I just returned from a trip to Taiwan. On my Facebook page are posts of the scenic places I went to. My Singapore friends are all envious at the places I visited and the food I ate. The commented how lucky I was.
I used to think the only good thing about a bad vacation is that when you return, you have plenty of horror stories to share. Most people are not interested in hearing about the places you visit, unless it is so far flung that none will go to. I mean, most touristy places are well documented, so what else is there more to say.
I am wrong.
The holidays I had in recent years overwhelmed me so much I need to share it here.
Two weeks ago, my hubby Mike went on a business trip to Taipei. As I had nothing to do, I decided to go along, paying an exorbitant price for my SQ ticket so that we could fly off together. I assured him I won’t bother him at all and will settle my own meals. After all, how difficult is it to find food in Taipei, right? There is a Family mart in every corner. I had hoped to complete my Nanowrimo in the comfort of Sherwood Hotel, as many famous authors had their most famous work done in hotel rooms. (Nanowrimo failed!)
Prior to my trip, I contacted a Facebook acquaintance, A, who had hosted my son Aaron during his school exchange program last year. She had packed a suitcase full of goodies when Aaron returned and again when her son visited Singapore in July 2014. The least I could do was to treat her to a meal when I am in Taipei, right?
When she heard about my trip and that I would be alone most days, she immediately sent me my itinerary for the three days. During the three days, I was overwhelmed by her generosity. She took the trouble to contact people to make arrangements to ensure I climbed a hill, ride a boat, ate a giant carp and a King crab, had the best street food Taipei had to offer. On top of that, she piled me with another suitcase full of gifts. The Chinese translation for overwhelmed is 受宠若惊, I was spoilt into shock. The hospitality of my friend and her Taiwanese friends is something I shall always remember. We were practically strangers before and yet I was accorded such royal treatment.
Mike and I think back of the wonderful vacations we had and they were always those times when we got to spend time with the locals, whom at that time were almost strangers, at most acquaintances. We would make it a point to call them up for a meal if we were in town, never expecting more. Except for in Hanoi, most of the acquaintances were always very happy to meet us.
In 2012 in Anchorage, we met up with Annie, whom we had met while we were on honeymoon in Tahiti. It has been almost 25 years and we had kept in contact with annual greeting cards. She had been inviting us to visit her in her hometown Utah while we had asked her to visit Singapore. We finally met in wintry Anchorage.
In 2010, we decided to visit Phuket and Mike met up with his Flickr friend Bar. Our resort was located very far from town but Bar, despite running her own company, turned up daily to take Mike to photograph sunsets at various points, and brought us to the best Thai restaurants that the locals go to. It was with a heavy heart when we said our goodbyes on the last day.
In 2009, Mike’s friends, Mel and Ros, who work as Air Controllers at Macau Airport, took turns during their off days to drive us around for scenic shoots. We had so much fun we went back to disturb them again in March 2014.
Our first encounter with local hosts was our visit to to my Aunt’s pen pal in Finland 1996 . We didn’t know what to expect but we came home thinking Finnish and us are very similar, from taking shoes off before entering a house right down to the meatballs made by her husband Toffe which tasted the same as those made by Grandma.
We are always very paiseh – bashful – that we have somehow inconvenienced our local hosts by their spending time and money on us, yet at the same time very appreciative for all the wonderful experiences we had that are elusive to other tourists.
I must have done something good to deserve all these. Thanks friends.