一路平安: Off to Taiwan!

Baiyun International Airport

I woke up this morning to a WeChat message from my mom: 听说台南地震。(Heard there was an earthquake in Tainan.)

Later, more friends and family message me, essentially declaring: Every time you go somewhere, something major happens.

It’s true. To date, I’ve been at or near the following disasters/incidents: Boston bombings, Bangkok blasts, Paris bombings, HK bookseller kidnapping, and now Taiwan earthquake.

It’s scary to think about, and friends and coworkers already see me as a disaster warning but also terribly lucky for such close calls. Obviously, I’d rather not keep a count like this.

Baiyun International Airport
Baiyun International Airport

About 12 hours later, I find myself comfortably nested in my double room at Meander Hostel in Taipei, which—as I conveniently found out after booking—ranks second best in the world. Wooo.

I feel like I’ve been encountering one lucky situation after another. Although I very well may be jinxing myself, I need to record how well I think things have been going so far—and it’s only been a couple hours.

For one, I’m forever grateful to have such supportive relatives in Guangzhou. For the many times I’ve traveled since moving to Guangzhou, they would always take me to and from the airport, making sure I’m happy and safe. Today, my cousin picked me up from my apartment, right at the moment I was tuning in to the first airing of the my first GDTV World “Face Time” episode that I fully edited. We watched in utter amusement and happiness, not only seeing myself on TV but also the result of all those hours I put into putting it all together. Then, we prepared ourselves for the heavy Spring Festival traffic and long lines at the airport.

The thing is—there were none. Like, no traffic. No lines. Within an hour from my apartment, I was walking toward my gate, when we expected to be still on the congested highways.

“We really in the spring festival travel?” he messaged me, as I told him I had already gone through security and customs.

Even on the airplane, I ended up having the row to myself, happily enjoying the space and being able to put my suitcase directly above my seat. I made some more progress on my third book of the year and enjoyed the short flight. (Review for the second book To Live will be combined with the third, since To Live is a lovable classic, with my only critique being some translations).

Since I chose my seat to be near the front, I made it out quickly and walked briskly toward immigration, breezing past the slow walkers and even having time to exchange money before the rest of the passengers caught up.

At immigration, the officer spoke to me in English, seeing my American passport, which I thought was…a good thing. Considerate. Soon enough, I walked out and into the waiting area, and my eyes landed on a service center for the local transportation card, or Easy Card.

Despite a few Mainlanders asking a million questions about the card (how much, which one, how to use it, blahblah), I managed to get the card to use for the bus from the airport to the city center. It can be used for a lot of other things apparently, but as long as it covers the metro and the bus, that’s all I need to know. There were two employees, and both treated everyone so nicely—even as Mainlanders fulfilled their rudeness stereotype by cutting in line and crowding instead of lining up, the employees respectfully told them to line up on my left. Immediately, I thought of what my cousin told me on the ride to the airport—that both men and women are incredibly soft-spoken and kind.

What he also mentioned: Get an unlimited 4G card to use. Thank God for the convenience of Taoyuan airport, because as soon as I got my Easy Card, I saw the booth for the data cards. You purchase by the number of days and can choose whether you want 3G or 4G, but honestly with the difference of just 50 TWD (literally $1.50), might as well go for 4G. So for eight days, I get unlimited, VPN-less 4G access for $16.50. I don’t think I’m ever leaving.

Then I started having a few hiccups not worth mentioning, but an hour after deboarding the plane, I was on the bus to the city center, happily WeChatting my friends and family and enjoying the wonders of fast Internet connection without the shitty firewall!

So I’ll write another #GZBuzz post to highlight some random observations here and there, but for now, I’ll continue with my journey so far.

As soon as the bus started entering the city, I saw street food, shops, and people everywhere. By 10 p.m., I walked out of the metro station and into the still-bustling streets of Taipei, staring in awe of the lights, the people, the energy.

I couldn’t wait to check in and then get back out on the streets to explore.

And explore I did. The streets of Ximending are never-ending! I’ll wait until I edit the photos I took from today, but man, I’ve fallen in love already.

Much more to say, much more to explore.

At 12:34 a.m., I think it’s time to call it a day and see what tomorrow brings 🙂