Monday, December 28, 2009

Hotel after hotel...

I'm now down near the southernmost tip of Taiwan, in Kenting. The last two nights we stayed in the Big Eye Tuna hotel in Kaohsiung. This was a slightly strange hotel, as the facade of the building was made from foot-wide plastic scales, as if to confuse you into thinking it really was a tuna made flesh. Well, a mythical tuna-hotel made flesh. If the Taiwanese have myths about fish performing valuable infrastructural roles in the hospitality industry, that might well be the case.

Down the end of the street from the hotel was a bar called the Dog Pig Cafe. The sign for this bar was a dog, apparently mounting a pig. I was disappointed when we were not presented with a live dog-pig show inside the bar, but it seems disappointment is a constant in my life. And I hit my head on the ceiling on the way out. Life is hard.

If a lack of miscegenation and a curiously decorated hotel were not enough, the room we stayed in had the whiff of rotten eggs about it. I never found any eggs in the room (and it was small enough that it would have been difficult to hide any in there) but again, maybe this is part of a unique Taiwanese welcome.

To get to Kaohsiung from Taipei we took an ultra-modern, 330kph Japanese bullet train. This delivered us to Kaohsiung in 96 minutes, without any fuss or interruption. To get from Kaohsiung to Kenting we were accosted outside Kaohsiung Main Rail Station by a tiny, elderly woman, who passed us to her son, who passed us to his wife or sister, who took us to an old VW minivan, where we sat for twenty minutes, until the old woman had collected seven more passengers, after which we were driven at occasionally terrifying speed down the highway to Kenting.

When we arrived in Hungchen where our hotel was, we found that none of the locals knew where it was. We had no Chinese name for the hotel, as the website didn't provide this; only the name in English, which nobody in southern Taipei could read. A taxi driver offered to take us there for 400 NTD, which seemed steep, given that we'd come all the way to Hungchen for 300 NTD each, and that was about a hundred kilometres. Eventually we got through to the hotel, who sent a shuttle bus to pick us up, and then take us on a very long drive to the hotel, possibly justifying the earlier taxi driver's estimate.

The hotel itself is a fairly large resort; with almost nobody in it, because we're here out of season. We've only really come here to see the National Aquarium, but it would have been nice if it could have been warm here, rather than windy and cold. There are no shops or restaurants in walking distance, except for the ubiquitous 7-11. Since the hotel is so unoccupied, I am beginning to worry that we could be in the Taiwanese remake of the Shining, and at some point I'll go mad and try and chop people up with an axe. At least it is by the seaside, rather than constructed on a mountain on the site of an Indian burial ground. I'm hoping that there are no evil giant wasps trying to warp my mind.

Meanwhile, however, there is a video game arcade and bowling alley in the basement. I've played two games of Puzzle Bobble and one of a ridiculous kodo-drum simulator, like a Japanese version of Guitar Hero. Although Guitar Hero was probably Japanese too.


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