, I was planning to ride 360 km, round trip, from my home in Kaohsiung, to Sun Moon Lake. This time, I insisted on having panniers. Once again, it took not one, but three trips to the Giant outlet before I was able to get my panniers. And once again, it was the wife who made it happen for me.

The husband again said that they didn’t have any panniers. The wife, however disappeared into the back of the store, and returned with the panniers. In the States, I’m sure that they would have had various styles and sizes to choose from. I would have been asked which ones I wanted. Here they had one kind, and I took them. This time, the wife actually mounted them for me.

Now I had my gear. But I was pissed off. Why is it that to get anything done in Taiwan I had to get ugly? Why did I have to yell and threaten just to buy a product? And why was everything so damned impossible?

Because of publishing obligations I didn’t even get started until after 1:00 PM. My plan was to sleep in Chiayi, abut 100 km from home, the first night. The terrain on the west coast is flat and boring. There is absolutely nothing to say about it. I passed through the urban sprawl of Kaohsiung, and Tainan without incidence. By sundown I had only made about sixty kilometers. But the way was well lighted, so I pressed on. About 25 km outside of Chiayi a Taiwanese cyclist pulled up beside me. We made small talk, deciding to continue on to Chiayi together.

"I only started riding three months ago." Wang explained. "My Taiwanese friends all think I am crazy for wanting to exercise."

I laughed, appreciatively. On my trips I often had people ask me why I didn’t just take the bus. Taiwan still doesn’t understand exercising.

"Are you married?" I asked.

"Of course I am married! I’m thirty seven." He laughed. Wang was one of those rare people who saw the humor in his own culture. "In Taiwan all adults are married. But you’re foreign. I bet you’re not married."

"No, I’m not." I confirmed.

"And you go to different countries and do different activities. Right?"


Wang shook his head. "You people are so lucky." He looked down at his belly and pinched a huge handful of flab. "But even if you didn’t know my age, you should know I am married by my belly."

I laughed.

"Taiwanese people are all very skinny. Then when we get married we get fat."

"Does your wife like to ride with you?"

"No, she always says that she will go with me. Then two kilometers later she says you go on. I’ll wait for you. After I ride fifty kilometers we go home, and she complains about muscle cramps."

"Do you have kids?" I asked.

He grabbed a bigger handful of fat. "You see that? That is a two-child belly. The more kids you have, the fatter you get. I have a friend at work with four kids. Man! What a porker."

I was cracking up.

"You’re not married. But you have like five kids, don’t you?" He asked.


"Well, your belly is so big it’s like a five-kid belly."

"No, I don’t have kids."

Wang shook his head. "You foreigners are all so fat. You do exercise all the time, don’t you?"


"And yet, you are still fat. Do you know why? It’s because you eat hamburgers and drink milk."

Wang was killing me. Although I agree with his sentiment, that foreigners eat a bad diet, and this makes us fat, I also think it is interesting that Chinese people tell actual horror stories about what milk does to your body. I had heard this from so many Taiwanese. They think we are nuts for giving milk to children.

"Children in your country are so fat. But here, it is getting the same way. My colleague has a son, eight years old, his belly is bigger than mine. I asked my colleague how many children his son had." Said Wang. "My kids aren’t fat yet, but they always want to go to McDonalds. They don’t even like the food. I think they just want a toy. They beg me to go. They play with the toy for five seconds. Then they forget about it."

When we reached Chiayi Wang treated me to dinner. We ate swe jao, pork intestines, noodles, and fried duck’s blood. "You see, this is a healthy meal. Not like that stuff you are used to." He said.

I had been planning to sleep in a Catholic Church, but it was already too late. Most of the churches locked up around nine o’clock. So, I decided to continue on, in spite of fatigue, until I found a hotel. Three hours passed before I found one. Actually, I may have passed a hundred hotels, but I don’t know the Chinese characters for hotel. Around midnight I stopped, in a town called Da Lin, at the only sign, which said "Hotel," in English. The guy wanted $1,000 NT for the night. Since I am completely broke, this was not even an option. I was hoping not to spend more than $2,000 NT for the entire trip, including food.

"Look, it’s after midnight." I began. "If the room is empty now, it will be empty all night. Just give it to me for $500 NT, and at least you made something."

"For $500 I will let you sleep for three hours."

"I wanted to leave at 5:00 AM. Give me the room till then for $500. It’s less than two additional hours."
In the end, the guy agreed. I have no way of knowing, but I suspect that when I make these deals with the night clerks they pocket the money I give them. The room had cable, a shower, and a coffee maker. But, since there was no National Geographic Channel I went right to sleep.

I headed out just before dawn. The trip from Da Lin to Sun Moon Lake was only about fifty kilometers. But, thirty of those kilometers were in the mountains. As a side note, the mountains were not nearly as high, or as severe as the trip between Hualien and Suao, which I had covered in my trip around the island. That ride is actually rated as one of the most difficult bicycle rides in the world. Also, the roads in the mountains, leading to Sun Moon Lake were all in good repair. And most were wide enough to be safe.

The weather was awful, dark, drizzly, over cast and cold. Once I left the main roads, and headed toward the lake, the signage became bad. Most signs were in Chinese, and often, there were no signs at all. Some signs were even wrong, telling you to turn left or right, when in actuality you should have gone straight. At almost every fork I had to go ask directions.

Every step of the way I just got more and more annoyed. Buying toe clips and panniers, and then riding my bicycle a few hundred kilometers should have been the easiest thing in the world. Why did it have to become such a huge pain in the neck? Sun Moon Lake is the third largest tourist attraction outside of Taipei. Why didn’t they have signs written in pinyin? Why didn’t they have any signs at all? The Taiwanese government has already admitted that the only two businesses that Taiwan can use to compete in the world economy are computers and tourism. If they want to join the WTO and if they want to attract tourists, shouldn’t they make things a little easier for us to get around? Any difficulty I had would have to be multiplied by a thousand for a tourist who didn’t speak Chinese and didn’t have friends in Taiwan.

At one of the many forks without a sign, I stopped in a repair shop to ask the way.

"Which road goes to Sun Moon Lake?" I asked the husband and wife, as I entered.

"Noooooo!" The woman screamed, shaking her head, and waving her arms, as if warding off a devil.

Normally I would have shown the slightest bit of tact. But I was tired. And I was angry. And I didn’t feel like playing the game of "It’s OK, I speak Chinese." No, I just wanted to know what would motivate an adult to freak out, wave his hands and scream like a small child.

"What’s your problem?" I asked in Chinese, not even caring where the lake was anymore.

"Noooooo!" She shouted again.

"What is your problem!" I Shouted. "Why are you so rude? I just want to ask where Sun Moon Lake is. Why are you acting like such a moron?"

She stopped screaming and said. "Go to the end and turn left."

When I got back on the bike my blood was pumping and my heart was racing. Why does it have to be like this? Why couldn’t she just have answered me the first time? Why did I have to get so angry? Do they really believe this is the best strategy for luring tourist dollars into Taiwan? And, once again, I had to ask myself what these repeated flashes of anger were doing to my body. It couldn’t be healthy. Would I one day die of a heart attack while trying to order coffee in a restaurant or while trying to transfer money at the bank?

I wasn’t sure I could do Taiwan anymore.

I took several wrong turns on steep mountain roads because there were no signs. I even know the characters for Sun Moon Lake, and yet couldn’t get there because of the lack of signage. To make matters worse, I was starving, and there hadn’t been a restaurant in hours. By now I was so angry and so fed up with the whole trip I didn’t care if I got there or not. I actually turned my bike around, determined to ride straight through the night if need be, to get back home. I would just make up a travel story from the Lonely Planet guide, steal some stock photos from an image library and turn it in as my own work.

But, my conscience got the better of me, and I forced myself on. Two kilometers later, I came up on a body of water. There was no sign to tell me that it was Sun Moon Lake. Of course not, why would there be? Although I assumed that there weren’t two large bodies of water this close together, I still wanted confirmation. But this would entail speaking to someone. The muscles in my neck and shoulders tied themselves into sailor knots. My pulse began to pound. I felt an immense pressure headache building up behind my eyes. I knew I was probably going to have to ask more than one person if this was indeed Sun Moon Lake, and even then I was going to have to repeat myself like ten times.

It happened exactly as I had thought. Twenty questions later I finally found someone who confirmed that this was the place.

The lake lay under a cold, heavy fog. So, there was no point in making any pictures. Even if it hadn’t been foggy, I just don’t get it. So it was a big lake. Big deal! It wasn’t as big as Lake Superior. It wasn’t as pure as Lake Tahoe. It wasn’t as romantic as Lake Constance. It wasn’t as Swiss as Lake Lucerne. And it wasn’t as fun to say as Lake Titicaca.

There were no services of any kind. There wasn’t even a restaurant on the West side of the lake. A beetle nut girl told me I had to ride all the way to the other side just to get something to eat.

There was no strip, like at Daytona. There were no casinos, like Monaco. And there were no naked Germans, like at every other beach in Asia. For once, I didn’t get it. What was the attraction? As hungry and pissed off as I was, I checked the guidebook to see exactly what Robert Storey had to say about the lake. He said that it was very popular with Taiwanese honeymooners. Well, of course it was. As much as it sucked, it was probably better than a honeymoon in Kaohsiung. He also said that he earthquake had destroyed all of the resorts and that they hadn’t been rebuilt.

One photo, and I was ready to head home. Correction, I was ready to be home. If I could have teleported, I would have. Instead, I now had 180 very boring kilometers to cover before I would be home.

Night caught me somewhere south of Da Lin. Normally I prefer to stay in Catholic churches. But as the evening went on, I was looking for any Christian church. Not only had I done two grueling days of cycling, but I had only slept a few hours the night before. Eventually, I would have accepted any temple. By eight o’clock I was willing to sleep in a Mosque. Luckily, it didn’t come to that.

I stumbled onto a Methodist church, and went inside. That was really the last normal thing that happened.

"I am riding my bicycle across Taiwan, and I need a place to sleep." I said.

The secretary looked at me very strangely.

"Why do you want to sleep here?"

"When I am traveling I always sleep in churches." I explained.

"Where did you sleep last night?"

Here, I told a fib. During my trip all the way around Taiwan I had slept in churches and temples most of the time. I didn’t want her to know that I had slept in a hotel the previous night, for fear that she would turn me away.

"I sleep in churches on my trips." I explained, but not actually answering her question.

"Where are you going to sleep tonight?"

"Here." I said. I thought that was clear.

"But why can’t you sleep in the same church where you slept last night?"

"Because it is 100 km away."

"Where are you going to sleep tomorrow night?"

"Tomorrow I will go back to my home in Kaohsiung."

"And sleep in a church?"

"No, I’ll sleep in my apartment."

"In a church?"

"No, I don’t live in a church. I live in an apartment. But when I am traveling around Taiwan I sleep in churches."

"But how did you know to come here?"

"There is an eight foot neon cross on the roof." I said, by way of explanation. She just stared at me, as if she needed more. "And I followed the sign until I got here."

"Oh." She said. Now she understood. "I must call the pastor." She explained, dialing the phone.

I had never had this much trouble at a church before. At the Catholic Church they always just said "yes" or "no." In fact, I had only been turned away at a church once, and that was because it was a home for mentally disturbed children, and the priest was afraid to have a stranger staying there. I respected that. But at least he had given me an answer. These guys continued to ply me with questions. They also asked to photo copy my passport, which I never carry with me. Instead, I handed them my Taiwanese ID card, thinking this would be even better, since it had my name and address written in Chinese. But the woman just looked at it and said, "But this is Taiwanese." I wasn’t sure what she meant by that.

Part of my motivation to sleep in a church was financial. But part was the fact that this was the exact stretch of highway where I had failed to find a hotel the previous evening. If she turned me away, there was a chance I would have to keep riding all night. And I was just too tired to be able to do that.

Three more church officials came and asked me questions. Then they left me alone in a huge room, seated in a wooden folding chair. It felt like an interrogation. They were probably outside, watching me through one-way mirrors.

"I am a stranger in strange land." I thought, remembering Moses, or was it Tevia in "Fiddler on the Roof?" Either way, I was certain that there was something in the Bible about helping a weary traveler. Of course, when Martin Luther broke away from the Church, he must have left in a hurry, and accidentally left some of the books of the Bible behind. I knew that Methodist was basically Catholic light, but that they used the abridged version of the Bible. Maybe the part they left out was the part about helping strangers.

One woman, who had apparently read the unabridged version of the scriptures, lead me to a place where I could fill my water bottles. A few minutes later she showed me where I could take a shower, and also offered me some food. Now I was on the homeless track. Wasn’t this exactly what rescue shelters did for vagrants on those cold winter nights in New York?

Eventually the pastor showed up and we had a long talk. Although I had gotten a bit of a cold shoulder from the office staff, the pastor was as kind and intelligent as any Priest I had ever met. He wanted to hear all about my adventures river tracing and mountain climbing. "Next time you take me with you." He joked. He asked me if I was Methodist. When I told him I was Catholic, he laughed. "It is the same." He said, with a smile and a dismissive waive of the hand.

In defense of the office staff, I am not convinced that this building was actually a church. It may very well have been a Christian school, because inside, there were only offices and classrooms. Catholic churches, even here in Asia, have that large, impressive, medieval feeling to them. And they always have guest quarters. But the protestant churches tend to be more modern, more sterile, and less habitable.

In the end, the pastor let me sleep on the wooden floor in a classroom. For bedding he gave me a huge pile of the tiny blankets which the little kids use when they take their nap.

I woke up at five, to the sound of rain, and still had 120 km to go. The way was boring, cold, and wet. Getting out of Jaiyi was a nightmare. The highway signs abruptly stopped and I had to ask people how to go. This was easily the most frustrating part of the trip. I would pull up and say. "Excuse me, where is highway one?" in Chinese. Then they would either say. "I don’t speak English." Or switch to very bad English and say. "Where do you want to go?"

At the traffic light, a guy gave me the second response.

"I just told you where I want to go, didn’t I?" I asked in Chinese. "I want to go to highway one South."

"South?" He asked, as if trying out the word for the first time.

"Yes, South."

Then switching back to English. "But where do you want to go?"

I didn’t want to say that I was going to Kaohsiung because first of all, outside of Kaohsiung no one ever understands me when I say "Kaohsiung." So then I have to say "Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung." Then they will say. "Oh, Kaohsiung." Then the programmed response, which the robot-monkey-people would give me would be. "Kaohsiung is far away."

And then I would get angry and say. "Yes, I know that Kaohsiung is far away, but please tell me how to get there."

Then there would be more confusion, and they would ask me. "Are you going there on a bicycle?"

"Yes, I am going there on a bicycle. Please, just tell me where it is."

"You should take a train."

"Perhaps. But I’m not taking a train. I am taking a bicycle. Where is the road to Kaohsiung?"

By this time I would be screaming. And the worst is that this doesn’t happen once on each trip. This exact exchange happens every single time I go anywhere. And it happens at every single unmarked intersection. If the highway department would at least put signs there, I wouldn’t have to ask directions and life would be so much easier.

"South." I repeated.

"Where is highway one south?" Is a pretty straightforward question. In any other country people would say, "Go to the second light and hang a right." or some similar answer. But in Taiwan, people don’t seem to know that highways have numbers. They also don’t seem to use compass directions to get from point A to point B. So asking "Do I need to go North or South?" Doesn’t help.

Finally, I pulled out my map. But by this point I knew that I wasn’t going to get any further in my trip. Taiwanese people can’t read maps. This is pretty pathetic, in my estimation, since the map was written in Chinese. Furthermore, I was looking for highway one, which was marked with a big number one, and numbers are universal. (Side note: Yes, I know there are Chinese numbers, but all Chinese people can read Arabic numbers.)

I asked seven people, two of whom were police officers. And none of them could help me. Five of them gave me an answer, but it was a wrong answer. And I am convinced that they knew they were giving me the wrong answer. In the end, I took my best guess. I rode for two hours before I saw a sign for the highway again.

While I was in some rural no man’s land I stopped in a small restaurant for breakfast, and to get out of the rain. They were nice to me, and sold me my food without any problems, and treated me like an intelligent adult. The strange thing, however was that the whole town was staring at me. They all seemed to invent some pretext to come over to the restaurant and take a look at me. I guess they had never seen a foreigner before. I didn’t fault them, however. Their curiosity was logical. They just wanted to see me, nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with the people who just shake their heads in the hopes that I will go away.

It was one of those awful travel days where you just don’t want to do it. If I could have just left my bike at the side of the road and hitched a ride I would have. When I reached Tainan the rain got heavier, so I stopped in KFC and called my sister on my cell phone.

"I can’t believe you are calling me," she said.

"Why, I am having a slow day at work. So, I thought I would give you a call." When I was working on Wall Street I used to call my sister from my office all the time.

She convinced me that the sooner I got back on the bike the sooner I’d be home.

An hour later I stopped at McDonalds for coffee. A foreign woman pulled up on a scooter, and I immediately thought of my bicycle friend, Wang, from the other night. She must have weighed three hundred pounds. In the West she would have looked fat. But compared to the Taiwanese, she looked like some sort of giant mammal that has to stay in the water because its skeleton won’t support its body weight. "SUPER SIZE IT!!!" I wanted to yell, as a warning to the cooks, before she walked in.

I was absolutely not surprised when the crew greeted her by name. The manager even lead her to her own private table and hand delivered the food, so that no one would get injured if one of her legs should collapse beneath her. I wondered what would be the reaction if she went to the tiny little town where I had eaten breakfast. They’d be talking about her for years to come.

I had left my bike locked, leaning against the front window, where I could keep an eye on it. There was an old man, sitting on a bench, near the rear of my bicycle. He got up, and moved to a seat on the far side of my bike, where I couldn’t see him. I didn’t think anything of this, until I noticed that the part of my bike, which was visible began to giggle back and forth. At first I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then it hit me. He was trying to take something out of my panniers.

I rushed outside, not certain of what to do. If he were younger I would have beaten him senseless. But this guy looked like he was 437 years old. I couldn’t even bring myself to yell at him. It seemed like too much of an evil thing to do. So I stood, staring, lost. The old man tried turning his back to me. But I guess he could still feel my eyes on him. So, he got up, and walked away. I checked, and sure enough, he had unzipped two of my bags. This is probably the only time since I have been living in Taiwan that anyone had tried to steal from me.

When I saw a sign, which read 16 kilometers to Kaohsiung, my rear tire went flat. On my tip all the way around Taiwan, my bike broke down 30 km from home. So, I was doing better. I tried pumping up the tire or even replacing the tube, but it was no use. The tires had simply worn through, because of all of the riding I had done on them. Well, if you’re going to have a break down, 16 miles from home wasn’t a bad place to do it. I rode the rest of the way, on a flat tire, with every bump and pebble in the road sending a shock wave up through my groin. I never wanted to have children anyway.

And so ended my final adventure in Taiwan, at least for a while. Next week I will be leaving for Thailand, where I don’t speak a word of the language, and where I will begin a whole new set of adventures. I wonder if they have fat people who can read maps in Thailand? Do they have panniers and toe clips? I can’t wait to find out.

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