Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. – Banksy
I could not take my eyes off the Ruscha.
Displayed in MoMA New York, I spent a good hour just staring at it; studying every detail of it– the static, the noise, the lull, the blandness; and finally finding solace in the familiarity and oddness of it.
My undergraduate is in Fine Art, but for the longest time I was not able to find my preferred medium until after graduation, years later: not in the comfort of my brushes, but in letters.
Writing to me is like going on autopilot. It felt intuitive. Natural. Like breathing. or flirting.
I wrote for myself first, for therapy; before progressing to publishing for a wider audience. However writing as a profession didn’t make much sense to me. I derive too much pleasure from it. To get paid to meander–it seems a little to selfish.
I find that ink is usually tinged with revenge, and pain or internal conflict, being the creative lubricant. If I were happy and in bliss, I become pretty useless on picking up a pen.
I recently heard in a podcast that da Vinci’s writings showed his psychological conflicts, how he had erratic mood swings. The speaker later noted that if Leonardo was born today, modern Western medical care would diagnose him with bipolar disorder and his shrink would put him on medication to neutralize Leonardo’s moods. Frida, Beethoven, Munch and van Gogh would have their own diagnosed mental illnesses too.
I don’t know what that implies; if human society should be thankful for modern medicine; but I am also a little sad about this common acceptance for muting what makes humans essentially human.
I do not know what I’ll do if I just let my emotions sit and die inside. Emotions get cabin fever, too.
And so I paint. I write. I dance. I create. I let myself have feels. Let the feels go on overdrive. Go in a trance, create, and hopefully, return safely back to the world of normalcy.
Art is a spiritual experience. It is no coincidence why the first priests in history: the shamans, were also the first artists, dancers, singers and performers. They create chants, cave paintings and performances; coming into a trance-like state–to communicate to the gods; seeking for a successful hunt or the absence of storms.
To participate in art is like coming to prayer: a commune between the human and the cosmos. Just like the prehistoric shaman performing chants and sacred dances in the bonfire; we are still enthralled when we witness the performance of the debonair pianist in the jazz club. Or the Lady Gaga Super Bowl performance, 2017.
Or, in my case, the silent impressions of the monochromatic Ruscha, The End, 1991.
Coming from Brooklyn and two subway exchanges later, I arrived at South Bronx. It was my first time.
I identified from the sea of faces the young man I was supposed to meet: an African-American man with dreadlocks. I approached him and introduced myself. He said his name was Bless.
We walked together for ten more minutes with some small talk, before we finally stopped in a spot below the bridge by a colorful graffiti mural. I looked around, and observed some skateboarders practicing their tricks looking at us. They left after they satisfied their curiosity, only to be replaced by bikers driving around with loud Harleys and leather jackets.
I shrugged, but I was also sweating, my eyes darted left to right, trying my best (and failing) to act like I was from the ‘hood.
Bless opened his bag, to take out some biscuits, water and bluetooth speakers.
“So… this is my first time dancing hip-hop.” I admitted.
“That’s alright,” Bless shrugged as he offered me some of the biscuits. “Do you do other dances?”
Five years ago, I would’ve responded with ‘I don’t know how to dance’ / ‘I have two left feet’, / ‘I ain’t got no rhythm.’
Funny how things change. “Yes. Pole. And latin dances. Salsa, bachata, samba. Some belly dancing.”
“Perfect. Because we will do a lot of isolations.” Bless said. I didn’t really take up any form of dancing until late 2013; just 5 years ago, when I started to do solo travel. Hmm, It’s funny how I learned a lot of survival skills since I started to do solo travel–swimming, surfing, skating, and even improv (e.g. art of B.S.).
Apart from drinking, the two other important social lubricants in are smoking and dancing.
I don’t smoke, but I do like moving bodies.
The value of dancing is more apparent once you are in a foreign land that speaks a different language. When you are lost in translation, you just let the eyes–and the bodies–do the talking.
¿Te gusta bailar?
Dance is a language on its own–speaking with movement, and at the same time listening to the other person. It’s all about identifying the signals: the slight push of a hand to signal you to step back; a gentle nudge at the shoulder to signal you to turn; a slight motion to the direction you are heading towards…
In that sense, dancing makes you more intuitive in understanding people and their body language. What a one-second gaze vs. a three-second gaze means; when a nudge is friendly or when it is something more; and microsecond gestures that may help distinguish actual disinterest from just playing hard to get…
It’s learning to become more sensitive to changes: because a slight change in vocal tone, in frequency or in energy–these micro-changes always signal a change of direction; or attraction; or behavior.
Bless is really talented, and is actually part of It’s Showtime NYC! a New York movement that promotes street culture and provide professional development opportunities for the street & subway dancers and youth in the city. They teach and perform hip-hop for a social cause-– 100% of the proceeds goes to Dancing in the Streets INC.
Bless proceeded to teach me the basics of hip-hop–waving, locking and popping. It was challenging for someone so new to hip-hop, but we had an awesome afternoon filled with goofing off and some laughters.
When we ended, it was already late afternoon and starting to get dark.
“It’s not very safe around here,” Bless said, hence he insisted to walk me back to the station. He shared that he has known too many friends who already ‘got shot and stuff’. He then told me that dance probably saved his life away from the gangs and the streets.
I asked Bless what he does apart from dancing. “That’s all I ever do. Even when I’m not dancing, I’m thinking about it.” Bless responded. He listens to the music all the time, he practices his move when commuting to and fro, his whole life revolves around his craft. “In fact, I think I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life.”
And although my new friend didn’t have much in common at first, we ultimately got more close, bonded by the same zest for dance and music.
My good friend Micheline Rama posted this on her Facebook page and immediately caught my interest. Mich continued in the FB post:
“I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard this phrase. It’s generally innocuous, a bit of small talk. The few times it’s been tinged with malice were usually in cabs or bars. “My uncle’s wife is a Filipina.” (sneer) “She takes good care of him.” (wink)–but that’s rare…”
Not as rare as you believe, girlfriend. I thought whilst reading. I recalled a similar experience just a few days back, when an Irishman at a bar thought it’d funny to ask me to marry him because he heard ‘Filipinas make good wives’.
The women in my circle are smart, Filipino women, modern warriors of the world, Chevening and Fulbright scholars with masters and PhDs…
I’ve got a new published column in Sunstar that comes out every month. Please check out my blog to keep updated with personal and collected stories and information on Filipino culture, heritage and identity with Filipino, elsewhere. Find my first blog post here! via Filipino, elsewhere
For Filipinos, Taiwan isn’t something we typically think of as a ‘tourist destination’. When it comes to traveling abroad, we dream of going to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore or Thailand–we often forget about visiting Taipei, Taiwan, which is only 1,000 km from the Philippines.
This is why Taipei is so beautiful in its own way–an underrated and unassuming city that has a lot to offer. Cebu Pacific now offers direct flights from Manila and Cebu to Taipei thrice a week, which will get you to the capital of Taiwan in two hours.
Here’s what you can do in Taiwan for a short 4-day stay.
Day 1: Chiang Kai Shek, Taipei 101, Presidential Building, National Palace Museum
Cram all the usual touristy stuff on day 1. Most of them are within easy access via transportation (train, bus, walk). Taipei transportation is very easy, reliable and accessible so you can visit all the main sites within the day.
The Presidential Building is one of the most remarkable buildings in Taipei, houses the most important man in the country, of course: the president of the Republic of China.
The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial is a national monument built in honor of the former president of Taipei. The square is wide, beautiful and historical–plenty of panoramic photography-worthy shots.
Taipei 101 is a magnificent architectural wonder magnificently located in Taipei’s skyline. Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building until the title was usurped by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in 2010.
Finally, the National Palace Museum is a magnificent museum that houses 700,000 ancient Chinese art and artifacts dating back 8,000 years ago from the neolotihic stone age. The art pieces were transported from the Forbidden City to Taiwan under the leadership of Chiang Kai Shek in 1945.
Day 2: Go on a food trip!
Foodies will love Taiwan; because they have a great love affair with their food. You can’t talk about Taiwanese culture without mentioning their street food cuisine. Food should be the main highlight of your trip so go all out and don’t think about dieting! Some of the famous Taiwanese food include: pearl milk tea, stinky tofu, oyster omelette, steamed dumplings, crispy chicken cutlets… everything. Most times, I don’t really know what type of animal or animal part I ordered–they surely don’t waste any animal part, and I’m too chicken to ask. #ignoranceisbliss
Michelin-star restaurant Din Tai Fungoriginated here, so make sure to try their world-famous xiao long bao while in Taiwan. You can go themed cafe or restaurant hopping. They have restaurants dedicated to Hello Kitty, the toilet, hospital, and more.
Day 3: Jiufen and Shifen
If you are looking for a more cultural and historical experience that Taiwan can offer, there are two beautiful towns near Taipei that you can visit. Located at Pingxi District, you can easily access these picturesque towns via train.
Jiufen is best known as the inspiration of Hayao Miyazaki’s famous hyperrealist animated film Spirited Away. Shifen is most known for their sky lantern festival. You can write down your own hopes and wishes in a sky lantern and watch it fly and reach to the heavens (but not really–apparently the village people hire a dedicated workforce to retrieve the fallen lanterns in the next mountain).
If you want to know more about Jiufen and Shifen, read about it in a separate dedicated blog post here.
Day 4: Exciting Taipei Nightlife: Night markets and nightclubs
Saving the best for last: Taipei nightlife. Of course, if you have energy for day and night you are welcome to savor the nightlife every night! There’s tons of things to do at night: karaoke, night markets, clubbing… the city’s nightlife is exciting and vibrant after dark. Like most Asian major cities, this city runs 24 hours, so there’s always something to do in the wee hours of the morning.
Taiwan is most famous for their night markets–there are more than 50 of them across the country. In these markets they have all sorts of food and merchandise.
Karaoke (KTV) is also a big hit in the city. KTVs have private rooms where you can order food and drinks and sing to your heart’s content.
If you’re into clubbing, you’re in for a treat: the Taiwanese party hard. Like insane. I can recount a few times where I had to hold hair of poor female strangers in the toilet because they had too much alcohol.
The most famous and biggest nightclub in the city is LUXY, bringing in renowned and billboard-topping DJs from around the world. 1001 Nights is an eclectic mix of latin, hiphop, reggaeton and international music (and I love getting shisha here). Chess is great for hip-hop lovers, Room18 for a fancy lounge scene and LAVA for a more casual night. For salsa lovers, I love the friendly vibe of Salud! Salsa Party.
Finally for some post-party replenishment needs, there is always a 7-11 a block or two away to cater to your hunger and hydration.2 4-hour convenience stores are an indispensable way of life in Taiwan. In fact, the country has the highest mini mart density in the world. They sure love their convenience, and you will too. If you’re hungry post-party, you’re sure to get your fill, there’s bound to be a restaurant or shop open for you.
Rachel Arandilla style spotted on StyleBible.PH during the Philippine Fashion Week – Holiday 2016. Link here.
Caleb and I were fortunate enough to be invited to represent Petit Bateau for the 2015 Style Origin Fashion Show in Ayala Center Cebu with professional models, Cebu personalities and #Kathniel Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.
Zee Lifestyle Directory – Dec-Jan 2016 issue for Cebu City Guide, shot at The Outlets Pueblo Verde. Read more about it, and see more photos here.
Sunstar Weekend – Mother’s Day Issue (May 10, 2015) – see article by Fiona Escandor in Sunstar Weekend website here. Read about it in my blog post here.
You get tired of the night club scene after a while: same crowd, same scenario, same cliché dance moves. I’m not really a creature of habit so after a couple of recurring same-old, same-old nights I was ready for a change of scene one evening of 2015.
So I got hooked. For the next three months I came with my girlfriends once a week to dance salsa and bachata. The community was then so small and closely knit. But it was a great change of scenery, where stranger bodies just don’t grind on you and touch you in inappropriate areas–you actually get to meet a lot of great friends through salsa!
It’s so easy to approach someone and ask them to dance with you–no matter the language you speak, dance is universal. When I find myself alone (traveling/living), I reach out to the local salsa community to meet new and friendly faces. This is how I met some great people in Taiwan and US. I’ve never been to Latin America, but that’s next on the list!
Take note that everywhere in the world except New York dances ‘on 1’, whereas NY salsa dances ‘on 2’. You need to know these technicalities else you will feel lost like an idiot if you find yourself in a latin club that dances a different style than you do.
Still, nothing beats like home. I have moved several times over the past three years, but whenever I am in Cebu I always try to attend the socials were organized by Cebu Salsa Club. Essentially, it is part of the experience of ‘coming home’.
The Cebu salsa community has since then has grown by leaps (kudos to Jilly and John!). I don’t recognize most of the people now. Everyone is getting better each visit. It’s impressive! They have salsa nights three nights a week now, too!
WEDNESDAY – SALSA NIGHT
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Bacardi Mojitos all night
Maya Mexican Restaurant
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Merengue | Reggaeton
FRIDAY – SALSA NIGHT
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Cuba Libre
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata
SUNDAY – SALSA NIGHT
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Tequila Cazadores Margaritas all night
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Kizomba
If you’re new to the scene and would like to learn social dancing (maybe as a dare, maybe as a new year’s resolution, or maybe to impress a date?), Cebu Salsa Club also offers classes on salsa, bachata and kizomba! Classes start in February, advance registration here: https://goo.gl/forms/NxQenQBSFlWHUATy1
For a lot of travelers, nightlife is ineluctably part of their itinerary. Sure, sightseeing and tours are a great way to see the city–but how do you truly know a city unless you’ve seen the night lights… unless you’ve mingled with the locals?
To upcoming tourists and travelers to Cebu, this is a comprehensive-as-possible guide on nightlife in Cebu, and on how, where and when to party when in the Queen City of the South.
Mind you, this guide features bars and clubs that I personally frequent–bars great for socializing, drinking and just having clean, good fun. So, this isn’t exactly the guide on bars that can help you ‘score’ some girls… sorry, not an expert in that department. Although…
How to Drink and Party in Cebu?
There’s this widely known credence that Asians ‘can’t drink’… but this does not apply to Filipinos. The men have beer as drink accompaniment with their meals–breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether you are in the city or the province, you can walk around and will see groups of men huddled in a table, drinking together. They will often invite you to drink with them.
Filipinos love their beer and alcohol. Beer is the poison of choice for most Filipinos. In more formal occasions such as family gatherings where the titas and titos are sure to make an appearance, then they will take out their wine glasses. Otherwise, gin, rum and beer are a safe bet. Filipinos drink to get drunk. Period.
It’s amazing to see how many activities Filipinos can do intoxicated–they can drive, cook, go to work, and do their errands while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not something we’d recommend though.
‘Tagayan‘ is popular especially among Vis-Min area, a manner of drinking wherein instead of separate glasses for every drinker, only one cup is used and passed around. I know, it sounds very unsafe and unsanitary, but this is how Filipinos bond and show camaraderie.
Filipinos like to drink with some food, known as ‘pulutan‘. These are often fatty deep-fried foods like chicken skin, sisig or nuts.
Karaoke is another popular nightlife activity, as majority of the Filipino population aspire to become famous singer-celebrities someday.
In Cebu, EDM or electro dance music is the preference of most partygoers, although the hiphop/r&b scene is slowly gaining momentum lately. A lot of visitors complain that Filipino bars and clubs tend to be ‘too loud’, where you can barely hear or speak to each other.
Cebu parties start late and end late. The clubs start getting packed by midnight. The party usually starts to subside by 3AM, although on high peak season party could last until 5-6Am.
It’s customary for partygoers to eat after-party, to regenerate some lost energy. Cebuano’s favorite post-party food of choice is bulalo. Other favorites include siomai and puso, ramen or noodles, silog (breakfast) food at Gian’s or fast food like Jollibee or McDonald’s. Cebuanos don’t care much about eating healthy…
When to Party in Cebu?
There seems to be an annual trend in the party scene in Cebu, with a high peak and low peak season–plan your trip accordingly. The night scene is pretty dead during the summer school break, around on April time, before it starts to pick up again during July when school season starts and tourists coming in. It gets even busier during ‘-ber’ months, peaking on December and January, before winding down again on February.
The best time to come to Cebu to party is during December to January, which is holiday season leading up to Sinulog season. Cebuanos are on ‘party mood’ during this time, as many balikbayans and overseas relatives come home during the holiday season. This means an endless string of christmas parties, reunions, homecomings, family parties, and more. Lechon, lechon, lechon. And plenty of Jose Mari Chan.
Sinulog is a different experience on its own that i would like to immortalize in a separate future blog post. But it’s definitely something one needs to experience, to get to know what Cebu party life and hospitality is all about. I met the best people and had the best experience every Sinulog!
Off-peak season is a bit trickier. Unlike major Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong or Manila where something’s always happening every day of the week, Cebu City still has some sleepy days. Nightlife is pretty good on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Saturdays being the busiest time of the week.
On Wednesdays, the most popular activity is Salsa Nights at MAYA, a Mexican restaurant of the Abaca Group in Crossroads, Banilad. Salsa night is every Wednesdays from 9PM to 12PM every Wednesdays. The crowd is hip and international, sharing the same love for latin music.
Where to Party?
Cebu nightlife is colorful, lively and loud. Filipinos always have energy to go out and mingle.
LIV is the biggest nightclub in Cebu offers a club experience set at international standard. Famous local and international EDM DJs have played here, including Otto Knows, Dirty South, EVO-K and more. Even the Maria Ozawa has graced her presence here!
LIV Superclub is located at The Times Square, Mandaue City, Cebu. There is usually an entrance fee of Php300.
(photos grabbed from the LIV Superclub FB page)
Distillery is the default drinking place of choice for the people within my crowd. Distillery is located in the Crossroads, Banilad Cebu City. I could easily go there any day of the week alone, not make plans with anyone, and still find a friend or acquaintance lurking by (looking at you, Jedd and Alvin…).
The problem with Distillery is it can get a bit… clique-ish, because everyone knows everyone in here. It’s still a nice place to have drinks and listen to good music though.
The Sentral is Cebu’s first all-hiphop bar and lounge, providing the best of hiphop and R&B music in Cebu.The Sentral is located at Norkis Cyberpark, AS Fortuna, Mandaue.
Maya Mexican Restaurant is part of the Abaca group of restaurants and located in The Crossroads, Banilad, Cebu City.
Come to Maya at Wednesdays, when the second floor transforms into a salsa dance floor! Wednesday salsa nights attract a lively and international crowd. Maya Restaurant the best mojitos in town–which is 2-for-1 on salsa night! Starting mid-2016, Maya also has Salsa Sundays with 2-for-1 margaritas!
The Social is a restaurant and cafe by day, and a bar lounge by night. A lot of expats and foreign tourists prefer The Social because of its location and convenience, located in the 4F Ayala Center Cebu. They have Havana Nights on Tuesdays and one can also easily make friends by just chilling on the bar and watch football.
Ibiza Beach Club is a chic bar and lounge located in Movenpick Resort, Mactan. Modeled after the actual Ibiza in Spain, it offers a unique drinking and dining experience with a breathtaking ocean view. They have happy hour everyday from 3-5pm where drinks are 2-in-1, and have a lovely view of the sunset too.
Ibiza is one of my favorite spots in Cebu and would be here more frequently if it wasn’t so far away from the city central.
Morals and Malice
Morals and Malice is a posh and stylish lounge bar located about the Tinder Box, and right beside The Crossroads, Banilad. The interiors are a work of art, masterfully crafted by the famed Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue himself.
The bar’s interesting namesake is based on the two-part, yin-and-yang concept nature of the establishment. Half of the place will be serving coffee and brunch (Morals), whereas the Malice part serves drinks and cocktails.
I am not an expert when it comes to the party scene in Mango, but I’ve stumbled here on rare occasions when I already had that much to drink to make it ‘okay’ for me to venture out here. Something’s always going on in Mango–popular bars are J-Ave and Alchology. Things always seem to get weird here, one way or another… It’s definitely not boring though.
Other Chill Drink Areas
For wine nights, La Vie Parisienne and Ampersand are personal favorites. La Vie is affordable, while Ampersand is the more high-end choice with great food choices. Marriott Hotel offers unlimited wine on the evenings for only Php699/head, and is conveniently located beside Ayala Mall. Gusto Urban Deli + Cafe, District 53rd and Planet Grapes are also good choices.
Cebu has a growing number of pubs around the city to accommodate the growing population of expats and foreign visitors coming in. Aside from The Social, Marshall’s Irish Pub and Emerald Isle are recommended pubs to watch football or rugby (or your sport of choice).
For cocktails, I think Bellini is beautiful and underrated-this champagne lounge is located beside Anzani Restaurant in Nivel Hills, Lahug and offers a nice view. I’d recommend this place if you want some privacy or a quiet date night.
Other Nighttime Activities
Not really a party animal? There’s still tons of activities to do in Cebu when the sun goes down. If you enjoy singing as much as most Filipinos do, karaoke is a good nighttime activity. There aren’t many hookah bars in Cebu–although I’ve seen some in IT Park (Figola) and in Times Square, Mandaue City.
If you’re a self-proclaimed geek, you will enjoy trivia nights, slogos nights and board game nights which happen on various days of the week. Cebu Trivia Night is every Wednesdays at Alejandro’s and every Thursdays at Politics. Slogos Night is every Wednesdays at Monkey’s Belly and every Friday’s at Handuraw Kasambagan. Tabletop Nights allow you to play board games with fellow enthusiasts, held every Mondays at Bubble Bee Tea House Escario Central.
Losing a passport is one of the most stressful things that could happen to a traveler, especially when abroad. In fact, it is also one of my biggest fears (gasp!)–I can imagine the headache and the hassle you have to go through, as well as the change of plans and expenses you will incur. Losing a passport is not very fun.
Even if you haven’t lost your passport, some preparedness and knowledge will come in handy in case the event arises (we hope it won’t!). This will help diminish stress levels. Read on if you want to know what to do in the case that you, or a loved one, lose a Philippine passport.
First, How NOT to Lose Your Passport
First of all, let’s talk about deterrents–how NOT to lose your passport.
Your passport should be the first and last thing you check when leaving or arriving at all times.
Most hotels have safe boxes–use them. Leave your valuables and passport when not needed. You’re less likely to lose your passport if you kept it safely locked in your hotel room than bring it with you everywhere. I don’t carry my passport unless I have reason to.
Granted, there are countries that do require mandatory identification checks. If you do choose to carry it around when touring, just make sure your wary of your valuables and keep your handbag close to you at all times.
Also, carrying a passport when clubbing is a bad idea.
Finally, always bring a photocopy of your passport when traveling. Leave a copy to trusted family and friends too, or even keep a digital version of your passport so you can easily print it when the need arises.
Losing Your Philippine Passport at Home
If you already lost all hope and resign to the fact that you have indeed lost your passport, you need to file an Affidavit of Loss and a Police Report. Get the Affidavit of Loss from a lawyer, where you will have to state all the details on how you lost your passport: when, where, how, etc. This document must be notarized.
For the Police Report, go to the nearest police station that covers the area where you lost your passport. Even if you lost your passport by sheer carelessness and not through criminal activity like theft or arson (hey, it can happen), you still need to file a police report.
Apart from these two requisites, you need the usual documents to passport application: your NSO birth certificate, valid Government-issued ID, etc.
Just go through the same process of applying for a passport, just pay an additional Lost Passport fee of Php200. To learn more about the new passport application process in Cebu, read my blog post here!
Losing Your Passport Abroad
If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, you need to act fast. The first thing you need to do is to file a Police Report. You’ll also need the police report for travel insurance claims and declaration of lost passport. Immediate action will also prevent anyone from using your passport illegally.
The next step is to locate and contact the nearest embassy or consulate (For a list of Philippine Embassies and Consulates around the world, refer to this link). You need to make a personal appearance, so book an appointment (as walk-ins are generally not allowed). The Philippine embassy or consulate or normally available for appointment on weekday mornings, so let’s hope you didn’t lose your passport over the weekend!
Bring your police report, passport photos, itinerary, flight details and proof of citizenship.You will need to pay some fees in cash and should be able to get your temporary passport within 24 hours. The embassy or consulate can either give you a replacement passport that will allow you to finish your trip or an emergency travel document that will get you back home ASAP.
Did you know that Taiwan was actually Japan’s first colony? You can still feel it, once you step on the shores of Taiwan–you can feel a little bit of China, and a little bit of Japan… but don’t tell the Taiwanese that.
Japan wanted to show off to the world that they can also do the imperial colonizing thing like the Westerners can, and wanted to set Taiwan as a model example. You can still see the remnants of Japan especially in Taiwan’s old towns, particularly Jiufen and Shifen. If you want to experience more history and culture, these old mining towns give a feel of what Taiwan was like during the late 20th-century Japanese occupation.
In the late 20th century, gold was discovered in the area which ushered the gold rush and brought in a lot of people in that area. Mining was a lucrative industry in the hey-day: naturally rich in sulfur, gold, clay and gold. Nowadays, however, Taiwan now relies on imports to meet their mineral demands.
Jiufen and Shifen are good to visit in a day’s trip, as they are quite nearby and accessible. (Personally, I think it would be better if you allocate one day for each town!)
How to Get There?
Jiufen and Shifen is 40km and 30km away from the capital, respectively.
To get to Jiufen and Shifen, you need to get to Ruifang Train Station. You can also take the bus (approx $15-22 NTD/trip). . The commute is fairly inexpensive and easy to navigate, and takes approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour to get to your destination. The travel offers scenic views of the Taiwanese countryside.
I should warn you that the commute back is a lot less pleasant. Queues at the bus station get pretty long after sunset. Day visitors often have to compete for a seat to the bus ride home.
So if you’re not the hustling kind, it would be better if you take the train (buying a roundtrip ticket in advance gets you a guaranteed seat) or simply hire a cab for the day. It will be more comfortable that way.
Jiufen is a charming little mining town in Northern Taiwan where time literally froze. It used to be a bustling gold mining town, until the gold depleted and it became a deserted, forgotten gem. There was a revived interest in the town when it appeared in the acclaimed movie City of Sadness, and it became a famous tourist attraction.
Although there is some dispute regarding this, Jiufen is said to be the real-life inspiration behind Hayao Miyazaki’s film, Spirited Away. If you haven’t seen the animated film, it’s about a little girl whose parents transformed into pigs and enters into a spirit world. Jiufen offers the magical backdrop of the film, from the winding, cobblestone streets down to the pork dumplings the Chihiro’s parents devoured greedily in the film.
Jiufen is filled with shops selling unique food and quirky things you will never find elsewhere. Shops sell trinkets, calligraphy art, peanut ice cream, shaved ice desserts… all sorts of things!
One particular shop had a handmade mask exhibit that reminded me again of another scene from the Miyazaki film.
The bathhouse is inspired by the A-mei Teahouse nestled in the highest part of the mountain. The teahouse is said to be a century old, where you could have traditional tea served with a good view of the town
Located in Pingxi Disctrict is another charming town famous for another thing: their magnificent flying lanterns. Annually, they hold the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival every February wherein thousands of sky lanterns are flown. I bet that is a sight to behold.
Once a bustling town with a railway that was a major player in Taiwan’s coal mining industry, the city is now best known for two things: the Shifen Waterfalls, lovingly dubbed as ‘Taiwan’s Niagara Falls’, and the flying lanterns, where visitors could send their wishes to the sky.
Wishes are color-coded and prices could vary from NT100-NT150, depending on the lantern you wish to send to the sky.
Just like most people, we wished for good health, love and more travels. Oriental characters on the flying lanterns seem more awesome than the English alphabet though… Watch our lantern go up in the sky!
It was magical to see your lantern fly up the sky and see your wishes reach the heavens… Unfortunately, I was told that the lanterns fly up for 10 minutes before it comes down to the ground. The lantern shops have workers whose job is to retrieve the fallen lanterns. Boo. Not as magical as I thought.
In the evening, we bought some fairy sticks and acted like kids. Who knew it was so much fun to light these things? Thanks fairy light photobombers for making this photo of me awesome! 🙂
So here you go! Do yourself a little favor and have a side trip to Jiufen and Shifen when you’re in Taiwan.