This story that I’m about to share to you guys is meant to be forgotten. This is supposed to be archived in my journal forever and should never be mentioned again ‘cause it’s truly embarrassing. I was about to start writing about our Taiwan trip ‘cause I see that some of you have been bugging me about it already. But when I think about our Taiwan trip, all I remember is what happened on our last day there. And just a heads up, it was an utter disaster.
A month ago, I shared to you this total phat article that all you need is 15k to visit Korea for four days. I was mistaken guys to have not highlighted that this amount does not account for emergencies. Of course you know that already. I knew that, too. But you will never really fully realize the importance of being completely prepared until you can’t do anything to get out of the situation anymore. Because the truth is, a lot of things can go wrong on a trip. Even in our South Korea trip, it wasn’t really as perfect as it seemingly was in the article that I shared to you. But for now, let me take you to the last day of our Taiwan trip.
One not so fine morning, we woke up to a category 4 typhoon Megi on our supposed to be last day in Taiwan. It was our last day of our 5-day trip and we still had places to visit as scheduled. But as sunny as I always am, no typhoon can ever stop me from going out. We braved the typhoon early in the morning only to end up disappointed in the train station. All trains were cancelled, work and school, too.
We had no choice but to go back to our hotel and ask for our keys back as we previously checked out of our rooms already. Gladly, the hotel welcomed us back. We asked to stay in the hotel until our 12:15 flight later that night. But few hours later, I received a call from Cebu Pacific that our flight was cancelled due to the typhoon. A part of me already knew it would happen but I was still hopeful and praying and in denial until that very call. We then informed the receptionist that we will be staying for another night.
It should be noted guys that it was our last day in Taiwan and we had no more dollars to pay the hotel. We only had approximately NT$1000 left so we used our credit card to charge for the extra night stay. That thousand dollar was enough by the way to get through the day had our flight not been cancelled. But because tragedies do really happen not just in MMK, we had to spend another night in Taiwan. That meant, paying for another night in the hotel and adding 3 meals to our expenses, and for our friend, another day without pay because he no longer had VL credits left.
At this point, I’d like you to imagine yourself in this same situation, only that you have no credit card to use. What would you do? I hope this incident alone is more than enough to convince you that you should never travel if you don’t have extra cash. And I hope you realize how credit card saved us from what should have been the most embarrassing moment in my life.
Anyway, I’m not yet done. Not even close. On that day, aside from the additional expenses incurred, we thought there was nothing to worry about anymore. We just had to let the day pass by and pray that the typhoon would be gone by next morning so we can push through with our cancelled itinerary. We ate 7-eleven noodles for breakfast and lunch and we slept all day like everything’s okay outside.
When dinner came, we realized we were almost running out of dollars. But still, we didn’t worry. We just made sure we had enough cash left for train fare before we go to the bank the next morning to exchange our peso money. By enough cash btw, I mean a total of NT$150 left on our pockets. More than enough for the train fare of NT$20 each. There were three of us and we slept all night unprepared for the horror (slightly exaggerating here) that was about to come.
We woke up 7am the next morning with typhoon Megi already far gone to China. I would like to say praise the Lord but that’s just rude because the typhoon was never really gone as it created havoc in China. With NT$150 left on our pockets, we were ready to get back on track. We just had to go to the bank first near our hotel and exchange our peso bills.
But as we went outside guys, we noticed there weren’t many people around. I started getting worried as I noticed most establishments were still close. The weather was fine, there was no more rain since the night before so I wondered why it’s like train to Busan outside. Only then when we asked the receptionist that we found out it was holiday in Taiwan! OF COURSE IT’S A HOLIDAY! Of all days, we were extended on a holiday with no enough dollars left to go to the airport and no banks open everywhere.
We asked the receptionist where’s the nearest money exchanger aside from banks and airport. She said because it’s a holiday, our only option was money exchangers inside the malls and malls will open at 11AM. Right! 11AM! And it was still 8AM! 11AM would mean skipping coffee and cancelling our morning itinerary. You have to know guys that I’m a completely different person without coffee. Kids these days call it HAnger.
But even when I’m hangry, I’m still all about positivity and sunny somedays. Having no breakfast and very little cash left, I was motivated to think and think for solutions. Nothing can stop me from trying. I couldn’t just sit around and wait for 11AM. I had to at least try to save our itinerary. So I thought, hmmmm, we should try the ATM! Let’s not care about the huge service charge we need to pay when we get back to PH, let’s just withdraw money and catch up with our itinerary!
And so we went to the nearest bank with ATM and tried withdrawing money. But I was so horrified guys when no cash came out of the machine after the transaction. Only a receipt filled with chinese markings that we couldn’t read. We tried again and still, it only spit out Chinese receipt. At that moment, my worry and hanger just went straight to level 100. But I tried staying calm. I tried so hard not to cry and not to think about my stomach growling.
We only needed NT$60 for one train ride so I thought we should go to Taipei Main Station and one of us should go to the airport money exchanger using our bullet train unlimited pass. But upon arrival, we were informed that due to the typhoon, the bullet train will only be operational at 2PM. I felt utterly helpless guys I swear my body wanted to collapse already. But then again, you know me. I don’t easily give up and I put up a face and try to smile.
It came to a point that I got really very desperate afterwards and it’s probably because of all of the noodles that i ate the day before. I thought maybe I should beg people in the train station for help. I’m proven to be trustworthy-looking anyway. We only needed a few bucks for breakfast until the mall opens so I had to just swallow my pride and ask strangers if they could exchange our peso bills to dollars.
I waited for a train passenger that looks like someone who knows how to speak english. But everyone I met failed me. And every failure was painful. They would all respond in Chinese and there’s not a single word I could understand. I even tried a man in a suit with a briefcase. I was like, “Hi! Do you understand and speak English?” He said YES. (he said YES everybody!) And I said, “this may sound so creepy but I’m a tourist here in Taiwan and I ran out of dollars and couldn’t find a money exchanger anywhere. I’m just wondering if you have enough dollars that I can exchange my peso bills with.” I thought he understood me but he brought me to the train station entrance instead and then spoke in Chinese until I realize he probably thought I was asking for directions. But you said YES brother!
Sometimes, no matter how many times you try, if it’s not meant for you, it’s not really meant for you. I’ve done more than enough tries already that I decided it’s time to just give up. And so we rode a train to Taipei 101 and hungrily waited until the mall across opens. Note that at that time, we got no more moves left. We have no more dollars left to take a train. And in case you are wondering why we won’t just use our credit card to eat, it’s because when you travel abroad, you have to inform the bank ahead the schedule of your travel and you can only use your card during the indicated period. In our case, that specific period already ended the day before.
So finally, it was 11AM.
The mall opened and we went straight to the money exchanger. Up until that moment in my life guys, I thought I’ve gone through more than enough hardships already. But I was wrong. I don’t know what I did in my past life that the universe conspired to not help me on the day I was so hungry in a foreign country with no more dollars left. It took only few words for her to crush my soul.
“I’m sorry but we only accept US dollars here.”