Expirations, Details, Moments
I’m approaching the last evening here in Hsinchu Taiwan. I don’t know I will ever get back to Taiwan again much less Hsinchu. I wanted to spend a moment discussing a good way to see a place like Taiwan. Perhaps there is a fit if you might be interested in spending a longer stay here. US Passport holders can get 90 days. I would have stayed longer and forgot about the Philippines had I known then what I know now. Basically that I love it here and I have doubts about the Philippines. So here are a few notes about the details and the moments.
Longer stays require no planning really. Take a month in Taipei. Why not? Do you think you can see Taipei in a week? Or 3 days or 24 hours? So take a month in the big city. Buy a month pass on the MRT. Get a SIM card good for a month with unlimited data. Find a longer stay place. I would look at Airbnb. You can often find a place close to the MRT stations. Mine was a block away and so every day, I would do some coffee first and then hop the MRT. Most times I had no plan. Remember I saw it requires no planning? Well, the longer you stay at a place, the less you have to worry about planning. The shorter duration you stay, the more you worry. If you only have a week, you may be hard pressed to actually see Taipei beyond the tourist haunts and tourist night markets. Maybe a museum or two. What about the daily life in Taipei? The little historic districts where the streets are filled with small shops and Taiwanese and others going about the rich tradition of shopping and eating you may miss completely. The non tourist night markets like Sanhe you may not even know about. I’ll say that the non tourist night markets are much better in Taipei. At Sanhe, its streets and streets of everything from restaurants to silverware to clothing. People throng at night to buy and eat. If you have longer, no planning for eating either. You just go. Perhaps its along with the wandering the small districts, finding that noodle restaurant that is a must try. It was like finding that Nasi Kandar place in KL where I felt so welcome and they checked every so often to just ensure the food was okay and that I was happy. So the main thing is the length of time folks. Shorter stays require manic planning and the 5 days in Taipei travel blogs and scouring instagram. Longer stays do not require anything like that. You have sweet moments with longer time to just wander the city, the parks, the neighborhoods. See the people tending gardens and talking to each other.
Combine the longer stay with shorter stays that perhaps have a bit more planning. Try using the high speed rail system in Taiwan. You can ride down the western side of the island so easily and plan a trip that will take you to so many different cities and looks and feels. Had I to do it again, I would have done the high speed rail down one side of the island the TRA back the other side with stops in smaller places along the way on the eastern side. I would have taken another set of weeks riding the slower trains to see the cities and towns, the parks and nature, and whatever else I could find. If you combine your trip with a longer stay plus say a week per destination or maybe longer to fill up your 90 days in Taiwan, chances are you will not want to leave.
Of course, this means you have to bid adieu to your current time based traveling. You have to embrace the new YOU. This YOU finds no challenge in time spent, countries and continents counted, or days spent rushing to the next tourist endeavor. Slow down that YOU. You know its all gonna change the moment you turn your back anyways. I found this so often with Saigon. Every time I explored and wandered, it would change. A subtle character, a design, that building. The park on the corner looked different. I had pictures from before too. It still did not match up. But at least this way, you can tell people you failed at the mission but you succeeded at the desire. The real thing with travel or wandering or vagabonding is not the count of places but the places that count. What do you want of the memory? The instagram moments or the life moments?
Give it a few thoughts sitting in the international departure lounge for your next 3 days in Siem Reap to see it all. You will miss the smiling children running after you saying hello and the rural Cambodia right outside the city area where Khmer men and women smile and nod and say good morning. I wandered around Da Nang Vietnam last time I was there and I felt that I had found the place for me. A connection was made to some dusty synapses perhaps left rusty and unfired since before I left the US. A social and life connection to a place that I wanted to return to. I felt the same with Taipei and KL and especially George Town Malaysia. Maybe you feel it too but in the rush to re-claim your seat on the departing flight you shove it aside. The world awaits. Twitter fame is there. You can gain the followers with just another 10 countries and 2 continents. Your year comes up and you have succeeded in the counts. You never did slow down though did you. You never saw the peace and beauty of that morning by the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh when there was nothing to do next and all day to do it.
We don’t do the vagabonding above because we are marginalized in our travel. More is better, I think less is better. Try it sometime if you dare.