When I think of Taiwan, I think of its landscape in the spring. They are some of my more vivid memories. Wide open fields flanked by cypress trees and bamboo groves. I watched it unfold from the train as it curled around mountain ranges, valleys, levelled out and paced along beaches. I rarely travel by train. Not for any particular reason. Just not much chance in a driving society. The longest trip I had was coming back from Los Angeles. I rode through the night until the sun rose in Stockton. Besides the graffiti walls that dot the central valley, everything was gray and yellow. Each trip is always an event. None of them were like here though.The train ran went a slim track that wound its way through a dense valley. On her side of the window, below the rocky outcroppings, a river followed along with fishermen perched here and there, waist deep in the middle of the stream. A few people got on at our first stop but that was it.  “Have you ever been to this side of the country?” I said.“Never.”  I sipped whiskey from the bottle I stowed along. If not for the view, I would have slept the entire way there. “You’re crazy,” she said, “I thought I told you to throw that away.”“It would have been a waste. How much time do we have left?”“An hour.” “I don’t regret not taking the high speed rail. This already feels too quick.”When the coastline disappeared behind trees and hillsides, we made out like teenagers at the park. Though there wasn’t much of a crowd, cabs lined up on the street in front of the station. Drivers in old trousers, weathered polo shirts and sandals,  stood with their arms crossed while leaning against their passenger doors. There was a thick humidity that made the air feel stale. Maybe it was the ocean mist. We were just off the coast. Like all coastal towns in Asia, the air settled on your skin and stayed on you for the rest of the day. She found a payphone and called the hostel while I stood next to our luggage. We had called earlier that morning but they told us to check back with them in the afternoon. The room might be available by then, they said. This would become our pattern. I’d stand by and watch our luggage while she went off in search of payphones and reservations. Not just for this city but every city. If we could not find one, we’d spend the night in a 24 hour McDonald’s if we had to. Our phones were useless without local sim cards. We were effectively cut off from the rest of the world, back-packing without the wilderness, station by station, city by city.“Did you get it?”“Yeah. They said it’s quite close to here. It’s the same we saw online.”“Good. Let’s go then.”“This city is not a city at all,” I said. Just hundreds of meters away from the station, we had passed some kind of threshold. The streets were completely empty. Stores were open on the inside but the fronts were closed. It was eerie but peaceful. I told her I liked this place. In the quiet, memories of Hong Kong were much further away. I kept my eye out for cafes or places that we could go to in case we needed to get online. Two long academic journals needed to be edited and published by the end of tomorrow I reminded myself. After a row of narrow side streets, the driver dropped us off in front of what looked to be a two story house. With its sliding wooden front door and adjacent shoe-case, with slippers for guests, I thought of Japan. Before Taiwan, we made a list of places we wanted to go to - Stockholm, Seoul, Reykjavik and Sendai. “Why Sendai? Why not Tokyo or Kyoto?”“Because it’s quiet and green. It’s better for wandering.” The innkeeper came out onto the porch to greet us when he was the cab pull up. He wore thick round circular glasses and a flannel shirt and had a gentle soft spoken voice. “Are you Xiao Jun?” he said. He took our luggage and stacked them on a chair and table just on the other side of the door. We stepped into the sleepers he gave us. A pink one for her. A blue one for me. It was homely inside. A square TV sat on top of a stool behind the counter and was showing local Taiwanese drama. A simple dining table with chairs rested against the opposite wall, next to a water boiler and a tea kettle. Everything smelled herbal and wooden in nostalgia. The inn-keeper paged through a large three ringed binder and looked for our names. He marked it with a pencil. “Sorry. We’ll have your room ready soon. It’s being tidied right now,” he said. I took a mint and popped it into my mouth and listened. It was all I could do as I tried to pick up bits and pieces of their conversation. “It’s okay. We can just drop our luggage in the room first,” she said.  The innkeeper turned his head slightly and smiled with some embarrassment. “You don’t have to trouble yourselves. Just leave them there and I’ll take them up for you when everything’s prepared.”“You said you were coming from Taipei early this morning.” He went to the other side of the counter and brought back a map of the city. “Do you have any plans?”“We don’t. We’re just traveling down the coast.”“That’s wonderful. Well, there are a couple of things you can see in this city.” I was lost in the conversation. He pointed to different places on the map and circled them with a blue ball point pen. He spoke in length about each place that he marked. Occasionally, she’d turn towards me and translate. I knew it was a silly feeling, but I was slightly irritated. I watched the drama on TV: a couple dressed in crisp blue and white school uniforms arguing on screen. I nodded once in a while.“The two of you have to be tired then? Have you eaten? If you haven’t, maybe it would be a good idea for you to get something while you’re waiting for the room.”“Do you know anywhere we can go?”“Well, it depends on what you want.” He pointed out places for us. “You can get xiao long bao here. This place is famous for them. If you want something else, you can also go here for barbecue and rice. But I think they’re closed now. I can call a cab for you.”I tapped her shoulder, “We can just go for a walk and find something on our own.” She looked at me with bemusement. “Are you sure? It’s no problem at all,” he said. “Thanks, we’ll just see what’s out there. We’ll be back when the room’s done,” she said to him.I took the map, folded it into fours and put it into back-pocket of my jeans. We walked down the same path that the cab took us down. Already, the mist was building up. I loosened the top buttons of my shirt and tilted my baseball cap up, further back along my head. There were no cars and we were able to walk in the in the middle of the street. “Are you okay?” she said.“I’m fine why?”“I have the feeling that you’re annoyed.”“Was I?”“Don’t lie, you were.” “A little, don’t you think he was overly helpful?”“No. Are you jealous?”“No.” She laughed. “Come on. Don’t be silly. Taiwanese people are just nice.”I stuck my hands into my coat pocket. We followed the map the inn-keeper gave us. Went past a gas station. No one. Down another alley. No one. Doors were closed. Window blinds were turned down. It was quiet enough that we could hear the waves half a mile away. For a few blocks, we wandered alone.