Click here if you would like to read an overview of 3 months wwoofing experience in Japan.
It was about 3 years ago when I first heard about Vipassana 10 days mediation retreat from a lovely American Couple that i met in Yogyakarta. They were such a happy, warm, and friendly couple that gave out so much positive vibe. They shared about the 10 days mediation course that they attended and i was rather shocked about it, "10 days of no talking, just eat, sleep, and mediate? How can one take it?" I said, and they laughed. That's was how I felt back then. I knew nothing about mediation except that it can help one to concentrate better and probably sleep better.
Then about a year ago, i heard from my dad that my Mongolia Internship Boss, who is someone i respect a lot, takes the time out from his busy schedule to go for this 10 days Mediation Retreat once every year. It must be something about this mediation retreat that brings out positiveness of the people who attends and practice it. Then, i told myself that i should definitely give it a shot when time prohibts me to.
While i was preparing for my Japan trip, searching for places to Wwoof at, i had a hard time securing a place at the very beginning of my trip. I had about 2 weeks of free time and I didn't know what to do. Then, the 10 days mediation retreat came into my mind and i started researching about it. There are 2 Vipassana Mediation Centre in Japan, one at Kyoto and another at Chiba. I registered for the one at Kyoto, but it was full and i was placed on the waiting list. I didn't get it in the end, so i decided to go for the one at Chiba instead.
For every overseas trip, i always try to challenge myself on something new. I didn't know what to expect from wwoofing then, so i thought, if i want to ensure that i'll gain something out of this Japan trip, let the mediation retreat be it. Since it was something that i always wanted to do but just didnt have the courage to do so.
I have been looking forward to the mediation retreat ever since my application got accepted, but at the same time, i fear so much that i wouldnt be able to go through it. Never in my life have I tried not speaking or having eye contact with anyone for 10days, have absolutly no contact with the outside world, and sit for hours without moving (which is something i am extremely bad at because of my back condition. I'm always fidgeting!). The night before my mediation retreat, when i was at Yokohama, i even had fever (my goodness), i was so worried that i couldnt attend the course. I popped some panados and down about 5 bottles of water, hoping that i will get well the next day, which i did, thankfully.
When i arrived at the mediation centre, i had the chance to interact with a couple of participants, who was also having the same feeling as me. It was really comforting to know that i wasn't the only one and that we are in this together.
The course officially started the next day and the whole place was in silence...
I dont think i should share in details exactly what I've went through during that 10 days as it's better for you to not know too much. So in summary, the first few days was extremely tough, i kept dozing off. My mind couldnt stop drifting off, and my leg hurts so badly. But i keep pushing myself, constantly reminding myselfs about the teacher's teaching "keep a balance mind", and perserve through the pain. Finally, I felt it... At that moment i understood everything that the teacher said and i felt extremely clear about all the confusions that i had with my life and how i should deal with them. It felt so good and i was so happy. But you know, life is all about changes, when there is up, there's down. The last few days was very tough for me too because i had a hard time focusing. I kept thinking about all the people i wanted to share my experience with and how i think it would help them. haha.
Well, all i can say is that the 10 days mediation retreat was a life-changing experience for me. I'm still trying to mediate at least 1 hour everyday, even though it's a lot harder to focus being back in the reality, but i'm pushing myself everyday and i'm not giving up on it. I've also been monitoring my behavior, observing how different i am now as compared to before. There are 2 main things that i hope to overcome, one is my cravings for snacks and two is my fear for insects. haha. Ever since the retreat, i haven't been snacking as much as before, which i am really very thankful about (if you know how much snacks i eat everyday, especially in Japan when you can find delicious cookies everywhere, you'll be shocked).
I sincerely encourage everyone to give this 10 days mediation retreat a shot. It's international and non-religious based. It's simply a very logical and effective technique to help people lead a happier life.
Date: 31 Oct 2016 - 17 Nov 2016
I already been to Taiwan last year with my mum, i didn't expect myself to be going there again so soon, but the opportunity came, so why not right? Since we toured the Northern and Central Taiwan previously, i mainly focused on the south this time round.
Cities that I've visited:
Total Expenditure: SGD$1452.42
Transport: $467.62 (including one-way air-ticket from Toyko to Taipei at $138.68, and $154.94 from Kaohsiung back to Osaka. By Scoot.
Food: $284.90 (in which $63 is on alcohol) I partied a little with the friends that i met at Kaohsiung.
Miscellaneous (Gifts, haircut): $63
Adventure (Diving): $244
Most Memorable Experience:
It’s always nice to be able to see my overseas friends again. My Taiwanese god brother, whom i met last year when i traveled taiwan with my mum, works at Paper Plane Hostel, a new hostel that has very comfortable beds, high-tech facilities, and excellent service. The cheapest dorm only cost about TWD$450 per night with delicious breakfast included if you book directly from their facebook page. I stayed there for about a week in total, hanging out with my brother and his friends at night, going for supper, listening to live music at a bar, and KTV too. I had so much fun with them that it was so hard for me to leave. It's always the people that makes a trip so wonderful. Always.
Getting my bike license in probably one of the best thing that i did last year. It's so nice to be able to simply rent a bike and go wherever i want to. The route to Lavender Cottage at Xinshe is so pretty! It has lots of curves which makes it rather dangerous but extremely fun to ride on.
Initially, i wanted to ride from Taitung to Taichung, i heard that 南橫公路 is extremely beautiful. Unfortunately, there was a landslide just before i went Taiwan, so the road was close and it will probably take some time to be fixed.
Somethings to note when riding in Taiwan:
If you love sea turtles like i do, don't miss this place. Xiao Liu Qiu is known as the turtle island in Taiwan. I spotted about 8 turtles during my dive. The water viability was above 20m, absolutely fantastic! Way better than my dive in Kenting, if you are considering between those two.
Overall, I had a wonderful time in Taiwan. After 3 months volunteering in Japan, it was nice to finally take a short break.
The 2 main things that I wanted to do in Taiwan was diving and riding. I did both and it was way better than expected. I feel rejuvenated now and I’m ready to start working hard once again in Japan.
I’ll be writing about my 3 months wwoofing experience in Japan soon. There’s just so much to write about, please give me some time. Stay tuned! :)
Click here if you would like to read an overview of my 2 weeks vacation in Southen Taiwan
Kaosiung was my first destination. There wasn't a flight from Tokyo to Kaosiung, so i had to fly to Taipei and i took a bus first from the airport to Zhong Yi Station (SGD$3) and then a train from Zhong Yi Station to Kaohsiung station (SGD$35). The cheapest way from Taipei to Kaosiung is actually by bus, but it's a little more complicated from the airport and it was already rather late in the afternoon, so i took the train instead.
I stayed at Paper Plane Hostel 紙飛機高雄青年旅館, a new hostel that has very comfortable beds, high-tech facilities, and excellent service. The cheapest dorm only cost about TWD$450 per night with delicious breakfast included if you book directly from their facebook page or website. This is truly the most comfortable hostel that I've ever stayed in,.
Places that i went in Kaohsiung :
Overall, Kaohsiung to me is a very artsy place. I had the such a wonderful time there because of my lovely friends. Please say hi for me to them if you happen to be staying at Paper Plane Hostel ;)
We were contemplating between Green Island, Kenting, or Xiaoliuqiu. I decided to go Kenting because Green Island is too far and I read online that diving in Kenting is awesome. But i was wrong! Diving in Xiaoliuqiu is so much better and I am so glad that i eventually still manage to find time to go there.
But Kenting has it's own beauty too. We took a shared taxi from Kaohsiung to Kenting which cost about SGD$18 both ways. I was told that it's only slightly more expensive than bus, and so much more convenient.
We stayed at 彩虹波浪 Rainbow Wave 衝浪背包旅店, pretty decent hostel that cost about SGD$34 for two nights. Good location, good breakfast. The rooms could be cleaner though.
We rented a motorbike for SGD$34 for 1.5 days. It was really nice touring around Kenting.
Places we went on our first day:
We wanted to go Guanshan to see sunset, but because my 2nd dive took longer than expected, we couldn’t make it in time. Thankfully I still manage to see a very nice sunset from my dive site.
Here are some of the food stalls that we were recommended:
Click here if you would like to read an overview of my 2 weeks vacation in Southern Taiwan.
We were told by everyone about how amazing the food in Tainan is. I think we expected a little too much. We were also quite unlucky in a way that the highly recommended food stores were either closed for the day, sold out, or closed during the timing we were at. Well, we had our fair bit of fun in Tainan.
We took a train from Kaohsiung to Tainan which cost only SGD$3 and takes about an hour.
We stayed at Tainan Station Oldman Captain Hostel 台南車站 老曼船長 青年旅館, recommended by my godbrother. Great location! (located right beside Tainan train station), it used to be the railway office. The owner of the hostel is extremely funny and nice, we had such a great time chatting with him! The cheapest dorm cost about SGD$20 per night.
We spent 3 days in Tainan and what we did mainly was food trail.
Here are some of the food stores that we were recommended:
Other places that we went:
Overall, Tainan was my least favorite place out of all, but it's still a good place to visit especially if you are interested in Taiwanese History.
It’s my second time to Taichung. I didn’t intend to go there initially, but because I have 2 Taiwanese friends that I met in Japan living there, so I decided to stop by to say hello.
We took a bus (Ubus) from Tainan which only cost SGD$7. My friend booked an Airbnb private room for SGD$41 per night (Haha house own by Jun). There’s shared dorm too. I highly recommend you to stay with him because he is a super awesome guy who took care of us extremely well. Truly the best Airbnb service you can find.
On our first day, we went to the National Taichung Theater, a fairly new theater in Taichung that is well-known for it’s architectural.
We then headed to Fei Jia Night Market to meet my Taiwanese friends and they brought us to Qiu Hong Gu秋红谷, a pretty nice place to chill.
The next day, we rented a motorbike for TWD$350 and rode to Xin She to see the Xin She Flower Festival 新社花海and Lavender Cottage. It took us about 2 hours to get there. We stopped by Tong Tong Yu Yuan 东东于圆 for dessert, it’s kinda similar to Black Ball in Singapore. We Singaporeans are so fortunate to have so many international delicious food here.
I had so much fun riding even though we were freezing because of the strong wind.
I was expecting to see a whole field of lavender at the Lavender Cottage, but it was not the right season yet, there were only a few tiny lavenders, what a pity! But it was still very nice to walk around there.
We had a very good meal at the Lavender Cottage! The entrance fee to Lavender Cottage is TWD$100 but it includes a TWD$100 voucher where you can use to buy anything there.
We then rode back to Taichung and went to Yizhong Night Market. We heard that Yizhong is the best place for shopping but we didn’t managed to find anything nice, Fei Jia is still better in my opinion.
I stayed for another day in Taichung mainly doing nothing and went to Fei Jia again at night for shopping.
If you would like to find out more about other things to do at Taichung and also about places near Taichung like Cing Jing and Sun Moon Lake, you can refer to my Northern and Central Taiwan Trip post. :)
I went back to Kaohsiung after Taichung as my flight back to Japan was from Kaohsiung. I took a bus which cost about SGD$11. I rested a day at Kaohsiung and headed to Xiaoliudao the following day.
To get to Xiaoliudao, simply take the MRT to Siaogang Station, from there take bus 9117 to Dong Gang (about 40mins), and then walk to the jetty and take a boat (SGD$20 both ways).
There is only 1 hostel in Xiaoliudao and it was under renovation. They have plenty of minsu there but it was way above my budget. Thankfully, I found Liu Xing Dive Shop 流星潜水 and the instructor told me that they provide accommodation too. TWD$600 for a private room with 2 queen size beds. Breakfast included too!
I did 2 boat dives there and it was fantastic (It cost me TWD$2800 in total)! I saw so many sea turtles and the water visibility was excellent!
I rented a bike from the bike shop outside the jetty for TWD$350. The owner of the shop is so kind. He offered to bring my friend and I to the dive shop as it was pretty far away and he was worried that we might get lost. I was extremely amazed by his kindness. It was not as if he was too free, there were many customers there then.
We toured around Xiaoliudao on our bike on the first day. It’s a rather small island, you can cover everything in a day, so my friend took the last boat back, while I stayed another day for diving. There are a couple of nice beaches and caves to see. Hua Bing Yan 花瓶岩 is one of the most popular sightseeing place there. You might be able spot a couple of sea turtles there.
I’m so glad that I went to Xiaoliudao. If you dive and love sea turtles like I do, don’t missed it!