- Before anything else, the word "naruwan" in the title is a term from the Amis group of people that serves as a salutation or welcoming word. It has been adopted by most indigenous groups of Taiwan, and is now used by these indigenous people as a common greeting to welcome foreigners. This word has also been used in the Taiwanese tourism advertisements.
- Now for the real deal. The only reason why I went to Taiwan was because my research paper got accepted in the 2014 International Conference on Asia-Pacific Studies, with the theme of "Migration and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific." This conference was jointly organized by the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies of the National Sun Yat Sen University (NSYSU,) and the Department of Political Science of the University of the Philippines. The conference was held in NSYSU, and the campus was located in Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan.
- I was very excited for the trip because it was my first time to go to Taiwan. This also meant a lot of headache in preparing for the trip, because I could not estimate distances and traffic situations, or the vibe of the society; I could only rely on photos, videos, blogs, and my friends who have gone to Taiwan in the past. This was also my first alone trip where I gave myself the need to move from one place to another, adding more work to my preparations; I realized that my alone-travels in the past only required me to stay within one city/hostel throughout my stay, and my trips in the past that needed me to move from one city/province to another were usually arranged by a travel agency (as in a package tour) or by the organizers of certain fora I attended. This time, I had to arrange everything by myself. It was a good challenge though, and the only reason I did this was because I wanted to go to out of Kaohsiung, explore Tainan (for a day trip,) go to the Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, and Taipei in northern Taiwan, before flying back home. I booked three different hostels, and had to make sure that I would absolutely not get lost while moving from one place to another. Since I am back home and writing this, I am very happy that I once again outdid myself, but with many thanks to all the people who helped me make this trip possible.
- November 9-10, 2014, Sunday to Monday.
- I left Manila in the middle of the morning, and it did not take long before I arrived in Kaohsiung. The plane trip from Manila to Kaohsiung via China Air was only around an hour and a half minutes, even shorter than a typical flight to Hong Kong.We were served lunch inside the plane, which gave me a limited time to catch up on sleep. Just as I was able to get comfortable, the plane was about to land.
- Kaohsiung was hot -- burning to be exact. It was strange because Kaohsiung was supposed to be a bit fair because of autumn, but at least I was told beforehand that the temperature felt in Kaohsiung was significantly higher than the temperature that the weather reports say. Come of think of it, I had the same experience in Macau (click here to read about my Macau trip.)
- It took some time before I found the Kaohsiung Airport metro station, and off I went to my hostel in Sizihwan Station. In Kaohsiung, they use the I-Pass (yi ka tong/ 一卡通,) and is used similarly as Korea's T-Money Card, or Hong Kong's Octopus Card; the I-Pass can be used in the metro, in buses, and Family Marts, Hi-Life and OK Marts in Kaohsiung; the Easy Card (you you card/悠游卡) has less use in Kaohsiung, and is more widely used in the northern parts of Taiwan, particularly Taipei. I was told that apart from these two, there are other two smart cards in Taiwan, but I wasn't able to encounter or use them.
- It did not take long before I got to my hostel, which was located a few small blocks away from the metro station, and less than 5 minutes away from the pedestrian "tunnel entrance" of NSYSU. I settled in my tiny one-person room, and waited for my friend Peter to meet me in Sizihwan Station. Generally, I felt that Kaohsiung seemed to be a laid back city, and I usually compare Kaohsiung and Taipei as similar to Cebu and Manila, the former cities being more laid back versions of the latter ones.
- I met Peter around 2pm at the metro station, and off we wandered to the Pier 2 art center, which was walking distance from my hostel and the metro. The Pier 2 art center used to be an industrial hub, but after Kaohsiung became a service city, the warehouses were not used anymore, and local artists converted these warehouses as places to exhibit and sell their artworks. The art center had an indie and hipster vibe. Most artworks there were contemporary. The art center was also located beside the old Kaohsiung Harbor Train Station, which is currently called the "Takao Railway Museum" (see part 3 of this series.)
|Watched people fly colorful kites on a hot Sunday afternoon.|
|Old trains being exhibited at the Takao Railway Museum.|
|Peter treating me to traditional ice cream. It tasted more like a sorbet, but we desperately needed some cold treats. It was perfect.|
|Old warehouses used as galleries and art stores today.|
|Yay for taohue.|
|Original Gong Cha.|
|Dome of Light.|
|Found some illusion art in the train station.|
|Central Park. (The 85 Sky Tower can be seen at the left side of the statue's head.)|
|The Kaohsiung tram. It's scheduled to be operational by 2015.|
|Kaisyuan Night Market.|
|Jinzuan Night Market.|
|A Thai pagoda inside the night market.|
|Fried squid. It was yummy.|
- I found the papaya milk store in the night market after asking around, and had to wait behind a certain group of tourists (they can easily be spotted in any country as they always travel in LARGE groups EVERYWHERE.) I had to wait longer because some of them came back complaining that they wanted warm milk, and refused to drink anything cold. The vendor was quite surprised because they never sold warm milk before, and she explained that the the papaya might spoil easily if they served the milk hot; they can only make the milk colder, but not warmer. They now complained to the tour guide, and their Taiwanese tour guide said the same thing as the vendor. The tour guide wanted to waste no time, and just told his clients that they can just drink the milk after they get back at the hotel, because by that time the milk might have settled in room temperature. I found the whole situation funny more than it was annoying, and seeing it is ten times better than reading or writing about it, because it had something to do with the intonation, expressions, and the manner of speaking.
- I finally got my papaya milk and gave the other cup to Peter. Peter thought I got lost because it took me a long time to get back to the stinky tofu stall. I sipped my papaya milk, and somehow I half-regretted buying it. I didn't like it too much because of the fresh papaya taste. Again, this is just me, because I am not a fan of papaya in general. The other part of me that doesn't regret buying it tell me that at least I was able to satisfy my curiosity.
|With stinky tofu and papaya milk.|
- Peter and I parted ways just as I got to the Formosa Boulevard Station to change MRT lines and go back to my hostel, while he headed back to the military base. I had a short walk at the banks of the Love River before going back to my hostel. There are some gondola ride services available for those who want.
|Love River at night.|
|My tiny tiny room. I was outside the door when I took this photo..|
|My hostel's gate.|
- I arrived at the massive and so-far tranquil Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Hall around half-past seven, and I was delighted to see almost no one in the area, except for the temple staff, and a few early visitors. The shops and museums in the temple open at 8:30 in the morning, but the area is open way before 8:30. I also decided to wear my mustard-yellow gyerang hanbok set (shirt and pants) since most Buddhist monks wear this color, as well as other colors like maroon, saffron, gray, or black, depending on which country and sector of Buddhism the monks come from. As for me, I only wore the red cloth during the photoshoot, and removed it afterwards. By the way, the Fo Guang Shan Memorial Hall and the monastery do not require entrance fees, and all activities (except for food) do not require fees as well.
|"Fo Guang Shan Memorial Hall."|
|The main hall.|
|I feel enlightened.|
|Trying to dress up like a Tibetan monk; disclaimer - none of the things I wore were authentic Buddhist clothes, except for the shoes.|
|View of the main entrance from the main hall.|
|The golden Buddha just looked perfect.|
|The main hall up close.|
|Biography of monk Hsinyun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order.|
|One of the most important mudras.|
|Monk Hsin Yun's wax statue.|
|The face is a projected on the statue, and so the Buddha can talk.|
|Avalokiteshvara or Kwanima. She sprays mists of water upon triggering a sensor.|
|Flow of Buddhistm in Asia.|
|Outside the visitor's center.|
|An elephant family standing opposite the lion family.|
|Monks just walkin' by.|
|Central hall in the monastery.|
|No photoshop here.|
|All the lamp posts are "supported" by flying apsaras.|
|Golden Buddha Pagoda.|
|Jade Buddha Pagoda.|
|This somehow gave me the impression of "Sister Act," Buddhist style.|
|The status in front are as tall as I am or probably taller.|
|Plenty of golden Buddhas.|
|A better image of the gate's view from the main hall.|
|Reminded me of the pyramids.|
|Puppet show with the actual golden Buddha in the background.|
|The old man is actually a real man wearing a puppet mask.|
|Plenty of greedy officials.|
|I love the design on the turtle's shell.|
|One of my favorite numbers.|
|It's difficult to make the cloth flow gracefully when people do it, and even more difficult when a person makes a puppet do it.|
|The finale dance.|
- Finally, I rode the E-Da bus back to the the bus terminal in front of Zuoying High Speed Rail (HSR) and Zuoying Metro, and went to Nanhua Night Market and Liuhe Night Market, both located within the vicinity of the Formosa Boulevard Station. Nanhua Market was a small alley that mostly sold modern clothes. I was not too interested in the things being sold there, so I quickly went to Liuhe Night Market for dinner. Liuhe Night Market is ranked as the best night market for tourists and is open every night. I was warned by friends about the tourist prices in Liuhe, but because it was the only night market in Kaohsiung that sold Taiwan souvenirs, I bought a few souvenirs from the stores there. Take note it only had three stores selling souvenirs (i.e. keychains, magnets, etc.) and around two to three selling Taiwan t-shirts (ex. I ♥ Taiwan shirts,) so there were not a lot of choices. Most stalls still sold food, toys, or had games like the other night markets.
|Just normal clothes.|
|Ah,, the tourist night market!!|
|Literally a street market.|
|Snake with gravy on white rice and stir-fried snake skin and tendon with herbs.|
|Chewy snake skin,|
|Stir-fried snake meat with herbs.|
- I had to return to my hostel afterwards, and have an early shuteye for my out-of-Kaohsiung day trip the next day; I shall explore more of Kaohsiung in part 3 of this series. So far, Taiwan has given me good impressions, except for the Kaohsiung heat, the vague directions, and the papaya milk, but if I had enjoyed my stay during my first two days, who knew what else Taiwan had in store for me?
**** For more information on Taiwan, please also visit Go! Taiwan. Just click on the photo below!!