Painting the town red

I finally got to get out of the Olympic training center and take a tour of Kaohsiung city. When driving from the airport to the training center we took the expressway so I was unable to really get a feel for the city and the people of Taiwan. Last night was very different. Through very broken English I was invited by Coach Bill to go to the Lantern Festival and go out to eat with his wife and eldest son.

I met Coach Bill in the lobby at 2:00. After picking up his son and meeting his wife at their house we took off (in his car) for the local mall. The Taiwan mall contains every type of store you can imagine all under one roof. Our first stop in the mall…Starbucks. Looked just the same as the one in Irvington. As I made my way through the mall I finally got to the grocery section. Since Kaohsiung sits next to the ocean you can imagine the fresh fish available. I saw more squid than beef or chicken on the coolers. I could tell Coach Bill favored the local flavor and made it his responsibility to introduce me their food. Before I could object Coach Bill handed me fried squid balls with sea salt on a stick. Wasn’t bad at all.

Our first destination was a building memorial dedicated to Chinese solders. The memorial was constructed the same year I was born in 1974. It sat on the top of a mountain overlooking most of the city. The view was spectacular. The memorial looked to be in traditional Chinese architecture but then outside of the gates was a more modern museum with pictures and documents explaining the history, struggles, and migration of the Chinese to Taiwan.

We ended the afternoon tour with hike through the mouth of a dragon and a tiger. Before we entered Coach Bill made me stick my hand in the mouth of a small dragon statue for good luck and touch the back of a turtle statue for long life. I also had to enter the mouth of the dragon first and leave through the mouth of the tiger. Don’t ask me why.

Next was dinner….

Coach Bill’s wife met us all at a restaurant owned by one of her friends in the heart of the city. As soon as we sat down we were greeted by the owner and a ton of food. There were no menus just samples of the dishes in the front window. Coach Bill must have ordered every dish! Once again I didn’t know what I was eating and Coach Bill wanted me to eat authentic Chinese cuisine. There were several plates scattered on the table and instead of each individual having their own plate we shared and sampled from all the different dishes with only our chopsticks. My favorite dish was the squid with ginger. At first I thought it was a vegetable. Only after did they tell me what I was eating.

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