Taiwan is a tropical island. Literally, the tropic of cancer (everything below which is considered the “tropics”) runs right through the island. The landscape is, more or less, what one might picture when asked to think of a tropical island… lushly, jungly green, mountainy and volcanic, turquoise ocean water, humid as all get out, etc. So what to do when the friend you’re visiting unexpectedly gets a week off of work… fly to another tropical island of course!
As a bit of background, the friend I was visiting in Taiwan works in a hospital (she’s a surgeon). The hospital, for various reasons, gave her, and all the other foreign surgeons there on fellowship, a week off of work. So they put their big doctor brains together and planned a short two-night group trip (surgeons on spring break) to Penghu, a Taiwanese archipelago located almost exactly halfway between Taiwan and mainland China (or the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, as each country is officially dubbed). By virtue of my impeccable timing (i.e. I happen to be there during this week and having others plan and book the whole trip), I got to go along for the ride (I really enjoy when things like this work out).
So, a house was booked, a car was rented and we were all off. Turns out the house we rented was owned by an American man / Taiwanese woman couple who now live with their family on Penghu (good for information without a language barrier). There were eight people in the group, two Americans, a Canadian, a Scot, a Hong Konger, a Welshman, a Czech and a Turk. All are surgeons but myself and the HKer (the girlfriend of the Scot, but she is gainfully employed as an accountant). Transportation of such a motley crew was provided by a super-hella-sweet 8-person Toyota van. By popular consensus I was elected to drive… mostly because I’m a man (y’all know we’re better drivers, just ask the auto insurance companies… no wait, don’t do that, but everyone knows it’s true anyhow ;-). Okay… maybe I drove because I volunteered (I like driving), and because I am used to driving on the right (details).
I found it interesting to hang out with a group of surgeons. Mostly because I always find it interesting talking with people who’ve always known what they wanted to do with their lives (despite being previously gainfully employed, I was never really excited by my previous line of work, nor was it something I’d always wanted to do). It’s a very different perspective. Also, stepping back, you just get some funny thoughts. Like that when Scottish dude, with whom you’re currently partner interpretative dancing to a Journey song, goes back to work the following Monday, he’s going to be doing things like re-attaching people’s limbs. At least I find it funny… people are just people no matter what they do, and it’s nice to see that (or be reminded of it).
Tropical island things were done… beaching, sunning, lounging, swimming, volley balling, etc. Highlights included a makeshift party on the balcony the last night of our stay, eating pink cactus fruit sorbet (a local specialty), gorging at an all you can eat bbq place, successfully making it all the way from one end of the archipelago to the other with the gas light on (all the gas stations except in the main city close at 5 PM), and taking a ferry out to a beach so pretty you’d question the fact that you were in Taiwan. All in all, it was a very lovely little vacation within a vacation (within another vacation?).