The second day of our trip to Tainan started out very promising. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and you know… etc. etc. Our innkeeper offered to get us breakfast while we got ready for the day. Awesome.

Then, unfortunately, about an hour after we ate we both started to develop stomach cramps. While neither of us were vomiting, we had some pretty uncomfortable moments. I can’t speak for Zona, but my stomach was a mess for the next few hours. This did nothing to put me in the best frame of mind for sight-seeing, nevertheless there was no way I was gonna waste any time on being sick.

So we walked around for a bit and then made our way to Chihkan Tower, one of the more famous sights in  Tainan. The grounds around the tower were quite nice. The tower itself wasn’t bad either but it reminded me of nothing more than another temple. At this point I’ve seen quite a few temples, and while I do enjoy them, they are so numerous that they no longer seem all that exotic.

I didn’t realize this while we were there  but my friend Zona later told me that while I was wandering around snapping pictures, Taiwanese parents everywhere were trying to encourage their kids to practice their English on me. I often regret my complete lack of observational skills and this was certainly one of those times. How I missed it I have no idea.  But apparently, while I was wandering around taking pictures and just generally minding my own business, parents were nudging and pushing their kids toward me telling them to say hello to me. And the kids, being shy and embarrassed, would creep up to me look at the ground and mumble something to themselves. I would walk by totally unaware and their parents would hiss at them “Louder, louder, she can’t hear you!”  Apparently this was happening the entire hour or two that we were there and not once did I notice.

After visiting the tower, we hit the streets again and this is where my mood really started to deteriorate. It was crowded everywhere. The line for the bus was longer than what any bus can hold, the noise was awful and people were homing in on the tower and market area from all directions. It seemed like every time we  got away from the crowds, somehow we kept ending up in the same obnoxious areas.

Since our stomach cramps had passed, we ended up diving back in to get some food at a little local place. We were able to actually take a brief rest from the crowds there but as soon as we were done, back in we went. We couldn’t get a ride on the bus  because the line was too long and the bus was so crowded it wasn’t taking any passengers. The roads were parking lots glutted with scooters, beeping taxis, whistle blowing cops trying to direct traffic, and people. People, people everywhere.  The noise and the confusion, the heat, and the press of people from all directions were simply driving me bat shit insane. I was two seconds away from throwing a temper tantrum and it bothered me that the idea of shoving someone in front of a moving car was starting to sound really appealing.

I wouldn’t say I have social anxiety or anxiety of any kind but I find that the older I get the less tolerance I have for massive crowds and chaos of this magnitude.  It is detestable.  Especially since we had seen what there was to see and there was no reason to stick around at all. And yet there we were. I can’t think of a worse way to waste my time. On the verge of a major meltdown I dragged my friend away from the market we were roaming in and we walked for some minutes into a quieter (but by no means quiet) part of town. There, a 7/11 clerk helped us call a taxi. We decided earlier to check out the Sihcao Wetlands and since we couldn’t get a bus we hired a taxi to take us there instead.

The trip of maybe six or seven kilometers took 45 minutes. And cost us some 360NT which is pretty steep for a taxi here especially considering the distance.

Along the way the taxi driver warned us we might not even get to see anything because of the  crowds. I wasn’t willing to believe it, so off we went.  Our driver, after ascertaining that I don’t speak Chinese, then began a long conversation with my friend about where I’m from, what I’m doing here, how old am I,  and would I be interested in his divorced 50-year-old Russian friend?  God. I just have to laugh. I’m sure he was giving himself a pat on the shoulders for looking out for his good old pal.

Well we finally pulled up to the ecology area, and sure enough, it was overrun with people. Ecology area my butt. Not after Chinese New Year it wasn’t.  It turned out the boat tour which was the only way to see most of the area wasn’t going to happen. It was late afternoon already and based on the massive line there was no way we’d get to see anything before night fall. We opted to just walk around and managed to see some dirt paths, a dirty canal, and a bunch of dried grass. Oh, and a massive temple, of course. It wouldn’t count as a trip to anywhere if there wasn’t a temple to see.

At one point in our walk around we stopped to look at a map of the grounds which was highly detailed and helpfully pointed out all other historic areas we could visit while we were there. After studying the map for about a minute or two, it slowly dawned on me that according to the “you are here” sign, I could view all three other areas of historic note simply by turning around in the rather small back garden we were in. They were right in front of us. We busted out laughing. The whole situation was so ludicrous. After struggling for a good two hours to get here, this place turned out to be such a joke.

Along the way we also saw probably the only truly scenic nature shot, some crabs in their natural environment (that was cool for me since I’ve never seen that in real life), some not so very impressive mangrove trees (which are supposed to be really special and here is why) a stray dog or two and some water pond like thing that did not in any way look attractive, naturey or peaceful.

After that, we made our way to the bus stop and finally, finally managed to catch a bus. At least our ride back was cheap.

By then it was dusk. We returned to the train station and  bought tickets on the regular train home and walked around until we found another (crowded) place to eat. Here I had some incredibly unhealthy and not at all tasty fried chicken, and where I managed to once again sail right by people who were excitedly waving hello at me without seeing them at all. This time Zona stopped me and pointed them out. How she managed to see them I have no idea since they were across a crowded series of tables, but sure enough, when I turned around, there they were waving and smiling away.

I think  by the end of the day we were both completely done with this trip. We sat around the train station and were both probably a bit too happy to be heading back to gloomy and dreary Taipei than we should have been.

I suppose I owe it to Tainan to come back and visit sometime when it’s not CNY and the city isn’t overrun with tourists. But given my experiences, I probably won’t.

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