Many years later, I was in Washington, D.C. anxiously awaiting an overseas assignment. The word of mouth came that it was Taipei, which I had never heard of. I anxiously pulled out a map and finally located it on Formosa, which I later learned meant beautiful island, so named by the Portuguese when they occupied it hundreds of years ago.
The trip started from San Francisco on Philippine Airlines. The airliner was a propeller driven DC-6, very slow by jet-age standards. Each leg lasted 12 or 13 hours. First stop was Hawaii, followed by Wake Island then Guam and finally landing in Manila. From Manila we boarded an old C-47 single engine puddle jumper that had to land for refueling on a dirt strip carved out of the jungle on the northernmost island of the Philippine Archipelago.
We finally hopped to Taipei, where I was met at the airport. I did not have to go through customs or immigration and my passport came back with a permanent entry chop. Then we left immediately for my lodging.
It was to be temporarily in a large old Japanese-style guesthouse with many rooms and a number of hot sulfur baths, the sulfur water constantly flowing in through bamboo pipes from natural sources farther up the hill in Peitou. About a dozen single American men, working for Western Enterprise Incorporated were staying there temporarily. Western Enterprises, as it was know in Taipei, was actually a CIA front.
An elderly Chinese man was in charge of our daily needs. We had our meals at a round table with a large lazy-susan in the center, Chinese style. I did not know how to use chopsticks but was determined to learn so I wouldn’t starve to death. I did not dare let go of the chopsticks throughout the meal and did manage to eat some of the delicious food. After several more attempts, I finally learned how to hold them after staining several of my new shirts.
I enjoyed the many strange sounds from the street, blind masseuses, vegetable vendors, knife and scissor sharpeners, noodle vendors, etc, each with his own distinct call or noise maker. Fascinating for a young, very naïve traveler like me.