The very hot and extremely cold laundry experience
My ex-company decided to move laundry expenses as part of our daily per-diem for overseas business trip in my last 2 years with them. To save our hard-earned money, instead of sending the laundry directly to hotel as what we normally do, we have to send weekly laundry to a cheaper place and even to a self service laundry shop. Regardless of what kind of condition. Because of this, we have the chance to experience one of our best memory of living abroad like a “ascetic monk”. It is like comparing a package tour with a self-planning “backpacking” trip. It is more tiring, difficult and adventurous to have a self-planning “backpacking” trip but you will end up encounter more surprises. “Backpacking” means you have to stretch your limit to save the budget so you can travel longer time. Partly also to give ourselves a challenge.
Challenge 1 –
Taipei hit one of the highest temperature again in one of the Sunday. We found an old and run down laundry shop nearby hotel. The weather was extremely and unbearable hot. After threw the coins into the machine, we gave ourselves another challenge to walk to the nearby Taipei Flora Expo Park (photo above). As you can see from the bright strong colour reflected from the plant, it is not difficult to imagine the heat of that day.
Challenge 2 – The washing machine took about 45 minutes to wash and half an hour to dry. So to kill the time, we really have to plan something. Most of the time we will purposely arrange the washing time around lunch so we can pack lunch box from nearby shop and eat at the laundry shop later on. As you can see from the photo, I had my favourite friend chicken lunch set that day. After lunch, we normally go to 7-Eleven or any other 24 hours convenience store to buy drink. I am quite sure Taipei has the most highest density of convenient store in the world. So this has become one of our best past time while waiting for the laundry. This is kind of cool. We felt like we are in a movie showing what is life about. Life is about finding something to do while waiting for laundry and shop 7-Eleven in an extremely hot day.
Note – Just got an interesting fact from Wikipedia. Taiwan has the world’s fifth largest number of 7-Eleven convenience stores after Japan, the United States, Thailand and South Korea. With 6,200 potential shoppers per store, Taiwan also has the smallest number of potential shoppers per 7-Eleven convenience store (compared to Japan’s 14,946 potential customers for each 7-Eleen and the United States’ 48,359 customer for each store). With such a high density of stores, it is not an unusual scene in Taiwan for two 7-Eleven stores to stand face to face across an intersection [Ref: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-Eleven]. This has not counted some other convenience stores in Taiwan. Their number of store could be as many as 7-Eleven. It means you would probably find at least 2 to 3 convenience stores in just a narrow street in Taipei.
Challenge 3 – All the washing and drying instructions are in traditional Chinese character. Even for a Chinese educated person like me also need sometimes to figure out the meaning. There was one time I accidentally bought a few boxes of washing powder due to miss interpretation. My other non-Chinese colleague used to remember the location and position of the button and even the shape of the Chinese character to complete the laundry assignment. It is fun. I provided them free Chinese lesson sometimes while waiting. Most of the time they forced to pretend enjoying my Chinese lesson because it was too hot to go anywhere.
Challenge 4 – This is not really a challenge. It is just a fact. The shop owner has set up some play machines at one corner. Obviously to play a few round of games is how the local pass the time while waiting. The machine stations looked like there were there since Kuomintang (or Guomindang or KMT) era. A government party and one of the major proponents who advocated to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and establish a republic. They retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after been defeated by the Communist Party of China (Ref: Wikipedia).
Challenge 5 – The extremely cold laundry experience happened at Shin-Sapporo at Hokkaido, Japan. The temperature were around -7 degree Celsius to the highest 0 degree Celsius. Look at the photo below. You can imagine how thick is the snow by comparing the 2 small kids played on top on snowdrift.
Challenge 6 – It was not only cold. It is extremely slippery to walk on the path with frozen ice. It was about 10pm late in the night. We fought with the bitterly cold weather with snow still fall intermittently, walking to the nearest self-service laundry shop. I was very sure that time no local would carry a laundry bag and walk to a laundry shop in this type of weather because I saw them drove to the shop instead of walking. We were like 2 little poor “student” who need to save living expenses to pay the school fee. Yes. Exactly this is a way to feel what is life about. The coldest the weather and the toughest the journey, the quicker for us to get the enlightenment and awakening of life.
Have you seen how the Japanese Shingon Buddhists practice takigyo – standing under freezing cold waterfalls? At Hakuryu Benenzan Shumpukuin Temple in Mikumocho, Mie Prefecture and the Oiwasan Nissekiji Temple in Kamiichimachi in Toyama, Prefecture as part of an ascetic purification ceremony to mark the beginning of the coldest time of the year. Sometimes they chant as conch shells are blown. Sometimes they stand for over an hour in freezing water [Ref: http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=587&catid=16)
We also chanted (mumbled and cursed actually) while walking (running) back to our hotel from the self service laundry shop because it was simply too cold. And we really laughed wildly (laughing to one’s heart’s content) while we reached hotel. We were the happiest man in the world at that moment to have the heater and warm air from the hotel. This was our enlightenment and awakening of life. We still laughed when we talked about this experience even several years later.
Challenge 7 – In Taipei, our challenge was to read the instructions in traditional Chinese. In Japan, we faced the challenge of understanding the instructions in Japanese language. Good that the Kanji (the Chinese character used in Japanese writing) is quite similar as Chinese character. I thought I could show off again my ability to read Chinese Character to our non-Chinese colleague. But most of the time I was just guessing very hard for the meaning. The Kanji could be the same as Chinese Character but the way how Japanese use the character in a sentence is quite different from Chinese language.
We gave up the self service laundry in Taipei after 3rd tries and sent our clothes to a nearby laundry shop instead. It was more expensive then self service laundry but it really saved a lot of our time so we can have more rest after a hectic week. In Shin-Sapporo, we continue to struggle for 3 weeks. In my last overseas business trip to Tokyo, the laundry expense were treated as a separate budget than our daily expense so we again back to our normal “package” life style.