My Time in Taipei & What it’s Meant

As I look back at the last five months of my life all I can think is wow. 

It may be cliché but I can’t help but wonder how the time went by so quickly?

Seriously is there somebody with a remote control for my life and have they been pressing x2 >> this entire time?

A lot of emotions come to mind as I reflect on the past five months living in another country.

Nervousness, gratitude, growth, discovery, doubt, self improvement, amazement, shock and many more words come to mind.

I’ve met so many amazing people, seen countless incredible sights, shared and created fantastic memories and overall experienced so much; many of these experiences were things I had never thought possible before taking this trip.

 

Eye-opening.

That would be the one word that I believe best summarizes my experience abroad. Growing up in a North American society my mind has been organized and programmed to think in one way. My time spent living in Taiwan, and also travelling to four countries in between, has allowed me to see how people of other backgrounds think.

As my home base, I’ve had some insight into how Taiwanese society operates, I’ve noticed differences between this society and the one I grew up in. I’ve also noted ways in which I feel Taiwan is both ahead of and behind the game in comparison to my home country of Canada.

To name a few, the public transportation system here (comprised of subway, buses, bicycles, etc.) is extremely convenient, expansive, and inexpensive. Also when you purchase a product in Taiwan your receipt comes back with a number, this number is automatically entered into a bi-monthly lottery! How neat is that!?

There are of course other aspects of living in Taiwan that I have had to unwillingly get used to. For one, most restaurants don’t have knives here. It’s as if your teeth are your knives and for a Westerner trying to eat a large piece of chicken, this is not always practical. It’s also very common for people to very loudly clear their throats here, and at first these tendencies can seem disruptive but sooner than later you become accustom to it. It becomes normalized and then you almost forget it ever bothered you in the first place.

No one society is perfect but what this tells me is that its important to define and acknowledge difference as more of a learning opportunity than anything else. Difference shouldn’t be frowned upon as being a negative trait, but rather as a chance to learn and potentially make a positive change.

Working with Taiwanese people really showed me a lot about some of their common characteristics. They were nothing but extremely generous and complimentary towards me. Maybe I just got lucky, but the Taiwanese people I have met here are very hard working and very generous people.

Although shy at first, after a few weeks my co-workers really opened up to me and shared more about their lives. They were very curious about me and asked many questions about my life in Canada, and of course I always asked them the same questions back. These informal exchanges greatly enhanced my understanding of their every day lives and overall culture.

They also liked to joke with me more, even poking fun at my Chinese pronunciation. I’m grateful for the time they took to help me learn how to order coffee or my favourite food in all of Taiwan: dumplings (shuǐjiǎo).

I can honestly say that this experience was not exactly what I first expected. But there is something to be said about the expectations I had in that they stemmed from a lack of knowledge and also from listening to other people’s thoughts on what Taiwan might be like (it is worth noting that most of these people had never actually been to the country before). What I take from this is that, listening to what other people think about what you plan on doing is not always going to be the best thing you can do for yourself. Sometimes you need to just go for it, you might make mistakes or encounter unexpected circumstances but if you don’t try it how will you ever know?

Although different from my original thoughts, I more importantly wouldn’t change this experience for the world. I believe it has helped me to grow and mature greatly. I’ve lived with a stranger who quickly became a good friend and I’ve also lived by myself and learned more in the past five months than any semester in university!

I’ll always be grateful to this tiny yet proud country and the wonderful souls I have met in it. I will miss the night markets and their yummy snacks and fresh juices. The UBike system, the bars that stay open until 7 AM, and most of all, yeah you guessed it, dumplings.

To Infinity and Beyond at Wanli

The date was September 24, 2016. It was a Saturday, but not your average sleep in, watch Netflix, and run some errands kind of Saturday.

After persuading my roommate Greg to join me, I was starting to get nervous as I lay awake in bed. The hour was 8: 45 AM, and it was time for me to get ready.

After throwing on some athletic gear and making a quick breakfast we were out the door and on our way to our high flying adventure.

We met a large group of fellow adrenaline seekers at the Taipei Main Bus Station’s Terminal A to take Kuo-Kuang bus 1815.

Our destination? Wanli, New Taipei. Our mission? To run off a cliff, float 200 feet in the air, and capture some amazing views.

The bus to Wanli took approximately 40 minutes, and to me it felt even faster as I thought more and more about what I was about to do. But believe me there was no way I was going to let myself back out (I told too many of my friends, I’d never live it down).

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When we arrived at our destination we got off the 1815 bus and shuttle vans promptly picked us up to take us up the mountain to the take off sight!

Five minutes later at the top we suited up in our paragliding harnesses, and helmets!

Naturally, I chose a Hello Kitty one.

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We worked with members of Mustang Paragliding Club that day and they were amazing! They made you laugh and feel calm, were very organized, and even gave you a selfie stick and a go-pro to use during your flight! Afterwards the 8G micro SD card was yours to keep, who doesn’t love free micro SD cards?! 

This shuttle service, provided by the Mustang Club, was organized by an organization called Taiwan Adventure Outings and they were responsible for this flawless event!

They purchased our bus tickets ahead of time so all we had to do was get on the bus and pay them there. They negotiated a group price for us that was extremely reasonable at $1,500 NTD or a little less than $65 CAD.

If you’re in Taiwan and are looking to do some adrenaline or nature based trips, Dustin and Ryan at Taiwan Adventure Outings are your guys! Check out their fan page and even look up their group on Facebook to see the paragliding and many other awesome trips they hold each weekend!

My paragliding experience was 6 minutes of pure bliss. There was no time for serious nerves as the take off happened so quickly that once I got in the air I was just so happy to be up there!

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Looking straight I saw the beautiful blue water of the Pacific Ocean, behind me were lush green mountains, and below there was a town that appeared to be micro-sized. The sky was so clear you could see for miles, once I was in the air I really did not want the flight to end.

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My guide was extremely kind and really fun to float with, during the flight he had us going in circles, going up and down, and I loved every second of it! To catch a short video of my amazing experience, check out my latest Instagram: @careolinadoidge or my Facebook page !

I can’t even describe how happy I am that I went through with paragliding. This experience proved to be a reminder that sometimes you just gotta suck up some courage and go for it!

Its common to complain about feeling bored or too comfortable in our routines. I think its important to think about what we can do to change that, it can start with something small and simple, or be something more drastic. For me the important thing was all about stepping outside my comfort zone and pushing myself to do something I wouldn’t normally do.

 Lululemon advocates it, and going forward I’m going to try and abide by it. Do something this week that scares you or pushes you, and afterwards see how you feel.

 

OH and in case you want to get back to Taipei Main Station: Catch the 1815 Bus!

Here’s the schedule and listed stops: http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Lang=En&Line=8236

 

Night Life Near The Red House

The Red House (or Honglou in Chinese) is an historical site located in the Ximen area of Taipei. Originally built in 1908 by the Japanese, this octagonal building is now home to a number of interesting people, shops, bars, restaurants and events!

This location is beaming with life, music, and a strong mixture of tourists and locals! If you’re moving to Taipei I would strongly recommend this area for these exact reasons!

To find it, take the Blue or Green MRT line to Ximen Station, choose Exit 1 and before you know it you’ll be steps away from this exciting area! If you feel like browsing some shops beforehand, take Exit 6 for the Pedestrian Area across the street from the Red House.

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(I am not the owner of this image)

There is a section of the Red House that often hosts concerts and just behind the building there is a multitude of outdoor restaurants and bars.

In fact, The Red House is the hub of Taipei’s gay bar scene. Having been to a few myself I can tell you they are a great time, and obviously all are welcome.

It’s safe to say night time is when this area really comes alive, with glowing lights, music, and the delicious aromas of various foods.

A restaurant called Yunnan Thai Style Southern Food served up the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had for a mere $150 NTD or $6 Canadian. It’s decor may not look like much but what it may lack in aesthetics it makes up for in delicious true thai taste!!

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On weekends vendors line the trendy area next to the Red House. You can find beautiful handmade items here! Ranging from jewellery, to leather coin holders, to stylish hand designed t-shirts to homemade soaps; the artistry will truly blow you away!

C’mon we all know a cat or dog who could use a neck tie am I right?? HOW CUTE!

The set up next to the Red House is reminiscent of a smaller and much more reasonably priced version of Toronto, Ontario’s Kensington Market, also an area belonging to part of a neighbourhood and considered an historical site.

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One vendor sells uniquely shaped records

Tents owned by different vendors are like treasure chests waiting to be explored; unique and handcrafted items lie around each corner. The vendors are nothing but proud of their work and happy to talk with you as much as they can. During my visit I did not encounter any owner that was pushy or put pressure on me to buy, rather the interactions I had were extremely pleasant and by the end of it I couldn’t leave without asking for a business card!

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For the care and craftsmanship behind each design I found the prices to be quite reasonable, but you will have to visit for yourself and tell me what you think!

 

Where did this information come from? See for yourself! 

The Red House (Honglou)

http://www.redhouse.org.tw/index_en.aspx

The Red House (Honglou) Market 

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g293913-d1024907-r238542684-Ximen_Red_House_Ximending-Taipei.html

MRT Instructions 

https://guidetotaipei.com/visit/the-red-house-honglou-%E8%A5%BF%E9%96%80%E7%B4%85%E6%A8%93

Yunnan Thai Style Southern Food

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293913-d6135304-Reviews-Yunnan_Thai_Style_Southern_Food-Taipei.html

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/taiwan/taipei/restaurants/thai/thai-food

Kensington Market

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Market

Taipei Gay Bars

 

Arrival

My journey began in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

July 28th: I set off, by myself, for the longest voyage I have yet to take in my 22 years.

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Five episodes of The Mindy Project, four frozen meals, three mini bottles of wine, two plane rides, and just one day later I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan.

This opportunity came to me through the organization AIESEC (http://aiesec.ca/), which facilitates global learning and understanding through its international internships and volunteering placements.

After reuniting with my combined four bags of luggage I immediately texted my dear family and friends several messages along the lines of, “I MADE IT!!”

Next I was greeted by my Local Committee Member named Eric, who, despite it being very late, seemed extremely enthused to welcome me to his home.

My first impressions of Taipei? Very hot and humid. The standard definition of personal space? Much smaller than what I’m used to, but wow! Taiwanese people are friendly.

About an hour later I arrived at my new apartment, The West Residence. “Fitting for a foreigner from the Western World,” I remember thinking to myself.

After recovering my keys from the front desk, Eric and I took the elevator to my floor and opened the apartment door to see, not my roommate, but his cat, Doug Doug.

Relieved to have reached my unfamiliar home half way around the world, I stared out my bedroom window and took in the night view beforeIMG_6552 settling into bed. The street was surprisingly busy for the time.

It felt surreal to consider myself a soon to be expat in this overseas destination I had researched and talked about for so long. And yet here I was. This was real life, and it was really happening!

With the combination of my body thinking it was 2:30 PM (instead of AM), in addition to my curiosity and excitement I thought for sure I would toss and turn all night.

But to my surprise, with a little A/C and a comforter left by a former tenant, I was ready to fall fast asleep with hopes of soon exploring this new city.

Before I closed my eyes, in one of those fate type of moments you see in the movies, I stumbled upon this picture on Instagram.

And suddenly everything seemed to make sense.