On the Way to The Beautiful Island

Bangkok

Thailand
October 18, 2007

Sawadee krap,

Or should I say "Ni hao?"

Since last June I have been mostly home in Bangkok although I did manage brief trips to the Thai beach resorts of Phuket and Hua Hin and an automotive jaunt up north to the fresh air of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

At the moment, I am feeling the itch to sniff a whiff of aviation fuel.

On Friday, 19 October, I fly northeast across the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait to a place the Portuguese called "The Beautiful Island." I will be there for three weeks.

The Island was formed when the Eurasian tectonic plate collided with the Philippine tectonic plate. Consequently I expect to be visiting mountains, ravines and gorges not to mention the ubiquitous natural hot springs and scenic coastal areas.

The Island was first settled about 10,000 years ago. Since then it has been invaded by the Fujians, the Hakka, the Qing, the Ming, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Nipponese and finally the Kuomintang.

I will visit the world's tallest building, the International Financial Center 101. Yes, this little country has an important finance industry as well as its own "Silicon Valley."

My taste buds are in for an adventure. I may start the day with an omelet filled with pickled radishes, spring onions and hot sauce. Perhaps I will follow up with the traditional stinky tofu, or the fried sandworms specialty, or the Hakka style fried ginger intestines.

If I don't write to you it may be because I am at a stadium watching the national obsession called Baseball. Baseball aficionados will surely recognize the names of the teams. The Brother Elephants are scheduled to go nine innings against the Sinon Bulls. (The Yanks and the Mets should invade and do a little better.)

Crossword puzzle aficionados will recognize the Ami as the three-letter word for a local aboriginal group; or the Yami, a four-letter word for another aboriginal group.

By most Asian standards this developed island is expensive. But I did find a low air fare from BKK to TPE on KLM. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

TPE. ROC. You with me yet?

Zaijian,

Jan

* Portuguese for "Beautiful Island" is "Ilha Formosa"

* Fried Sandworms? Forget about fried foods. Maybe sautéed with olive oil and fresh garlic? First I'll check with my Rabbi.

* Intestines? Whose? And I do like ginger.

* My friend here in BKK told me there is a men-only market in TPE where I can score a flask of freshly drained snake blood. I am told the warm infusion induces that special effect.

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