Sunday, May 8, 2011

Flesh of the Paradise Treasures Futon

Let’s Backtrack: Upon arriving at our hostel in Kaohsiung, our very friendly hostel staff member, Caleb, provided us with a map that conveniently identifies all of Kaohsiung’s tourist attractions along with a short description.

Very convenient. Oh wait, did I say “convenient”? What I meant to say was “deceitful”! 

Perhaps I shouldn’t lay blame in the map but rather in myself for assuming it was an exact scaled down cartographic record of all the streets in Kaohsiung. Let me tell you, it isn’t. Only the busier roads are mapped and so when I reviewed the map in the morning thinking that our leisurely walk to the former British Consulate would be oh two blocks this way, a block up, then another couple blocks over, cross that bridge, go around that bend and we’re there!... well, let’s just say I was sorely mistaken.

Amanda’s reference in her previous blog post to us walking for “a couple hours” is a slight understatement. It was about four hours that we spent traipsing around in the mid-afternoon sun, not entirely sure where we were going - the limitations of the map having dawned on us by that point.

As you may know already, our epic blistering trudge to the former British Consulate ended with us then being filmed by a mainland Chinese man who was no doubt intrigued by whether or not these large pink faced and rather shiny white people would collapse before his very eyes.

I hope you will understand that the following day we decided to take things a little easier.

Movie Time

On Friday we took a leisurely walk to a movie theater a few blocks away from the hostel. On the way there we came across a nice, clean little restaurant serving lunch. Italian food seems very popular here, but with a Taiwanese twist! Amanda had an excellent chicken and cheese risotto while I opted for a smoked duck spaghetti. The meal came with a small bowl of delicious pumpkin soup to start and we were both very satisfied.

When we got to the movie theater there was our usual awkward ineptness at having to deal with something new in a different language. We managed to locate some self serve terminals for the movie tickets but our efforts were scuppered from the get-go since the screen was filled with a veritable ocean of Chinese characters which simply stunned Amanda and I into bemusement.

Yes, here comes the embarrassing moment. So an employee noticing that we looked a little lost came to help us and once we conveyed that we wanted to buy tickets for a movie, he took us back to the self-serve machines and tapped the screen (it was a screen-saver!) at which point we were presented with a screen that in giant yellow letters gave us the option to continue in Mandarin or switch to English. English please! At this point we were presented with the exact same screen that any Canadian has become accustomed to if they have ever used the self-serve machines at a Cineplex Odeon in Canada. Same menu, same colours, same everything. Nevertheless, he still guided us through the entire transaction as though we were too stupid to do it ourselves.

Having successfully purchased our tickets we bought some popcorn (you can choose sweet or salted) and watched the movie (Thor) which was in English with Mandarin subtitles. Interesting fact, the movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, better known for his work bringing Shakespeare to the big screen. We enjoyed the movie and it was a nice way to forget that we’re on the other side of the world from home, if only for a couple hours.

The Tuntex Sky Tower

Not far from the theater, we made our way to the 85-floor Tuntex Sky Tower, the tallest building in Kaohsiung, and 13th tallest in the world. The elevator is touted as one of the fastest in the world and travels at speeds up to 10.17 m/s (33.4 ft/s).

The views of Kaohsiung City and the harbour were beautiful and our timing was just right for us to linger and watch the sun set.

Friendly Locals

One of our meals the past few days was from a street vendor who was so friendly that he asked of our situation and, upon learning that we were looking for ESL teaching jobs, took my email address so that he could ask his other customers if they needed to hire an ESL teacher and provide them with my contact details.

I’m not holding out hope for this job search technique, but I was touched by his friendliness and genuine desire to be of help to us. The Taiwanese are so friendly and accommodating that it has been a really great experience so far.

“Watch those people and do as they do!”

Tonight (Sunday) we found our way to an interesting venue for dinner.

We selected a place that had English subtext on their menu and through the restaurant windows we could see other people cooking their own food on a little pot filled with coals and a wire grill cover.

It wasn’t until later in the meal when we had a moment alone with the menu that we learnt that there is a rule that you only have two hours at your table from when you sit down and then you have to leave. This time limit certainly explained our servers haste and what seemed to be concern that we were taking too long or not understanding her.

We most certainly weren’t understanding her as she spoke to us in what felt like rapid fire Mandarin and she didn’t seem to realize that no matter how many time she repeated herself it wasn’t going to aid our understanding.

It was sheer luck that we were sat at a table right next to a similarly aged couple that had also just sat down and so for our benefit we were able to pay close attention and do as they did.

The meal turned out to be a sort of order, drink, cook and eat as much as you can until your 120 minutes is up. Amanda and I got to try what I think was lamb, pork, beef, chicken, onion, broccoli, bamboo shoots, cabbage, corn, and for desert... “mushmellows” [sic, marshmellows] and “britney chocolate” [sic, brownie chocolate].

All-in-all it was a good experience if a little stressful.

Oh yes, and now for the blog post title. When looking up movie times on the Internet we found the appropriate website but there was no English language option. I turned to Google to translate the website into English and indeed it did. “Thor” and “Fast 5” were translated perfectly, but either the remainder of the movies being screened were ones that I had never heard of before or, much more likely, Google Translate had made a hodgepodge of the translation. My favorite being “Flesh of the Paradise Treasures Futon”.

Sounds like a thriller to me!

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