I landed in Newark airport last Thursday evening and I was welcomed by the frigid embrace of winter. Feeling the cold winter air all over my face and body reminded me of my time living in Brussels which brought a warm smile to my face… “Good times”, I thought to myself. After a couple of minutes of wandering around, I managed to find my friend, Felicia, and we headed to her place. Felicia had to work the following morning but we made plans to crab dinner with another friend at a local Cuban restaurant. After dinner, we went to a nearby coffee shop and listened to live Jazz. We ended up staying there for almost two hours before calling it a night.
I spent my last day in Taipei exploring the city and shopping for some gift. After going to back to my hostel to grab my luggage and to change, I headed to the airport. Unfortunately, I got miserably lost at Taipei Station and ended up missing my train and my flight. Luckily a very kind Taiwanese man who spoke English helped me get in contact with an agent from my airline company. He reassured me that I could still catch my flight back to the USA in Manila (Philippines) via another flight that was leaving Taipei later that evening. Long story short, I made it to Manila in one piece and I was able to get to catch my flight back to the USA.
My stay in Taiwan was a bit overwhelming mainly because I didn’t know the language and much about the culture. However, I am glad I went because it was a wonderful experience! I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about myself! Next time I go, I will make sure to go with someone who speaks Chinese fluently and who knows all the cool spots because I feel like there is more to be discovered.
I did a lot of exploring on my second day in Taipei with some of the guests from my hostel (one of them was one of my roommates). We weren’t supposed to hang out together but we ended up running into each other at a market near the hostel. I was super glad to see them because I was having the hardest time finding my way around and communicating with people (the little bit of Chinese I learned for a semester was no where to be found).
We ended up having breakfast together and exploring the city. We went to Ximending (a popular shopping district), Bopiliao street (known for its ancient architecture) and had lunch together. After that we parted ways for the day and I went to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. There, I met a Korean tourist who was super sweet and we ended up doing a bit of sightseeing together. We had tea together and we chatted for a while. Later I went back to my hostel to get ready to meet some of my friends who live in Taipei. Once I met them, we ended up having dinner together and we had a great time.
I arrived in Taipei in the evening after a two hours layover in Shanghai. After purchasing my bus ticket, I headed outside. The bus didn’t take long to come which was a relief because the air was super humid and muggy. Despite enjoying the pleasant bus ride, I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed because I started to realize that I wasn’t prepared to be alone in Taiwan; I had forgotten most of the Mandarin I learned for a semester (expect for a few greeting phrases) and I wasn’t very familiar with the Taiwanese culture.
My fears were confirmed when I was on my way to my hostel. It took me a while to find the correct subway platform because I kept getting lost. Once I made it to the correct platform, I was having trouble buying a ticket from the ticket machine. I wouldn’t take my money for some reason and I quickly started freaking out because the machine was now only speaking in Mandarin and there was a line of people behind me! Thankfully, a young girl came to my rescue and explained that I need to use coins instead of bills (we mainly communicated by pointing at things). Before she left, she suggested that I go see the clerk at the ticket booth, which I did.
I spent most of my fourth day in Seoul exploring the city. My first destination was Buchon Hanok Village. I wanted to visit this traditional area of Seoul after seen a few youtube videos where I met local and international tourists (Koreans, Chinese, French, and Malaysians). After resting for 30 minutes at a cute nearby coffee shop, I made my way to Seoul Museum of Art. I went back to the university district (idae/이대) because I really wanted to see and take pictures of Yonsei University. Continue reading “Travel Diary: Seoul, Korea (Day 4 & 5)”
On my third day in Seoul, Esra (my roommate from Turkey) and I spent the morning shopping for gifts in Namdaemun Market. I wanted to buy so many things but I didn’t have space left in my luggage and I also didn’t want to be broke during my trip to Taipei, Taiwan which was a few days away. After a brief rest at the market’s “food court” for about half an hour, Esra and I split up for the day; she continue shopping while I went back to Namsan Park to visit the Hanok village since I didn’t get to go last time. At the Park, I met a French family of Guadeloupian origin and we had a pleasant conversation (in French). They were visiting Seoul from Paris and seemed to be having a good time in Seoul. They were a bit confused about me speaking French since I told them that I was visiting Seoul from the US. I explained to them that I am Congolese-American but I spent some time in Congo and Belgium prior to moving to the US (French is spoken in both countries) and this seemed to have eased their confusion.
On my second day in Seoul, one of my roommates (Esra from Turkey) and I decided to go to Namsan Park. I was very happy to go sightseeing with her because she was a great navigator and taught me how not to get lost on the subway. As we made our way to the park, I found myself admiring the lovely fashion depicted by many young Koreans. I’ve always loved Korean fashion so it was a bit difficult for me not to stare. After about 20 minutes on the subway we made it to the Park. As we explored the park, we could see the top of Seoul Tower and thought that it was short walk away…We were very much mistaken!