Preparing for our departure south made for a chaotic morning. We had planned to take an 11am executive train to Ji’An station, one stop past Taroko where we were going the following day. Not only did we arrive at the main station too late, the train had already been sold out since the night before. Although it would take an hour longer than the executive train, there was another train leaving in 45 minutes and turned out to be significantly cheaper. We got some snacks and boarded.
I watched our location on Google Maps as we rode through the foggy mountain landscape. Seemingly in the middle of no where, waterfalls trickled from rocky cliffs, vines crawled through trees and dangled from branches, and nature lived in peace and solitude. I would have loved to stop the train just to spend a few hours exploring but a grander experience awaited ahead.
The long train ride offered the perfect opportunity to catch up on some audiobooks and ponder life’s wonders. I had come to Asia in part for spiritual growth, and I felt the connection to my inner self grow exponentially while in Taiwan. I looked back on my tumultuous years prior with nothing but a deep understanding of their importance. It felt as though I was sitting inside the protective vessel of my body, indulging in the magic that surrounded me, absent of the mind that once took over my life. I felt overwhelming amounts of gratitude, significance, love, excitement, purity, and happiness. I had experienced moments like this in meditation, but they always subsided with time and rarely occurred this intensely. I marinated in this state of bliss while I watched the countryside pass by the window. Four hours had passed and we slowed to a stop at Ji’An station.
Our hotel was less than a mile from the station, so with 2 backpacks and now a third bag carrying our Muay Thai gear, we walked to Fang Yi B&B. It was located on a small side street just off a main road. There were no distinctive markings outside the building, but we were able to find the entrance. A girl in her twenties greeted us and gave us “house slippers” before welcoming us inside. Her english was impeccable and she greeted us by name. Her name was Stacy. The home was owned by her mother, who rented out multiple rooms upstairs. The home was filled with exotic furniture, large crystal statues, and photos of her mom’s dancing career. The entire place felt like home. Starving from the train ride, we checked in and looked for a place to grab some food.
On Google Maps, I noticed a little cafe located nearby called the Aqua Cafe. Little did we know that Taiwan would become home to the greatest waffles and lattes of all time. The inside of the cafe had an under the sea vibe, with blue and white walls and window murals of the ocean. The owner was so kind and created a true masterpiece for our late lunch.