The rest of my Kaohsiung trip had gone nicely. Though I didn’t get to see Little Ryukyu and Kenting, I was amazed with Kaohsiung mostly because of its people. It took me a while to complete this post because there weren’t too many imageries running in my head about the trip. What I had to remember and constantly recall was the amazement I felt because of the striking differences I saw between the north side from the south side.
|Saw these folks partying the night away by the Love River.|
My Kaohsiung trip isn’t more on sightseeing but rather, experiencing Taiwanese culture in terms of its people. It was fascinating to see how the southern folks somehow closely resemble Pinoys. I felt almost at home while I was there–except that the people are talking in Mandarin instead of Tagalog.
While Taipei folks are mostly mild-mannered, sometimes shy, and serious, Kaohsiung peeps are more assertive, funny, and very curious. I’ve been in Taiwan for almost two years now but it was only in the office that I get asked a lot about where I come from and all that stuff. I was able to blend in easily. Living like a local happened smoothly that if I could speak fluent Mandarin, I think nobody would think I’m a foreigner.
Most of the people I met in Taipei thought I am Taiwanese, some thought I was an ABC (American-born Chinese), and there are also those who believed that I actually hail from China. If I will be deemed as Southeast-Asian, they would either ask me if I am from India or Indonesia. Huh?
|a remembrance of the first time
In Kaohsiung, things were different. I’m not sure if it was the camera or my darker skin these days, but I get stared at a lot while I was riding the MRT or walking on the streets. Not that it bothered me but I just got this feeling that they know and marked me for a foreigner. Although they initially speak to me in Mandarin, when I reply that I am not Taiwanese and only speak a little Mandarin, they would be slightly surprised and do their best to speak to me in English.
The Kaohsiung locals I met are so funny. They are funny in the sense that they have this innocence of wanting to know more about me and they are not self-conscious that I find each of the local I spoke to have a distinct personality that makes them memorable. My first trip down south was actually made more colorful by the locals.
They love making conversations not just for small talk but to actually find out more about me in a friendly and not creepy kind of way. I find it very nice of them to be concerned for me when I told them that I wanted to go to Kenting despite news of Usagi coming soon.
The bus dispatcher and the hostel receptionist both discouraged me to push through with my plans. Instead, they told me to stay within Kaohsiung and see the other spots inside that I ought to go to as well. They genuinely showed a look of concern when I told them that I was planning to sail off to Ryukyu and Kenting and it’s also quite funny to see the bus dispatcher try to motion “big waves” with his hands, trying to convince me that riding the ferry to Kenting is not such a good idea.
It was a bit disconcerting at first to say that I am from the Philippines. I know that our diplomatic ties with Taiwan is still pretty much so-so and knowing how the Taiwanese can get serious about politics taught me to tread carefully. But saying that I am Filipino never gave me the look of, well, curt courtesy. Unfortunately, I experience it with some locals in Taipei. Some people I talked to who were initially enthusistically talking to me would suddenly change when I tell them I’m Filipino.
In Kaohsiung, the only reactions I got was surprise and more interest. Instead of feeling intimidated knowing that I speak English, it seemed to challenge and brighten them up as an opportunity for them to speak English as well. They also have a certain pride about the places I ought to see not just in Kaohsiung, but also in Taiwan. I remember the family I talked to on the tourist bus. They kept on telling me to come back to Kaohsiung when there’s no more typhoon and see more places around.
It didn’t bother them that they can’t talk in English fluently. They don’t mind if I try to correct them. It’s like the communication gap I often experience in Taipei was suddenly nonexistent. The Kaohsiung locals I spoke to would want to speak their mind and make sure that they are able to make me understand what they want to tell me. Nobody tried to get rid of me if I spoke in English. They always found a way to help me out of my rut and that, I think, is very endearingly unique.
P.S. I’ll be featuring the places I visited in Kaohsiung in separate posts. I initially wanted to put them all here but when I reviewed the photos and tried to remember each place I visited, I realized that there’s quite a lot of small wonderful stories and memories that I ought to share in detail. So please bear with me and let’s both hope the call of biking or photography does not take hold of me this coming weekend.