#travelthursday (na-move na talaga, haha!!)
My solo sojourn in Taipei "technically" qualifies as my first real solo trip because unlike in Bangkok two years ago where I asked the help of my colleague to take me to the hostel and accompany me in the weekend market (and not to mention have a date with another colleague :p), this time I refused to ask help from any person/colleague I know who resides in that country - not even my cousin who works there. ;-)
Here are some of the things I experienced and for a good measure I added some tips for traveling alone which I gathered from different websites. :)
# The perils of traveling alone - A blue-eyed European tried to talk me to share a cab with him to the city. How vulnerable can a solo female traveler be to such men?? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Although I've never seen blue eyes like those before, my common sense dictated that I look away coz I don't know he might just hypnotize me or something. Yikes!! Sometimes it's better to exaggerate. He walked with me from the money changer all the way down to the bus stops of the airport while occasionally making small talks. (How stupid was it for me to tell him it was my first time as well in Taiwan?? Although in retrospect, I didn't know how to invent this persona of someone who knows the ins and outs of that country.) Anyway, I was so relieved when he bought a different ticket (different destination) than mine. The bus ride to the city takes more around an hour and there aren't that much passengers during that midnight so I wouldn't know what to do if he'll still stick with me.
Tip: Lie a little. For situations like this, you may tell that you are meeting a friend at the city so as to discourage them with their plans.
# Braving the commute at midnight. I felt mighty successful after the bus stop (with I and another guy passenger) reached the city. According to the directions provided by the hostel, it should be about 15 mins by foot. And I have looked at every pictures available in their sites to help me familiarize with the landmarks coz I was eager to test my err, navigation skills. :D I was even proud to have understood the bus driver when he asked, "Ni qu na li?" which of course I had to answer in English. Wahaha!! I was told that Taipei is a safe city to walk around at night so armed with my map at around 130 AM, I tried navigating for a few minutes but after a few wrong turns (waaaaahh!!!) I was forced to hail a cab and spend 70 Taiwan dollars for that 3-minute ride from the bus stop to the hostel. Phhhbt!!
Tip: Although it is very important to economize, be ready with back-up plans. Hehe. Have the address of your hotel printed in their language or characters and be informed ahead of the cost so you will not be taken for a ride by the taxi drivers.
# Meeting new people. Thanks to Wil for this tip, I've always booked hostels for leisure travels. It's one good way to economize and also meet new people. Around 200 AM, a little bit worn from the flight and the commute, I met this French guy by the computer station (while I was logging on my laptop to inform relatives at home I arrived safely) who shared to me some of his hard-won realizations in life through traveling. How awesome it is that he works for nine months and travels for the rest of the year during winter? He's a gardener that's why, he takes break during the winter season. My only gripe is that he is married. Not because I fancy him, but my point is, why leave his wife back in France for 3 months??
Tip: Try to book hostels and always go for the one with the best reviews. :P They offer free breakfast and wi-fi and they have lounges where everybody can just make new acquaintances with the very people who also want to learn about the world like you. ;-)
# Travel bloopers. :)) Traveling alone is something like a full-power experience. You feel empowered for achieving things on your own but then again sometimes, you make stupid mistakes on your own. Afterwards you'll laugh about it and erm, make for a great status update in FB. Hahaha!!! Take for example this blue coin in the MRT, I was dumbfounded when I couldn't find any slot for the said coin by the turnstile entrance. It took some time to figure out that is sensor activated and that it works by tapping too. Apparently, I'm so used to the magnetic cards in Singapore and HK. :P
My tip: As they say, there's a first time for everything. So it's okay to feel stupid once in a while. They make for more for some great anecdotes a few days later. Wahaha!!! Sorry no tip for this one. :P I know a colleague of mine who endured washing his hands
in hot water for the entire first month of his business trip because he doesn't know you just have to turn the lever to make it cold. :)) In Tagalog, we call it "shunga" moment. :))
# Indulge. Solo travel can be the ultimate for self-indulgence, you can rest whenever you want without ruining your companion's day. You see new world, new places, new people and have the time psychological space to reflect upon them without the prejudice of your companion ( saaaaaaabeeeeehhh???). You get stimulated with something you see and immediately ditch your original plan - just like how I discovered the horticultural expo at Taipei which wasn't part of my original destination and yet just observed when the MRT passed through it or another example is how I found out about the Aldo outlet sale when I was trying to explore the streets round my hostel. I scored shoes and saw some really nice flowers on the first day alone without really having a solid agenda for the first day.
Tip: It’s about doing what you want to do, not what you feel obliged to do, or what you think you should be doing.
# Solomangarephobia. Word of the day. That is the fear of eating alone. :P Well I don't really have that phobia but if there's one thing I didn't experience while I was in Thailand on my first solo sojourn is to try authentic Thai dishes. In CNN's recent article about Asia's most sinful cities, they charged Taipei guilty of gluttony!! I've noticed how the night markets are teeming with food selections they call as xiaochi or "small eats". When I was in their night market, I was brave to try the drinks (bubble tea!!!!) or ice cream sold in them but what I was more determined to try was their hotpot or shabu-shabu. :P It was very hard to talk to the waiter when I ordered this in a restaurant near my hostel, but nevertheless I enjoyed eating it. ;-) Yummmmmm!!!
Tip: Eat well. Just because you're alone and on the run doesn't mean you shouldn't take time for sit-down meals, a leisurely cup of coffee or a decadent dessert. If you're conscious about what the other people around you might say, bring a book. But remember, dining alone doesn't equate to being lonely.
I will upload some more photos in separate post. Thanks for reading. :)