Travel and Day One

Trip Start Jun 13, 2009
1
18
Trip End Jul 23, 2009


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Where I stayed
Taiwan Traveller Hostel

Flag of Taiwan  , T'ai-pei,
Sunday, June 14, 2009

    The planes were a bit exhausting (around 24 hours in total), but I found the 5 hours layover @ JFK to be more uncomfortable than the 13.5 hour flight to Tokyo. I slept through most of that flight, as the man sitting next to me keenly commented. I also shared that flight with "the other" UVA student goign on the trip, though we parted ways afterward. Thus began my journey to make it to the Taipei Traveler hostel. I was told that I could take a free airport bus to the Taipei main rail station, so I stood looking hopelessly at a series of maps for different buses and different routes in the airport at 9 pm. Amazingly, a woman approached me, sensing my being lost, and asked where I was going. We were going the same way, to the high speed rail (HSR). I didn't have coins, so she graciously bought my NT$30 bus ticket. I asked what brought her to Taiwan. She said, after her daughter went away to school, she and her husband sold everything and came here. How exciting! Another fun fact she brought to my attention- in Taiwan, the year is 98. I think this is because Taiwan gained some kind of status 98 years ago- I'm sure wikipedia holds the key. So, she, her husband, and I boarded the bus, I still feeling unsure about what lay ahead. Shorty after, we arrived and discovered a miscommunication- she was goign on the HSR south, and I wanted to go to MRT (Taiwan  main station) by bus. Oh well- this way was faster. She walked me through buying a ticket, asked if I needed help boarding, to which I replied no, and left on her way. I never knew her name nor took her picture. She only asked that I do the same for someone else one day. Thank you!
    After a short yet embarassing train ride on HSR going north, I arrived in Taipei and began searching for MRT< which my hostel is located next to. I decided following the masses would be the best course of action. I wandered through and back through the underground portals looking for some sign of where to go, but my large pack and bags were distracting- and it was hot!- if you don't know, Taiwan is like sub-tropical and super super steamy. I knew this much: my hostel is next to the Ceasar Park Hotel, the Shin Kong building, and near an MRT exit. After asking countless personnel and police (maybe 6), I came closer and closer to finding my exit, M6. 
    As I finally emerged from underground drenched in sweat and feeling a bit more confident after locating Ceasar Park, I was greeted by stares from swarms of teenagers indulging in the night activities of Zhongxiao Rd W. This road sported many western eateries, including Starbucks, McD's, and more. But first, I needed to find the hostel and drop off my bags. I knew it was between the hotel and Shin Kong building on the 22nd floor of something called a Keymall. I saw a viable option, and walked in. I noticed a poster advertising for the hostel, so I moved on to the elevators, floor 22. I never expected a hostel in this kind of environment. The building seems more like a business park or perhaps a shopping mall instead. Nonetheless, I meandered to the room pointed at by a sign and was greeted cheerfully by two women. I checked in in an aread that looked like a common lounge area where breakfast is served. The "laoban" (boss) kindly gave me my key and another woman took me to the women's dorm room, which was on a different floor. We made small talk while we waited for a roommate to emerge from the shower. She took quite awhile, though, and I was left to pick a bed from 10 in the room. I asked my roommate if a certain bed was taken, but she didn't quite understand. Simple chinese took care of that, and I settled into cot #4. 
    But, the night was still young (10pm) and I hadn't had time to take picture I had wanted to earlier, so I took to the streets to explore the surrounding blocks. Many couples could be found eating Cold Stone ice cream, what seemed to be the cool hangout around here. I saw eateries, shops, traditional medicine practicioners, conspicuous hook-up hotels, "xiao chi" street food stands, even some bubble tea, though I hand't brought my walled so I had to move on. I tried experimenting with camera settings, but I still feel a bit out of touch with its true potential. Coming back, I went straight to bed (11:30pm) and slept well until my roommmate arose at 6:42am. No problem, I went back to a light sleep. It's not time to attempt part 2 of my solo travel- taking a cab to the Fo Guang Shan (henceforth FGS) shuttle pick-up spot. Hopefully it won't be as difficult as locating the hostel. I'll check with the laoban to make sure the address is legible. Until then~~

PS: forgive typos, I'm in quite a rush.
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