2022-09-21 ● Notes from a 38-hour layover in Taiwan

A large statue of two giant hands, touching, almost seemingly about to clasp together. Behind it is a hotel or residential building with bright red accents.

[Content warning: Photos of food]

In 2019, before the pandemic blew up, I traveled home to the Philippines for the holidays. I was supposed to only have a 9-hour layover in Taiwan, but it turned into 38 hours because a typhoon closed the Manila airport, and all flights going in and out were cancelled. After several hours of waiting, waiting, waiting, getting on a shuttle bus, getting to the hotel to find out we had to partner with a stranger for a room, waiting, and then eating a very sad, complimentary lunch buffet, I decided to venture into Taipei from Taoyuan.

An almost empty side-road of closed shops, with motorbikes and bicycles resting at the sides with orange traffic cones.

It was a very small, quiet adventure, considering I don’t speak Mandarin, but I managed to get on a bus that would take me to Taipei. I didn’t know how much the fare would cost, but someone saw that I was from away, and he kindly came over to help me count my bills, and let me know how much I needed to put into the bus’ collection box. He also signaled to me when it was time to get off once we reached the city.

A shuttered shop with eight motorbikes parked in front.

I was surprised to see so many people on motorbikes, and plenty of bicycles. Although cars and buses roamed most of the streets, there was still plenty of room for motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians. The area was also densely populated, and I spotted many small subdivisions and residential buildings throughout.

A woman on a red motorbike in the street of some residential buildings; hanging within her vicinity is a closed gate arm. Five hotdogs on a roller grill at a convenience store.

I went into a Mos Burger to order a coffee, and leisurely looked around for a bit, going in and out of shops, convenience stores, fast-food joints, a small mart, and a bakery.

A fast-food restaurant worker wearing a red apron and a red handkerchief on her head, with her back to the camera, facing a steel shelf of stacked bowls and plates. A whole bunch of tangerines, some still green, on display in the fruit section of a mart. An employee wearing a brown hat and an apron, squatting and putting signage on the glass window of a bakery. Two post boxes placed near the intersection of a street. The post box on the left is red, and the post on the right is green.

Everything felt so vivid and colourful.

Four bicycles, some with baskets, chained to some railings. The bicycles are coloured blue, pink, purple, respectively.

I wandered aimlessly, taking in as much as I could. I originally planned to go to the night market, which was ways away from where I currently was, but I didn’t want to risk getting lost and stranded alone, at night, in a city whose language I did not speak.

An elderly woman wearing a brown coat, blue mary janes, and an orange beret, with a blue backpack, sitting at a bus stop, with her face covered by her hand, looking away from the camera.

It started to get cold, and I felt drops of rain. I lacked warmer clothing, and I was beginning to run short of adrenaline, so I decided to end my tiny adventure, and got back on the bus from whence I came. I promised myself that I needed to come back, under fairer circumstances, but for the time being, I had to say au revoir, Taipei.