As Josh and I had already returned our rental car in Kaohsiung, we decide at the last minute there’s just one more sight we need to see, so we rent a scooter and head out. Only, I find myself yelling at him frantically as he is driving down the scooter lane going the wrong way, then causing people to veer off the road and hit walls on either side. Then, we cross the other opposite side, finally, and he tries to squeeze us through a very narrow space, obviously too tight for us to fit and I stick my hands out to stop us. Furiously, I’m yelling “stop, stop it, we’re not going anymore, just stop the scooter” and I burst into sobs, not only about the current situation, but I explain how horrible his driving is, considering earlier in the day when we crossed paths of a deadly looking scooter accident with a man lying faceup on the side of the road with a crowd starting to gather. Did he not learn anything from that incident? Be more careful.
Then, I realize I’m having a dream. I slowly wake from my nap-mare, silently still sobbing, and look over at Josh whos’ reading his book on the couch. Then I remember, the man lying on the road after being hit; this part was real. We passed the collision on the way here this morning. I felt completely helpless and cruel driving past, but with no language to communicate, and no equipment at hand there really was nothing I could do. Plus, I’ve heard horror stories about foreigners trying to help at an accident site, just to have blame turned on them. Clearly, I hadn’t been able to shake the image or the situation from my head.
Being here in Kaohsiung, makes Ho Chi Mihn City’s traffic look like a treat. And, since its the worst we’ve ever encounterd, that’s significant. There, in HCMC, you just proceed slowly across the 20 lane traffic at a steady space and everyone funnels around you nicely. There is no pedestrian turn to cross. It took us several minutes and turns and watching a few others to figure this out and to trust that it would work.
Anyway, here in Kaohsiung, it’s all fine and good if you’re in a car, driving nicely your lane, but we actually did turn in our rental car today, and experienced being a pedestrian in this very large and congested city.
Let me lay it out for you. There’s 2-4 lanes of car traffic going either direction, with scooter/bike lanes on the outer edges. There is then a small curb (sometimes) lifting a level of scooter parking, followed by a level of bike parking. Then, a pedestrian street. Or, you would assume, until a scooter, bike or even car comes up on the sidewalk passing you silently until on your heels, or whizzing past your elbow, as it dodges not only you, but trees, bikes, dogs, people, chairs, garbage, etc to get wherever they see fit. They even go down the narrowest little shopping alleys, where there’s barely enough room to walk, and this, at a good clip. They park at the shop they like, then continue to the next, like a drive-thru mall. Feel safe? Not really.
Quite frankly, I feel like kid at the Hunger Games, watching my back from all angles like everyone’s out to get me. Even when its your designated turn you need to consider that it’s not. So watch out. I laugh in the face of the signs saying “pedestrian’s have right away”.
We arrived in this city around 2 or so, checked into a cute little hotel just off a busy main road. After saying a sad goodbye to the beach, we say hello to crazy busy, big city. And ugly. Driving in on the highway, we pass over a large bridge and there are hundred’s of smoke stacks and industrial buildings dominating the skyline, with smog so thick you can’t see the mountains, or the city behind it. Wonderful, I think maybe we should have stayed at the beach.
But, as we kept driving the city improved, with tree lined boulevards, and architectural accents throughout. It definitely still haw its concrete ugliness, but measures have been takent to erase your image of the dirty, grimey looking indrustrial place from just few kilometers before.
Tomorrow, we’ll head over to the little island, where we’re hoping to get our beach time back.