Lēe hò, Taiwan (Part 3)

It was our third day, a time to discover Taiwan’s hidden gems on the province side. Welcomed by the day with drizzles in Taipei. It was a very exciting itinerary for that day as we head for Yin Yang Sea, Jiufen, and Pingxi.

As we head out early in the morning, we passed by McDonalds and opted to just buy breakfast from there. I ordered a toasted sandwich and just the sandwich, cause I was afraid if I ordered iced tea, it won’t be on my liking (I’m sorry for being a picky eater, haha!). I was surprised the toasted sandwich was so good (no hint of star anis whatsoever! Yas!) that I wished I bought two, haha! I really hoped they also have that kind here in PH.

We then went to the bus terminal but was quite lost where to find the bus itself. We tried to ask around and was informed that bus won’t be there until later that day, so we decided to take another route after we finished eating. We took the train to Ruifang and then waited for about 30 mins for the bus. It then started pouring, it was already cold that day but was even colder due to the rain. Good thing I had worn my waterproof shoes and I brought with me my raincoat and that’s all I have to combat rain because I left my umbrella in the Philippines. Haha!

Going to Yin Yang Sea was quite an adventure. It was raining hard and we are going up, like Baguio up – we can’t see the road as the visibility was reduced to almost none. I was quite impressed with the skill of the bus driver – the rain, zero visibility, steep road. By the time I saw the sea from the bus window, I was mesmirized and in awe, at the same time scared as the waves are high. You know that when it caught you, the chances of you being seen again is reduced to zero. The waves are angry along with the heavy rain and gushing wind.

After we passed the sea we were going to a place that just doesn’t feel right as it was going even higher. I stated having questions like – are we going to see falls or the sea? So that’s when my friend decided to ask where we are, and it was very unfortunate of us that no one, even the bus driver and the passengers, knows how to speak in English. No one. It was like a nightmare – we are in the middle of nowhere with no one who knows to speak the language we do.

The bus driver then unloaded us and signalled us to go I don’t know where and we didn’t understand We unload the bus and asked around, still no one knows English. We decided to wait for a bus going back. Unfortunately those seemingly provincial buses don’t stop at bus stops unlike in Taipei, you have to press the “Stop” button, in which we don’t know is a stop button because it’s not in English. There is no sign as well where we are, unlike in city buses where it flashes the current and the next stop. It was totally different. Aside from that it is raining heavily. Fortunately for us, even though we are far up the mountain, we still have the internet working, so we knew the estimated time of arrival of the next bus going to Yin Yang Sea, by this time we knew to press stop if we are near the destination – and we did. Surprise, surprise – the sea that we wanted to see was the one we were mesmerized to during that bus ride. As much as we want to go near it, we can’t afford to be taken by the sea away. So again, we are left in the middle of the shed – waiting indefinitely for the next bus to arrive.

We were worried. I was worried to the point I just want to go back to Taipei and go to a mall, have something hot and be just comfortable. The started to die down, though still drizzling. My friends said they wanted to fly lanterns, I told them it was too early to do so, because I imagine doing it at night. Lol. They really want to go and I don’t want to spoil their fun, and besides we are already there, why stop now and let the rain ruin everything – well it actually ruined us seeing the Yin Yan Sea, Gold Waterfall, Cat Village – the only thing left for us to explore was Jiufen and Pingxi (sky latern). Despite my worries and fears, I decided for myself to give it a go. After a few minutes of waiting in the cold, there was a taxi – our life saver! We asked him to take us to Jiufen, but told us it’ll cost much – we said it was ok as long us we are not stuck in the middle of nowhere.

The road to Jiufen was even steeper. Taiwanese drivers are really skilled! Almost in the 45 degree angle steep, still we are doing pretty good – no wonder their taxis are in automatic transmission.

Reaching Jiufen we were then welcomed again by the rain. I decided to wear my raincoat and my friends decided to purchase one. The stores are really ready, they have lots of raincoat as well as umbrella. We walked in Jiufen, saw things we liked, bought them and walked again. But that hot and steamy Xiao Long Bao made us stop and rest for a while. We ordered one and divided it amongst ourselves. It was the first time I had it but I knew I wanted to try it even before the trip so I was really excited to have one – and it was perfect!

It took the cold of Taiwan away and relaxed us really good. It was then I realized it was the best decision to continue on with the itinerary. After that we roamed and saw these delicious looking mochi with a gigantic strawberry on it. It was purely delicious especially the bean paste! Mid you I don’t really like beans in general, but I loved this one.

By that time we already forgot we almost got lost in Taiwan. And then we now headed to fly some lanterns in Pingxi. A bus away from another station and a whole lot of train trips over looking cliffs going to Pingxi. Yes cliff, cause when you look at the window you’ll either see a raging river or a steep cliff. It was a fun ride and there were many people who wanted to fly some lanterns. Fortunately for us, some tourists unloaded at another station before going to Pingxi, we decided not to go there anymore as it was nearing night.

Arriving in Pingxi we chose were can we fly our lanterns. We then went ahead and chose the variants (you can choose how many colors your lantern will comprise, those colors represent symbols you are wishing for that year) – I chose yellow, red, blue and pink. I forgot what those colors meant hahaha! But yeah those were mine. After writing our “wishes”, we head out the empty railroad and started flying our lantern with the help of the vendor. He was so nice to take a photo as well as a video (yup simultaneously and he knows the way to any phone hahaha!) of us flying it. After that we spoke with him and via the Google Translate app, the told us he’s been doing it for 25 years now.

It was such a fun adventure. After that we decided to head back to Taipei as it is already nearing the evening.

We decided to head back to the hotel to change first as we were constantly drenched in the rain. After changing we headed out to eat our dinner at Modern Toilet. I was wondering why it is named the way it is, to my surprise the food was served on toilets, well not really the toiler per se, that’s gross. Haha! But the plates were toilet inspired. We met with Filipinos there as well who was almost finished with their food – sadly we were spoiled that it doesn’t fit the Filipino taste. I was actually excited but when they spoiled us, my expectations fell. I somehow learned a good lesson not to spoil anything to other tourist, and let them try it for themselves (not unless they really want me to spoil it for you). I ordered chicken pasta and to my surprise it is not your normal pasta, I don’t know how they were able to lace it with star anis, but yeah it – you know how it is with star anis and I. Haha. It’s not that it doesn’t taste good, but since it’s my third day in Taiwan I’m starting to not like the smell of star anis, plus the fact that it was spoiled to us – it resulted to not really enjoying the dinner, or perhaps it’s just I. Haha! But the concept was really smart – hands down to that.

Also, look at this cute ice cream that is shaped like 💩. Haha!

After that we went to Shilin Night Market. Unlike the Raohe, Shilin doesn’t have as much food but clothes and things. It is nice if you are looking for things to bring at home. Though not much food choices but still there are great food out there like the toasted buns I loved (but too hot to eat, haha!)

These bacon-wrapped spring onions, which are are the best!

and these cute Custard pancakes.

After the late night stroll, we head back to the hotel and ended our third day. It was full of adventure. And looking back, I’ve learned quite a few lessons:

1. Never be afraid to continue on despite having a few inconveniences. Because you might just miss out one of the best adventures of life. Ask God for wisdom whether to continue on, and when He says so trust that He’ll carry you through and that He holds what lies ahead. Just trust in Him when He says – Go!

2. Don’t spoil anything to your co-tourist. Or at least tell them it is by your personal preference (perhaps tell them this is a disclaimer, I don’t know but at least respect their space, haha! I’m not mad, It’s just really a lesson for myself that I won’t do with others) or ask if they would want your comment/suggestion/violent reaction. Because in doing so, you grab them of the experience – whether be it good or bad. So let them try it themselves. Say hi of you’re on the same country, if they need help – help them. If not, let them enjoy and have fun.

P.S. (since we are talking about spoilers and disclaimers, haha!) If you’re travelling to Taiwan and my food preference has somehow influenced you. I must say it is still by your personal preference. I mean, maybe one of these days I may have grown accustomed to star anis and would find all of Taiwan’s food appealing than before. What I’m saying that I don’t like Taiwan’s food in general, it’s just that star anis and I were probably set on a wrong foot. Also, it is probably because I am one picky, very picky eater, who has been set out for a journey. As it is right now, it’ll be really hard for me to find food I’ll love, or even try aside from the ones my mother cooked. Haha! So if you’re going to Taiwan, go ahead and try them yourselves and tell me if you liked it. 😊

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Lēe hò, Taiwan (Part 2)

I am not sure what time I woke up but I sure woke up early (or did I ever sleep? haha!). Haha! I messaged my mum good morning and then quietly prepare to take the shower (hopefully I was quiet enough to let them sleep for a few more minutes). We started off by getting a mobile wifi, we tried renting at our hotel but they were asking for our passport – of course we are foreigners of the land so we can’t give our passport easily.

😺 Tip: Please take care of your passport. On our way to Taipei from the airport, co-Filipinos asked if we are missing a passport as they saw one on the toilet. So never ever take your eyes off your passport. What I did was I had a separate passport holder and every time we go to a different location, I touch it to see if it is still there. There is no harm in being paranoid when it comes to passport. 😉

We just opted to rent with WaveThink. It was really cheap only $9.15 for 4 days, unlimited and fast wifi. Having a pocket wifi made our trip easy especially during our third day. Ahaha!

😺 Tip:If you want to ask where the toilet is in Taiwan, just ask them where is the “WC“. They won’t understand comfort room, or bathroom, or toilet. Haha! We spent 5 funny minutes asking where the toilet is. 😂

So, we traveled from Taipei to Houli via their connecting railroads. Our goal was to board the HSR. Taiwan’s railroad is amazingly organized. From one city to province, it is fast and accessible. We bought reloadable train/bus pass (I don’t know what it is called in Taiwan, sorry. Haha!)

From the HSR, we took our lunch at I think one of the most ingenious fast food chain, it was a burger joint but the buns were made of rice. It was like meat pressed by two onigiris. Haha! I really enjoyed MOS Burger.

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From one station to another, we arrived at Houli station and walked towards Taiwan’s famous tulip farm. It was approximately 20 minutes. It was tiring and hot, but when our gaze met the pretty flowers of Houli, I don’t mind walking that long at all.

😺 Tip: Save money from taking the taxi, unless needed to, like our third day, haha! At first I was ignorant of how commuting works – knowing what bus/ train to take, where to unload – but having Taiwan’s fast wifi, organized train/bus station, plus your nee best friend Google Maps – going around Taiwan, even for first timers is not a problem at all – well of course except for third day. Haha!

(For more photos -> wandrovert)

My heart was completely caught by the beauty of the flora in Taiwan, actually if it was possible to bring home a few, I would but it would just die on our way home. I personally love flowers and this is surely a treat. We took pictures, basked under the good sunny weather and humming winds of Taiwan with vivid colors as background.

Our next destination was the ever so famous Taipei 101. En route, we got hungry and just opted to eat convenience store food, their food was nice actually more than what I expected and cheap as well.

😺 Tip: Keep in mind the priority seats (for PWD and Seniors), it is best to avoid them even though no one is seated. I almost sat on one, realized it was a priority seat and chose a different seat instead. Ahaha!

On to our Taipei 101 trip. It was really an eye candy here as you can see Taiwan’s skyline at night time. We had a funny a experience, at least for me, because every time we were greeted by the staff, we are greeted the same by whoever precedes us – it was like we’re camouflaged by the groups that preceded us. Hahaha! We were about to go down when we saw we can still climb a few floors higher. I was in awe when I saw Taiwan at a higher place. It was cold as well as it was somewhat an open area for viewing.

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😺 Tip: We booked the Taipei 101 experience beforehand (actually my friend did) and I it was better than buying onsite. Pre-booked tickets somehow guarantee the tour.

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😺 Tip: Don’t head down yet, there are actually stairs which will enable you to go up a few floors higher (forgot the altitude) and see Taiwan’s skyline without the glass (but over a fence).

On to our last stop. We went home first to sort things and head out again, this time it’s time to go to Taiwan’s famous night markets. For day 1, we went to Raohe Night Market

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I had a confession to make. While at watching travel vlogs with my family, I was boasting I’ll try as many things as I can and be bold. My mother told me, I am a picky eater and how can I eat there, I told her I would try – turns out she was right. Hahaha! There was something about the lingering smell of star anis that puts me off me. It was too pungent and it lingers for some time (I can actually imagine the smell while writing this), it just not my type? Haha!

But I manage to try majority the food that I told myself I’ll eat and an especially in love with the Okonomiyaki.

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There are variety of foods to choose from. You can be adventurous and try them all (just be sure not to eat beforehand or you’ll get full in no time, haha!) or stay in the safe side just like I did. Bummer that I’m not fond of milk teas, as it is everywhere in every Night Market in Taiwan.

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There are also goods but majority are just foods in Raohe compared to Shilin Night Market which we went for our third day adventure. After we ate and roamed around, we went home and called it a day. ✌🏻

Repaint

Few days ago, our house went to a not-so major makeover – we just finish repainting our yard. And now, we fall in love with its new look that we spend breakfast and even dinner there. The colors make it look as if it was new, though our house has been with us for almost 9 or 10 years.

Yesterday, while having breakfast with my family. I remembered the days before work completion and was somehow reminded by God about its similarities with our journeys and seasons:

1. You have to make a decision.

The repainting won’t ever happen unless there was a decision made. Even the color was decided first before going with the repainting job. Similarly, in our journey or season, either we are given such decisions or we don’t have control over the next journey that life offered. Though we cannot control the events that’ll happen to us, we can always make the decision to take the journey with God – holding His hand every step of the way. We have to decide that we will take this path if it if and only if God was with us. Any journey taken with God, whether be it decided or fated, we can be sure His love will cover us.

2. Trust the process

The week before we started the paint job, our house was turned upside down. My father took out all the things in our house, sorted out what are the things we needed and kept them, then thrown or gave things that were not necessary. Our house seemed like a dumpsite. I never liked how it looked. It was messy. But when you look at our house today, it doesn’t have any hint of that mess. And sometimes we are also in the middle of the mess. Everything is turned upside down and we are left frustrated, angry, and most of the times without hope. We cannot seem to see the end of the mess that we want to give up. I want yo encourage you to trust the process – that ugly, painful, frustrating process – because surely it’ll come to an end. And when you get to the end, you’ll be glad that you didn’t gave up. That the mess is necessary purging to something great. If we had given up sorting, we won’t reach the point where we get to enjoy breakfast and nice stories at our yard.

3. Trust the Planner

My mother, youngest brother and I searched for color combinations that’ll work with our house. I knew my brother knows the color that we liked so when my father comes into play with color decisions, I know he can tell him what color to paint. I never saw the color being painted until the third day. It was morning and I have to go to the office when I saw the bright blue color – this was not what I have imagined. I told myself to keep quiet as I can hurt my father’s feelings if I blatantly told him it was ugly. But I can’t help it, that I told him jokingly – “Papa, I don’t think it would work…what’ll be the color of our gate it our house is bright blue?”, then he calmly responded “It’s not yet finish, it’ll be good.” With his answer, I was a bit comforted – I told myself to trust him. Days after – I saw the house again and he was right, it was good – actually more than good. In our journey, we have plans and we lay them out – and sometimes those plans get ruined. Let’s be honest, we hate it when our plans get ruined – we then question God why did this happen when we already have planned it all. Instead of complaining, it should prompts us to trust the Planner. We love to complain, I do, and thankfully He answers us in calm and cool manner that just makes us trust Him. More than trusting the process, we have to put our whole trust on the Planner for He knows well what He is doing. His plans would never fail and most of all He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Repainting or repairing something maybe messy just as our journey, but if we take the decision to go with it as long as God is with us, trusting the process and most importantly trusting Him – then we can be sure to enjoy His work at the end of it.

Take Heart

Hi! It has been more than 2 months since I wrote. I was actually going to write last December, but I got too scared and prideful to open up of my struggles within.

No one ever said this journey will be easy. If we are to look at our lives on a different view, I can say we are always at the target of attacks. Doubts will start to creep in, disappointments will haunt you at night, and the past will keep on knocking at your door.

There are better days, days in which you just don’t want to end, but that’s not the reality we are living in. I pleaded to God for help – actually it was more of ranting, haha! I was asking Him why I am where I am now, because I just can’t seem to comprehend. I’ll be honest, at some point I doubted that all of this is for my good – because it’s getting harder for me to see the good. My vision of a good future was blocked by the things in my life that doesn’t seem to work. It made me feel that I lack in all aspects – I feel stupid, I feel like I won’t ever have good relationship, and I feel defeated. Everything doesn’t feel right.

I gave it a week to shake it off – sadly it did not and now it has been two months. Now, I can’t say I’m back, I’m still struggling and fighting to hear His voice and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just can’t and I don’t want to stay long in this position.

He listens, I know He listens. It’s just that I don’t and I’m so stubborn to do it my way. He cares, because if not then we won’t ever have moments talking to each other. He waits patiently for me to talk to Him again. I think, His heart is also broken seeing that I am not at my best. As a good father, I think if we can exchange position so I won’t feel the way I do, He would. But then again I won’t learn anything, I’d just keep on having the life that I wanted myself that might just make me into a selfish person.

I know He is teaching me to let go and submit to His Lordship. He wants to transform me from glory to glory that purging of my old self is needed no matter how painful it would be. That I should no longer hold on to who I was and stop listening to the lies and declare victory because He is with me.

Even though life is not going the way I wanted it to be, or I am not where I thought I would be, or don’t have the things I need and want – I can’t blame Him. Because deep in my heart, I know what’s important is my encounter with Him, our relationship that gets stronger as we walk together in the valley of death, in the tunnel of darkness, in the sea of uncertainty. I can trust in Him and look forward for a bright future ahead. I trust and know deep in my heart that where I am not is not my final destination. Who I was will never be who I am. What my past, disappointments, failures, and even accomplishments won’t define me. Because who I am is already defined – His daughter whom He loves most.

And I don’t think any Father would just let His child stay at their worst, but He will teach them to stand on their feet. Just as when a father teaches you to ride a bike – at first you’ll ride with training wheels, but there will come a time when we have to take them off and our only guide will be our father. He’ll hold us and little by little he’ll let go. We then ride, wobbly and slow and most of the times we fall and cry and he’s there to help us stand. But we don’t stop because we fall, he will urge us to keep going until we can learn to ride by ourselves, no matter how bumpy, wide, narrow, or uncertain the road are.

I know that deep in my heart no matter the situation I am in He is with me. He has carried me before, and I know He’ll carry me through over and over again. But I have to fight and declare His goodness, grave, mercy, and love in my life. I have to decide that I won’t stay defeated, lost, and loathing instead I am redeemed, forgiven, and victorious.

Yes, I fell, but He got me up. I’ll keep going no matter what because I don’t depend on me but on God. And He will carry me through. 😊

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Prepare Like Esther

Believe it or not, I’m just familiar with just a few women of the bible, and now that I am discovering such women of grace, I am greatly inspired by them.

Fortunately, I found a gem “The Book of Esther” movie. After watching her story, I read the book straight from the bible and it just struck me – especially the way she prepared.

If you are familiar with the story, we know that the reason she is preparing is because she is somewhat “competing in a beauty pageant” to be crowned Queen. But she is not doing it for herself nor the money, even the title – she is actually doing it for her own people. Should other woman be named queen, the Jews are in great danger of being put to death. Her preparation comes greatly into fulfilling the role.

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women–” – Esther‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For 12 months, without much of an assurance that what she is doing will bear fruit, she was under the regulations. Following the strict rules – that maybe includes diet, beautification, character pruning – you know “Queen-ing 101“. Since our queen-to-be is an orphan, she had no prior knowledge of anything fancy. From nothing, she went on to study and prepare how to be a queen.

Of the twelve, six months of it was spent with oil of myrrh – if we take it literally this time, we won’t have much myrrh and also I think it is expensive to do so. As I searched for a deeper meaning, it was revealed to me that it is about purification of our hearts and mind, refinement of our characters as well as healing of our soul and old wounds.

The next six months she was under spices and ointments. At first I don’t know how will I connect it, I thought “we might be learning how to cook“. As I research about it – spices and ointment was about preservation. “Of what?” I asked God – and He graciously answered – Preservation of who we are the way He sees us. Because we can get caught up with all these preparations – what to do, what not to do. It is highly possible for us to lose ourselves and be focused on what the world will see and say, so while preparing we must also learn how to preserve our identity in Christ.

Esther’s preparation thought us and inspires us (well at least I am, haha!) to be:

  • Disciplined: not just physically but spiritually, emotionally and financially, as well.
  • Selfless: she can opt out anytime. Why bother with all these – but she denied herself and submit to God’s instruction.
  • Faithful: she focused on what she can do with God on her side, rather than worry about tomorrow and what will happen 12 months after.
  • Humble: she knew she already gained favor from the beginning, but that didn’t make her lazy. She worked hard, went through the same regulations as others did, and gave it all her best. She did not let pride take up on what she needs to do.
  • Good listener and follower: she listened well to the advice and applied then. Evidently, just she is not just beauty but she is wise too.
  • Set-apart: focused on what she can do according to God’s grace.

Much like us, we don’t know what waits for us towards each season – but that should not stop us from preparing – our hearts, most importantly. Because what we think of as a gruesome task – God, on the other hand, is preparing us for a crown that only we are fit to wear. 

It is also good to note that her story did not stop after being crowned queen, it was actually just the start. Her character, was not an act to get the crown – it was who she is. She preserved it even after getting the highest and greatest title. She is brave, smart, and graceful. She protected her people and her king. She did not use her wisdom and charm to deceit her king, to just save herself and let her people die – afterall, she was the only one who did the heavy lifting – she showed compassion and love. Throughout her story we can see how she trusted God’s plan, listened well to Him, and followed Him wholeheartedly. She, evidently, prepared and positioned herself well.

Who is she? She is Esther, and we prepare like her.