Last week, Teresa asked for suggestions for Americans traveling to Taiwan.
Teresa, it's been a long while since I was there.
The Heroine and I have been chatting about returning to Taiwan, where we first met.
Now there is a story.
That involves scandal, Chinese doctors, toga wearing men, a witch, the police, surveillance teams, double-crossing taxi drivers, and para-military capture squads.
It includes thrilling chase sequences and hidden hideaways, smoky bars and steamy nightclubs, lost clothes and found love notes, secret ink and disappearing tattoos, chopper motorcycles entering densely populated warrens, crumbling concrete, and the electric crackle of decay and power lines.
It also includes directions, lost, and love, found.
(Although my version of that first encounter, and the context it occurred in, is far more glamorous than the Heroine's version. She leaves the good bits out.)
Taiwan can be magnificent.
But you are not interested in that, you want to know what to suggest to people visiting Taiwan.
For Taiwan, the obvious attractions are in Taipei.
Send the first-timers to the Shilin Night Market. At night.
Send them to the tea houses and to the temples.
Send them to Taipei 101.
But that is all in the tourist guides.
If you really want to know what I thought, I'd say...
Well, I'd just tell them to observe everything.
Watch the way people scan the shelves when they are buying.
What is stocked on the shelves, and where.
What the "must have", impulse buy, high margin high profit item is right by the checkout stand.
The ways advertising tries to sell things.
The things that make the locals raise their eyebrows with delight, or with interest, and those things that make them lower their noses in disdain.
The ways cafes are operated and run.
The ways people communicate with each other when they walk down the street.
The ways men and women try to attract each other.
The way kids play.
The way that automotive traffic moves.
The way that foot traffic moves.
I'd suggest they try and determine the underlying rules of the society and then prognosticate future actions to test their theories.
Then, I would suggest that they do the same things when they arrive in Taiwan.
And repeat, yet again, when they return to their home country.
What we learn most, through traveling, is about ourselves and where we are from.
We discover ourselves through observing and interacting with others.
That, Teresa, is the advice I would give.
But, tell them to walk up Yang Ming Shan (陽明山) and hike in the jungle forest (and watch for snakes in the bamboo).
I would urge them to soak up cultural treasures in Taiwan's National Palace Museum, spin with wide-eyed wonder in the breathing, living, incense-snorting temples everywhere, and unwind for a placid day in the tea gardens in Jiufen (九份), just outside Taipei, having laoren cha (老人茶) (the old man's tea ceremony).
I'd tell them to dance all night in whatever the hippest night clubs are, this week, because who knows if tomorrow will come and leaving the night club when the day-treaders are heading to the slavery of the office is oh so rewarding.
Also, if they are in Taiwan for more than a week, I would exhort them to discover Taiwan, not just Taipei, because the island is so lush, and so worth exploring.
Taiwan, after all, was called Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island, by the Portuguese on first sight based on the vegetative beauty they saw; the verdant, living, fog-bejewelled, coruscating palette covering the massive island.
That is what they saw when the Portuguese sighted Taiwan in 1544 on their way to re-supply in the Pescadores (Portuguese for the Fishermen), now known as Penghu, 澎湖群島. And it is still true today, if you look beyond the pollution either side of the motorway and around the factories.
Beauty, and life, will out.