It is Monday evening here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan...I haven't been posting much because I have been focused on war coverage and doing some work online, but here is what I was up to this weekend-
A friend took me over to Monkey Mountain on Saturday...incredibly fun, though because the wild monkeys and wild dogs are sometimes aggressive it would be completely illegal in a place like the US. The monkeys sometimes fight other monkeys, the monkeys sometimes attack humans, and the dogs and monkeys sometimes battle as well. You can play with the hundreds of wild monkeys that live on Monkey Mountain (if your dare to). The monkeys organize themselves in to small gangs/families, it would seem each group has about 10-50 monkeys. It is clear who is the leader and which female monkey is most senior when they are grouped together. I spent much of my time within a couple feet of some of the monkeys and was a few times within inches. I had one monkey king take a shot at me, and I jumped back quickly then he retreated immediately...I was trying to get a good picture with him and he must have felt threatened. I saw one monkey attack a person, (jumped on his back and was trying to bite and strike him), and I saw monkeys stealing food and drinks out of the hands of people on the mountain several times. These are not small monkeys (except for the babies), and when they were trying to snatch food it would sometimes become a pretty funny litte tug-of-war between the human and the monkey. I loved it there, and I'll probably go back on Tuesday, it's only 10-15 minutes from the downtown area. I have lots of pics and vids that I will upload soon...
I went out Saturday night here and met a lot of people...several Americans, an Englishman who works on Power plants who had worked in the past in Iran (1997) as well as in Iraq about 20 years ago. He told me that he is ashamed to admit he helped build much of Hussein Airport (Baghdad's airport). I met a lot of Taiwanese and I have had the opportunity here in Kaohsiung to discuss the politics and economics of Taiwan and mainland China with many people that have many different opinions, perspectives, experiences and backgrounds. I am learning a lot on many levels here and my Chinese is (to my surprise) improving faster here in Taiwan than it has in my past visits to mainland China. Early this morning I met a mainland Chinese guy who claimed to be a boat captain who was in Kaohsiung for a short time before he returns to sea. Initially he seemed like a nice guy, but after a few drinks things went South very quickly. He began trying to pick fights with Taiwanese people in the Taiwanese Bar we were in (I was the only foreigner in there at the time), I got him out of the bar asap and tried to get him in to a cab. He was completely wasted and I was sober...he had a car, and despite my extensive, repeated attempts to get him to take a cab he refused and went to his car. I thought he was going home, and I headed over to 7-11 (as I often do) to grab some beef noodle soup and took my soup around the corner to a pub where I know the owner, dj and have a good friend that tends the bar. It was already 5:30am and they were closing, but I knew they'd let me stay to eat my soup and chat after they closed. To my surprise, the mainlander was stumbling out the door of the pub. When he saw me walking up with my soup he grabbed me by the arm and went back in to the pub. I thought I was free of this problem and suddenly there he was again...we never discussed this pub and it was a strange coincidence that he had decided to drive over there. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, and I was hoping that my friends could talk this jack ass in to a cab so he wouldn't kill anybody out on the road. Immediately after walking in, I discovered he had already been booted for his behavior, and he and the owner of the bar started arguing very loudly and aggressively. I set down my soup, dragged him outside and tried to get him in to a cab one last time. My bartender friend followed us outside, and as this drunken seaman stood next to his car he started to yell at my friend. I grabbed him and told him that this was my friend and he was not to speak to this person and it was time for him to go home. He shut his mouth, looked me in the eye for a few moments then got in to his car and left. I try to meet as many people as I can when I travel, and I am usually a good judge of character upon initial impressions. In this case I made a mistake in chatting with this guy. In the future I will be even more cautious about whom I meet. I was really embarrassed by the whole situation, but my friends were all very understanding once I explained what had happened and the boss told me that she had 86ed him before in the past. After eating and hanging out for a while, I headed back to my hotel for some rest.
I really like Kaohsiung, and renting an apartment or house here is very inexpensive compared to every other major city I have visited in Asia. Zhongshan University is here in Kaohsiung (Sun Yat-Sen University), and it offers a lot of Chinese language classes for foreigners. (One of my objectives here in Asia is to improve my Chinese beyond the level it was at when I finished my Chinese studies in 1998). Kaohsiung has everything a big city needs (including an International Airport) and it is extremely close to cool places like Monkey Mountain. Some locals go there every day to exercise and/or play with the monkeys. Being right on the coast and close to some nice little islands is a nice plus too. After I finish my travels in South-East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, East Timor, and the Phillipines
, and I may check out South Asia
at some point as well) I may return to Kaohsiung to live for a while. I have work to do in Southern China soon, and I will be touring all of mainland China when I get the opportunity.
I spent much of my Sunday here resting, playing 8-ball pool and keeping track of the developments in the middle east and news in countries that I have been to or will be travelling to. I couldn't sleep Sunday night, I felt sick over the news of POWs in Iraq and some personal issues, so I also had some time to talk to some friends and family back in the States early Monday morning. Apparently Berkeley is pretty chaotic right now with all the radical protesters running around, and my good friend Eric had his car attacked on University Avenue. (Note to Eric- I'm not sure what details you want to share about this, so if you could give an account of the incident and the rest of the mess over in Berkeley through the comment section on this post I'd really appreciate it). Plans for me are changing at this point, I can not return to Vietnam next month as planned due to the SARS outbreak (Severe Accute Respiratory Syndrome). "The State Department on Saturday warned Americans not to travel to Vietnam, one of the first countries affected."
I have some things to do in Thailand after I leave Taiwan and I am planning to return to the US asap to visit family and friends before I head over to Southern China to begin work related to a new company that Wendy and I are going to launch.
I am running late right now to go meet up with some friends, I'll be posting more later.