The collected writings of a Renegade Tourist

Category Frozen Moments

K├Ânigstrasse, Stuttgart, 5:07 pm

I'm on what I believe is the main shopping street in the city, it's wide but free of cars with shops and restaurants all along the sides. Despite being a fairly sizable city, all the shops are closed; the lights are on but the doors are locked and not a soul inside. Out in the street there are a few stragglers but otherwise it's deserted. At this hour, when the light has started to fade but the street lights have yet to turn on, the feeling of emptiness becomes profound, like the entire city is dead. And there, for a few moments, I flash back to the deserted airport with its long corridors and waiting halls nearly devoid of people. In the back of my mind I know that this is normal for Germany, but for a brief moment I can't help but think that this is due to the pandemic.

Country road in Baden-W├╝rettemberg, 7:09 am

It’s cold outside, only a few degrees above feezing. The sun has barely started to rise, giving the sky the merest hint of pre-dawn light, just enough to see the outline of landscape we’re driving through. All around us is a thick grey mist that creeps across the dark fields on the side of the road. We cut through the fog like a knife as we speed down the road, leaving a trail of clear air behind us. Our headlights burrow into the mist, illuminating a few meters of asphalt ahead of us and the odd roadside tree, before the … Read the rest

Taoyuan Airport, Terminal 1, 9:30 pm

I have just left the passport checking counter and I’m walking towards my gate. I turn a corner and walk a few meters down the corridor, idly remembering what it used to be like here, and that’s when the emptiness of the place hits me with full force. There were a few other passengers at the security checkpoint, and at emigration there were the border controls officers who checked my passport but here I am all alone. The long, wide corridor with its conveyor belt walkways and information sign hanging from the ceiling, normally so busy, is completely devoid of … Read the rest

Guyan Waterfall, 4:03 pm

I stand just meters from the fall looking up at it. It is tall and narrow, the stream of water tumbling down a near vertical cliff, hitting little protrusions in the cliff face on the way down, sending a fine mist into the air. The mist catches the rays of the sun, forming a permanent rainbow that hovers in the air just above the the shallow little pool at the fall's base. The little gully where I stand lies in the shadow of the cliffs above and the air is filled with the rushing of the water. Outside, the landscape is bathed in sunlight, all green and bright and swelteringly hot, but here it's cool and calm with the soothing sounds of the water drowning out all other noise. As I stand there admiring the view, the excitement of successfully scrambling my way up the lower falls to this place slowly dissipates and I feel a calm settle over me. It's as if my mind has been emptied of all worries and negative feelings and I simply feel happy.

Teapot Mountain, 11:26 am

The trail is close to vertical, a narrow trench of bare gray rock leading up towards the summit, the sides of the cliff forming a sharp V-shape against the sky. The bottom of the trench is uneven, forming footholds here and there, and two thick, knotted ropes run down the sides for you to hold on to. I'm standing halfway up, waiting for the person in front of me to get around a particularly difficult section, thinking to take a photo but I realize this is not the time. My position is too precarious, swinging the pack off my back to retrieve the camera might throw me off balance, and besides I have people waiting below me. Instead I spend a few moments just taking in the strange feeling of standing here: the urge to continue moving upward, to keep pushing towards the end of the trail, mixed with the very real sense of danger in standing at this very spot, and the thrill that it brings. Normally I would wax poetic about the beauty of the surrounding landscape, but right here and now, that's it, nothing more.

Chang Gung Hospital, 8:45 am

Only one of the doors is open, the rest have been blocked, and a line of people are moving through it at slow but steady pace. Just inside, in the space between the two sets of doors, is a table with a line of automatic disinfectant dispensers. One by one the people in the queue get a squirt of disinfectant, a faint smell of alcohol rising into the air, and rub their hands together. They pass by a temperature check station, an IR camera on a tripod hooked to a computer, and into the entrance hall of the hospital. Inside they are met with a row of folding tables, set up like a temporary barrier. Each table holds a computer and behind it sits a nurse in purple gown, pink hair net, surgical mask and transparent face shield. The people spread out between these checking stations, handing over their ID cards as if they were at the passport control at the airport. Those who pass the ID check get a red stamp on their hands, almost like a nightclub though far less lighthearted, and are finally let through. I myself get the admittance stamp and can enter the hospital to do what I came for, I can only speculate about what happens to the ones who don't get it.

Yangmei Station 7:53 am

The train doors open and the cold rushes in. With my seat right next to opposite door, almost straight in the path of the freezing wind, the cold hits me head on, washes over me from my feet all the way up to my head, clinging to me like a wet blanket. It's that special kind of cold that you only get in subtropical regions, that dampness the creeps in through your clothing and chills you through and through like nothing else can. Even the raw, biting cold of Sweden's frozen north doesn't feel as uncomfortable as this.

The Balcony, 12:08 am

I stand looking out over the seemingly sleeping city. There's a light breeze that makes it feel like the cold of the night air is creeping in through the gaps between my shirt buttons, and chill of the stone floor is seeping up through my socks. A new round of fireworks starts, I can hear the sharp cracks somewhere off to the right but they are hidden from view by the nearby buildings, all I can see is the colorful flashes of light on the surrounding facades. I stand there in the cold dark space of the balcony, the revelry and fireworks just on the edge of my consciousness, and feel that special kind of feeling that isn't quite loneliness but isn't really anything else either - clearing the mind from daily stresses and just absorbing the cool quite now, and yet, realizing somehow that you want to be where those unseen fireworks are. And that's the moment that I notice it, the fireworks are reflected on the windows of one of the buildings in the distance, the glass making the images ripple and become dreamy; a moment of beauty pierces my solitude and brings me back to reality. I listen to the fireworks for a few moments longer then let the cold drive me back indoors.

Dongao bay 4:12 pm

I thought I could go swimming but it's too dangerous. The beach slopes steeply down towards the water, and when a big wave comes sweeping in it's like a giant trough of water that empties then fills back up in matter of seconds. Though swimming is out of the question I still enjoy the feeling of waves washing over my feet, so I walk a few meters down the slope, let my feet get swallowed up by the pleasantly cool water while the afternoon sun warms my back. I hesitate for a moment, thinking about taking a few steps more, then another big wave comes rolling in and crashing onto the beach with tremendous force; white foam rushing forwards, the water rising from my knees to my chest in an instant, the force pushing me back at least a meter. Just as I recover my balance the water rushes out again, pulling at my legs, threatening to drag me with it. Behind it, a million little rocks come rolling down the beach, filling the air with a rattling, rushing noise against the background booming of the waves.

Zhuwei beach, 6:02 pm

The water is a nearly perfect navy blue topped by a faint streak of orange from the warm glowing ball of the setting sun. I lie in the water after my run over the soggy grey sand, letting it cool me down. A wave comes rolling lazily along, slowly lifting me up then gently dropping me down as it passes. I take in the beauty of the sunset and just drift, total relaxation.

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