|Television is a mighty beast and a moving picture is worth a few thousand words, but there are a couple of limitations to what it can do. For one, it was impossible to convey just how hot and humid it was during our visit in Taiwan. Stepping out of the stunning, air-conditioned Grand Hotel was like getting blasted by a jet burner. We were all dripping in sweat, especially when we drove up the coast. Taiwan was our first international episode of the season, so here we are dealing with the heat, figuring things out, and coping with the overall weirdness of being in China, yet out of China.
The Fire Doctor was as wild as it looks on TV. Except I couldn’t see my back being lit up like the Human Torch (probably a good thing). Master Shay definitely had an air of power about him. There were polaroids of him posing with celebrities on the wall, so I figure if they’d put their trust in the guy, why wouldn’t I? Of course, there were also those pictures of people with their backs grilled, and since we were just starting out on our Asia leg, I was naturally concerned that I’d be toasted for other episodes too, strips of burnt skin down my back. So we asked him to take it easy with me, which was a wise thing to do, considering I didn’t have any back problems to begin with. The breaking the brick over his hand incident was hilarious. He hands me a heavy sledgehammer and tells me to whack his hand. I break the brick, but not hard enough to transfer the energy through his hand to the one underneath. In the show, you see the second attempt, in which the sledgehammer breaks the brick and tears a chunk of skin off the Master’s hand. It’s raw and bloody and I’m naturally horrified, hence my reaction on camera. But he insisted on me doing it again, and I did, and it worked, finally, although now he was going to light me up on fire and I had just caused the man considerable discomfort. I can attest, ultimately, that fire on the skin causes pain too, but not as much as when you wake up two nights later with a back spasm. It might have been because of the clicking twists at the Fire Doctor, it might have been because I overdid it at the gym that day, but either way, it’s the only time during the filming of both seasons I’ve ever seriously considered being rushed to hospital. The pain went away a few days later. As did we.
We show a little of what it’s like to be on a press trip, and the Taiwanese Information Office were fantastic about it. It always takes a couple days before we figure each other out, be they guides, operators or tourism boards, but there’s a genuine respect and gratefulness from our part that they appreciate. Most travel writers, it has to be said, are a little older than Julia and myself, and our enthusiasm for doing what we do goes a long way.
Finally, I can confirm the Number 2 at Modern Toilet was a chicken curry. It tasted like chicken curry too.
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