I left Manila at 6:50 in the evening. I could see a thousand white, yellow, and orange lights glimmering below with the main thoroughfares lit up brightly by billboards. I saw the smog that people talked about every time they landed in Manila. Tonight it was a red haze. The plane turns sharply upwards, ascending higher into the night sky.
I turn back my attention to the book I’m reading, Jessica Zafra’s Twisted Travels while I twist my mouth and nose, trying not to inhale the odor coming from my seatmate in suit, who obviously hasn’t taken a bath.
Taipei had the same reddish haze from above. I bought a prepaid sim as I made my way to the exit. Almost missing my bus, the attendant stopped it for me and the driver graciously obliged. So unlike Vancouver where you see the driver laughing his head off while you chase the slowly rolling bus. On one of my videocalls to my mother, she noted how far I had come. “You used to puke on international travels.” she must have forgotten it was actually diarrhoea. I was 12 years old and was convinced I had developed agoraphobia while I was confined in our hotel room in Singapore. I spent the entire day watching television, eating instant noodles, and going back and forth to the bathroom while they all spent a happy day with polar bears and penguins at the zoo. Until now, I can’t see myself visiting Singapore.
But here I was alone in Taiwan. The truth was, I felt queasy during the entire bus ride from Taoyuan to Taipei Main Station. My stomach was churning and my throat felt a little dry. I would take out my travel sized Tiger Balm and sniff it every now and then as I looked out into the unfamiliar landscape. I wondered if it was just the driver’s way of driving – I had after all travelled with friends to Thailand and never felt the anxiety attacks.
The commute from the airport was easy. I had somehow managed to figure out the maze that is Taipei Main Station and rode the Bannan line without asking anyone for directions. A surge of pride swelled within me. I am alone and sick, in a new city and I’m okay- that feeling didn’t last long. Silly! Of course you’ll be okay. You grew up in the Philippines, what’s there to be afraid of?
Well, strangers and language barriers and strange food and sticking out.
I felt better after arriving at the hostel and having a glass of water to drink. Safely tucked in bed after a warm relaxing shower, I listened to my thoughts as I drifted off to sleep – really, wtf was I doing here?