Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#65. Where to go?

There are 48 countries in Asia. I've been to 8 or 10, depending if you want to count Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of China or separate (I'd go for separate, they are so different). Statehood is a sticky issue, let's not talk about that! (I'm no geographer, so moving along...)
When the first thought of travel came to mind (and the first chance presented itself upon leaving school), Asia was the easiest choice -- after all, the cheapest flights around the region take off from right here, Singapore! There are 3.879 billion people on this continent, that's 3.879 billion and counting people to meet, and that's more than 60% of the entire human race! Friends galore!

Today on Twitter...

The best places aren't listed in the Lonely Planet guides you inherit in hostels, they catch you by surprise! (And there are as yet so many places I want to go in Asia!)

Some recent good surprises:

1. The Rainbow Village - Taichung, Taiwan

I took a chance on this one, knowing that transport would be hit and miss, since this is off the usual bus routes and in a town a little further from main Taichung city. I ended up making new friends which led to more exploration. More here.

2. Ri Xing Letterpress - Taipei, Taiwan

Finding the shop that houses the very last set of Chinese letterpress characters was a great thing! Much like a treasure hunt, I didn't think I'd find it, and found it on my last day in the city. More about it here.

3. Post offices and bookstores

Gosh, the Saigon post office is by far the prettiest I've seen... but I love post offices and bookshops and make it a point to check them out no matter where I go... They're always different and tell certain things about the country.

If you want a postcard, send your address my way, I always write a few.

Look what I found in a small bookstore in Taiwan!

Divorce application forms! Oh my! I didn't know at first, because I only recognised the Chinese character for 'Marriage' (婚)and I asked the bookstore lady, and she looked at me suspiciously... "Hmm... Why do you ask..." she said. "Just curious, I can't read it!" I reply. She looks shocked, didn't I go to school?! After all, I was speaking Mandarin! "The traditional characters look different," I say by way of excuse. And she tells me, "Divorce papers! This is a convenient country!" And she smiles. Yeah, you can find everything in that bookstore!

More on bookstores and cafes soon, I chanced on a good number that I spent a great deal of time in!

4. Train travel

My train journeys have been few, but I managed to hop on the final train from KL to Singapore's historic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, so that's one for bragging rights~

On my list of Asian trips to make: Singapore to Bangkok, Singapore to Russia (gotta get me some Matryoshkas!), Train through Vietnam, Train through Taiwan (and I don't mean High Speed Rail!)


It was pretty dandy, though, the HSR, it gets you places in a jiffy, literally! No 3-hour bus rides (though I love those) and I was amused by this sign of the explorations you could make while inside the train:

And who can forget the memorable hours gladly "wasted" in a cosy bar with new friends - or old friends - or friends made long ago and chanced upon again! Or nights spent getting lost while looking for 24-hour pho. I think the best places in Asia and the places I really want to go are the places that find us when we get there!


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