Taiwan | The feel of spring in winter

Vantage Points

Was there a point in your life when you know everything is well, and you are doing just great, but you still feel you’re missing something important? You can’t figure out what, so you long to search for that something. It’s not identity or quarter life crises, I guess. It’s a different kind of thing, bound with questions, and it feels like you know you’re not just in the right place at the right moment for the answers. I knew Taiwan won’t give me all the answers I need but I have a feeling that the weekend trip will somehow help me figure things out a little. Even just a little.

Apart from my political knowledge about Taiwan, I knew nothing about the places usually visited by tourists. My companion, the Deer, volunteered to prepare the itinerary for the trip.

Information Corner | Taoyuan International Airport

Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport  is an international airport also known as the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. It is Taiwan’s largest airport, serving the capital city of Taipei, and the northern parts of the island.

Day 1 | Getting lost and liking it 
When we travel, especially out of the country, we have to be ready to embrace and  conquer the challenges that await, one of which is the language barrier. Not everyone speaks English, and the Deer and I don’t speak Mandarin either. I only know Xie Xie, Ni Hao and Wo Ai Ni.  I had a hard time talking to the staff whom I bought our first bus tickets from. We both failed to get our messages across, so on our first day in Taiwan, the Deer and I got lost and I was the only one who appeared to be happy about it. We took the wrong bus from the Taoyuan International Airport, so we ended up at the Taoyuan High Speed Train Station instead of the Taoyuan Train Station. No WiFi, no Google Map, just two lost tourists of the mundane on a bus ride to somewhere we never knew where exactly.  Remembering it now still makes me giggle.

In going places, we will always meet people, many of whom will most likely ignore us but a few will most likely come to our aid when they feel we needed one. A gentleman whom we asked if it was the railway station told us what to do and what bus to take to get to Bade District, where our hotel was located. Bus trips follow a schedule, so we had to wait a little. Our first few hours in Taiwan was actually spent at bus stations, where we experienced being shouted at by attendants and where had to run gracefully.

Information Corner | Taoyuan High Speed Train Station
THSR Taoyuan Station (高鐵桃園站) is an underground station of the Taiwan High Speed Rail located in Zhongli District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan. It is also known as Qingpu Station (青埔車站).

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Searching for Xong Li St. and finding home

Did I mention that it took us forever to get to Bade District? The bus tour was exhausting, so when we took off, our first priority was to find a place to refuel our tummies and brains before we start the search for Xong Li. When they said Taiwan is the best place for foodies, they weren’t joking at all. It’s a haven for foodies, indeed.

The search for Xong Li was surprisingly smoother than our bus chase. We just had to walk a few kilometers and we easily found our a little bit hidden home for the next few days.  The neighborhood reminded me of a parallel universe, where alleys have time warps portal that would take me to anywhere in time and space. It was a silent neighborhood of tall residential buildings, surrounded by several clothing stores and kawaii cafes. We also found a park nearby, where I did my morning run the next day. We passed by a very clean river canal, which I wish I could also see back in the Philippines.

Sometimes, we need to allow ourselves to get lost because there is also an opportunity and wisdom in it. Sometimes we need to take the wrong bus to know and remember what’s right.  Sometimes, we need long walks to slow down a bit and appreciate what we have been missing in life. It was only our first day but it already felt like I’ve known the place for so long.

Day 2 | Chasing buses and trains

I woke up early to run, explore more and live the dream I dreamed almost seven years ago – to run in all places I’m visiting. I braved the 11 degrees temperature and did a 5KM. Running on a winter day is similar to chasing dreams. We have to endure the cold to feel the warmth of success. However small, live your dream.

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There are many Filipino OFWs in Taiwan, and we met one on our second day.  We were back chasing buses and trains when a Filipina who heard us speaking our local language came to our rescue. She helped us buy our Yoyo card, taught us how to get to the railway station, and to Taipei. It was a long and scenic train ride to Taipei.  I also figured that I am natural GPS.

Conquering Taipei 101

I don’t know if the Deer noticed but I cried when I found myself inside Taipei 101. It was the same feeling when I went to the Tokyo Tower for the first time last year. I was there at the 89th floor, embraced by an overwhelming feeling, and overjoyed. It felt surreal but I knew I was at the right place, at the right moment. A few months back, going to Taiwan was only a random thought, and it was something I never even planned. I prepared for it but not the way I used to whenever I travel in the past.
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Sometimes, we need to loosen up, break free and welcome spontaneity, because there is a hidden wisdom in it, too. For someone like me who wanted everything planned, backed with plan B-Z, spontaneous trip means getting totally out of my comfort zone. Outside our comfort zone, as daunting as it is, are beautiful places and opportunities we just can’t miss, too.
Information Corner | Taipei 101

Taipei 101 was officially the world’s tallest in 2004, until it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in 2009. This 101-story building is said to be a symbol of evolution of technology and Asian tradition.

Biking in Xinyi

Our Taipei sojourn won’t be complete without trying the YouBike for rent. You can use your Yoyo card if you have or coins in renting out these bikes. The Deer and I were able to use our 🚲 🚲 bikes for free though.  We passed by a former military camp that now houses cafes, arts and crafts shops, and even toddlers centers.

When you are enjoying, you can do a lot of things while time stops.

Information Corner | YouBike or the Taipei Bike Sharing System

You can use your Yoyo card if you have or coins in renting out these bikes. The YouBike is a public bicycle sharing service offered by Taipei City Department of Transportation.

Our way back to Bade wasn’t as smooth as it was on our way to Taipei, but we made it back to our cozy bedroom safe and sound. It was a relief!
Day 3 | Going back home
 
We took a cab going to the airport because we wouldn’t want another bus and train chase and miss our flight. I can’t believe we only stayed for a while in Taiwan, when it really felt like a week already. Not everyone we met was hospitable but I still hope to meet the kind people of Taiwan on my next visit. The streets and sidewalks aren’t safe for runners, but I still hope to run more miles on my next visit.
Wandering allows us to see the world’s endless possibilities. It is one way of opening ourselves up to new opportunities, learnings, ideas, cultures. It helps us look at situations, mundane in nature, differently.
I didn’t find the answers in Taiwan, but it helped me find myself, who knows that all the answers are really found somewhere else but within.

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2015 Read:  Rereads and falling in love again

Time travelling has been often in 2015, mostly in time and space I’ve already been to before.

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I was on my way back to Cebu from my coverage of Pope Francis’s visit in Leyte when I finished The Runner by Cynthia Voigt.  I met Bullet, an excellent cross-country runner, who doesn’t run to win. He runs because he loves it.  Bullet and this book inspired me even more and helped me conquer the Cebu City Marathon 2015.

I decided to end my five years and three months stint as an assistant editor for the Sun.Star website in February, and while I was going through this thing young people nowadays call #sepanx, I was reading The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. The book is special because Ms. IDA, one of my best mentors in Journalism, gave it to me as gift. It’s a treasure!

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Leaving the comfort zone brings out the best and the worst and I’ve had my fair share of both. After leaving the mainstream media, I worked for a startup company that does events and publicity works. During the adjustment period, I kept coming back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and reread the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I bought a Bloomsbury edition of the series last Christmas as gift for my siblings who love the HP movies. I also joined Doctor Who (12 Doctors, 12 Authors) and we traveled in his different timelines and met his 11 other incarnations. I visited The Ocean at the End of the Lane after and I was joined by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, who introduced me to the faeries. Life was tough and the ocean at the end of the lane was a relief.

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Running also helped me survive the year that was, and Benjamin Gaetos’s book I Dream, I Ran, I Conquered fueled my spirit and helped me dream, run and conquer again.

Around May, I fell in love again. I didn’t know until lately that he’s a time traveler, too, and before he moved here, he used to live in the moon. He’s a reader, too.

Over the summer, my younger sister stayed with me. I bought her the latest book of his favorite author – Adultery by Paolo Coelho – as gift for doing well in school.  I borrowed the book after she was done reading it.

Around July, the first image of Pluto, the planet where I come from, was transmitted to Earth. What happened four days after was memorable – a Time Traveler from the Moon and a Time Traveler from Pluto embraced for the first time and started a new journey in time and space together.

I didn’t know what paperback to read yet, so I opted reading Holes by Louis Sacher. It was among the books that my best friend stored on my Kindle Paperwhite Nyx. Sacher is a brilliant children’s book author. He really is.

I suddenly remembered The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I started reading in 2014. It was an unfinished business, so I devoured it like never before.  I was already seeing the Time Traveler from the Moon around this time. He chose to linger in my timeline, however, afar.

Around September, I had to stop time traveling for a while because I got sick and depressed. Everything started to feel too much – financial crisis in the family, dim career path, long distance relationship, and what not. I drowned in miserable discomfort and I told nobody.  Until one day I woke up realizing it isn’t too late to find ways to rebound, to learn the lessons of my detour, and to stay firm. I left the startup company, healed myself, and planned to go back home for a few days when I found out I got a new job offer – this time in a 5-star hotel in an island city.

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Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris was the book I was reading during my first weeks in the new job. The book is an inspiring story about how the author met the love of his life and about the role of our Christian faith in building and sustaining relationships.

Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Little Women by LM Montgomery were my companion during the 2-hour commute from home to work.

Around October, my Time Traveler boyfriend, who knew about my new post, sent me a lot of e-books I could use as references. Two of which I read were Web Marketing for Small Business by Kurt Lucier and Killer Web Content: Make the Sale, Deliver the Service by Gerry McGovern.

Christmas season came and I was done with The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, another reread, before my Time Traveler visited. We spent our first Christmas together in the moon, surrounded by the galaxies.

I only read a few in 2015. I hope I could read and time travel more this year.  How about you? What were the books you read last year? What are in your reading list this year?

 

2014 Read: Time Travels through books

2014-Books

I have been wanting to write about the books I read while I’m still reading them or after, however, I just couldn’t find the time. I can only manage to scribble quotable lines said by characters or paragraphs worth remembering, something I can either post as a status or something I can write on a post-it note and paste on my wall.

I love reading for the same reasons you love it. Well, most probably. I became an Invisible Time Traveler because of reading. The book is my time machine and whenever I’m inside it, I’m transported to a different space, to a different time, to a different dimension. My mother told me that since I was little, whenever I grab something I could read, I look for a space, a corner, a location where I can comfortably distance myself from the reality I was sharing with them, and hide into the new world I was in, my own world. 🙂

One of my dreams is to have a tree house library and I want it located by the beach. I’m an island girl and one of my best places to read a book is by the sea – where I can hear the songs of the waves, where I can see them kiss the white sands, and where I can relax my eyes watching the horizon at dawn and dusk.

I dream to own a book shop, too. Someday.

What I can afford as of yet are reading as many books as I can, buying myself a book as a reward for not slacking at work (and for trying to keep up with my running trainings), and borrowing as many books as I can from my friends. In 2014, I managed to read quite a few.

1. Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. My first book for the year has so much Shakespeare in it. I read it on my Nyx, a Kindle Paperwhite. Most reviews online find the book unsatisfactory, but I finished it and I couldn’t say anything not good about the book.

2. Reptile Room (Book 2 of The Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket. It’s a children’s book, alright. We never had them during our childhood though. So after reading the first book in 2013, my siblings and I were convinced to have all 12 in our shelf…soon. We only have Book 1 and 2 so far. 🙂

3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest (Book 3 of Girl With A Dragon Tatoo) by Steig Llarson. I read it in 2012 but stopped somewhere so I decided to read it again and finish it before returning it to its owner. Book 3 was a little dragging, but still an awesome work!

4. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. A treasure! The book was a gift to me by Sun.Star Cebu editor in chief Isolde Amante. Thank you, Ma’am Sol! Most of the books I have now are gifts and I thank Daddy God for these awesome people who know how to make the kid in me extremely happy.

5. Aleph by Paolo Coelho. I bought this book in 2012 after a major heartbreak, but I managed to read it only after two years. Haha.

6. My Daily Race by Senator Pia Cayetano. One of my favorite Filipina legislators wrote a memoir about how she juggles between being a public servant, a mom, a triathlete and an advocate of women empowerment. She gave me a signed copy when she launched the book in Cebu.

7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I read it because I wanted to watch the movie (and I don’t usually watch the movie first.) It’s an exceptional work!

8. The Hollow City (Book 2 of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children) by Ransom Riggs. I am peculiar in my own ways and I love being friends with Ms. Peregrine’s peculiar children. I met and I got the chance to interview Riggs in person when he visited Cebu for the Asian book tour hosted by the National Bookstore. It was a terrific experience!

9. StyLIZed by Liz Uy. Fashion book for a change! I read it because I love her and she’s a namesake of my baby sister.

10. The Bite in the Apple by Chrisann Brennan. It is the memoir of Brennan, the mother of Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa. Well, what do you not know about Steve? What else do you wanna know?

11. There’s a Boy in The Girl’s Bathroom by Luis Sacher. A very good friend of mine gave me a copy of the book on Nyx Kindle. Another children’s book! Yup!

12. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. My UP Sagabay sister gave me a copy of the book in 2013. I read the book while doing core workout and preparing for a race. Another masterpiece of the awesome Murakami. 🙂

13. What I Talk About when I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami.
14. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I bought myself a 50-year edition copy and read it again.
15. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
16. Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery. One of my favorite summer reads. I wonder who borrowed by other Anne books (never managed to return, sadly).

17. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. An eye opener and this book inspired me to pursue my business. 🙂

18. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Luis Sacher
19. Wayside School is Falling Down by Luis Sacher
20. Wayside School Get’s A Little Stranger by Luis Sacher
21. Travel Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

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22. Twitter Effect by Eric Bieller
23. The Young Unicorn by Madeline L’Engle
24. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

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25. Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki by Haruki Murakami. One of the books I cannot let anyone borrow. It’s a book-gift from a dear friend.

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26. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Cristie

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27. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can read this book again and again.
28. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

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29. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
30. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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31. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente 
32. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. A memorable Christmas gift by a dear friend.
33. The Blood of the Dragon by Lawrence Matt Evans
34. The Hidden Reality by Brian Green. I’m reading the book when I’m stressed out and I wanted something to take my mind off things.

I should have made it 35. Maybe this year. 🙂 Happy reading, everyone!