Experiencing Taipei and Taichung.

I plan to keep this blog as impersonal as possible i.e. without names or anything that can identify me as me. I don’t know if I have managed that so far. But anyway, my travelling partner for Taiwan was Dango! The Japanese chewy rice balls with red bean paste, soy bean powder or sweet soy sauce, that’s her. She can be found at Isetan for roughly $3.30 I think. Lol.

I left for Taipei two days after I got back from meditation, and I think meditation really helped with my anxiety in a new country because I had food sensitivities and my stomach always acts up when I am anxious. Also, I had to bring my medicine along for the trip and having that few days of silence really helped to calm my mind when I was on the plane and silently freaking out about how claustrophobic everything felt.

But first- the thank-yous. It was a damn good thing that I had a travelling partner because I absolutely suck at reading GPS instructions. Thanks to my lack of skills, we boarded the bus in the opposite direction, stood at the wrong bus stop (because the café wasn’t open), took longer routes on some days, and was late for the high-speed train to the airport on the last day. But Dango was calm about everything- I wanted to avoid touristy areas because of the people, and she was really nice about letting me chill out and just enjoy Taiwan as it is on a normal day, without the tourists. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer other people when they ask “what did you do in Taiwan” but I told her that I don’t go to places and learn new things because I want to impress other people. If I stayed in the same spot for the whole day, then that’s exactly what I did, without any embellishment about how hyped up the experience was.

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And on the second last day, we did spend almost a whole day just travelling to and fro one place- Gao Mei Wetlands, where Dango got really sunburned and mozzie-bitten. I just turned brown and my skin peeled a little, but I applied aloe vera before leaving so it was still ok. It was literally just catching crabs, snails, swirling them vigorously in the ice cream cup and debating about whether the little fishes were still alive or really dead. And eating hotpot at night. I remember asking D. if the fish was dead because “it is not swimming, it is rolling, but then it is rolling against the current so I don’t know if it is dead?” Fishes there are strange creatures. Why roll in such a funny manner, it makes you easier to be caught.

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Gao Mei Wetlands

With regards to travelling experiences in general, I don’t want to have an idea of what I could have done (we couldn’t go hiking because by the third day my feet were dying. It was all swollen because we walked so much in the first three days) and compare what I actually did to what I wanted to do. I just wanted to do things, and eat food, and enjoy being there. If it wasn’t for Dango, I would have been seriously lost and also unhappy with anyone else who wasn’t that adaptable or calm. Some bloggers do in-depth blog posts of all the things they ate, did, all the people they saw or where they travelled to. For me, I have learned how to live in the moment- I didn’t take pictures of 90% of what I did, and I am only uploading a few that I really like.

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Superdogs at Tamtsui
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Getting stared at by a ….I don’t know. It has white stripes! Taipei Zoo.

People show really blissful things on Instagram- how can I take a picture of my feelings when we realised that we might have missed the HSR? My heart literally stopped because we only have 15 minutes or so to get to the train station but the driver said “Dong Men” and I thought “fuck, that’s another district???” We later realised that he meant to enter by the east gate of that station as it is the fastest way to board the train, and not a completely different place.

Meditation also really worked when we were screwing up left right and centre- when D. had really bad sunburns and mozzie bites (in a line), and I couldn’t do anything but ask periodically if she was better. Answer: no. The mozzies in Taiwan are vicious. I got bitten too but mine were small, probably because I already had 14 other bites from St John’s, I guess my body just gave in to the inflammation and didn’t even bother protesting. By focusing on the moment, I saw that everything was impermanent- the heat, the bites, the crowds, the night market smells. One can only go with the flow and appreciate the good and the bad, everything will go away. The only constant was my cramping foot (had to cab a few times because of my foot pains) and looking at Taiwanese boys. I have a tendency to look at a guy doing something sweet- like slicing bananas for the crepes at the food stall- and think “ooh he seems like such a sincere and good-looking guy!!” And I got judged by D so many times because our ideas of beauty and who is attractive is quite different. He was slicing bananas so intently!

Probably because it is easier to appreciate strangers in a different country than actual Singaporean boys, because I understand the Singaporean mentality and I do not like it. They all seemed so guileless and simple. As compared to the sometimes-inflated male egos I see around me. It’s like what a friend told me about picking up girls at bars, I think she said that Singaporean girls are more snobby compared to Thai ones, who are friendlier and less self-absorbed. I know that I sometimes think too highly of myself too. Anyway, I wrote the ‘guy at the night market slicing a banana was cute’ into my journal.

On the plane back there was a rather cute guy too- nothing special in terms of looks, but he had a nice body. I can’t even remember his face, just what he wore. It is not an outstanding body but it is just a slightly toned body, and I was just silently applauding myself for booking that flight because sometimes, the average ones are the attractive ones. They are just so normal it’s cute. I don’t know how to say it. Rather than a really hot guy who knows he is hot. In Taiwan I was just a nobody, and that felt good. In Singapore I am also a nobody, but I am nobody trying to climb up the totem pole to be a somebody in the company etc. The pace of life is different because when you are travelling you don’t need to do anything at all, if you want to drink your night away you can. But in Singapore there are people to answer to if I reach home too late, or if I stay at home all day long. Tolerance, tolerance.

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Hotsprings at Beitou

For travelling partners, the temperament, likes and dislikes should match. Sometimes I am really attracted to a person because that person is so different from me. But if I had gone to Taiwan with someone who was a stickler for itinerary and time, I might not have enjoyed Taiwan as much as I did with Dango. Because I dislike being rushed and made to feel like I am not doing enough. I like to just exist and chill out with cats who don’t even raise a paw to acknowledge that I am there. Likes and dislikes because of the rooming issue, and food, and deciding on which attractions to visit. I dislike crowded areas, but to other people, crowded areas might mean good things. And if I’m sharing a room with the person- it is difficult to compromise on sleeping patterns like lights/no lights etc. Or the quality of the bathroom in the hotels. To me I just need a clean private bathroom with warm/hot water and free toiletries. I slept pretty well for all nights because all that walking tired me out, but I think D. was pretty much tortured for the whole week LOL. High standards for bathrooms. If I could change things I think I would have budgeted more for hotels, so that the bathrooms would be nicer.

Ok highlights of Taiwan- the things that I will remember. To me, making mistakes is how I learn. I didn’t record a lot of things because I was just concentrating on enjoying the moment, but there was a night when we bought tickets to watch Alien Covenant. The movie theatre looked really shady from the outside and it was the 11.20pm show, but when we got in it was a pleasant surprise. The theatre was roomy and comfortable, and the corridors were all well-lit with a greeter at the counter. Everything was nice, it was just the exterior of the building that looked like a run-down mafia hideout.

Also, I was directing using a GPS one afternoon and thanks to my skills, we took a bus in the wrong direction. I only realised after a few stops and we got off, but thankfully it was a really populated district and I actually got to buy face masks there, plus I got to eat rather tasty beef noodles and pig’s ears! It was a set meal- side dish, noodles and beef soup, and a drink, for 135yuan. That’s about 7 dollars. I appreciate the small daily things and till now when I think of my mistake I am still quite happy that I made it. It was like when D’s GPS also screwed up and we got off a few stops earlier than when we were supposed to get off. It was rainy and cold, and we walked to the food stall opposite the bus stop (in Taiwan the bus stops are just signs stuck on a metal pole buried in the ground, usually without a shelter) to get fried chicken. It was good fried chicken, and the aunty selling the chicken was really nice. Without that GPS mistake we wouldn’t have eaten that fried chicken haha.

Other experiences: I tried my best to drink a few different sorts of coffee every day. I wanted to document all the different Taiwanese brand coffees and milk teas, but frankly I threw away probably 50% of everything I drank. It just wasn’t to my liking. The ones that I liked was a matcha drink from a café at Daan Park and the Chun Cui He series lol. By the way, that series is really popular in Singapore but it is 2.8x more expensive than the ones in Taichung. With that price difference, I don’t think it is worth drinking. In a blind taste test it would be just ordinary milky coffee.

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Also- I was overjoyed when I found leuchtturm1917 notebooks at Eslite bookstore. It’s really expensive in Singapore. When I checked a few months ago, I had to buy it from grouphunt (an online store that orders things in bulk). On qoo10 it is still listed as 59.90. I got it for roughly 32dollars each (bought 3, because I couldn’t carry more) at Eslite. Also, the service standards in Taiwan are really good! The waitress changed the vegetable soup at the hotpot place even though I didn’t ask her to, she just walked by and saw that the soup was burning, and started scraping the bottom of the pot. I still don’t know how she could tell there were charred bits cause the vegetables were all floating at the top.

I will miss the breakfast foods in Taiwan. I had pork floss sandwich three days in a row from a roadside stall near the hotel because it was super yummy- pork floss with egg, a bit of mayo and condensed milk (I think) and sliced cucumbers, with two pieces of toast. And it was only 25 yuan, roughly 1.20SGD? It was really good! I love eating in Taiwan. The night markets were okay- the night market smell is very strong haha. All the fried food. But there was a really good grass jelly and soy bean milk store at Shihlin Night market and the aunty was super nice also. I also liked eating fried pork ribs lol. But other than that, night markets are not really my thing, because of the people and the pushing. It stresses me out when people are pushing me. Oh and there was a prata + pork floss store!! With egg and it was really good, loved that combination. I think that was 2+SGD. Dango had a lot of onigiris from the convenience store, and I bought random egg rolls here and there with chilli sauce and chicken bits inside.

Learning to find bits of joy every day, and accepting things when they go wrong. Recognising the moment for what it is, and not what I would like it to be. I.e. I was really wishing for a wheelchair or a tram when my foot was cramping up. Also, some slight miscommunication during the trip. It’s like when D says ‘eat at train station’ I’ll think of the train station at the end, whereas she means the one at the start of our trip. One thing I learned about travelling with the same person every day is that I absolutely need to be alone at the end of the day. The hotel room was pretty quiet because we were both recharging and watching random things on our phones haha. It was good. If I had roomed with an extrovert I think I would have smothered him/her with a pillow by day 3.

When I got back home I was unpacking- I didn’t tell my family where I was going, neither did I buy souvenirs for them. I bought some snacks like tarts and biscuits and sun cakes, some makeup and skincare for my mom but that’s about it. Honestly, I don’t fit into the Asian culture where a family is a unit. I am definitely an individual, and I dislike feeling the pressure when I have to attend family things, and when I have to answer questions about what I am doing with my life. Not because I can’t answer, but because I don’t want to. Why should I justify any part of what I do to ‘you’, just because you are some relation by blood or marriage. Moving out is not possible now, or at least, I thought it wasn’t possible. But in Taiwan the fresh graduates only earn 800+USD a month and many of them do part-time jobs, there aren’t that many brand name shops in Taichung either. It is just the standard of living that I am used to, if I am willing to lower my expectations and move out to a small room in a HBD unit etc. We’ll see in 2018 what happens. I am not in a hurry to rent a place outside, but I am also ambivalent about the concept of family ties.