A Vacation Blown off Course

6 01 2011

The South Gate of Hengchun

A light rain patters on the windshield as we cruise past a huge monument of a yueqin, a moon-shaped lute that’s become a symbol of the town of Hengchun, and around the historic south gate of the old city wall. I can’t help but imagine that this little town of little more than 30,000 people is concealing a much richer heritage than the tiny dot on my map would suggest. In the coming days, I would, in fact, encounter an old man with a whole collection of life-sized yueqins and a life story as varied as the chords he plucks on his two-stringed instruments.

But for now, I was beginning to obsess about the unseasonably low temperatures and the increasing intensity of the rain. As we stop at a traffic light on one of the empty main streets of Hengchun I notice with more than a small measure of alarm that the wind has picked up, too. My friend Kristine glances up at the ceiling, as though checking on the surf board she has tightly bound to the roof of her hatchback. Her surfing vacation seems to be limbo, too. Why again had we chosen to take our beach vacation in the middle of winter? I take another look at the weather forecast for the coming week – a string of days dipping into the mid-teens. Sure, it’s at least five or six degrees warmer than Taipei, but there are no little smiling sun icons in the forecast to make a trip to the beach bearable. I’m going to have to find a different way to spend my time in Southern Taiwan. But doing what?

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