A hot spring is a series of little pools filled with tap water (in
Blant warned me as we went to Beitou that a trip to the hot spring is a zen-like experience and that I should behave accordingly. "Don't move too quickly in the water for the waves will disturb the concentration of the other bathers. Don't speak too loudly; control your breathing; try to place yourself at one with nature; be silent and watchful." Blant had also invited Paul Mastiff, a fellow Brit. When we arrived Paul was already in the hot pool. I got changed and ready and dipped a toe into the hot pool, then another, and another, until I felt confident enough to put in my whole foot. By the time I got to my neck, six minutes had passed and it was time for Paul to get out. He charged like a water buffalo attacking a hippo, and bellowed, "HEY I'M GEDDIN OUT NOW ANYONE WANNA COME TO THE COLD POOL MAN ITS HOT HERE HEY YOU SPEAK ENGLISH HOW ARE YOU?"
With Paul attacking other pools, and Taiwanese people taking flight like startled pigeons, I tried to find my Zen. I looked around and saw that the hot spring was carved into the side of a leafy mountain. Hot water trickled along bamboo half-pipes into the hot pool, creating marvellous swish and splash sounds that made me think of the ocean. "Pretty nice," I thought to myself. The place was small and popular but not crowded. The day was a sizzling one, but although the hot spring was outdoors, the air was pleasantly cool. "Very nice," I thought, and closed my eyes.
When I opened them, an American had appeared to my left, and his Taiwanese wife, and her mother and sister were getting in to my right. "Don't talk to me," I said with my eyes. "Hey!" shouted the wife, "We hear you're single!" "What? Who-" I began. "So we thought maybe you'd like to date my sister. Let's all go to lunch!" I glanced at the smiling girl to my right, and, assuming her to be the sister in question, played my get-out-of-jail-free card. "Right, that's.... yeah, but I'm leaving
"How did you guys meet?" I asked. She spoke rapidly for thirty seconds. I could only pick out the phrases '
I left the