It’s a Monday afternoon while I’m writing this in my brother’ dark room. For some reason, he happens to have the darkest room in our house, and surprisingly, the temperature is a bit cooler – so here I am! I’m not sure when I’m going to publish this post because sometimes I just get into the mood where I can write three consecutive posts in one sitting, and there are days (months, even) where my posts go stale in Draft state while I struggle to finish it. Let me tell you though how my weekend went – I opened up my Facebook newsfeed/Instagram timeline, and saw mostly wedding/engagement/having children posts.. and me? I panicked. I drew up a rough draft of my three-year plan (which does not even include having children) and figured out that at this rate, my income wouldn’t be enough to accomplish all the things I want to achieve in my life. I think I’ll start looking for sidelines because I need more income sources.
Now that the anxiety over the future has somewhat subsided, I’m here writing about my birthday weekend yet again, because even the simple thought of traveling puts me into a happier state. 🙂
One of the things I like the most about DG Hotel is their big breakfast servings! I don’t have a constant speed for eating but with this huge serving, it took me more than 30 minutes to finish it. It also may be the reason why I was running later than usual on Day 3.
Before leaving the hotel, I asked the staff if there was anywhere I could exchange money. Aside from the Japan trip with chicken boy where I already had all my budget exchanged to their local currency even before I boarded the plane (I have a colleague who exchanges money without the extra costs, super sulit), I usually do not exchange all my Philippine Peso at once. But guess what practical travel tip I learned from this trip: research about currency exchange of your destination. Aside from the airport, most tourists exchange their money in banks. Guess what? Banks are closed on weekends. No TWD on a Sunday? I thought, ‘okay, no problem, I have my Mastercard and I could just go to a convenience store to withdraw money from the ATM’.
I headed to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall confidently. I wasn’t worried about the fact that I only had around 500 TWD left in my wallet.
Before I went to Taiwan, I had no idea what one can see in the country. When I think of developed Asian countries, it’s usually Japan, Korea, or Singapore that comes to mind. It turns out that it is as efficient as them, and it is teeming with interesting sites. It may be a small country, but there are cultural sites mixed in with all the modern shopping districts.
Aside from the memorial hall itself, you can also find both the National Concert Hall and the National Theater here.
The memorial hall was erected for the former president of ROC, Chiang Kai-shek.
From CKS Station, I headed back to Taipei Main Station to catch a TSR to Ruifang Station. To be completely honest, the TSR is a bit more confusing than the MRT. There were different lines using the same track, and I kind of just made my decision on which train to get on to based on the timetable they were flashing on the screen and the color on the sides of the train (should match the color that was on the station map). After a forty minute wait, I boarded the train to Ruifang Station.
The train for the Pingxi line is on the same track you get off to. The train has a one-hour interval, so check the timetable if you decide to get out the station. I made the mistake of not checking the timetable and waiting at the station for a full fifty minutes before the train arrived. When it did, I planned to get off at Pingxi first (which was the farthest), before heading to Shifen to see the waterfall. I did take a photo when we passed by.
Getting off the packed train (when I finally drag C back to Taiwan with me, I’m not gonna go here on a weekend) at Pingxi station was such a relief because I was starting to feel claustrophobic. I have never been a big fan of crowds.
You can easily see how different the city and the countryside is. Aside the Pingxi Old Street, the rest of the area was quite peaceful.
Pingxi is known for the sky lanterns where you can write your wishes on, and light up to fly on the train tracks. The old street was lined with souvenir stores, lantern stalls with mostly uniform prices, and local street food.
More people line up for food stalls with long queues, which in turn maintains the long waiting time for food. I hate lining up for anything, so I ended up trying out the food stalls with similar offerings. Haha!
I swear, food in Taiwan is very affordable. Although I don’t really know what I’m eating most of the time. I’ve been seeing this street food for a while now and decided to try it out at Pingxi.
Of course, I didn’t miss out on more bubble tea! Look at those prices, it’s not expensive at all. Bubble tea in the Philippines cost more!
One of the things that I wanted to do in Taiwan, aside from paragliding, was to go to Pingxi to fly my own sky lantern. I haven’t had the best luck with flying sky lanterns because every single time I have attempted to do so in the past failed. Either we get stuck in traffic or we weren’t able to buy our own lantern. Sky lanterns cost 150 TWD upwards (depending on the colors), and given that I had less than 500 TWD with me, I decided to look for an ATM to withdraw money.
I walked past the old street and looked for a convenience store with an ATM sign. My prayers were answered and I found a Family Mart with an English ATM. However, when I went to withdraw, the machine would not spew out any money. I still did not panic and decided to look for somewhere to sit while I try to connect to the internet and do a quick search for my bank’s contact numbers. I went back to the station where there were empty seats available (the train wasn’t arriving anytime soon) and proceeded to turn on my Data Roaming. It was supposed to automatically connect (as advertised by SMART, my service provider) but nothing was happening. I even reset my mobile phone a few times to try to make it work. I called up their toll-free hotline repeatedly as they give me options after options on how to resolve the issue. I remember one of the solutions was “please remove your sim and put it back in again”, and the irate customer in me retorted, “hello, I’m traveling, tingin mo may dala akong pin sa bag ko??” (roughly translated to “who brings a pin for their iPhone while traveling?”). I was then told that they will make a ticket for me which will be resolved in the next 24 hours. Given that I’ll be leaving the following day, I irritably told them to make sure I don’t get charged for this and to not do anything at all because I’ll already be home by then.
I sat there, trying to think of a way out of this mess, and did something I have never done while traveling solo before. I cried my eyes out. I was so overwhelmed with the fact that I was stuck in a provincial town in Taiwan, alone, with not enough money to even get me to the airport. My Easy Card didn’t even have a lot of credit left, and I was worried I had to top it up to even be able to get back to the hotel. You know that feeling when once you start crying, you could not stop? To make matters worst, there were a couple of people who tried to communicate with me but we couldn’t understand each other. For thirty minutes, I sat there until my hysterical crying subsided, and boarded the train back to Ruifang Station.
I didn’t have a lot of juice left in my mobile phone (I only had 9% battery life left), and when I got off at Taipei Main Station, I decided to try and find a free wifi spot. There should be a wifi spot in the biggest station, right? Luckily, my hunch was right and I headed to Q Square to get my money exchanged. However, they only accept a limited variety of currencies (Philippine Peso not included). Good thing that I had US$28 worth of loose change in my wallet, and was able to exchange it to the local currency. Whew!
Now that I finally had enough money for food, and possibly the bus ride to the airport (if I wouldn’t be able to get any more money the next day), I went to Shilin Night Market. I hopped on the train again and got off at Shilin Station. It’s pretty easy to walk to the night market from there since there were signs everywhere.
I initially thought that the night market would mostly be food, but it’s a mecca for shopaholics. There were so many cheap clothing, and even gadget stores are available in the night market. The photo below does not do justice to how crowded it was in the night market because I snapped this in one of the not so busy streets. But trust me, you better be fine with literally rubbing elbows with strangers because that’s what will happen anyway.
Okay, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I enjoy sausages and I like to try everything that looks like it. Yummers!
I bought a watermelon shake to sip while I roam around and buy more food! Food is layf.
I wasn’t able to take photos of all the street food I ate because my hands were full (with food of course!), and I only got to take a photo of this food stall because there was an obscenely long queue for it and I had to wait long for my chicken! Good thing, I had something to munch on while doing so.
Overall, Day 3 ended up as a learning experience. Ugly crying and frustration aside, it did give me a funny story to tell people when I got home and added to my treasure trove of practical travel tips. 🙂