When someone tells you you have next Monday off, you probably think (if youre like me -) ah sweet, Sunday night partay here I come. Or maybe (if your domesticated) you might think ah, wonderful I shall catch up with the ironing/DIY. Or (if you’re totally like me) you’ll think, amazing, gonna spend all day in bed.
Here in Taiwan, people (and by people I mean foreign teachers) like to the use the extra day doing none of the above, and instead choose to escape from the city noise, crazy hustle and bustle and travel out to the country (and by country I mean jungle, waterfall paradise). I, my friends, have done just that. And you can too, by following my simple instructions below to creating the perfect weekend.
Step 1. In preparation for your long weekend, head to the office on Friday 6pm to pick up some paper work and receive a beautiful gift box with 2 bottles of wine and a pomelo fruit with a smiley face on it. Thank your incredible boss for her generosity, wish her a Happy Moon Festival and clock out.
Step 2. That same night you will need to take a 20 minute scooter ride over the beautiful bridge to reach Bar Fly, a roof top bar downtown to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. Drink Malibu Special cocktails, play Never Have I Ever and spend 15 minutes in hysterics when the birthday boys wife tells you the story of how she was chased by a turkey (or two) during a typhoon last year.
Step 3. The next morning pack a relatively light bag, meet your co-workers/travel buddies and head to the bus station. As always, Taiwan will be insanely organised and although the bus station will look like its mayhem, within 60 seconds you will have your ticket and be sat on the air-conditioned bus to Taipei. It’s a one hour journey, so make sure you pick up a Starbucks Coffee, mango smoothie and fried onion pastry delights before you board.
Step 4. Arrive in Taipei and check into a hostel on the 22nd floor of K-Mall shopping centre. The views will be a little overwhelming so you will need 10 minutes to take it all in before heading out for pizza with your co-workers. Make plans to meet up with your sisters Friend Megan from back home, it will be nice to hear a familiar accent. Together you will all scour the biggest and oldest night market in Taipei, purchase a bikini and sunglasses for your day trip tomorrow and drink Taiwanese Beer under fairy lights in a side street make shift bar.
Step 5. The next morning you will need a free buffet to prepare for the day ahead. You can achieve this by meeting up with your agent who got you the job in Taiwan in the first place. She’ll call you ‘unique’ because she’s never seen a half Chinese, half European girl before and she’ll treat you and your 2 co-workers who also have her to thank for their new lives to what can only be described as a banquet on the 3rd floor of the Caesar Park Hotel. After stuffing your face and taking full advantage of the all-you-can-eat policy, thank your agent, say goodbye and take a one hour bus journey out of the city to a place called Wulai. Be warned, this journey will end in Tarzan style paradise, and your eyes won’t be ready for the upcoming sights. By the end of the journey, you’ll be about half way up the mountains, so have your camera at the ready, take a deep breath and begin your hike to the top (you’ll have to raise your voice when talking sometimes as the crashing sounds of the waterfall and birds auditioning for X Factor can be deafening).
Step 6. Walk through the tiny little villages, take in the smells of their Moon Festival Barbecues and freshly rained on palm trees. Buy a banana ice cream, learn how to say banana ice cream in Mandarin and then almost sh*t your pants when you first see the spiders the size of cats chilling in their gigantic webs. You will need to paddle in the small ponds created by the waterfall and finally take a 2 minute cable car ride to the very top of the mountain.
Step 7. You will have to take several deep breaths when you reach the top. It is unbelievably beautiful and your system (so used to the city) will take a while to adjust to the wonderful serenity and the distinct lack of noisy zooming traffic. The silence is almost hypnotising so take this time to relax for a few hours in the mountain top pool. It will have a main cold pool and then surrounding hot tubs (the tops of mountains are much colder than the bottom and after a few minutes freezing your ass off, the hot tub will appear the ultimate destination). Try not to miss your boyf too much, as the couple you are travelling with spend some time frolicking in the cold water pool. Take your time alone in the hot tub to really absorb where you are and what you have just achieved.
Step 8. Before it gets dark, begin your walk back down the mountain. It will take about 45 minutes but the villagers have done a wonderful job of lighting the way and as the sun sets, your journey down the mountain will be just as exciting and picturesque as going up.
Step 9. Feeling extremely relaxed but without feeling tired after dinner, you will grab some frozen yoghurt, make the journey back to Taipei, pick up your stuff and then bid your co-workers farewell as you make your way home to Hsinchu City. You figure they need some alone time and you have many a thing to do at home. It won’t be too late to travel, even on Sundays buses run 24 hours in Taiwan. The luxurious bus journey will be the perfect way to end your trip out of the City and the giant leather arm chair you nabbed will provide even more time for your to reflect on your new life as you travel through Taiwan alone at midnight.
Step 10. Everyone back home will be online when you finally unlock the door to your apartment. You’ll probably spend a few hours talking to those you miss the most and then sleep soundly. When you awake you will have the day off, this will be spent listening to Beyoncé on max volume, doing your laundry, cleaning your apartment, washing your hair and deciding what to wear for the Rooftop BBQ tonight. You’ll probably decide on something floaty and light to reflect the mood you’re in. You feel on top of work, in touch with back home and at one with nature.
A trip out of the city into the jungle is just what you needed and with the right mind-set (and the right shoes) it will be the perfect recipe for the perfect weekend.