Riding the bus in Taiwan is always an ordeal for me, which is unfortunate because it's something we do quite a lot when exploring the island. I always wonder: is this bus going where I think it is going? Sometimes I try asking the driver, which is always pretty useless. The whole language barrier thing makes bus rides more interesting.
After deciding to just get on the bus, I take a seat if I can, but sometimes I have to stand because all of the seats are taken. This is fine with me until we reach the mountainous areas of Taiwan, where the roads slope up and down and curve around and around (and by this point the driver is usually going at breakneck speed). That one time I almost fell on top of a little, old grandma because I lost my balance? Yeah, that was a little embarrassing (and probably more than a little scary for her).
All the while trying to remain upright, I am wracked with questions: where do I get off??? How do I get off? Sometimes there is a button to push, sometimes there is a cord to pull and sometimes the driver just stops at random places that don't actually appear to be marked stops even though no one is waiting on the side of the road, yet people from the bus pile off.
Sometimes riding the bus can be a little stressful.
When I think my stop is coming based on the vague information I read online and the charts that are in Mandarin, I start to ponder: how much is this going to cost?? How do I pay?? I more than fumble my way through that experience, relying on my smile and "xie xie" (thank you) to get me through,
Finally, I escape the bus, legs suffering from the
sea bus wobbles and then another question pops into my head: where do we catch the bus when we want to go back?? Because more often than not, it is in a completely different place than where drop off occurs. This usually means I spend the first five to ten minutes at any given destination trying to find English signs or maps that might indicate any of the following: we actually got off at the right spot, we know where to get the bus when we want to leave and we know when the buses leave. Usually, we only discover the first two and leave the last one to chance. Only once have we almost ended up stranded in the mountains due to almost missing the last bus (we ran very, very fast that time to make it, waving arms and everything).
I know all of this could be much easier if we joined the current century and got smartphones, which could help us with maps and translations, but there is a huge part of me that enjoys being kinda lost and just along for the ride. It makes everything feel more like an adventure rather than a finely tuned plan. And sure enough, every single time our adventures in Taiwan exceed our expectations.
For me, travel is half the destination and half the excitement and the unpredictability of the journey getting there.
FYI: These photos are from our most recent bus journey from Taipei to the small mountain village of Wulai. Pretty spectacular, huh?