What’s one of the worst things that can happen to you in an international trip? There’s plenty you can think of, but you really don’t want to imagine yourself in the picture, right?
I’ve only been to four countries, but this had me running and panting and praying for safety.
While waiting for our bus service in Taoyuan Airport going to Taipei City, I checked my things to see if everything is there. I found out my new passport wasn’t. I had to rummage my things several times hoping I just misplaced it or accidentally gave to it my best friend, but nope, it was nowhere! Good thing my memory was working pretty well and I remember where I might have misplaced it. I sprinted back to the floor of the money changer we had our pesos exchanged to New Taiwan Dollars because I remembered taking out my passport thinking we needed to present it. I forgot placing it beside me on the counter, so I just went out after getting the money. Upon reaching the door, a Taiwanese officer stopped me. She said I cannot go through the doors anymore. Still panting and with a frantic look on my face, I explained that I left my passport inside! To add to my horror, she could not understand me very well. Eventually, I think my panic helped with the severity of the situation so she had one of the officers message inside to confirm. Just then, a Filipino guy noticed our situation then asked if I was “Sheila”? Well, I didn’t mind because I might’ve been the only clutz to leave her passport somewhere. I deserve the name! He has not stepped out of the doors yet, so he went back to get the passport with the other officer. The lady guard comforted me saying that it’s okay. Probably not the first time to encounter a stupid foreigner? Anyhow, after a minute, the guard handed me my passport, the Filipino guy and I exchanged smiles and I thanked him so many times, including the officers. I walked away still very tired, but 100-fold relieved.
Anyhow, we reached our apartment around 5:30 already due to some delays with the bus. Still, we had to wake up early to start with our schedule-packed 3 days holiday in Taiwan.
The midnight weather of 12 degrees was like a foreshadowing of what we will experience for the next three days. I WASN’T READY FOR IT! When I checked the Taiwan forecast a few days before, I saw some rain showers there, but I thought it would just be very very cold and my cardigans can take it. Well. AHAHAHA. Day 1 was still sunny, bright, and a little bit warm in the day anyway, so this outfit got me through the day.
First in the agenda was to get our pocket wifi. I was amazed that Mao, my best friend and travel buddy, was able to find a 200-NTW rent! That’s already 4G and unlimited until our last day. Great value! After that, it was a hunt for a cute Easy Pass card which we can use for convenience stores, MRT, trains, and bus travels around the city. It was a bit tiring and annoying since Mao could not decide on a card design! We practically spend more than an hour going back and fort the convenience stores just to find a cute one that will fit her taste. In the end, I told her that maybe we can find one in other 7-11 stores in our next destination or we can just use the stickers available to design it. Eventually, we settled with the original one.
Next stop was Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park. It’s a bigger version of Luneta in Manila. The main hall had a giant statue of Chiang Kai Shek erected in the middle of it.
And just like Rizal in Luneta, there were national guards. If you stand in the middle of the memoral park, there are other halls in the east, west, and south of the main hall. I’m not sure what they are, but one of them is a cultural center.
In this park, we saw our first batch of….*drum rolls* CHERRY BLOSSOMS!!!
Part of my bucket list is experiencing spring and seeing cherry blossoms, so I was able to tick it off the list on the first day. YAY!
Apparently, the light pink ones that has become a symbol of spring and cherry blossoms around the world are Japanese cherry blossoms.
The more vivid pink ones are Taiwanese cherry blossoms which are equally attractive, especially against the green blue sky that day.
Of course, our supposed 30-minutes stay stretched to an hour just to take instagram-worthy pictures. HAHA!
Next stop: Riufen! It was almost an hour of travel to reach this station.
From it, we changed trains to reach Houtong where the Cat Village was. Initially, Mao said it was fine to skip it for the mine cave experience. I’m up for experiencing going inside a mining cave to touch gold, but I’d always prefer the cuteness of cats for it. More so, Mao is a very very big cat lover, so I knew she was lying when she said it was fine to skip it! HA!
Arriving in Houtong station, we were immediately greeted by…CATS. And tubby cats. And more cats. It was called a Cat Village after all. No wonder Totoro was so popular in Taiwan. Oh yeah, Taiwan has a “mao” character in it which means “cat” in Chinese, so it’s no surprise that this country dedicates so much to cats.
We spent too much time in Houtong that there was not enough time to go to Jiufen old village. We scheduled it for Monday instead, so it was time to fly some lanterns!
Mao and I chose to fly a white lantern which is for well wishes of career and the future.
My wishes were kind of serious, actually, so I hope that these really reaches the heaven.
It was time to go back to Taipei! Mao and I were so hungry and tired that going through Raohe night market was dragging. Anyway, we were able to buy some good food to last us through the night.
We wish there were more time and energy to shop and eat in this market, so maybe…next time? YES! Definitely.