Despite the south Taiwan heat I'm fully covered: thick jacket, gloves, full face motorcycle helmet and two towels wrapped around my neck to cover all the gaps. I'm sweating like a pig but I can't take any of it off, the protection is necessary for what is about to happen. I stand in a crowd of people and in front of me is the rack absolutely full of fireworks, ready to be set off any minute now. My sense of anticipation is palpable as I watch intently while the final preparations are made...
The dreariness of my evening commute has been instantly dispelled by a marvelous sky. A pale blue background, bordering on yellow, richly strewn with tufts of cloud like pieces of cotton on a blue tablecloth. The clouds lie in shadow but are lit from underneath by the setting sun, painting them dark grey on one side and a brilliant hue of pinkish orange on the other. The contrasting colors make every little wisp of vapor stand out against the background, making the clouds seem bigger and fuller, while at the same accentuating the orange light, making it look as if the entire sky is filled with a brilliantly shining fire. It is little moments like this that make the drudgery of every day life bearable.
The gorge is like a deep fissure in the ground, carved by the water over thousands of years. The walls are uneven, shaped by the flow of the water, with patches of moss growing here and there. In front of me is the waterfall, a stream of white water that comes crashing down into the creak below, throwing spray high into the air and filling the cave with mist that makes it nearly impossible to take a photo. I let my gaze follow the walls upwards to the small hole high above where the stream flows into the cavern. As the water tumbles over the edge it breaks into little droplets, forming clouds that billow in the air like smoke in time with the rush of air and whoosh of the water as it comes down.
It's not a proper thunder shower yet, but the rain is still pretty heavy, big drops pelting me as I go along. Speed always amplifies the force of the drops, normally it starts to feel painful when you go above 60 kph and now I'm already doing a little over 90; every single drop hitting my chest or legs stings like a bullet from a BB gun - it's like riding through a barrage of machine gun fire. As if the pain wasn't enough, the thin rain jacket is woefully inadequate, I can feel myself becoming wetter with every second. For whatever reason - maybe it's because I've recently been reading a Finnish World War 2 novel - I react to the deep feeling of misery by repeatedly swearing in Finnish: Saatana Perkele, Saatana Perkele
The two fishermen on the beach warn us that the current is strong but I ignore them and follow my friend as he steps into the water. A few steps out the river bed drops away abruptly and I sink down to my chest, my watertight backpack floating up behind me like a cork. The water is cold and I can feel the current tugging at my body, wanting to pull me away and send me down stream. A feeling of trepidation flashes through my mind for a brief moment but disappears when I see my friend fearlessly continue forward, so I push on with determination. As we round the slight bend in the river I look up to the right where a smaller side stream comes cascading down the cliffs to join ours. Further along the little creak, the water flows over the edge of the high, jungle clad cliffs and comes crashing down into a small pool, sending spray high into the air. This place is imbued with a combined sense of danger and beauty and here and now, at this very moment, that is all I need.
The sun has just started to set, it's noticeably lower in the sky but still bright and warm, shining right at me. My hat shields my face from its rays but I can feel its warmth on my bare chest. It paints a broad streak of silver on the water's surface, like a glimmering road across the tops of the waves, from the ever shifting waterline on the wet sand all the way out to the horizon. I stand a few feet out in the water with the waves washing over my ankles, watching that strip of silver as if mesmerized by the way it sparkles, drawing in my eyes until I see nothing else. I feel the cool breeze one my back, I feel the sand being washed out from under my feet as I sink down into it, I hear the wooshing of the waves that, though not loud, drowns out the sounds from the people around me. It is a strange thing this, this urge that makes me kick off my shoes and go stand in the water, this instinctive need for meditation that only the ocean can fulfill.
The sign at the door said no photo so I’m on the balcony trying to take it all in. Below me is the main floor of the casino, a large hall with plush red carpets, brown panels on the wall that look like leather and all around the room the fixtures and fittings are polished to a golden sheen. About 50 gambling tables, topped in green or red cloth depending on the game, are spread out in the room. At each one of them sits a dealer clad in dark green a jacket, buttoned all the way up, with golden … Read the rest
Everyone has seen it in some movie or other, the cast stand in front of that fountain in Las Vegas looking at the show in front of them. This is just like that, except it’s not a movie. In front of me is a large pond bordered on this side by the promenade and on the opposite, the Wynn Palace casion with the central building right in front and the wings set at an angle like open arms welcoming you in, it’s facade bathed in a warm golden orange. From the middle of the pond dozens of water jets, lit … Read the rest
I have wandered into the central square of a European city. Around me are old, European style buildings in pastel colors, their facades covered in the kind of decorations you might see in Italy or Spain, their lower floors fronted by arcades. The ground is covered in worn down, black and white stone tiles laid out in a zebra stripe mosaic. In the center is a fountain surrounded by tourists with their cameras. It’s quite astounding how European the place looks, the only thing indicating that I’m in fact thousands of kilometers from Europe are the Chinese characters on the … Read the rest
There is a rounded opening in the wall of trees, just big enough for two people to stand side by side, framed by overhanging branches and low bushes silhouetted against the background, a barely perceptible difference between the shades of gray. A path, its gravel surface painted a light gray by moonlight, runs through the undergrowth, undulating slightly as it stretches out to a point somewhere in the distance. Thanks to the full moon my companions and I can navigate the darkness without using our flashlights, it enables us to see the little flickers of light all around us. In … Read the rest