Today we had a surprise lesson in Taiwanese etiquette; at the pool. The clouds had cleared and we’d just finished an early afternoon siesta when we strolled out the secret garden door to the pool side, fetched some towels and found a nice combo of chairs with mixed sun and shade where we could watch the afternoon swim session and take part if we so desired. I had read in a hotel review a few days ago indicating that this certain hotel enforced swim caps, and this visitor was taken aback as the reasons for this (to him) were unclear and unreasonable. I didn’t even think that this would be an issue, but we haven’t swam in any of the hotel pools yet….
Today as we lay poolside, we observed that all the kids and the two adults in the pool had all donned swim caps (and goggles for that matter). So, what else could one do but google the question. Basically we learned that in most Taiwan pools not only is a swim cap is required, but also speedo shorts, much to our amazement. It seemed that people at the resort pool were abiding by the cap rule, but left a little slack in the speedo versus board short department (a little, meaning they had more coverage with slightly looser fitting speedo shorts).
One response, I read, was that you might drown with board shorts because there is far too much fabric. Another said that the hair would clog the pool drains unless a swim cap is worn. In Thailand and Vietnam, we recalled people often wore plastic bags on their heads when it rained because they wanted to keep their heads dry, so naturally when we saw this swim cap phenomena we assumed it was because the “Asian” people (I shouldn’t generalize….) don’t like to get their hair wet. This was quickly corrected when we noticed the swim caps were mesh material and their hair was actually getting wet underneath.
It seems there is a significant Japanese influence here (as seen with the frequent polite bows that are offered at least on the east coast of the Taiwan island) and that it must go back to the Japanese cleanliness rules of bathing sans a swim suit and showering beforehand. Who knows, maybe they’re onto something. Though, you can walk into a bakery in a subway station and all the baked goods are on open shelves at crotch level, or you can go to a hotel buffet and experience the communal ice cream scooping. Go figure.
Anyway, regardless of assumptions, the jist of the research indicated that apparently for sanitation reasons both swim cap and speedo’s are strongly encouraged and/or enforced pool entrance requirements. Rebellious thoughts were shared between us involving the consequences of our actions that might have involved a quick cannonball entrance sans swim cap, and whether we might get some amazing shock and awe responses. However, whenever you are in the extreme minority and in their country it’s probably a good idea to conform to their customs. We’d not only by frowned at, but we’d probably have to hide for the next 24 hours to avoid their unapproving glares. When in Rome…. or just don’t go swimming. We did the latter.
Anyway, we didn’t lay by the pool for long, as most of our morning had been spend driving east and north from Kenting. The weather was hit and miss, with a heavy rain shower, some strong winds, then followed by the hot sun. We found a town called Jialeshui, about 15 minutes from Kenting which had a few board rental shops, so we popped in and checked prices. You definitely pay more for convenience, and this place was very close to the break, as we learned shortly after.
We parked on the edge of the highway, just a few steps down and across the beach. The waves certainly looked comfortable; slightly mushy and not too big. I would have probably gone in right then and there, but this was a “search expedition” not a “surf adventure” and we were not prepared with our gear to jump in and get out there. So, we watched for just long enough to lightly roast our pastey skin, and we left with intentions of returning the next morning. Wetsuit, or no wetsuit; that was the question of the day.
We went to the beach for sunset, camera in hand, only tonight was not my lucky night. Though, sadly the colours weren’t that impressive. From there, we browsed then surpassed the food vendors at the night market for a little restaurant on the main street with slight Indian flare, with some western style food. Josh had imported Belgium beer of all things, and we ate quesadillas. Apparently, as you can see, we miss our cheese. And, to be adventurous, I had a green tea ice cream for desert. But, half way in, my appetite was lost by the soggy cone, and the aweful smelling mystery meat wafting down the street. Sigh. Hopefully the skiddish little wild doggy in the woods was up for a taste, cuz I hucked it yonder for him to find.