I was woken up by an earthquake one morning at 4 am which was unusual for me but not most Taiwanese as this island lies on a wobbly bit of the globe. The building shook and groaned as it did on four occasions while I was in Taipei. One tremor was 6.5 on the Richter scale but the epicentre was many kilometres away. In mid. May I managed to escape the studio and climb Yushan or Jade Mountain with five Taiwanese artists. We spent tree days on and around the 3952 metre high mountain which is the highest peak in N. E. Asia. It was a stunning walk with plenty of wild flowers, bamboo groves, Hemlock and conifer forests, alpine herbs and finally nude rock. The bones of the earth. The treat after all the exercise was a natural hot spring spa in a small hotel. It was magnificent to cleanse and wallow outside watching the misty mountains nearby. Taiwan has many of these thermal baths mostly pumped into neat hotels but some are in a more natural settings. The most impressive is! on Green Island where you find a natural salt water hot spring on a beach. To lie in this for a few hours listening to the waves is a very fine form of behaviour. At the end of May it was time to pack the bags and do the farewells.
Over the years I have survived many farewells involving many drinks. During the three months in Taipei I befriended a lot of interesting people and as usual I packed the bags and delivered my typical bye byes. "I must go." "May see you in the future." "Good luck with all" and the "Stay in touch if you wish." exit speech. Years of practice leaving towns, cities, countries, and continents has made it far too smooth and easy to say "See ya." I see this as a ruthless trait in my character but also acknowledge that after each farewell there are new greetings. I just hope I don't get the two things confused. If I do mix up hi and bye this could be called Farewelcome fever. The constant flow of hello and goodbye, farewell toasts and welcome drinks on ice with spicy snacks, hot drinks with feasts and the odd dance. It is all fuel for movement to me. Around and around. Moving around a very big circle. Bye Taiwan. Hello Hong Kong.
I dropped some bags in Central HK then headed south to Bangkok for the wedding of Josie and Perry who managed to create a brilliant weekend at the Baan Talay Dao resort in Hua Hin. Guests came from many lands and smiles were abundant. Wine guzzling in a warm soup that is called the Gulf of Thailand with old and new friends watching stars above, starfish below and eating star fruit was absolutely all good. Tropical electrical storms were about as I bustled through the thick and very wet air or swam through the artificial, crisp air-conditioned micro climates of Bangkok. An invitation arrived from a friend Mick who is wintering at Casey Station in Antarctica. Mid-Winter celebrations in Antarctica are a major cultural event as the constant darkness will soon turn to constant light. This is well worth a party as everyone on the continent is waiting for the sun. Sadly I cannot get to the function as I fly North. A lot North in fact.
Back to Hong Kong, on to Helsinki then to Murmansk where I shall board the Yamal. The flagship of the Russian icebreaking fleet which is 150 metres long, 30 metres breadth and 23,000 tons of hi-tech. ship that can crunch through 4 metres of sea ice with the greatest of ease. The Yamal is soon heading to the North Pole via Franz Josef Land which is an archipelago of 191 Arctic islands. This journey will keep me busy and out of email communication range for all of July. As artist in residence onboard I will continue my Travailogue series of work, collect new visual information and spend hours in awe of the beauty of the Polar environment. First I need to pack once again and find my socks...