The year was 2009. The month December.. the location: the airport in Taipei.
After the long flight from Singapore, Carissa and I were anxious to start what was sure to be the best vacation ever in Taiwan. However, after I passed through the immigration line, I looked back and noticed they kept looking at Carissa's passport and asking her questions like, "Are you transiting to Canada or the U.S? " I went back to see what was the matter and of course--I screwed up again. Turns out if you have a passport from the Philippines you need a VISA. Now usually I'm not this careless, but I could have SWORN that I had already checked on this before. To this day, I still can't find that stupid website which led me to believe the wrong thing. Anyway, arguing with the airport staff didn't get us anywhere..and the "I read it on the Internet!" argument doesn't hold as much weight as it used to. So we had to buy a really expensive ticket for a late-night flight to Hong Kong, which was the closest place where Carissa could apply for a visa.
Anyway, when we arrived in Hong Kong it was almost midnight and we needed a place to stay. Luckily the Hong Kong airport had WiFi and I was barely able to find an open guesthouse and a phone number. We didn't have much cash on us so every second of the call counted. Our conversation more or less went something like this:
me: Hi, I'm looking for a room tonight.
other person: Huh?
me: Is this a hotel, or a guesthouse...or...?
other person: What place are you trying to reach?
me: Fookk.... you?
other person: Yes, we're located at Fook Kiu Mansion. We have rooms available.
So we stayed at FOOK KIU Mansion (Lee Garden Guesthouse), which actually was in a good location, clean, and affordable (~50 Singapore dollars per night). We decided that since we were going to be in Hong Kong anyway we might as well make the most of it. So we hit up Lucky Dessert, an great dessert place we discovered during a previous visit to HK. The Mango with Glutinous Rice and Coconut Milk (芒果黑糯米) there is so awesome... We also tried random restaurants and dishes, and once again, HK food didn't disappoint. The food and dessert alone made our impromptu detour worth it.
It was easy enough for Carissa to get the visa from the Taiwanese embassy, which was disguised as a "travel agency" for political reasons probably and later that evening we were back in the same airport in Taiwan--this time with the right documents. I can't describe to you the feeling we had once we burst through those airport doors into the cold Taiwan night.... it was frickin' cold. We hopped on a bus that took us all the way to Taipei Station, walking distance from our guesthouse, the Happy Family.
The owner was already asleep but luckily he left a note saying we could sleep on the top floor for free... it was a lounge for guests with a TV and computer but unfortunately there wasn't any heater so Carissa and I nearly froze to death trying to sleep on that hard, uncomfortable couch. My extremities were going numb and I couldn't settle into a comfortable position but mercifully, I eventually passed out. I got a few hours of sleep and the sun was coming up when all of a sudden a man wearing nothing but a towel ran into the lounge and woke us up. Apparently he had locked himself out of his room while taking a shower and asked if we had seen the owner but I remember thinking "Someday later I will look back on this moment and laugh. But for now, I'm just horrified by the fact I barely remember how we got here and now a half-naked man has just woken me up."
Anyway, that's how we began our Taiwan '09-'10 trip. It had the makings of a disaster but in many ways it was more memorable because of everything that happened to us. There's still so much more to tell from the rest of our trip but those are tales for another time.
Our Traditional Chinese Medicine Experience in Taiwan