Life was meant for good friends and great adventures.
Leaving the Philippines last February, the last two familiar faces I saw were Kike‘s and Blanca‘s. Meeting them last January was one of the highlights of my comeback in Mapua. I met Blanca first when AJ wasn’t able to meet her as the student buddy. A week later, Kike arrived from Spain. I definitely clicked with Blanca right away. With Kike, it was until maybe later that we became closer. Before leaving Philippines, I traveled with them (together with Zeus and other international students in Mapua) during the weekends and we partied together every Thursday (ifykwim)! Both of them became really close to my heart.
Keeping in touch with them, they would send me photos of where they are traveling and I would do the same. Eventually, with all the talk of visiting, they booked a ticket to Taiwan! (They missed me too much. Haha. Just Kidding!) Kike then told me that his friend, Daniel, is gonna come along. He told me that his friend wanted to party in Taipei. Constantly pestering me, we made plans on what we will do when they arrive. Checklists made, AirBnbs booked, couchsurfing hosts confirmed – everything was all set!
Filled with excitement, I started packing my bags the night before they came. I arranged their sleeping areas for when they come to my dorm since Mr. Lin told me that they could stay and sleep when they arrive from the airport. Having a delayed flight, they arrived Zhongli at around 4’o clock in the morning. I waited for them outside the dorm. Hugs! I was so happy to see them again. It was also nice to meet Daniel for the first time. Unluckily, no eating place was open so their first meal in Taiwan was from Family Mart. (So sorry guys! I brought sushi from the night market, that should be fine. Haha.)
Day One: Taipei
Up after 3 hours of sleep, I was excited to showcase my Chinese speaking abilities to my friends. We went to a breakfast shop and I ordered them my favorites: zhua bing and dan bing. Of course, nai cha! Walking towards my university, we grabbed some xiaolongbao and went to sit down at one of the benches in the campus.
Since it was almost 10, we took the bus to the train station and arrived in Taipei at around 11. Since it was already 11, we decided to check in our AirBnb place. Funny as it may seem, we got lost! Apparently, the map on the app was different with the address. An hour of searching for our place, Daniel found a Mexican guy with his Taiwanese girlfriend who helped us on locating Mia‘s Bnb!
Exhausted with all the walking (we had our huge bags btw), we rested for a bit before meeting Victor and Tingting who just came from Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain). Finally, I got to meet Victor from couchsurfing! As everyone’s tummies growled, Victor suggested that we have beef noodles soup for lunch. We went into a nice Taiwanese place and had a hearty meal! Kike’s chopsticks skills were so terrible that he had to use a fork. Hahaha! (Sorry Kike, I just had to. The first time we ate at Chinatown, I thought to myself, “Why the hell does this guy not know how to use chopsticks?”)
Heading off to the famous Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, we watched the ceremony. I was quite surprised to hear that Daniel knows about the history of Chiang Kai Shek! Impressive. He was narrating the background as if he were a tour guide. Applause, Daniel!
Having Mankiw arrive at CKS, we split up with Victor and Tingting since they wanted to visit the library. Blanca’s wish was granted: we headed to Longshan temple! Mankiw showed us around the temple while explaining how the prayers work as well as what kind of gods and goddesses were in the temple. We even tried the wishing thing with the wooden crescent moons! I got a “Yes!” for my question.
Rain started pouring and everyone was just dead tired. We did our last walking tour at the Bopiliao historical block and hopped on the MRT back home. We decided we needed rest at home before partying. One funny thing is when we were searching for home, these kids were wondering what we were asking. I forgot what Watson taught me, the Chinese of McDonalds which is mai dang lao. After a while, we figured it out and they led us to the McDonalds. Thanks kids!
Rested up, we prepared for the party at Halo. My friend who’s the DJ of NekBrace, placed us on the list of Halo and Elektro. I met him on the party bus for the Spring Break on the beach, crazy times. Since Jay told me we could meet at 12, we went to Shilin Night Market first which was terrible that night since it was raining! Arriving at ATT4Fun, we saw my friend, Phillip! It was a nice encounter though he was partying at a different place. We went up to Halo and was greeted by Jay at the door. (Thanks a lot, Jay!) We had a few drinks by the DJ’s area and eventually started dancing at the middle where the party’s at.
Funny story! My friends actually met Dennis that night at the party. He wasn’t supposed to come, but he came in at the last minute. (All the way from Tainan!) I’m so glad he did, my friends met him. He even clicked with Daniel. Partying with the cool squad, we had such a fun night. I met this woman named Chao Anni who just smothered me with drinks. (Okay, maybe smothered is too much. Haha.) Due to that, I got my ass super wasted that I couldn’t remember what happened next. As Dennis told me, he had to carry my ass back home. Piggy back ride, yo! It’s even funny that I slept on a bush. The rest is just too embarrassing to say. (Shoutout to Dennis for taking care of me!)
Day Two: Taichung
Waking up late, I had to meet my friends at the Taipei Main Station so that we can catch the train that brings us to Taichung before 12 noon. Got our HSR tickets on time, but missed our train right before the door closed! It was quite embarrassing since Dad Vincent came to pick us up at the station and Rose/Jo-Tsen, my university buddy, is waiting for us at the restaurant.
On a hilarious side note, there was this Taiwanese girl who was taking selfies before getting on the train. She was actually pretty! And she knows it, lol. Betting on how long she would take more selfies on the train, Daniel and Blanca were shocked that she took more time than they expected. Kind of self-absorbed, the girl was on Daniel’s eyes the whole train ride. He tried to say goodbye to her when she was about to get off the train, but she was too busy thinking about her self. Crazy, I know!
Arriving Hsinchu, my dad came back to the HSR station since he thought we took a taxi to the restaurant because our arrival was later than expected. (Sorry, dad!) Hugs when we saw each other again. Vincent looked dashingly handsome on his vest and whole outfit. My friends instantly loved him. After a short ride, we finally came to the restaurant where Rose was waiting for us. My Mom Miranda, Brother Neil and Baby Felix came to meet us for lunch! “Happy Birthday, Neil!” I blurted as I hugged him out. I was so happy to see my Taiwanese family again since I missed them so much. Our lunch celebration of my brother’s birthday was amazing since we were at the really nice Wuwei restaurant. The food was exceptional; from the main course to the desserts – our tummies enjoyed the delicious feeding session. On top of that, we experienced a tea ceremony which was so different from what I saw in Korea.
Hugging everyone goodbye, I had to go back to Taipei for my meeting with TWIYC.tw since I’m volunteering for them. I met up with Dennis after to party at the Triangle where Jay DJed amazingly with his hiphop hits. I wasn’t much of a mess that night.
Day Three: Hsinchu
9:30, I am still in bed trying to make my way up. I jumped right out and hurried my way to the train station. Dennis told me that I am in no way reaching my train at 10:00. He even told me he’d get me a nai cha if I can catch my train. Luckily, Chi-Yu, booked the tickets early so I only needed to rush into the train. At 9:58, I arrived into the Taipei Main Station and ran as fast as I can to the TRA area. Chi-Yu waved at me as he was past the ticketing area. He handed me my ticket and we entered our train at exactly 10:00. Phew, that was a rush. I was breathing like a maniac! (Dennis, you owe me!) Kike, Blanca, and Daniel are supposed to arrive at Hsinchu at around 10:45 or something. We arrived at 11:00.
On our way to Hsinchu, I got to know Chi-Yu better. He was supposed to host me and my friends in Tainan if we wanted to go. However, I already have planned the Taichung and Hsinchu trips that’s why we just met up for the weekend. He joined us to Hsinchu which was really nice. He’s a neuroscientist who studied in Japan and is now going to the US for his internship from May to August then pursuing his PhD in the UK next year. How great is that!? I’m kind of jealous of how smart he is. I was so fascinated of what he has been doing. Thanks couchsurfing, I’ve been meeting a lot of amazing people here in Taiwan.
Hsinchu, at last! Poly waved at me as we exited the train station. He came with his wife Jenny and their friend Kevin. Just right on time! My friends came in first. We went on a drive for lunch and had some Taiwanese food. Since the plan of hiking was scratched, we went to the Hsinchu coastline for leisurely biking. We walked around the local fish market first and grabbed our bikes for the 34KM bike ride!
Beaches, lakes, farm fields, trees, wind turbines – it was a perfect day with the perfect weather. I was awed with how beautiful the bike ride is. Relaxing as it gets, we even had ice cream on one of our stops and some fresh pineapples at the lighthouse.
As we head back, me and Kike were pedaling so fast that we lost the others. Even though Daniel got past us and reached the finish line first. Coincidentally, we saw a pug on our way back! I biked really slowly since the pug was on this family type of bike that has an electric machine. I was biking behind them and staring at their cutie pie. Kike took some nice photos, muchas gracias!
After our bike rides, we headed to Poly and Jenny’s place to have dinner. We ate Taiwanese food and had a really delicious Taiwanese dessert! Since Daniel had to catch his flight, he didn’t stay for the night and Chi-Yu went back to Taipei since he’ll meet us at Fulong the next day. We thought the night was done, but Kevin came over bringing his craft beer! It was an amazing beer tasting experience (with funny drinking games as well). He actually told us that he started making his homemade beer just because he liked beer. Now, he’s selling his beers all over Taiwan! As VIP as we are, we got to taste the experimental batch. I loved all of his beers. The first two were fruity and very light which I appreciated more than the darker ones. Trying his beers that are on the market already, one tasted like coffee since it’s made from malt. However, the other was black IPA and also really nice. I am definitely coming back to Hsinchu for more beer tasting sessions.
Day Four: Fulong
Last day before two of my good friends leave Taiwan! We woke up really early, 5 in the morning! Kike was awake already since around 1:30 because I woke him up when I got out of bed to niao niao. Dropping us off at the train station, Poly headed off to work in Zhongli. We waited for our train to Fulong. One of the highlights of bringing my friends there is to scuba dive. Even Chi-Yu was convinced to try scuba diving for the first time! I was so excited for his first scuba diving experience and also for my first dive with El Kike. That’s one thing we shared, our love for scuba diving. I think that’s why we became really close – one of the reasons actually.
Arriving at Fulong, we went to a breakfast shop and saw Paul. He was heading to the Scubar to open it up. After breakfast, we met Nigel at the shop and had our equipment prepared. It was a fun day for a dive! I was trying to convince Nigel that he should bring us to a nice dive site since Kike will only dive once for the day because of his flight. (Risk of nitrogen narcosis if you dive then fly, 12 hours for a dive and 18 hours for two.) Luckily, he brought us to Garden of Eden! Ian, Irene, and Aaron were all there too! Yay, fun dive! Indeed it was an amazing dive. We went around a wreck and enjoyed the whole dive site with its marine life. I personally think it’s the best dive I’ve been in Fulong, yet.
I would dive again with Nigel, Ian, Irene, and Aaron, but I didn’t want my friends to wait for me. We had curry for lunch and ice cream – lots and lots of Nijel’s Ice Cream! (My favorite part of the day.) So, we decided to chill and walk around the nice temple overlooking Fulong beach.
We went to Taipei then and saw the Grand Hotel. The hotel’s architecture was quite stunning. Entering its lobby, we were fascinated with how red everything is. There was a pianist and violinist playing soothing music perfectly matching the place’s ambiance. We walked around before hopping on a bus to the Shilin Night Market.
Blanca’s words, “This is so different from what we saw a few days ago. It’s an entirely different place.” There was no rain and there were a lot of people. It was definitely the famous Shilin Night Market! Bustling with crowds, we went on food booths and filled our stomachs with satisfying night market food. With all the walking, we agreed to call it a day. Everyone was 0% energy-wise.
Getting off the MRT, Chi-Yu went home and we went off the Taipei Main Station. It was sad saying goodbye to Chi-Yu since he’s going to Washington soon. But, he’s doing his open water diving course with Nigel when he comes back! I’m so glad he said that. Coming to the end of their trip, I said my goodbyes to Blanca and Kike. I didn’t want them to go, actually. It made me quite sad that the four days went by so quickly! But then again, I’ll see them when I get back to the Philippines. Adios, te veo pronto!