We arrived in Taiwan on a 14-degree cold morning, with mists hovering across the mountains and thick clouds surrounding the city. The streets are almost empty, only few people are walking outside, battling the cold rumblings of spring air.
Coming from tropical countries like Philippines and Singapore, I had no idea what ‘spring’ season feels like. I wear a summer dress, strappy sandals and cardigan while others are sheltered in their hoodies or puff jackets. There were occasional rain showers, deep stillness, and forced slowdown of time and energy.
We visited Taiwan primarily to fulfill a long-time bucket list, that is, to witness the Sky Lantern Festival. I did not plan a full-length itinerary nor did I prepare a to-do list. I had little expectation about Taiwan as it was not really on top of my must-see destinations. All I knew about this country was that the popular Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden, which was a huge part of my teenage years, originated from here. That was that.
In all honesty, I kind-of imagine it to be a place of chaos: where there’s disorder on political and social aspects, and scams too like in Bangkok and Saigon which I have experienced myself.
Surprisingly, this interesting country proved all my notions wrong. They are organize, clean, hospitable and honest. I can hang my camera around my neck without worrying that someone will take it and run away. Of course, it’s still important to be street smart, but generally, it’s safe.
Their consumer prices are also cheap and reasonable. We did not encounter vendors who double their prices just because we’re tourists. I enjoyed shopping low-priced, quality clothes which we needed to supplement our unfitting wardrobe for cool weather. We also loved their food that thankfully flattered my picky taste buds. Everything we tried tasted good whether it’s from a restaurant or a street food stall. The braised pork rice, beef noodle soup, xiao long bao and mochi were a few of my favourites. Also, there are endless selections of bubble tea!
Here are snapshots of our walk around Taipei. Without definite route, we used the free map we got from the airport to navigate the streets on foot (and occasionally by rail). We discovered temples, parks, quaint cafes and night markets.
Taiwan instantly became one of the countries we wished to go back to soon. There’s still so much to explore and food to indulge with.
In many ways, it is also like the Philippines, an admirable country that is working hard to have its own identity and name, while trying to step out of the shadows of its other big Asian neighbors.
How about you? Have you been to Taiwan before?