Trip to Taiwan, 2017

Trip to Taiwan, 2017

Dum Chai had become one of my favorites, thanks to the after work-hour chill time with colleagues. That day being no different, we were in our usual routine.

But I was in for a surprise. I was getting my VISA finally after much hassles that day. All the mindless haggling and tireless procedures with the paperwork which I had to run through at the last moment. Oh man, that was something.

Exactly A week later

It was the first week of June and I was already in my last month of my internship at Cisco, Bangalore. My mom for a change that day was not telling me to pack my bags (which I hadn’t till the last night before travel).

My flight was quite late at night, so I had time to devour some good dinner and chill with some good music, which I did.

Boredom was nothing to be worried about as I had Joyce by my side during the whole time. She works for a firm based out of China and frequents a lot to Indian cities. And we had discussions ranging from the Great firewall, the various provinces of China and the cultural differences and similarities that we had. It was pretty interesting and we exchanged emails to which she would promise me that she would be my guide when I visit China the next time.

I had a transit via Bangkok which I reached quite early that morning. The layover got over quickly while I changed my terminal to catch my connecting flight to Taipei.

It was just the time of sunrise and trust me, even if I was sleep deprived. The sunrise was quite something. Dunno if I did justice while capturing it.

I slept almost all the way to Taipei, not that I wanted to. But it was almost forced by my body. Effects of not sleeping at all the previous night I guess.

Arrival at Taipei airport was at around the afternoon, hunger caved in

Luckily there was a Subway near the exit terminal and it was quite the lunch. Now came the time to actually travel back to my hotel room.

I should remind you that very few people actually can speak English back at Taiwan and if you are not comfortable asking questions to strangers without a guide with, you are pretty much doomed.

I was staying over at the northern part of Taiwan and it’s extremely pretty. You have a very good mix of traditional restaurants mixed with the new age restaurants and all the swanky stuff. Especially, I found quite a lot of national banks littered around the place I was staying.

If you are starting out from the airport towards Nangang, you would be having some choices on how one would be willing to travel. Was suggested by people to take a cab, but the what the heck right? Took a metro where I had to change two stations with absolutely no English written over the directions. I dunno how did I not get lost.

And boy was my room not clean!

The fluffy bed, the cosy cushions, soft carpet. It was amazing. Even the bathroom, a good nice bath tub with some good marble. Trust me, this is the most sophisticated commode that I have ever come across. Literally had to use Google translate for this.

I had this itch of roaming around a little bit, still a sleepyhead. But couldn’t help it. This city is so beautiful! I had the most amazing noodles back in a local Taiwanese resto. It’s very different to eat in the sense that it’s quite thick than the normal noodles that people have here back in India. And you get a pretty generous helping of it too.

On the way back to our hotel room, stopped by the local store. It was quite intriguing that you could see almost everything at the local store. Some localites were having their regular sip of coffee and chilling around, found a guy studying in the corner too. Possibly from a university.

Came back, crashed on my bed, played some good music and before I knew it, I was fast asleep.

The morning after, I could really feel the pain in my shoulders carrying two bags over the city and trust me. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

Roamed a little bit more before leaving for the venue where the conference was gonna happen.

The venue was a research institution which would be surrounded by woods. The campus was huge and was filled with lush greenery. It was a pretty place.

Here’s a small vlog from my first day back there.

PyCon Taiwan

The next morning was to be the first day of PyCon Taiwan, where I was slotted to give a talk later on the third day of the conference. I was excited as well as scared as this was gonna be my first international conference. Add that it was gonna be my first PyCon Talk.

As with the last 4 PyCon India’s that I have attended, this was quite different in the sense that it had a lot more diversity in terms of the demographics where people were coming from. We had people coming from China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the rest of Asia Pacific. It was amazing to see how PyCon brought all of us together.

After the talks ended, we all headed to Marriott, where we were to have the Speaker Night. I swear, I didn’t have such good sea food anywhere else. Sorry Goa, but that’s the truth.

Had a lot of good conversations about open source, work culture back in Taiwan and Asia at large and how it impacted one’s health, work life balance and what not. We all made promises of staying in touch. And yes, some of us still are.

I crashed over my bed and that was the end of the tiresome day for me.

Morning was a breeze, had some great sleep after dozing off talking back home and some friends. Breakfast equally good from yesterday’s dinner.

Full with this good of a breakfast, left for the 2nd day of the conference. All the talks which I attended were top notch and the speakers really put in a lot of effort to prepare the talks.

Over the alleys, outside the talk halls. I struck some great conversations.

After the talks for the day ended, and some great dinner. We are all in for a treat to a great performance by my good friend Adrian. Trust me, he has his way with music. Crazy show!

The show ended with a we decided to visit Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building.

We got a cab and off we went. Taipei was more than a acquaintance now, I would remember that cars would actually stop when there was a green signal at the zebra crossing, the rules were actually being followed.

The streets were bustling like ever before, we could see a huge influx of the local residents as well as a huge amount of tourists. Streets performers, speed painters and what not. The one which drew a lot of attention was a blind man playing violin with his dog watchfully sitting with him.

Xinyin District is one of the well off parts of the city. Lot of big name shops and brands. You name it you have it.

Most of the levels on the ground floor of Taipei 101 are filled with big name shops and eateries. Some of the levels above are filled with offices. A famous one being that of Google’s. Too bad I couldn’t go up and see the balancing weights which were made to counter earthquakes. Real piece of engineering.

On the way back, we were passing through the City Square and there seemed to be some festival of a kind going on there, or maybe a carnival. Well I really don’t know what to call that. There were skimpily dressed girls dancing over the stages which had poles and there were men clicking photos with them and in one case one dude literally joining them on the stage. Not posting the pictures for those reasons.

And to my surprise, we met Andrew Godwin and Russell Keith-Magee, they shared the same surprised look seeing the carnival. And off we walked to the nearest metro station which would take us back to our Hotel. Both Andrew and Russell were kind enough to indulge in a great conversation during this time. Russell talked about funding open source projects to sustaining oneself while continuing contributions towards them.

Andrew and I had a long chat about his motivations towards Django channels and what excites him about open source. I was amazed by the humbleness of both.

We settled for the night at our respective rooms and I slept like a log. Needed some good sleep as I had my talk slotted for tomorrow. I was nervous, scared and excited all at the same time.

The day finally came and I think I did okayish while giving my talk, will not say that I didn’t have any rough edges while giving the talk but I guess I have a lot of space for improvement.

The day ended with me leaving the venue after all the talks ended, next stop being the famous night markets of Taiwan. Had heard and read a lot about them. I ended up at the Raohe Street Night Market which is one of the oldest night markets in Songshan District.

Took a metro till Songshan Station and the place was as lively as it had been described in the other places.

You would find all kinds of cuisine there. It was a non-vegetarians delight to say the least.

Squids, octopus, dried fish and fruits, numerous kinds of noodles and what not.

Next up was Lungshan Temple of Manka in Wanhua District. The temple was built in Taipei in 1738 by settlers from Fujian during Qing rule in honor of Guanyin. This temple has served as a municipal, guild and self-defence centre, as well as a house of worship.

You could feel the calmness setting in your mind by listening to the slow chants by the people which they were reciting in order to complete their prayers to their deity.

I just sat there for some time at a corner just to relax a while, to forget the bustling noise of the city and all the fatigue I had.

There was another night market just a little up the temple, this night market was filled with massage parlours and some really old restaurants which were literally serving snake soup and the like. Nope, I didn’t have any of that. Was not feeling excited.

On the way back, while passing through the Lunshan metro station, which was known for fortune readers. You would find one shop at every other corner in the street. It was crazy, I was literally being hounded by people asking me to come in. This is some serious business out there for some people. Got some souvenirs on the way back to the airport from this kind lady who was very inquisitive about what I was doing here back in Taipie. When she leart that I had come to give a talk at a tech conference, she was very surprised that I was here all alone while being so young. Not sure how one can react to that. Anyways, had a good small chat about both our cultures and it was very interesting to know her perspective.

My flight was set for departure early in the morning for Bangkok, had got nothing but a lot of time to kill at the airport as I reached at around 10pm.

While charging my phone, I met this girl who was from Macau pursuing her bachelors in Computer Science at Taiwan. It was interesting to get to know that back at her place, they have a real scarcity for good universities and that most people have to come out of there to get an education. She just came back from home after a short vacation. Just as we were discussing about the night markets of Taiwan, a guy joined us in the conversation and added his view point about how this is what actually built the culture of Taiwan, how it provided food and moneny on the table of the average Tiwanese citizen who had opened up a shop at one of the night markets.

Fast forward a few hours, I had the pleasure of talking to his wife who was from Philippines and his little baby boy. He talked about his life here back at Taiwan about how he had to run away from South Afica because he lost his job as a teacher back in the early 1990’s. He talked at length about how he left everything behind to come here and how he missed his family, how he could not meet his dying father who was suffering from cancer back at South Africa.

Those were the sad parts, he got really emotional talking about how his wife was facing problems about immigration back here in Taiwan and how bad the living conditions were back in Philippines.

Matter of fact, he had his flight for Philippines slotted for the next morning as he was going to meet his wife and son. I was very happy that he was able to reconcile with his bad past and look forward to the future of his family.

Night ended and we bade good bye as I left to catch my flight to Bangkok. While I was sitting and latching my seat belt, I remembered the last few days here in Taiwan. It was a great journey indeed, and I am very grateful to the people back in Taiwan to be very accepting and kind.

Until next time Taiwan :)