My first day in Taiwan was dreadful, and yet it was one of the best days of my life. Hop off a 24 hour travel trip, totally dazed and confused with people pushing and running to immigration. People screaming in Mandarin and Indonesian, and cutting in line. Once through, I had to try and find transportation to my apartment which wasn’t easy considering a lot of things were in Mandarin; however I manage to get the task done. Many travelers will experience dehydration whilst on the plane and afterwards; which was what I was experiencing. As soon as I got to my shared apartment, I signed all the documents, met some of my flat mates and was just dying for a drink of water. But to my luck, in Taiwan you need to buy water- not drink from the tap. I asked my room mates if there was a 7-11 near by, but they said it was at least 15 minutes away by walking. Great. I also didn’t have google maps as I didn’t have a sim card yet- so how was I going to find one. One of my flatmates offered to walk me to get a sim card on her way to class. Once we arrived at the sim card place, she left and I was there; alone. Even though it was 6pm at night, the phone service place was packed with people- and everything was in Chinese. Do I simply go up to someone? Do I get a ticket? Should I just wait in the corner for someone to come to me? And all I wanted was water.
So I left the shop and promised tomorrow morning I would go get a sim card. Except one thing occurred to me as I was leaving the store, how do I get home? I was starving, thirsty and so tired- so I popped into a convenience store and bought some baked goods and water. As I was paying at the counter- the lady just handed me my food but no plastic bag. I hadn’t brought a bag with me- so I had to carry 6 items in my arms as I tried to find my way home (It wasn’t till later that I found out that if you want a bag- you need to ask for one cause they charge for it). So as I’m walking lost in the city, with cars blaring past (no road safety) and people pushing their way on the curb- I was just this lost foreigner holding her water and food walking around; I walked around for 2.5 hours, even though the store was only 15 minutes away. I was lost. I suddenly made my way onto a bridge that was completely empty, beautiful lights sparking in the night, and little bits of art all over. I found my way to a bench staring off the bridge, sat down, and ate.
Even though I was totally lost, even though I was so hungry, and even though I hadn’t slept for 24 hours; that view from on top of that bridge was breath taking- and so worth it. As I was finishing up, I made my way down the bridge, and just by some miracle- bumped into one of my flat mates who I was so grateful to see. She told me how to get home (I was only 5 minutes away at this point), and she rode off to her class. As I was walking home- finally recognizing some of the area; there was a man- and he was walking a pig. It was man walking a pig… ON A LEASH! I stopped in a amazement as the man just smiled as we crossed paths. I had never seen a pig on a leash before. Ever. When I finally got home, I met the rest of my room mates whom I told about the rest of my day, and even they couldn’t believe I had seen a man walking a pig. This was just my first day in Taiwan and I already had an amazing adventure leading me to a beautiful bridge crossing the city and one of the most bizarre pigs sightings I’ve ever had. And this was all just day one- the next 4 weeks in Taiwan only got better and better.
I wish I could write a whole novel of my adventures. The biggest highlights of my trip would have to be the time I found a Sydney Bar
called “Woolloomooloo” in the Ximen district and celebrate my new years there. After the bar I headed towards a very famous temple called the Long Shun Temple, in which I prayed for my family and as I was making my way home in the MRT station, I found a fortune teller who told my fortune as well as did this bird fortune telling; where the birds would pick cards to
depict my future. When I finally got home at 11:45pm I dressed in my pajamas and got into the top bunk of my room (all my roomies were out) and as I was about to go to sleep; people from across the park from me started fireworks at midnight. It was amazing. As I lay in my bed watching the fireworks- it was a good day. And to tell you the truth- this was all by chance. I hadn’t researched on google about what to do- or where to go. I merely got dressed for the day, got on the subway and got off at a random stop. That’s just how Taiwan was, no matter where you went or where you were there was always something to do, there was always a new district to explore and there was always something delicious to eat. I’d pick foods on a menu that were only written in chinese and be totally dazed and shocked when I was served. To this day I still don’t know some of the things I ate or what they were made of- but it was delicious.
More highlights to include would be:
- Going to the biggest night market in Taiwan “Shilin Night market”- where they had the most amazing and cheapest food ever.
- Visiting the 2nd tallest tower in the world “Taipei 101”.
- Some room mates and me visiting their University NTU at night for a tour, and making
up rediculous stories about each building and sharing ghost stories.
- Visiting my room mates dance concert at her University, and cheering so loud; I lost my voice.
- Going to a all you can eat HotPot resturants and just stuffing our faces silly, with delicious spicy food.
- Visiting a palace at night with a bunch of my friends and playing games in the court yard.
- Going to the near by night market where we played street games to win prizes.
- Discovering the one food I can’t live without; which was a white bun with a cookie baked on top, and a HUGE slice of butter slab stuck in the middle; heaven.
- Going to the toilet café; but being so completely turned off by the scenery that in the end we couldn’t eat our food.
In all honesty the list goes on- Taiwan was a place that was never boring; there was never a day I stayed home to watch TV. Everyday there was always something to be done, always some place to eat at and some places to always view. I could honestly go on forever about my trip to Taiwan.
National Taiwan Normal University also did their best in keeping their students
entertained with the culture trips. I was lucky enough to go to three amazing places. The first was a “love” station in which had the theme of love and romance, we got to send post cards out from that station and ride a mini train. They had a wall in which people with their loved ones would write their name on a lock and place it on the wall. After the station we headed to a night market within the mountains with the most delicious and cheapest
food ever. I had the pleasure of meeting my fellow class mate Wawa and Ming Chi (we got Chinese names)
whom I got to know more during every trip.
Next week we headed to the Taiwanese puppet show where we learnt how to perform with Taiwanese styled puppets- after we headed to Fort San Domingo where a famous movie was filmed as well as we got to ride a ferry across the water to a small night market for dinner and back to the buses to go home.
My last trip was the best of all and I highly recommended anyone that wants to go on this trip to choose this one as well. We went to Hsinchu and Jiufun. In Hsinchu the classmates and I got to write our wishes and dreams on this gigantic lantern, and release them into the sky and into the universe. We then went to Jiufun where the film “the city of sadness” was filmed as well was the inspiration for the animated Japanese film “Spirited Away” location. It was up a tall mountain with hundreds of people pushing and squeezing passed down a narrow way. There we got to eat Shou Long Bow dumplings along with marinated pork and fried rice with a stunning view. We were all asked to make our way back to the buses at the bottom of the mountain, but of course what would happen to me and my buddy? We scurried off into the sides where we went through a tunnel/ cave and found ourselves on the side of the mountain which was lit with red lanterns and the most picture perfect scene of the country I had ever seen. Even though it was pouring rain, I was soaking wet, and would definetly catch a cold; it was nothing I would trade.
This trip to Taiwan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you’re debating about whether going on this trip, I full heartedly say DO IT!
Alina Tan Kepple
Global Short Programs Student