I have been fortunate to travel multiple times to the country of Taiwan. The first trip you take into any country, your senses are on high alert. Unique smells, sights, sounds, tastes and textures. The market is always a fun place to go and take it all in. The stinky tofu smell is enough to kill a gag muscle. To give you an idea, it is reminiscent of one of your buddies dropping a stink bomb in junior high band class. Only with stinky tofu, they eat what smells that bad. That's not right.
Shortly after arriving on the east coast of Taiwan, we noticed the air force jets flying overhead. After a surf our second day, we were returning to town and noticed a lot of them flying really low in formation. The sight and sound of these airplanes put Matt, Dan and I in 'Maverick mode'. We threw around a few top gun lines as we got closer to the base, where they were landing and taking off. Pilot training. We noticed that we could get close enough to the base to take great photos. So, we parked the car at the end of the rice patties bordering the high security fence and began taking photos of Taiwanese Maverick and Goose. It was quite impressive. The noise and power of these jets sent a squirt of adrenalin through the body. We were loving it. Fists raised in the air, high-fiving, and yelling. Dan and I ventured right up to the fence, while Matt stayed with the car by the side of the road, only a stone's throw away. Matt was asked to move the car by what looked like an innocent bystander passing by on a scooter. Dan and I continued taking photos and standing right in line with the planes that flew no more than forty feet overhead. We could've hit them with a rock, not that we were contemplating it. After taking a few more photos, we made our way to the car, where it was now apparent that the bystander was someone from the military base. He had a phone tucked up in his helmet and was making calls to both the police and military security personnel. The next thing you know, multiple police and security were coming from both directions. An unnerving adrenalin began in each of us. I tried to mask it with smiling and a friendly handshake. No dice. He began blurting out a bunch of Mandarin words, which made each of us nod and smile. I thought about pulling out the lonely planet to try and say one word, but this was only our second day amidst the foreign language. Each time we tried to say anything, no one understood us anyway. Realizing they didn’t know a lick of English, I called my friend Paul who speaks fluent Mandarin and handed the policeman the phone. He gave me a look that said; "This ought to be good. How does this chump think he's getting out of this one?!" After a short conversation, the policeman handed the phone back to me. My friend Paul radioed over the phone to stay put and not sign anything or pay the cops any amount of money. Apparently, this is Taiwanese security protocol and their ploy to get people in trouble without them even knowing it. Paul came within five minutes, spoke with the police, and worked everything out. The cops were playing tough guys and trying to make something out of nothing. All the security and policeman wanted was to have a look at the photos I had taken, because they thought we were spies. "Spies?" Laughter continued. Come to think of it, I think surfers would make good spies (plug for the movie Point Break). As the whole thing transpired, I continued taking photos, much to the demise of my friends, and in the end made friends with most of the police, aside from the one stern police officer who wasn't accepting of my smiles and handshake. I still laugh about it all, yet without Paul, we may have been forced to sit in a room of stinky tofu for many days.