Taiwan | A winter of soul searching

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 some challenges, one of which is the language barrier. Not everyone speaks English, and the Deer and I don’t speak Mandarin either. We 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 for a little. Our first few hours in Taiwan was actually spent at bus stations, where we experienced being shouted at by attendants and where we 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).

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.

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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 the right one.  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.

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.

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 on 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.

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, time stops and you can do a lot of things.

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!

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.

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 my winter soul searching in Taiwan, but the spontaneous trip helped me find myself again, who knows that all the answers are really found somewhere else but within.

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