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First Stop – Taiwan

Everytime we were asked about our “plans” for this journey, we could barely coherent an answer. 世界那么大,五年那么长 – 走一步看一步,一个一个国家看着办吧!(The world is so big, the journey (5 years) is so long – we can only take it as it comes, and see where it all leads us!)

Yes, we are slightly very different from the mainstream Singaporeans who might have spents 10 years planning for a 5-year trip, and had the entire route mapped out, perhaps even down to where they were going to have their meals daily. Not that there is anything wrong with that; but we truly, honestly, do not know how to plan for a journey like that , nor do we see a point in setting ourselves up for unexpected circumstances. All we knew was, we were going to cycle around the world and collect people’s dreams – one country at a time, one dream at a time.

Despite all the surrender to “wherever the road takes us”, there was one thing we had been planning for for the longest time – our “special delivery” to Luo Papa. We wanted to arrive unannounced to surprise him. From the bus timings to the train schedules, down to which alley to cycle through to reach his homestay, we had it all planned. Just so we could capture that million-dollar-look on his face when he sees us.

“I do not know why I wanted to give him a surprise so badly. We could have given him a call and he would have driven us home from the airport. We need not spend hours on public transport and risk traveling to his place in pitch black darkness. I think, inertly I feel that he would be happy seeing us at his door step and that meant the world to me at that moment.” – Tay

This old man… We don’t even know where to begin. From the very first time he exclaimed, “就圆一个梦嘛!(To fulfill a dream!)” and left us in tears on his train restaurant, our lives seemed interwined in some unexplainable affinity. That even thousands of miles apart, we speak of him fondly, we refer to him as “Papa (which means father)” affectionately.

This old man… Who insisted we wrote him letters instead of emails. Who brought a calling card to call us from Taiwan. Who would call and say, “我想你们啊!天气转凉了,晚上出门要加外套,知道吗?(I miss you both! The weather is turning chilly; remember to wear a jacket if you’re going out at night!)”

This old man… Who reminded us to chase our dreams, realise them, live our dreams! Who inspired this project. Who sent us on this life-changing journey…

Shot on Canon

What you did not see:

The two of us packing our bags till 430AM that morning, concussing on the plane and arriving groggy-eyed – taking in Taiwan in all its surreality.

Us counting down the seconds before the bus departs the airport, counting down the minutes before the bus finally reaches the train station and finally counting down the hours of the entire trip to realise that Luo Papa might have already left the train homestay by the time we reached!

The bus driver dumping our 2 huge boxes of bicycles and 1 huge bag of panniers on the roadside OPPOSITE the train station, and EVERYONE at the bus interchange staring at us, as if to say, “Where did these 2 aliens come from?”

Tay attempting to be hero and attempting to carry one box across the road. Attempt failed. We spotted a food stall with a trolley and debated borrowing the trolley to ferry the items over to the train station. Val kept looking at the huge clock tower at the train station, worried about missing the train and cursing herself for not checking whether the bus could stop right in front of the station, before finally persuading the taxi auntie to fetch the luggage across the street fo NT$100.

The whole street starring at Tay holding onto the boxes while the auntie drove at 10km/h across the street – we were quite a sight!

Drama at the train station:

Val tried to confirm that the train tickets we bought were for the train that would take bicycles with the ticket sales personnel. “我的脚车是用盒子装起来的,有一点大,可以吗?(My bicycles are packed in a box, they’re a bit big, will that be ok?)”

“没露铁就可以了。你拿过去入口处,检票员让你过就可以啊。(So long as no metal parts are exposed. Anyway, you just have to bring it to the gantry. If the personnel there lets you pass through, you can pass.)”

Val bought the tickets, turned around and rolled her eyes.

At the gantry, the train station personnel stopped us from passing through, even though we explained that the train we were boarding was a bicycle-carrier train. Her grounds – our boxes are too big. We should approach the bagage room and get them to ferry our bicycles instead. We could probably receive them in a week’s time.

What the ???!!!???

Tay went to the control room to “speak to someone who could understand us”. The lady at the control room told her to unpack the boxes, pack the bicycles into bicycle bags, make sure no metal parts are exposed, and we would be let in. We had 5 minutes to do all of that before we miss the train. That would be our last train for the night.

What the ?????!!!!!?????

Meanwhile, Val ran to the baggage room on the other street, found an old uncle who was packing up for the day, blabbered her circumstance and found herself choking in tears, panic and fears.

“你是要去哪里?(Where are you going?)”

“白沙屯。我的火车要开了。(Bai Sha Tun. My train is leaving soon)” *teary-eyed*

We don’t know why. Maybe the uncle knew that we were going to find his ex-colleague in Bai Sha Tun? Maybe he took pity on the small girl carrying boxes larger than her. Without another question, he pushed a huge trolley out from the dusty baggage room, pushed it to the gantry, placed our boxes and luggage onto the trolley, opened the gate and let Tay in and commanded us, “走!(Let’s go!)”

With that, the three of us half rushed the trolley across the train tracks onto the opposite platform (en route, the old uncle whipped out his phone made a phoecall and yelled in Taiwanese, “Wait for me, I’m on my way!”), where our train was waiting… for us. The old uncle had called the train master to wait for us.

After making sure that the train master knew where we were going and would wait for us to unload safely before leaving, he waved goodbye to us.

The rest, you’d seen on the video 🙂

“We kept telling people who deemed us crazy that it’s because we “Mm Zai Xi (不知天高地厚/never die before/didn’t know better)” – that we embarked on this. But ignorance can be such bliss! Look at how our journey began with such great adventures! I remember being such a scaredy cat during my secondary school camps; who would have thought that Val would one day ride a bicycle, in the dark, in the wilderness? We made it with energy, spirit and intent from a deeper place, and I know it’s with these same energy, spirit and intent that we will complete our journey!” – Val