If you have read any of my previous blogs or just the landing page, you are aware that I have been living and breathing Taiwan air for the past 11 years. During university years, as a student with a meager budget of US400 a month for living expenses, we (and I say we, the ole timers or foreigners that came with scholarships to Taiwan - 2016 and before) learned how to budget and include traveling as a monthly expense.
We would pick ourselves up on a Friday evening, right after our last class ended and rush to Taipei Main Station to catch the next bus to somewhere for the weekend. My somewhere would mostly be southern Taiwan, particularly Tainan - my "hometown" in Taiwan.
Bright and early on Saturday mornings, Bee and I would pick a place on the map and take a scooter ride, even if our sitting parts screamed for a break - enough already!
Sometimes, there would be planned events during which Belizeans would come together and celebrate in unity, like a BBQ or a hike, in small groups or large crowds. These were the times we would get to visit new places and participate in new activities.
After graduating with a Master's Degree, I moved quite a few times - from Taipei to Taoyuan, to Hsinchu, back to Taoyuan and back to Hsinchu (don't ask me how many jobs I've changed haha). I can fairly say that I know these districts like the back of my hand. When we didn't have to work, Bee and I would go for hiking trips, visit new parks, entertainment centers, malls and shopping centers, and tick off the must-visit places in Taiwan from our Bucketlist.
There came a time that I thought I had seen it and done it all when it comes to traveling in Taiwan. But life would have it that all the stars aligned to make my daughter's wish to come to Taiwan a reality. At the age of 17, Shali took the SOLO trip from Belize, Central America, via U.S. and Japan and landed in Taiwan late last December. She arrived just in time to experience the traditional New Year's Eve celebrations and stayed on to experience Chinese New Year's celebrations as well.
No longer a student and with the awesome flexible job that I now have, Bee and I were able to take Shali to all the following places during her stay.
If you find yourself being visited by family and friends who do not live in Taiwan, these are my top suggestions. Friends who have become family and live in Taiwan - a.k.a. "The Fam" - can also be those who are willing to become adventurers in Taiwan. You all can take a trip or revisit some of these places as well.
1. Taipei 101
No matter how many times Bee and I go to Taipei, the majestic view of the 101 never fails to amaze, so of course we had to give this experience to my daughter. No one should come to Taiwan and not visit 101 and surrounding Xinyi chic attractions. Unfortunately, our toddler, Zee, got sick exactly on New Year's Eve, so the closest we got to the 101 that day, was a hotel somewhere in Neihu. Nevertheless, we made our journey the very 1st of January to Xinyi and we got a pretty decent view of Taipei 101. Talk about amazing new beginnings!
2. Taipei Zoo
On that same day, we took her to the Taipei Zoo where she would finally get to see an elephant, her favorite animal, for the very first time in her life. Imagine living these moments through another's eyes for the first time. You relive the sense of wonder and excitement, your heart starts to race knowing that there's another animal and yet another that that person has never seen in their entire life and you get the chance to experience it along with them.
3. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Tradition and modernity in one city block. I love going to Chiang Kai Shek because no matter what angle you use to take a picture, some awesome background reveals itself. Your pictures will always look stunning. Our friend Amador showed us some cool relics belonging to the Leader himself. We also had the opportunity to see the Change of Guards ceremony held every hour. Shali loved it!
4. Tainan Sunset Platform
At 5 pm on a work day for me, Shali, Zee and I rushed to take the No. 2 Tainan Bus which, as I remembered, would take us directly to the beach and we would get to experience one glorious sunset together. But it seems that as the years passed, so did the route the bus would usually take, leaving us to fend for ourselves two whole countryside blocks away from the beachside. I grabbed the toddler with all my strength and we ran towards the sun, ever mindful of the ticking clock. Must. Not. Miss. The. Sunset. My new white shoes started to cause blisters on both feet. It was my only chance to share this wonderful memory with the one presently beside me. I paid it no mind as we walked briskly those last meters. Alas, the sun had set. The moment I felt I failed, Zee started to look for shells and play with the sand and Shali, a toddler at heart, played right beside her. My heart was full.
5. Lotus Pond - Kaohsiung
I gave Shali one job before she came to Taiwan and that was to find places on the internet that she definitely had to visit when she came and she only chose one, the Lotus Pond or Lotus Lake with the Dragon and the Tiger guarding the Pavilions. That weekend, we drove an iRent from Tainan to Kaohsiung and made her single wish come true. We took a gazillion pictures of her. Which reminds me, I should print one!
6. Buddha Temple or as appropriately known: Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
The first time Bee and I visited this place was back in 2013, we took a few hours to get there from Tainan, taking local train and buses. But driving to this wonderful and serene place definitely allowed us to spend more time strolling around and admiring the architecture. There were even dinosaurs for Zee, the Dinosaur Lover, to enjoy. Those seemed a little out of place but hey, if Buddhism and Paleontology can co-exist, you really can't question life itself.
7. Sun Moon Lake
This destination was largely avoided in the past because as a student, I remember the one time we went, we ended up spending a little too much of our stipends. At that time, we had to buy boat ticket, cable car ticket and I vaguely remember also tickets for the entertainment section of the park. I'm not even counting the travel expenses to get to and from this place.
This time, we traveled to He Huan Mountain or Hehuanshan during the Chinese New Year's holidays, and since we were in close vicinity, our drive back home took a side tour to Sun Moon Lake. Although this time we did not take a boat from one side of the lake to the other to take the cable cars, we made the most of the short time we had, to make our way to the Aboriginal Village and buy some souvenirs such as key chains, Mochi, Black Tea and cookies for Shali's friends and our Taiwanese friends.
8. Shihmen Reservoir
And so, the weekends flew right by and the last weekend trip we did before Shali went back to Belize was travel to Taoyuan's Shihmen Reservoir located in Daxi District. We took her to our favorite burger place - GoGoBox - and then to take a nice evening stroll at the reservoir.
My daughter tried to recreate a picture I took in 2019 and this is how it came out. Which one is me?
In the end, it's not traveling itself that is memorable, it's the experiences you have and can gift to those who visit and are willing to take a trip around Taiwan with you. It is that which makes the revisiting experience all the more ingrained in your memories.
Share your revisiting journeys in the comment section with me and our readers. Who knows, you might even inspire me to write a Part II, but about you. Wink Wink.