I woke up on the morning of November 8, 2013 with butterflies in my stomach.
After a quick 6 days back in Seoul, I had traded my down sleeping bag from Nepal for bikinis and sunscreen. I was super pumped to be heading to the Philippines for two weeks of solo beach bliss.
A painless 4-hour flight southwest from Seoul to Manila transports you from the land of kimchi and
K-pop to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
I jumped out of bed ecstatic to be beach-bound in just a few hours. I hopped onto my e-mail to shoot a message to my family to bid them a long-distance farewell. I planned to be (hopefully) well out of internet range for nearly my entire duration of staying in the Philippines.
A message from my mom read the following:
“CLAIRE! I hope you will not travel today with the big storm! Be safe! Call me as soon as you can!”
Storm? What is my mom talking about?
I popped on over to the google.
“The Philippines braces for the biggest storm to hit landfall in recorded history.”
After checking a few sites to corroborate this interesting development in my travel plans, it was clear that I was not headed to the Philippines this evening. In retrospect, I am unbelievably grateful that I wasn’t trapped in the midst of what we now know to be the total devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
Ultimately, I decided to book a flight the following day straight to my next destination: Taiwan.
My baby sister, Magalie, was studying at The Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University and I couldn’t wait to be reunited with her. Five weeks in Taiwan instead of three? I’ll take it.
I went into my visit to Taiwan with only a few second and third-hand stories of teachers whom had taught in both Korea and Taiwan. With no true grounds for doing so, I expected Taiwan to be pretty similar to Korea based on solely these accounts.
Obviously, this was not the case.
In my experience, Taipei was akin to the little sibling of Seoul; it was a burgeoning suburb on the outskirts. While this may sound like an unfair critique that suggests I was unimpressed with Taipei, this is not the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When one compares a city with a metropolitan population of 26 million (Seoul) to a city of just under 7 million (Taipei), the stark differences are evident in nearly every aspect of life. One should not expect the two to be comparable, as I foolishly had. Cost of groceries, housing and transportation are decimated in Taipei in comparison to Seoul, as are commute times and crowds on public buses and subways. The people are friendlier, the food more delicious and the experiences seemingly more authentic.
My five weeks in Taiwan were fantastic. The film photos below, taken with a Holga and Lomography Supersampler, serve as a preview of what’s to come. I was fortunate enough to take several trips traveling around the country, as well as take a hiatus to Hong Kong (which you can read about, here).
Thank you for your patience and taking the time to check out my photographs. Enjoy!