Well, Floyd and I just enjoyed three days' vacation on Green Island in a hotel we were not planning on staying at.
We got lost a couple of times getting from Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan) to the harbor in Taitung (eastern Taiwan), but that’s another story. Finally we found the right place to catch the boat to Green Island, and we managed to buy our round-trip tickets with no problem.
The 50-minute boat ride was really fun for me – lots of big billows, and my stomach quite frequently did that going-down-a-drop-on-a-roller-coaster plunge. Wheee! Floyd didn’t find it quite as fun as I did, but he had Dramamine, and he and his stomach somehow hung in there.
Well, we disembarked on Green Island with our duffel bag, two backpacks, the laptop in its case, my purse, Floyd’s satchel, a second duffel bag with two foam pads in case the hotel mattress was hard (as many of them tend to be here), and the address of our hotel written in Chinese. (We didn’t know the name of the hotel in either language.) I should mention here that a friend had recommended the hotel to us as one that she had stayed in, and she’d emailed us its Chinese address and the phone number. A different friend had helped us call the number and make a reservation (in Chinese) for the two nights we planned to stay.
So we lugged all our luggage (I guess that’s why they call it that, huh?) away from the busy port area to a quieter street to figure out what to do next and where to go. Several enthusiastic locals came over to see if we wanted help (I assume they work for tour companies or hotels and were trying to get our business, though we couldn’t understand them). One little old lady on a scooter was very persistent, so finally we showed her the hotel address to see if she could help us get there (and to show her that we didn’t need her help figuring out where to stay on the island). She read the characters and looked perplexed, and I understood her when she pointed at the first two characters and told us the address was in Taitung. Actually, I could read those particular characters too, though it hadn’t occurred to me to look closely or think about them before. Wait – could our reservation actually be for a hotel back in Taitung and not on Green Island? Surely not!
We didn’t have the phone numbers of either of our helpful friends, but we did have our other friend Clive’s number. Floyd called him and explained the situation – and long story short, after about ten minutes and several separate calls and the little old lady hanging around and trying to talk to us and ask us what was going on, we determined that our reservation was indeed in Taitung. Oh no! Here we were in Green Island with tickets to return the day after tomorrow, and no hotel reservation. Thankfully we hadn’t actually paid in advance for our other hotel!
Well, Clive is bilingual, so we passed the phone to our kind old lady, and the two of them had quite a conversation. A couple of times she passed it back to Floyd so Clive could update him what they’d been saying, and then it went back to the lady again. (But we still didn’t really have a very clear picture of what they were figuring out for us.) Finally the lady hung up, passed the phone back to Floyd, and gestured for me to get on the back of her scooter. What else could I do? I grabbed my purse and the laptop case, waved goodbye to Floyd, and got on behind her.
We drove a little way down the street and stopped where – thank goodness – another lady was waiting who spoke some English. (I should mention that the little old lady had made a few phone calls on her own phone a little earlier too.) The new lady asked me if my husband and I wanted to rent a scooter for one, two, or three days; and I told her I wasn’t sure we wanted to rent one at all. Maybe a bike? She spoke to someone who might have been her daughter, who disappeared down the street and came back riding a bike. They insisted I try it out, and I mentioned we had heard there were electric bikes for rent here. Back went the daughter and brought me an electric bike to test ride. They wanted an answer right then, but Floyd and I hadn’t really decided anything, and I didn’t want to sign anything without him there, and where was he anyway?
About that time some man drove up on a scooter with Floyd riding on the back. Most of our luggage was nowhere in sight. After a quick discussion and two test rides, we decided to rent a scooter. Neither of us has a scooter license, and I don’t even have a Taiwan driver’s license, but they assured us that was no problem and we could both legally drive this 50 cc one and be covered by their insurance in case of accident. I had never actually driven a scooter before, but the lady gave me a quick lesson then and there and I discovered it wasn't too hard. We had to pay in advance and leave Floyd’s license with her, which we’re still a little nervous about, but she seemed very friendly ….
So Floyd got on the scooter, I hopped on behind him (still clutching the purse and laptop), and our little old lady friend got on her own scooter and gestured for us to follow. We had no idea where we were going, but she led the way back toward the dock, where we found the rest of our luggage sitting quietly off to one side, waiting for us unattended. A man who had come with us on a third scooter picked up the pieces we weren’t already carrying and somehow balanced them on his scooter (the little old lady helped).
On we drove, and eventually ended up at a humble little hotel. It was run by the same company (Chung Hwa Telecom – the phone company) as the one we were supposed to stay in, so maybe they were able to somehow transfer our reservation.
Our little old lady friend waved goodbye and drove away before we could think of some culturally appropriate way to express our deep gratitude for her help. I shudder to think how we would have coped with the situation without such a Good Samaritan there to assist! All I can say is, I hope she got paid some sort of commission from the hotel or the scooter company, because she didn’t ask for or seem to expect anything from us.
Well, the hotel lady welcomed us in and helped us get our luggage to our room, and we proceeded to have an interesting conversation with the help of her iPhone. She gave us a brochure with a map of the island and touristy spots labeled in both English and Chinese, and recommended certain sites and answered our questions. But she spoke almost no English, and our Chinese certainly doesn’t take us very far. So she would type something into her phone, pull up the English translation, and let us read it on the screen. It worked!
Anyway, we were glad to be able to relax in our room and sort through and unpack our luggage. From the first moment I sat down on the bed, I could tell we would most definitely be thankful for those foam pads (and sure enough, we were)!
But “thankful” really is the theme of the afternoon. We’re thankful there was good phone reception here, thankful we could get ahold of Clive, thankful he was willing to help us, thankful for the little old Taiwanese lady who may just have been an angel in disguise, thankful that it worked out to rent a scooter that we can both legally drive, thankful we didn’t lose any money with the hotel problem, thankful all our luggage rejoined us intact, thankful there was a room available here for us for two nights at a very reasonable rate, and thankful for the technology that helped us work everything out! Thank you, Lord!
Tomorrow we hope to drive our rented scooter around the island, following the map we were given, and stop to see and do various things along the way. Stay tuned for another update – but hopefully this one will be much tamer!