This month was my birthday and I spent the day of my creation within the tea fields of Pinglin 平林, less than an hour outside of Taipei. Taipei is a unique capital city in the respect that despite the smoggy confines, it always conveniently transports you outside into nature is you so wish; from mountain hikes to hot springs; from rice fields to the rugged coastline.
It was my birthday and I wanted to be in nature away from the rush and traffic. Time is a complex concept that I have been thinking about a lot during my time here. In London I did not notice time passing by so quickly. I was having too much fun. Climbing everyday, partying most weekends, swimming in the ponds on Hampstead Heath park during all weather conditions. Now in Taipei, I have a strict routine, at school by 8am each day, go home to do my several hours of homework. Eat, sleep, then repeat. There is no way to be idle in this city. How I miss my lie ins, the sudden call for a taxi that I really could not afford to join my friends on Sunday who are still up from Friday. London can be a timeless city. But it can also be a destructive one. If I read back to my post I wrote as I arrived here and reflected on my time in London, I realised I needed to take time out.
So I spent my birthday cycling around the quaint tea fields of Pinglin. From the end of the green MRT line South at Xindian station I hopped on a bus bound for the tea fields. Efficient, cheap and fast. My companion and I decided to rent bikes. We opted for the cheaper $150 ones. Mine had seen better days but it gave my legs a solid work out. Curvaceous rows of neat tea plants shaped the surroundings. We rode through the fields, along the river and stopped to explore a betel nut forest. Betel nut, or areca nut, is a seed that is formed in the areca palm. Popular in Asia, it is often wrapped in its leaves and chewed. It has a spicy taste and gives you a temporary buzz. When I have tried it, my cheeks flushed a rosy red accompanied with a slight head rush. This natural nut is not that great for you. Cancer and you lose your teeth. Nice. In some cities in Taiwan and China it is very common amongst locals, especially long distance drivers. A row of red, stained teeth are always a sign that a dude likes his betel nut.
The betel nut palm trees are dead straight and tall, and I was drawn into a whole forest of them. Looking up at the vertical geometry I felt like I was in another world. The mossy, sponge like ground made me sway. My thoughts of time vanished until my friends phone started ringing. I pulled myself out of the embrace of the forest on continued to journey through the countryside, past elegant tomb stones and wizened old grandmas who had a knowing twinkle in their eye. It was a great birthday. We headed back around 5pm, just as the setting sun began to hit the river with glorious brilliance.
On the bus back, with sore legs, I realised it was a Wednesday. Bakery Roulette Wednesdays! I went to the bakery and thought I would choose something nice over rank. I spied a proud looking roll stuffed with cream and strawberries. So here is my birthday roulette.
A creamy bun, with fresh strawberries. In the UK we know how to consume cream, Clotted, rich, gluttonous and divine. Here it always has a slightly greasy, oily after effect on the roof of your mouth, like cheap chocolate. The bun delivered a hit of sweetness, and appeased my sugar cravings (I have been trying to eliminate all processed sugar from my diet). I finished my day with a film then early bedtime. I awoke as fresh as I could the next day for school, no hangover. Start as I mean to continue.
Surprise factor 2/10… Cream and strawberries, can’t go wrong there
Offensiveness 2/10 … 2 points for the slick greasy feeling on the roof of my mouth after
Taste 6/10… Not too bad, for Asia
Likely hood to buy again 50%
Until next Wednesday….Where I am departing 3am…
So I am a year older, and more aware about time. Whether that is a good thing or a curse I do not know. The absence of London has made me realise how much I adore the city. Thanks to the encouragement and enlightenment of a certain person, she knows who she is, I made it all the way on this epic journey. As I cycled through the green fields and misty mountains two words emerged, no regrets. I have seen this. I am out there. And I always look back. With reflection. We should always be improving, learning. And never stop exploring. Next destination, Koh Phayam. And tropical island off of Thailand without an ATM. To the next chapter….