When it comes to travelling, Google isn’t the only essential app; Tinder can be, too. Think of it this way: Google is Hilary Duff in Lizzie McGuire, while Tinder is Emma Roberts in Wild Child. Google will take you to the touristy places, and Tinder might just guide you to the right people.
It all started when I went on a solo trip to Hawaii. A friend told me to download the app and go on all these crazy adventures with strangers. “Go find a cute boy to MOMOL with on the beach,” she said. I never did it because I was too scared. Fast forward to two years later, I am on a solo trip in Taipei and on a Tinder spree.
I was swiping right to all these strangers and asking them for tips on to where to go. I felt like I was on an episode of The Bachelorette except I wasn’t choosing my next boyfriend; just people who could take me around the city. I ended up with six dates and agreed to see all of them in one day. Hey, given my limited time in Taipei, I had to be economical.
Peter was an American exchange student studying business in Taipei. He brought me to Da-an, Taipei’s art district. We walked past third-wave coffee shops and novelty shops, arguing whether or not it was smart to travel while young (and broke). He said it wasn’t, I said otherwise. As we sat al fresco in one of his go-to coffee spots, I told him my secret. “You are the first of my six dates today,” to which he replies, “You are my only date for the week.” We laughed at my experiment and got to know each other better. Note: he likes dogs too.
We hopped on a bus towards Shilin. As I was looking out the window taking photos, Gavin started talking about how much he enjoyed shrimp fishing. He spoke of it the way one would describe what it’s like reading a book –– quiet and calming. We bonded over our love for the outdoors. He told me about his life back in Germany, and how different it was here. Since he couldn’t hunt here, he needed another outlet and that’s how shrimp fishing came into the picture. It was fun for the first 30 minutes but I didn’t think I was patient enough for it. As I struggled with bait, Gavin was already on his fourth catch of the day. Taipei was more relaxed than his home country and he liked it that way.
Out of all my dates, Sam was the most attractive. First off, he was tall and lean (just the way I like ‘em) and had his hair in a quiff. Yeah, he was a hipster. His favorite thing to do was to wander aimlessly and that’s exactly what we did. We walked towards the nearest park and sat down by the playground like true adults. He was about to embark on a backpacking trip across South East Asia while I was just starting to plot out one of my own. We ended the date with a promise to see each other in Manila once he started traveling. Spoiler alert: we did.
Both of us were lone travelers in Taipei. In a sense, we were escapists since we were both using travel as a way to distance ourselves (literally) from our problems back home. Though we had just met, we told each other so much — maybe even too much for a first date. But hey, no ragrets. We bought tickets to the observation deck of the Taipei Tower. Y’know that thing they do in movies when they scream at the top of their lungs? We did that too –– sort of. We were supposed to but we chickened out. At least we tried and that’s all that matters.
The Shilin night market was a tourist trap but he insisted on going there. Angus beef on a stick, fried shrimps, pork buns –– we ate like kings. Another thing in our “must-eat list” was stinky tofu. (JSYK, stinky tofu smells like feet.) Ordering it was like asking for a week’s worth of sweaty gym socks to be served in a bowl but Thomas enjoyed it so much. He didn’t just love the city for the food, he loved it for its energy. For him, you’ve never fully experienced Taipei until you’ve been to their night markets and train stations. He was right. As we parted ways, the station was still bustling with life.
The world really is small and my encounter with Zach proved that. We were Tinder matches in Manila but we never met. He arrived in Taipei two hours before we met up. We were in opposite sides of the city, but we met at Ningxia Night market for a quick night cap. Ningxia was far smaller than the other night markets, but it was filled with more locals than foreigners. We didn’t really talk much but it was still nice to have someone who felt familiar; he reminded me of Manila. After a bowl of beef noodle soup and a few rounds of shoot the rubber duck, we called it a night.
I was exhausted. I sat on the couch of my hostel’s empty common room and looked back on my day. Did I really just go on six Tinder dates? Hell yeah.They all gave me a taste of what it’s like to be immersed in Taiwan’s culture — to stop and take the place of a local, and surprisingly, to take risks. I’m glad I followed the Tinder wild card.
2:00 AM – THE END
… Or so I thought.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
After a day of meeting new people, I wanted to explore the city on my own. I went for a walk and when I returned to my hostel, someone had left dried flowers for me. I went on six dates with six different boys with no expectations. But who was it from? If you really want to know, the answer lies within the photographs.
* Subjects’ names were changed