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Archive for November 2016

“When someone with depression or anxiety or any mental illness for that matter tells you they are having a bad week or month and actually trusts you enough to tell you why, they aren’t doing it because they want you to fix them. They are telling you because they believe you are important enough to them to know why they are not feeling a hundred percent that day. Respect them for doing that. Because they clearly respect you.” — Nikita Gill

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I just discovered that Taiwan is a Studio Ghibli wonderland.

Yes, there are some stuff in Taiwan (Jiufen! Jinguashi!) with deep connections to Hayao Miyazaki’s  Spirited Away but I didn’t know Studio Ghibli is popular there. Probably because of historical and cultural ties with Japan, being a former colony in the 1890s.

Anyway, on my way to our Taipei office, I noticed the yellow rental bikes called Ubikes. I didn’t have the nerve to try because 1) I was again so lost–utterly lost; 2) I was not exactly dressed to ride a bike (hello pearls!).

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I had to call a colleague to give me directions. Ugh, Mondays.

One of his questions to me was, “Can you tell me where you are right now?” Of course I can’t because there was no visible street sign and I can’t read Chinese.

“But I see Taipei 101…Uhh, that does not help, does it?”

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Had lunch with the colleague somewhere near our office. Another beef noodle bowl. HUGE bowl that I couldn’t even finish halfway through.

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After lunch, another colleague asked me why I will be going to Jiufen. So I told her I wanted to see the inspiration for the Spirited Away setting.

“Really?! I don’t see the connection!” Then I proceeded to describe to her the scenes and the buildings (the Bathhouse = A-Mei Teahouse). She finally understood (I hope) .

Then she told me about Studio Ghibli having a Taipei tour (with the Catbus! A Catbus!!!)  last September (awww shucks!) so I just missed it by a couple of weeks. But the good thing is there is a Donguri Republic at ATT4  near Taipei 101. She emailed me the directions.

“So what will you do this afternoon?” She asked me.

“I’m going there now. As in now.” I said as I gathered up my things.

It did not disappoint. I spent at least an hour there.

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I found the giant Totoro!

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The secret entryway to Totoro’s lair

Photos and posters on the way to the toilets

After dawdling at Donguri Republic and loitering around ATT, I met one of the colleagues for dinner at Taipei 101 who felt like eating chicken rice. Right. Chicken rice in Taiwan. But hey, we were both hankering for something Southeast Asian at that time. You can only have so much beef noodle bowls in a week, right?

While waiting for him, I took photos of Taipei at night. So peaceful compared to Manila at this hour (6:30-ish).

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And trains don’t get crowded, as in Manila MRT-mandirigma-training level.

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I didn’t have anything to do later that night so we decided to go home early. Plus I had to pack up again to go to Ruifang the next day.

 

Yup, only two hours of sleep. Long story. I transferred to another room later that day.

Breakfast at the hotel was blah so I just had two pieces of toast and a cup of coffee and I was on my way.

The thing was I didn’t know where I was going. I had no plan. I only had the map my hotel provided me with and that was for the immediate vicinity. (That map was my lifesaver extremely very helpful during my entire stay though. It had the map of the Taipei train system).

So what I did was to walk. And walk. And saw this

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Interesting. What is this?

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Why, it’s the National Taiwan Museum. Not the museum that I was supposed to visit again but who knows? I may have extra time on my last day to see what’s inside.

I walked around for a bit and it turns out the Peace Park is just adjacent to it. Good way to kill time on a Sunday morning.

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A squirrel in the middle of the city, sniffing around for food

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Oldies doing tai chi on a lazy Sunday morning

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Students listening to an outdoor lecture

Then I lost my digicam case. It had an extra 8GB SD card in it but the more important thing is that I lost my camera’s sole protection against the evil things in my bag that could damage the screen or lens. How I would manage in the next six days without it, I don’t know.

I retraced my steps and at the same time inspected one of the pavilions.

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Then I retraced my steps again and prayed for a miracle that a good soul was able to pick it up and leave it somewhere for me to see.

And yes, a good soul there was. He/She left my camera case hanging in one of the posts in one of the decorative bridges in the park. God was watching over me.

I left the park through the other exit on the opposite end. And saw this.

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I don’t know what it is but the map says it’s one of the government buildings dotting the area.

When I was walking back to my hotel, I saw a rare thing: a telephone booth. And they’re still working. Apparently, Taipei’s population is NOT entirely tethered to mobile phones, unlike Manila. Which is a nice thing. The high mobile phone penetration rate (almost or already 100%) in Manila rendered payphones obsolete. Remember Dingdong Avanzado’s song, Tatlong Beinte Singko?

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I think in some parts of Taipei these are also wifi zones.

And I tried learning the bus routes. Really, I tried.

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But it seemed like I have to stick to trains in the meantime. I’m not afraid of walking that far anyway.

On my way back to my hotel, I almost got myself into trouble. I landed in the camera street of Taipei a.k.a. Hankou Street.

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But self control I had, Master Yoda. It took a lot of self control, though. I promised I will not go over budget on this trip because of some stupid purchase like a new mirrorless digital camera and all the lenses I can stick in it *heart flutters*. That could easily run up to PHP 100,000 (USD 2,000) in one go. Good thing too that most of them are closed on Sundays.

I hurried back to my hotel to banish temptation and rest up a bit. I studied the map and saw that Ximending commercial centre was not far. I knew I won’t be able to buy any clothes or whatnot (not really into shopping for clothes anyway and I won’t be able to fit into their clothes) but it seemed to be the place where the young Taiwanese go. I wanted to watch people.

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Lots and lots of cellphone accessories

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And Studio Ghibli stuff

These items are breakable so I thought it wasn’t wise to start accumulating Totoro and No Face items.

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Street performer from Japan

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Students from a nearby music school, I think

I don’t remember where I had dinner (it was probably too blah that I easily forgot about it). I had a beef noodle bowl in a restaurant near a foot massage place a few blocks away from my hotel. I had the foot massage first (a promo before 6 pm, TWD 800 [PHP 1,237] for 60 mins for shoulder, back and foot). I remember the massage, not the dinner.

Overall, this is one of the best birthdays I ever had. Alone. I own my time. I’m not taking care of someone else. Everything is according to my own terms. No plan. Nice surprises. No big spending.

 

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Green and blue.

That’s how I remembered Taiwan when I first visited the country in 2007. Blue skies and green mountains. Nicer people compared to those in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Taipei felt like Makati in the 1980s and was teeming with scooters.

It still felt like it but it was much more than what I thought it was back then.

This time I got to know the country better without the trappings of being a princess pampered by TECO, which was trying to promote Taiwan to Filipino tourists that time via Philippine journalists writing about anything under the sun (I was and still am a business journo).

I came back to Ilha Formosa (“beautiful island” in Portugese) last week after nine years. Took me a year to plan this one with a friend who went there last year around the same month (if I remember it right, October).

So I spent my birthday half-asleep, half-awake since I was only able to find my hotel at 3 am that day after arriving at the Taoyuan International Airport at an ungodly hour of 12 am. I queued for an hour (only one salesperson manning the counter) to buy the special prepaid mobile phone SIM (Far East Tone Telecom) for tourists (I think it was free 4G access my entire 6-day stay there) that can be bought only at the airport. I think I spent TWD 300 (PHP 464) for that SIM with free 4G and TWD 50 (PHP 77) worth of airtime/SMS. My Taipei-based editor said it was surprisingly cheap.

So before I left Manila, I called up my hotel, Diary of Taipei – Main Station, to ask what mode of transportation I can use at 2 am-ish  to reach them. The receptionist said to take the bus 1819 (station is just outside the airport to my left) and it’ll drop me off at the Main Station. Ok, seemed simple enough.

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It was around TWD 125 (PHP 193) for a one-way, hour-long trip from the airport to Taipei Main Station. I was tempted to hire a taxi cab but the rate was TWD 400 (PHP 618.5) and I was not prepared to part with that kind of money when my brain was barely functioning because there may be hidden charges and end up paying TWD 1,000 (PHP 1,546). Plus I do not trust cabbies at 2 am.

So at 2 am I was on my way to Taipei and I tried not to fall asleep lest I miss my stop or something. Unfortunately, it seemed like the bus dropped me off on the other side of the Taipei Main Station (which was faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar) and I had to ask at least five people (one receptionist at the train station and four policemen who had trouble giving me directions in English at 3 am). So I was told to go to the ShinKong Mitsukoshi Department Store Taipei Main Station branch and my hotel is just at the back of that tall building.

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So I dragged my sorry butt and luggage and walked to reach the back of that building. Went left, then right, no sign of that Kaifong/Kaifeng Street where my hotel was supposed to be. I was lost. At freaking 3 am. I thank God that Taipei is a very safe place to get lost in. At freaking 3 am. A lone non-Mandarin speaking female foreigner stuck in the middle of downtown Taipei at freaking 3 am.

I was getting desperate and went inside a Family Mart and asked the guy at the counter if my hotel was somewhere near. I showed him my hotel voucher with the address and phone number in it. He couldn’t speak English that well so what he did was to call somebody who can using his own cellphone. He was so nice!

So I explained my situation to the guy on the other line. Then the guy at the counter told me to stay there at Family Mart. About 10 minutes later a heavily perspiring guy introduced himself and got my luggage and he told me to follow him…

Only then did I realize that the Family Mart guy called my hotel and told them to pick me up at the convenience store. How nice of him! He even called out to me that he hopes I enjoy my stay in Taiwan when we were leaving the store.

I told myself I really would enjoy this trip.

*to be continued*

 

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life in business journalism

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