As Indonesians, did you know that you don’t need a visa to enter Taiwan if you hold a visa from several countries? The visa can be valid or expired for less than 10 years. The countries on the list are the US, UK, Schengen States (Europe), Australia, NZ, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. As long as your stay is less than 30 days, the visa requirement is exempted.

On my first trip to Taiwan in 2014, I got an entry permit by using my Australian visa and flew from Melbourne to Taoyuan International Airport. I attended the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Summer School in Chiao Tung University and stayed for two weeks at Tsing Hua University dorm. These two universities are adjacent. Read my posts in Bahasa Indonesia on this trip here, and here.

This year I got another opportunity to travel to Taiwan. I received the great news that the Regional English Language Office (RELO), the US Embassy would sponsor several academics to attend the 5th World Congress on Extensive Reading to be held in Feng Chia University, Taichung, 9-12 August 2019.

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Four people received the travel grants: mbak Lanoke Intan Paradita (a lecturer from Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, an active member of the Indonesian Extensive Reading Association (IERA), ibu Pangesti Wiedarti ( a lecturer from Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, chief of School Literacy Movement Task Force (Satgas GLS) Kemdikbud, mas Billy Antoro (staff at Setjen Dikdasmen Kemdikbud, and me. When I received the nomination, I tried to rationalize in what capacity I am sponsored. Head of English Dept-Universitas Negeri Surabaya? Probably, since we hosted one of the ER workshops early May this year. A member of Satgas GLS? or a member of IERA, albeit a new one? Well, I decided to just take what the letter says. I owe my colleagues English Dept-Unesa, Satgas GLS, and IERA for this unexpected opportunity. This is going to be a wonderful event to learn about recent studies and best practices in ER and literacy from different countries.

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Assuming that the visa application to Taiwan would take time, I decided to apply early. I contacted an agent, who asked me whether I hold a visa from such and such countries. I told him that I went to Japan in 2018 for a conference at Soka University.  So he told me, “no need to have a Taiwan visa, bu Tiwik.” His response took me back to the time I applied for a visa for my first trip. I quickly got his message and applied online. In less than 10 minutes, I was able to get the travel authorization certificate. I printed it out, saved it with my passport. Ready for the trip.

August 8, 2019. 11.00 am.
I was with mbak Lanoke and bu Pangesti, getting ready to check-in at China Airlines check-in counter at Terminal 3, Soetta airport. Mas Billy was on his way to the airport. The check-in staff checked my travel documents, then told me that there’s a name difference between my passport and travel authorization certificate. ‘Pratiwi Retnaningdyah’ on the certificate, and ‘Pratiwi Retnaningdyah Soeko Prabowo’ on a page in the passport. I did make a name amendment two years ago, as required by the Saudi Arabia immigration office (another story behind this). The name has to be at least three (first, middle, and surname). So, to make the story short, I had to redo the application to enter Taiwan. I panicked a little bit, but quickly went to the Information counter to get a desktop and filled out the form online. Done in 5 minutes. But then there was no printer there. Lanoke accompanied me to check if everything went okay. She, bu Pangesti, and mas Billy had checked in. I rushed to the check-in counter and asked the staff to help me print it out. Thanks for their cooperation, I got the print out version, was advised not to show the previous certificate at the immigration office in Taiwan later. The staff also shared some bad experiences with trivial but incorrect information in travel documents to enter Taiwan and the fines that entailed. Then she checked me in.

After flying for 5 hours and two movies on the plane, we landed smoothly despite the turbulence. The first greeting we heard from an airport staff was in Bahasa Indonesia, “Tenaga Kerja Indonesia?” We said no and quickly joined the long queue to the immigration counter at Taoyuan International airport.

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A wefie right across from the immigration counter. Courtesy: Billy Antoro

It was already 10 pm. Rain was seen pouring heavily on the roof. While waiting for our turn, we checked new messages on Whatsapp. Some concerns about Typhoon Leikema and earthquake in some parts of Taiwan were sent by friends in Indonesia.

Lanoke went first to the counter. In less than 1 minute, she had her photo taken and index fingers scanned. While waiting for my turn, I said all ‘sapu jagat’ prayers, hoping nothing would go wrong with my documents. The stories told by the staff at check-in counter in Soetta apparently freaked me out a bit.

Bismillah. My turn now. I handed in my travel documents, tried to stay calm, and observed how the staff checked my documents. She frowned for a while, opened some pages of my passport, looked again at the authorization certificate. I noticed a smile of relief on her lips and then gave me a sign to have my photo taken. “Index fingers, please.” I put my index fingers on the scanner and smiled back at her. I heard her put a stamp on my passport before she handed me the documents. With a big relief, I thanked her. I’m officially in Taiwan.

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Waiting for the van, I saw the billboard at the arrival gate. Several flights, mainly from Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, were canceled. Probably due to Typhoon Leikema.

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The downpouring rain accompanied us on our way by van to Taichung. One more hour and a half before we could lie on a comfy bed at the hotel. But to me, it’s a sign of fruitful days to come.

In One City Inn, Taichung