I still can’t get over about my solo trip in Taiwan so I have to write about it.
December 23, 2017
- When the flight attendant announced that we have officially landed in Taoyuan International Airport, I was really excited. I couldn’t believe that I was already in a foreign land, a thousand miles away from Manila. It’s my first time abroad!
- January 9, 2017 – I went to the Feast of the Black Nazarene. I begged God to change my life and to have mercy on me. Never did I imagine that I will have an opportunity to visit Taiwan before the end of the year! Perfect country because it’s super safe for women.
- Next thing to do was to fall in line at the immigration booth. It was taking so long, I don’t know why. The woman behind me who was also a Filipina told me her entire life story already and the line hasn’t moved yet.
- She seemed to be in her late forties. I forgot to ask her name but all the while she was talking about her life story. Then I asked her about her kids and she said, “Ay hindi na ako nagkaroon ng anak.” She’s childless. It made me super sad. I had to look at my own self and I realized that my greatest fear is not for my mother to pass away, but for me to never become a mother.
- Then the line started moving and when it was my turn, I was a bit nervous. I felt like just one wrong answer and the officer is going to send me back to Manila. Thank God, the process went smooth and no interrogation at all. Just a few basic questions.
- After the immigration process, I had to wait until 5:00 AM in the airport to pick up the wifi router that I rented via Klook. It was still past 3:00 AM so I still have 2 hours to kill. During those 2 hours, I just sat in one of the chairs and thought about my friends. They didn’t know I was in Taiwan. Hehe.
- They didn’t ask for a deposit but they asked for a credit card. I presented my eon card which I got from 7-Eleven. No questions asked. They just gave me the wifi router. Whew! I was nervous that they won’t accept my eon card.
- Next thing to do was to ride a bus from the airport to Taipei Main Station. I planned to pay in cash but the bus driver said I need to buy the Easy Card. So I went back inside the airport looking “confused and lost.” A nice guy offered help even if I didn’t ask for it. He told me to buy the easy card from the vending machine.
- Problem was I’m a technology handicap. When it comes to technology, I’m a big idiot. Just because I’m scared to click or press anything. Like the machine is going to explode if I click something. L
- Another tourist helped me buy the card and she also taught me how to add funds. So problem solved. I went back to the bus station and my card was accepted. In just a few minutes, the bus was on its way to Taipei!
- I arrived at Taipei Main Station a few minutes before 7:00 AM. My plan was to leave my bag in a coin locker. It took me almost an hour before I found the coin lockers and another hour before I learned how to use it. An old guy about 70 years old approached me and taught me how to use the coin locker. I’m an idiot when it comes to such technology L He couldn’t speak English but he was really helpful.
- After depositing my bag in the coin locker, FREEDOM! I had a small sack bag where I put my wifi router, passport, phone, some cash, and a hair comb. I was starving already so I searched for a place where I can have breakfast. The name of the establishment was Mos Burger where the staff spoke perfect English.
- After breakfast, I wanted to try the famous Taiwanese bubble milk tea so that’s what I did. I found a milk tea store where I had a funny and embarrassing experience. The cashier greeted me, “Ni Hao” and I responded with “Hello.” The cashier greeted me again “Ni hao” and I always responded with “Hello.”It took several times before I finally responded with “Ni hao.” The other staff in the store was giggling. Lesson: If you’re in another country, it’s a sign of respect to greet them in their language. My bad. Thankful though coz they didn’t look offended and they were just smiling. Anyway, the milk tea was really good but maybe just the same as the ones that are being sold in Manila.
- After the milk tea experience, I was supposed to attend a history walk tour but I missed it because I was late. So I went to Sun Yat Sen Memorial where I stayed for 15 minutes. It was a small garden or plaza. I just took some photos and read some notes on the wall.
- I wasn’t hungry yet but I forced myself to have lunch. There was a small establishment where I ate local dish. They spoke English and they were very polite and they seemed shy. After lunch, I walked around Datong District neighborhood. Not really in the mood for taking photos because I was too sleepy already.
- At 2:00 PM, I decided to start searching for my hostel. The name of the hostel was Starbox Hostel. My experience looking for that hostel was also memorable. I used Google Map to find it. Google Map said I am 19 minutes walk away. So I followed the instruction and I ended up in Starbucks Coffee. I was really confused. Why is Google Map bringing me to Starbucks Coffee? I’m looking for Starbox Hostel! Then I asked somebody and it turned out I had to go inside the building. Haha.
- I went back to Taipei Main Station to get my bag from the coin locker then walked again to my hostel. I checked in and the staff told me I need to deposit 100 dollars for the locker key. After she left me, I just slept right away on my bed. I was so tired and sleepy that I didn’t even change clothes. That was almost 4:00 PM.
- I woke up at around 1:00 AM. I went to the lobby and ate the bread and mineral water that I bought from 7-Eleven. Then brushed my teeth and washed my face. I went back to my bed and thought about the lady that I met at the immigration line. She said she never had kids. I cried a little thinking about that. What if I have the same fate? I fell asleep again and when I woke up, it’s already 5:00 AM.
December 24, 2017
- Woke up. Took a shower. Dressed up. Got ready. Took advantage of the free breakfast at the hostel. And before 7:00 AM I was out in the streets trying to find my way to my first destination which was Taipei 101. I was feeling fresh, really good, excited, and happy.
- Thanks to the wifi router that I rented, it’s easy to find every place that I wanted to visit. I used Google Maps. I love that app coz it tells exactly what I need to do to get to my destination. It also tells how many minutes it will take and my options for commuting – bus, train, taxi, or walk.
- After almost an hour of taking pics and videos in Taipei 101, I decided to walk to Elephant Mountain which took another hour because as I was walking, I would stop and take photos of schools, parks and structures.
- On my way up to Elephant Mountain, there are a lot people so I didn’t feel alone. I even asked some tourists to take solo photos of me. Up there, the view was awesome. You can see the beauty of the entire city. I only stayed at the summit for half an hour and then I started to go down.
- Next destination was Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It’s not too far away from Elephant Mountain but I used the subway system to get there. Maybe half an hour travel time. I also noticed it’s past 1:00 PM and I was already starving. I had lunch somewhere and I only paid 65 Taiwan dollars for the rice meal. I went away feeling full and confused. Confused coz the food was really cheap and I thought there must be miscomputation. But I asked the cashier and looked like there wasn’t problem.
- About Taiwan food, there’s something about it that reminds me of bagoong or shrimp paste.
- Anyway, I took hundreds of selfies in Chiang Kai Shek. I also asked some tourists to take photos of me. Because it’s winter season, the weather was really cold even if the sun was up. I’m not sure if I’d take off my coat or just put it on. When I was wearing it, I felt too much warm but when I try to take it off, I felt cold. It was 15 degrees celcius.
- Then it’s almost 3:00 PM and I had to eat. I also need to look for Saint Christopher’s Church because it’s Christmas and I need to hear Mass.
- First, I used Google Map for instructions on how to visit the nearest Catholic Church. I had to take the train again. Then I walked. Google Map said I was 2 minutes away when my phone died. Ooops. I walked around the area but I couldn’t find the church.
- Told myself I’m going to eat first. I found Burger King. Not really the best idea because I wanted to try something new and BK is not new to my taste buds. However, I had no choice coz I really was hungry and I had to eat and I was lost.
- BK was the most expensive meal I ate in Taiwan. LOL. My other meals were really cheap.
- Anyway, I decided to walk around the area after having snacks at BK. I was hoping that I’d see the church since Google Map said I was 2 minutes away. But I couldn’t find it. Instead my feet took me to Taipei Expo Park o Taiwan Expo Park.
- At the park, I heard a familiar language. There were two ladies talking in Filipino. I approached them and asked about Saint Christopher’s Church. Weird. Coz they just looked at me with confused eyes. Then they started walking away while I stood there looking like an idiot still waiting for their answer. LOL.
- Then the other lady looked back at me and said, “doon malapit sa 7-Eleven.” I wasn’t even able to say thank you because I got confused at how they treated me. Do I look like a criminal or something else? It seemed like they didn’t want to answer my question. LOL.
- Finally, I understood why the church was difficult to locate. From the outside, it doesn’t look like a church but more of an ordinary building. If you go inside, you will see statues, paintings and crucifixes. But from the outside, it looks like a maroon building.
- I was just in time coz Mass starts at 6:00 PM. I only waited less than half an hour. Most attendees are probably Filipinos although I also saw Taiwanese-looking people. The Mass was said in English.
- After Mass, I went back to my hostel which was an hour train ride. Since my phone was already empty battery, I had to trace my way back to the hostel on my own without help from technology. Thank God I did it without problems.
- I had no dinner that night. I just bought some pastries and Pocari from Family Mart or 7-Eleven. I can’t remember. Just brushed my teeth and washed my face. And then I slept at past 8:00 PM.
December 25, 2017
- Woke up at 5:30 AM. Took a shower. Dressed up. Had my free breakfast. Then off I go.
- My first destination was Jiufen. The inspiration of Hayao Miyazaki for that amazing film Spirited Away.
- First I had to ride the train to Ruifang Station. That’s about 50 minutes travel time from Taipei Main Station. From Ruifang, I took a 20-minute bus ride to Jiufen. It’s not difficult if you have Google Map. Also, a lot of people were going to Jiufen so I kinda just followed them.
- I only stayed for three hours in Jiufen. I just walked around, took some photos, and ate a lot of street foods. I liked the pork sausage, dorayaki, and milk tea.
- Jiufen is like Baguio and Tagaytay rolled into one. I haven’t been to Baguio but there were Filipino tourists in the area and I heard them say Jiufen’s landscape is comparable to Baguio. In my mind, the overlooking sea reminds me of Tagaytay.
- In the end, Jiufen is unique like no other. LOL. It has that vintage feels.
- At past 1:00 PM, I took the bus ride back to Ruifang Station. There was a problem. The machine didn’t want to accept my Easy Card. They checked it and they said it’s because I didn’t swipe when I exited the station.
- From Ruifang Station, I had to ride the train to Shifen. It only took about half an hour.
- In Shifen Old Street, I ate the same type of street foods. Pork sausage, dorayaki, squid balls, and milk tea.
- I visited the suspension bridge, waterfalls, and then I bought a sky lantern and made a wish. The seller took a video and lots of photos of my sky lantern experience. I showed it to my nephews and they were really disappointed because I didn’t take them with me. LOL.
- At 5:30 PM, I took the train back to Ruifang Station then from Ruifang Station to Taipei Main Station. I was already at my hostel at past 7:00 PM. It’s not that far. Only one and half hour train ride.
- I just had bread and water for dinner which I bought from 7-Eleven. I wasn’t really in the mood for eating probably because I was super tired and sleepy. A bit of sadness too coz it’s Christmas Day and I’m not with my family.
- The thing about Christmas Day in Taiwan is that I saw Christmas decors everywhere and I heard Christmas songs being played everywhere. And when I was at the train, I heard some passengers humming a Christmas song – Jingle Bell. LOL. Particularly in Shifen, the store where I ate and where I bought the sky lantern where playing a Christmas song.
- So throughout the day, I would whisper “Happy birthday, Lord! Thank you for this day! Life is beautiful!” Hehehe.
- Anyway, I slept early that night. As usual.
December 26, 2017
- Woke up at 6:00 AM. It’s my last day at the hostel and I had to check out before 11:00 AM.
- Took a shower. Had my free breakfast. Dressed up. Packed all my things. And at past 8:00 AM, I checked out.
- I went to Taipei Main Station and deposited my bag in the coin locker. I only took with me some essentials such as passport, phone, money, and my hair comb. I put them all in my Mickey Mouse rucksack bag.
- My destination for that day was Yehliu Geopark. There was a problem. The bus wouldn’t accept my easy card when I tried to swipe it. So I had to hop off. I was really confused because I was sure it still had enough funds.
- I didn’t know what to do so I searched Google about the other attractions in Taipei and Taipei Zoo and Maokong Gondola are the easiest and doable options for me.
- It turned out a blessing in disguise. I never saw yet a panda and a koala in real life. They have that in Taipei Zoo. LOL. I never tried riding a cable car yet. I was able to do that in Maokong. LOL. I just had McDonald’s meal for lunch. And for snacks, I ate more of dorayaki, pork sausage and milk tea in Maokong.
- I went back to Taipei Main Station at 5:00 PM. I just charged my phone for 30 minutes and then I started walking to Ximending Night Market which was 20 minutes away. Night markets are very popular in Taipei and I wanted to try it on my last night. More milk tea and dorayaki for me!
- At 8:20 PM, I started walking back to Taipei Main Station. It rained a little for like less than five minutes. Good thing it stopped right away because I didn’t have umbrella.
- Just got back my bag from the coin locker and then I took the bus from Taipei Main Station to Taoyuan International Airport. My flight back to Manila was 3:00 AM and I was already at the airport a few minutes before 10:00 PM.
- I had an unforgettable experience at the bus. The easy card wasn’t accepted when I tried to swipe it. I was confused because I thought it was already fixed. I was able to use it without issues at the MRT and cable car. I also used it to buy something from Family Mart. So I alighted from the bus. But the bus driver called me and told me to just pay in cash.
- Big problem. My cash was 1000 Taiwan dollars. LOL. And there was a sign saying that the bus driver won’t give any change. LOL. I prepared myself not to receive my change.
- However, the bus driver talked to me with a big smile on his face and told me to wait for my change. I was super embarrassed. LOL. The bus driver was very polite. And he even made sure that I got off the correct airport terminal. Of all the people I encountered in Taiwan, he was the kindest and most polite person. He’s an elderly. About 60+ years old and still working.
- At 60, will I still be working? Will I still be alone? Will I still be alive and breathing? Those are the questions that I asked myself at that time. I prayed that at 60, I will have a lot of money and I already have grandchildren and a husband who really loves me.
- Before 6:00 AM, December 27, 2017, I was already at NAIA Terminal 3. Back to Manila. Safe and healthy.
And that’s a brief summary of my first solo international travel experience. LOL.
Was it lonely?
There were parts when I was lonely probably because it was Christmas and maybe because it’s normal.
I think it happens when a human being is alone. LOL.
For almost 5 days, my only company was my thoughts.
Solo travel will test your mental health. If you’re a positive thinker then only beautiful thoughts will be your company. In my case, I’m not really mentally healthy I guess. I’m at the stage of life when I need to deal with a lot of things. I have fears. But the thing about me is that I am willing to go through it. I am scared but I also know that there’s no other way but to confront these sad thoughts.
Here are two things I learned from traveling alone:
- Love and care for the existing people in my life. They are irreplaceable in a way that we already built a meaningful relationship that I won’t be able to find anywhere in the world. I truly missed them during those days that I was away.
- Spend less time with people who make me feel unlovable and insignificant. Why do I even allow that person to treat me that way? I don’t know! But I already woke up and I don’t want to be close friends with her anymore.
I would like to travel alone again. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, France, Greece, Spain, etc.
Solo traveling made me a bit lonely but it’s not because traveling alone is lonely. It’s just that my thoughts during that time weren’t exactly happy. But I’m healing and I know it will get better next time.
Wish me luck!