The traffic light at every single intersection made me recalled my days in Washington, D.C. Back then, I would walk around avoiding stop lights. I hated them. I did the same in Tainan but different from WDC, there are many surprises hidden in the alleyways.
When we were in KenTing, the pace of life was painfully slow. Not much cultural or historical spots to lose yourself. It was a place to spend time with nature. It was in some ways, quaint. KenTing is like the old neighbor you see everyday watering her flowers in the yard exactly at 9am when you leave for work and she would greet you again when you’re getting home in the evening. Predictable.
Tainan is a city full with artists, makers interested in preserving its culture. So everywhere you go you’ll find shops cramped with interesting products made by local craftsmen.
Modern art and design is booming but a lot of the older traditions has survive as well. We stayed next door to this famous wood-carving shop. The shop is now survived by its third generation master. I wish Malaysia is on the same page at preserving its history and culture, there would be a lot of things to talk about!
It’s a city so lively and at the same time filled with treasure. There is always something at every corner if you just look closely enough.
Getting lost in the plethora of temples was enjoyable. There’s so many temples that I have lost count of how many incense sticks I have lit. There are a lot of historical spots in Tainan and most of them are very well preserved. The government takes preservation of its culture and history seriously by turning centuries old building into shops, community centers, galleries, etc. This also opened up a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The two weeks I spent there were comfortable. I forgot all about my worries and truly focused on discovering the city, peeling its many layers one by one.
Secondhand bookshops, cafes, hawker stalls, temples, any alley that looks remotely interesting and I will take that path.
In the midst of this bustling airport in Busan, I am missing many things. As travelers from all over the world crowd over me and share food with each other while I sit there idly, all I can think about is home. I miss my family, my loved ones, my dogs, my normalcy.
There was one point in my life that I thought life was about seeking the next adventure and battling the next challenge. Little did I know that maintaining the normalcy in life and accepting it is a challenge in itself.
Others have asked me why did I plan for such a long trip in Taiwan, and I asked myself that too. The other times that I have traveled it was always about going to the tourists spots, snapping a picture of whatever that was famous there, and the whole day is spent that way, as if collecting stickers and then letting them rot in a corner.
The past few weeks have been interesting. I have experienced a different way of eating BBQ and steamboat. I have come to understand how the w orking culture is in the little towns. I have driven a motorbike on the streets and around town. I have experienced a mild typhoon. I have ventured into spots that only locals know. There’s a lot of firsts here. And I plan to let it be that way.
I woke up to strong winds and good weather yesterday morning. We only had one day of rain in the past 14 days. From blazing hot afternoons to chilling mornings, I savored every moment of it.
I spent my days talking to locals, watching TV, exploring the town, riding around surrounding areas, bathing in the warm sun, absorbing the various smell of delicious food all around town late at night, and feeling the cool breeze on my face early in the morning.
Life moves on a slow pace here. The days start early and end early. Around 4pm, there’s still enough time to stop by the beach and catch a little bit of sun ray.
The life of our receptionist at the backpacker’s hostel is simple. Everyday she guides tourists from all over the world to places that they should see. Everyday she greets and sends off people with a smile. She plans everything that guests would need, food, bus routes, places to find good food, etc.
She has this quiet demeanor, so calm and peaceful and always helpful.
When I asked her about her life, she simply told me, “This is it. I’m comfortable here and I have found my rhythm. There’s no need for me to seek change.”
“It took me a couple of tries to find what I wanted. And every time I changed jobs, I made sure it was something totally different from what I have done but still something I’m passionate about. That’s how I came to realize what I am capable of, and what I like.”
I got drawn into this constant dreamy state. I watched how the time and clouds flew by. I spent afternoons staring at the mountains behind and the open sea in front of us in awe of this island’s beauty.
As cliché as it sounds, I, like many others out there, am searching for my reason to live.
One can say there are so many views to see in this world, so many stories to listen to, so many food to taste, personal records to reach.
But really, in the end we bring none of these to the graves with us.
I used to be ambitious and crazy about success. But I have lost my definition of success. I have seen young adults like me at my age and at their peak. One particular friend tells me he doesn’t know what to do next. A comfy high paying job at an international oil & gas company has left him feeling drained.
I have long came to the conclusion that wealth and monetary gains do not mean much to me in achieving happiness. But I also understand that life needs to go on and we need to play with the rules of society.
Finding that balance is key. And to do that, I need to find some ways to balance my principles with the reality of life.
While everyone is celebrating our nation’s independence, enjoying fireworks and barbecuing food, I spent the day going from stop to stop.
I thought the most excruciating part would be the bus ride down to Kaohsiung. Luckily there is no time difference between Malaysia and Taiwan, and I was dozing off by the time I got on it.
This trip was decided on a whim, and I didn’t research it religiously like how I used to.
I have come to the point in life again, where I need to sit down, recollect my thoughts, and ponder upon my future.
Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to work at my dream company. But due to unpredicted circumstances I had to pack up everything and move home, foregoing what I saw as ‘once in a lifetime chance’.
The change was hard as photojournalism is not prevalent in Malaysia. I knew how to get to where I want when I was in the States. But back home, I lost all connections and do not know where to start from.
I worked on personal projects, I looked for other opportunities but because of my limited experiences in South East Asia, I had a lot of doors closed on me.
I no longer had the spirit I used to have when I touched down on the Malaysian soil. My first reaction was to go somewhere else.
I have always had this thought that going to another unfamiliar place is like reading a book. You set yourself in this world where reality can’t hurt you.
I spent a few weeks in Cambodia enjoying the Angkor temples, sitting at bars eating tropical fruits while watching people rushing home during rush hour.
Then I went home and started working at the biggest broadcast company in KL.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different result. – Albert Einstein
Well then, I have definitely lost my marbles those 12 months. I lost my edge, I lost my curious mind, I lost my sarcasm, I lost who I am originally.
Another stint at a magazine company made me think about what kind of company I want to work for in the future.
I have yet to find the perfect answer, and while I am here, working on personal projects, exploring this country, I hope to find myself again.