The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, March 29, 2019
Sometimes a day just goes missing, however this time there was a good reason.
We boarded the plane at around nine on Friday evening and checked into the hotel around nine thirty the next evening.
Admittedly there is an eight-hour time difference between us and Taiwan, but even so, it seemed like Saturday had disappeared without trace.
Still, we were up early next morning for a brisk round of temples, museums and monuments.
Next evening gave us chance to check out the craft beer scene and night markets, but in fact we fell asleep and only had time to wander around the corner to the nearest bar listed.
It turned out to be a sports bar with the craft beer imported from Belgium and Germany, so we ended up eating a burger sat at the bar while drinking Taiwan Gold lager as most of the customers were gripped by the final of the High School basketball tournament.
The next stages of our tour didn’t promise much on the beer front as we were staying in nice hotels away from towns.
The National Parks are spectacular, with forests, gorges and mountains, but Taiwan has little drinking culture that we could detect, and the bars, where they existed, sold only the Gold, Premium and Classic lagers alongside international brands.
Our tour was pretty exclusive, with only one other couple as travelling companions. They were wine drinkers and were surprised to discover that their favourite Châteauneuf-du-Pape retailed at about £200 per bottle in the Sherwood in Taipei, so I think they traded down to Cote du Rhone afterwards.
Still, there were hints that there was some decent beer around. A t-shirt glimpsed in a crowded street. A deserted market stall. A sign outside a shop as we hurried past, but as the end of the trip approached it seemed that we would remember our visit for other reasons than the beer – especially as our penultimate night was to be spent in a Buddhist monastery, a location not noted for steak and ale.
Still, our diet of vegetables and water was compensated for by an early start to see the 5.30am prayers and we did manage to find a coffee.
More sights followed before our final hour or two in Kaohsiung City and the 90-minute bullet train ride taking us the 350 km back north for the plane.
Perhaps the prayers worked, for as we wandered around the ‘cultural quay’ reminiscent of the waterfront in Cape Town or Toronto, I spied a bar.
Thirty-five beers were advertised, but time constraints meant that I had to be satisfied with a glass of 6.4% Rye IPA with an IBU of 45, and very satisfied I was. All that remained was a 5.30 start, 14 hours on the plane and a scramble for seats on the train home to Lynn.
Taiwan is what China could have been without the cultural revolution. A prosperous, polite and tidy country with a reverence for the old ways coupled with a love of cute cartoon ‘Hello Kitty’ style.
It may not be the first choice for an exotic trip, but it is well worth the effort. Where next?
We bonded well with our travelling companions and swapped tales and ideas for trips. Amongst us men there may even have been a bit of ‘one-upmanship’.
I knew I was struggling when Mike told me about their trip to the North Pole on a Russian icebreaker, and swimming in a hole in the ice at the actual Pole.
Then he mentioned that the main reason for the trip was to see a total solar eclipse. Game over.