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Ilha Formosa

Posted on: November 5, 2016

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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

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
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