May 5, 2006 - Friday
Dayigwong to Kaohsiung

The 4pm ferry has just departed.....

As mentioned prior, this will be one more step at travel in a society where I will have difficulty communicating.

The big plan for today is to take the 4 pm ferry to Kaohsiung - a big city in the southwest corner of mainland Taiwan. Felipe does not have any class today but he does have to be in the office for standard business hours. I spent the morning packing the bike for overnight travel and then will meet him for lunch. One mental debate has been casually jumping on my brain this morning - should I take the riding jacket? It does give me some pockets - which come in handy, it does give me good protection in a slide - which is a good thing, but it will be HOT, and one other item - it makes me look out of place - like a tourist.

So far, here on the Penghu Islands, I would classify things as very safe. You occasionally see keys hanging in an ignition. Helmets are sometimes left sitting on the seat. Felipe does not lock his doors. Things over on the main island might be a tad different - Taipei, the largest city (2.4 million? people) - showed that additional locks on bike wheels were frequent. I won't be spending much time in the large cities though - more for the rural landscape.

The bike is packed - I don't need any additional "storage" pockets - I'll leave the jacket here. I won't die of dehydration at least.

Off I go to meet Felipe for lunch. A quick stop by the fuel station to top off the bike. While at his office he reserved a seat on a plane from Penghu to Taipei - for the trip out of Taiwan and over to Bangkok. The secretary for the school's president, Ling Li Ling, (hope I spelled it right) stopped in and gave Felipe and I an ice cream treat (photo below). She stopped in a day or so ago and we ended up chatting for a bit - discussing the nuance in pronunciation between "snack" and "snake". Felipe continues to press his students, and anyone else within earshot, to practice their English and I am happy to assist. Once another person and I spend a few minutes together they tend to loosen up (be less shy about making mistakes). It is good fun and I am happy to trade time that I might otherwise be out exploring the countryside.

I still need to accomplish my task of photographing more of the people I meet - sometimes I succeed while other times I forget - a few times the subject will decline being photographed and that is fine. [the TV on the ferry is playing some sort of soap opera. It is subtitled and it has been re-voiced - the lip movement of the actors does not match the words heard - I thought it was only in America did that happen (to the Asian shows) - even here too!]. Felipe made a comment that he is nervous about me traveling alone - he will not be there to help should something arise. I told him that the Lonely Planet book will be his substitute - a poor one in comparison - but it should be competent enough. Should I lose the book I do believe I would have a difficult time of things. I now keep this book with me at all times - right there with important papers, currency, laptop, camera, GPS, and bottled water. I'll be fine.

With things lined up I headed out to find the bank. I knew reasonably well where it would be (in relation to the ferry) so I started moving towards the ferry waypoint on the GPS. I stopped once or twice to match street names to those in the LP (LonelyPlanet) book. Only the major streets are listed on my maps so I tried to stop at larger intersections to hopefylly find them on my map. So there are these strikes: not all streets are sign posted, if they are they might not have English characters under the standard Chinese characters, not all streets are listed on my map, the posted street names might not match those in the map - due to different translations to English (fortunately many of the posted street names are native language and English). By luck I decided to make one more stop under some shade only to notice I was right in front of the bank - ChaChing! One parking space existed - I took it.

In the bank at the"Foreign Exchange" line (window 11) I was informed I needed to visit window 1 - fine, no problem. Currency changed I headed back to the bike and to the ferry. Felipe told me that I would need two tickets - one for me and one for the bike. I arrived at the ferry and its ramp was down. I sat back to see what the locals were doing - but there was no pattern I could follow. I noticed a small building with some windows so I went up to it. Some workers came up and fortunately one of them spoke English (saved!). I needed to go into the big building "over there" and get a ticket for me and then to come back here and get a ticket for the bike. Off I go.

I parked the bike outside - there are no "set" parking areas so I just lined up next to some other bikes. A gentleman stopped up and looked at the camera and GPS and he commented that he has the version III - very close to mine - a III Plus. His English was good and we chatted for a few moments before I left to get my ticket. In the building there was a mass of people sitting about (probably waiting to board the ferry - there was over an hour remaining) and I noticed several windows - two sets. One set had "16:00" signs listed on them - the 4 pm ferry I assume - so to those I went. The gal I went to didn't care much for my inquiry and I showed a couple hundred NT dollars to show I wanted a ticket. She wrote down "817" and "ID" on a piece of paper and I pulled out the correct amount along with the passport - all was good - and I had a ticket in hand. Back to the "other" station to get a ticket for the bike. [so now the tv show has ended and a "copyright" warning is scrolling across the screen - English and a local language - I see no connection to English in the program but yet the English wording is there].

Back at the ticket stand for the bike the clerk and I weren't communicating well. Point to the bike and point to a bill. We weren't getting anywhere so she started to call out to the orange suited workers (Taiwan's equivalent to the U.S. Coast Guard I belive). With some quick translation I needed to produce my person ticket and the papers for the bike (Felie gave me the legal papers to the bike as he knew they would be required). That done the clerk was able to process her task.

The workers then told me the process. Go ride around the city for a while and be back here at 3:30 pm. Park in the line over here. OK, Thanks! Off to the city I went and I rode around for a bit taking photos. Getting close to 3:30 pm I got back to the ferry and was in line at the right time. They wanted to see what was in my bags - a quick glance is all they wanted - and what was in the bikes cargo area under the seat - done deal. We chatted for a bit as they asked if I worked for "National Geographic" and where I was from. I gave out a card or two and I'm sure they will eventually see the photos on this page. Before they left they said that I would drive the bike onto the ship and that I should take my bags with me. I saw that others were keeping a tag on the bike so I affixed one of the yellow tags to a mirror and kept a "receipt" copy. I assume I will have to show my copy to take possession of the bike when I disembark the ship.

About then one of the 'big bike' riders pulled up near me. I said that I noticed him the other day and he commented on seeing me too. We chatted for a moment and I handed out another card. It would be nice to talk with him for a bit about his bike and the area he rides in. [One of the ferry workers mentioned that bikes are government taxed in these increments - 50cc, 80?cc, 100cc, 125cc, big bikes].

When a few of the bikes in the line started up I did the same and followed them onto the ship. The ferry workers secured the bikes (so they would not tip over) and I took my bags and important items and followed the crowd. There are rows of seats and I was not sure if there was assigned seating or not so I figured I'd just hang back and maybe pick an empty seat. The "Information" desk was not manned (dang this boat does do some odd rolling - the water is calm - if you read about a ferry accident in Taiwan.......[edit - I think they were moving ballast in the ferry - one motion in one direction and it stopped]) and I can't really read the ticket - there are some Arabic / Western numerals but the titles are in local language. I walked around a bit and saw a "hostess" so I showed the ticket to her and she graciously showed me the proper seat.

The gent next to me is a congenial sort and while I can't readily talk with him we can exchange a few gestures and such. He was getting a laugh out of the shows on tv - soap opera things.

Near the end of the ferry trip I was standing near the main stairs - hanging out near the end of the line - waiting for the crowd to do something - and another gent tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. I did and found out why - the line I was in was for pedestrian traffic - he knew I was motorized traffic and that I should be working my way down to the motor deck. I found out that his bike was right next to mine and he apparently recognized me from this. Very helpful of him. I am thankful.

"Mr. Hayabusa" was parked near me but since his bike was "different" from the rest his was parked by itself. I didn't get a chance to ask him a question so if he checks out this page he might perhaps contact me and let me know what the antenna near his license plate is. The gear he had was what I should have - proper, ventilated, gear from head to tow, shoulder to finger.

Now for Kaohsiung.....  I'm not entirely sure where the ferry dock is - it is listed differently on two maps - and depending upon which "shore" we're on makes a difference on how far and which direction I should head. My goal is to try and drive in the "direction" of my destination and enjoy the sights in the meantime. It's a Friday night and the place is hopping.

It seems that I well overshot my destination. I stopped to ask directions (stop #1 - let's keep count) and I showed the guy the map. Understood my query "point to the ground, point to the map, make an "I don't know guesture". After many minutes he started to do the "I don't know" - uh, oh. Either he does not know or I'm screwed. He started to point off of the top right corner of my map - not on the map - so I flipped the page back one to a larger area map - then he pointed to the general area. I'm too far northeast. OK, thanks, time to do some backtracking (the GPS tracklog is very handy for this - if it were not for the GPS I wouldn't be able to "backtrack" - it would simply be new ground in some new direction.

So, I traveled for maybe 3 to 5 minutes and noticed a lady sitting near the ubiquitous "7-Eleven" (of which I will say "Thank Heaven for...."). I decided to ask her for directions (Stop #2). She was clueless so I continued on.  A few blocks later I noticed a police station - well, let's give them a try. I parked the bike next to the "impound bikes" and it certainly stood out in that dirty crowd. In the station (Stop #3) they were able to tell me another general area and that one of the major highways was "right over there" so they had a landmark to back it up - good.

A bit farther I trek.... Stopping by the side of the road many blocks later I was studying the maps. A guy was sitting over near the building and after a few moments he came over to help. When he started to look at the map motioned to his eyes - and his taxi nearby. He helped - he verified a road for me - and I was getting closer yet - but in retrospect I missed an opportunity here - I could have paid him to drive to the hotel - with me following - no biggie. It was still an adventure - I had enough fuel though it was getting later. Another many blocks later I wanted to take a break, drink some water and eat some crackers - so I stopped at, you guessed it, a 7-Eleven (this should be stop #5). The gal there verified the road in front - it was THE road that the train station was on (the LP book bases many items off of the local train station as that is how many travelers arrive in a town - so if I find the station I can readily follow the book).

OK, I should be home free - I found the train station!!!

Now to go East for two major roads, south one major road, then back west about1 block. Many minutes later.... Still trying.... I'm bopping about and I just can't find the place. Not only that but the road names really don't come close to matching. OK - there's a C&P fuel station across the road (stop #6 and there will be no "7" but there might be 6a and 6b). Stop in there for directions. Fuel stations are full service and often staffed by teenagers. These teens were energetic but weren't quite sure of the route so into the manager's office they went - he knew the way and went to draw a map - but the characters were in his local language (Chinese, Mandarin?) and not characters that I had much chance to read (I could potentially hold them up to a sign and see if they match though). The kids seemed OK with the map tough. One of the kids wrote "11:15" in my book and said then he would "show" me the way. Being 10:50 pm I figured - all said and done - it was worth the wait.

11 pm - the station lights went dark and the kids did double-time in their cleanup duties. Before long the two kids and I were zipping through the streets "In Search Of". They'd look back here and there to make sure I was still behind them. I snapped a picture or two and kept following. Before long I had the feeling we weren't headed directly there. Then I noticed them talking at the lights. A block or two more and one of them heads into a 7-Eleven to ask for directions. Now this is getting a bit more interested and I'm wondering if there will be some sort of "cut off" where I'll say thanks and go my way.

They were apologetic that it was taking more time, that they weren't sure, and wanted to make sure I had enough fuel - certainly courteous. I kept up the fight with them. They even ended up exchanging phone numbers and splitting up to cover more ground faster. At the second "ask for directions" stop I also commented that the GPS showed us about 5 kilometers east of the train station and the maps shows the destination being only about 1 kilometer east of the train station. Some lightbulbs went off and we headed west a bit. Back near the train station the three of us banded back together - and followed much of my same route after I left the train station the first time - but with one good twist - we got there. The main hangup was the fact that "two major intersections east of the train station" won't work as the railroad cuts off one or two of the "main roads" so when I was going "two east" I was actually going way too far east. If I paid more attention to the distances that the map detailed and the distances the GPS was telling me I would have had that information as a tool - next time.

In front of the hotel the kids and I stopped for a picture. I wanted to give them a tip (tipping is not customary here) but they refused - even when I pointed to the fuel gauge on one of their scooters (sitting on empty). Not wanting anything I grabbed a sealed package of un-smashed Ritz crackers with cheeze - they graciously accepted. I parked the bike, checked in, and went to sleep. It took about 3.5 hours and I traveled 18 miles when I could have been at the hotel in about 3 miles from the ferry. A fun night!

I gotta laugh - makes a nice squiggle - and just think of all of the city life I saw

Items packed into the "glove box" of the bike. Right side is the first aide kit I brought and the bikes tool kit. Left side is food - two bottles of water (some of the water bottles here are square - not round - handy for this use) and some crackers and cheese along with my notebook (purchased on the last trip up in Beaver Lodge Canada and is NOT getting used here just like the last trip)..... The plastic bag is other food - trail mix, granola bars, more cheeze and [now smashed] crackers.

To affix the camera and GPS I asked Felipe if I could remove one of the handlebar covers - "OK" [Thanks!]

Camera lenses hang from the "hook" - lens adapter, 2x telephoto lens, 0.45x macro / wide angle lens. The wide angle is often on the camera when the camera is mounted to the handlebars as I have a UV cover on it to protect the optics from bug hits and such.

The laptop is below the seat (enough space in there to store my full face helmet). Clothes and basics in the saddle bags - held in place by that wonderful "bungee net". The seat and glove box are key locked.

Leaving Dayigwong - another tour bus coming to the town square.

The car on the right is passing - it used the "motorcycle" lane to do the pass as there was oncoming traffic to keep it from doing a "conventional" pass. No biggie - that's just the way it is - whatever works. I'm learning that stopping for red lights is even optional (though the vast majority does stop and stay at red lights).

Some photos from driving around Makung.


We thought this guy was trying to break into this car - was not the case. A few moments later five additional adults and one chlld arrived - all seven people got in (driver, mom, child in front).

Ling Li Ling (secretary to the school president) and me. In my hand is the ice cream treat she brought. The ice cream was covered with a rice based "covering".Pick it up with your fingers and eat it much the same as a cookie. I told her that my father used to have ice cream stores.

Waiting for the ferry - riding around some of the smaller streets. Not too much traffic out.

This is the courtyard of the 400 year old temple (Matsu?).The temple is off to the left - somewhat behind the tree.

This was a small spot - to the right is a building and what would be a loading dock. All sorts of shopping activity.

I saw one "Buick" car the other day - broken down and sitting at the side of the road. I saw one nice, large Cadillac the other day too (I wondered how it handled some of the roads - it must stay to the larger ones like the one in this photo). In front is a mid-sized Buick - rare to see an American car here.

Scooter speed - not too high in town - I saw 30 kph (18 mph) to be a general speed for spaces like this.

Ladies dressed nicely - getting ready to hop on the scooter.

So I made a right turn from an "alley" onto a larger road. There was a van or some sort of truck parked to my right (blocking my view to the right). I took it easy but one thing is to keep moving so I did some looking and kept moving (8 mph perhaps) and as soon as I popped out I saw this bus heading down the road towards me. It left space for any oncoming scooter so it wasn't a threat - just take the space available and use it. I at least had enough time to take the picture.... Pictured on the right is a typical "truck" - the numbers on the tailgate are the license plate numbers. There is probably a license plate below it but they just all seem to have the numbers added to the tailgate.

The ferry. The gentleman next to me said it can carry 1000 - to which I assume is 1000 people (not cars).

3:30 pm line-up for the bikes - the helpful workers in orange suits.

Felipe's bike in the line-up of other scooters.

It's 5:57 pm - I started this page about 4:40 pm.
Time to start to work with the LP guide - familiarize myself with finding a hotel for tonight.

Well, that was easy enough - two hotels are suggested - both are near the train station.

TV on the ferry
MGP, 1.5 MB, 21 sec

A view from my seat


There was one spot - about directly between the exhaust stacks that had an audible reverberation. I turned on the camera to see if I could record the audible portion on a movie (the ferry is noisy - people talking - and I can't tell if it turned out yet)

Ferry movement - GPS info - Reverberation
MPG, 1.6 MB, 22 sec

A bit blurry due to the limited light (I didn't want to use the flash due to people being around)
1) Makung [origination], 2) where we are now at 6:46 pm, 3) Kaohsiung [destination]
The distance is about 90 miles / 146 Kilometers and takes 4 hours. We're traveling about 36 kilometers per hour (22 miles per hour).

Ship layout - click for a larger size

Ship stats - Click for a larger size

Suited up and ready to ride. He and the bike are also shown on the 05/03 page - direct picture links 1 and 2

Motor deck - getting ready to ride out.

The city was alive and lit - just the time to experience it.

My helpers - showing me the way.

We just went "under" the tracks - we're now on the "wrong" side of them - that's OK - it's an adventure.

Destination had - a photo to remember it. Thanks Guys!

All of that for this - 800 NTD, about $25 USD

The place is showing some age but it's clean. This is classified as "Budget" in the LP book. I can deal with budget as long as it's clean.

BackNextUpJW HomeNavigation