A long long time ago (6 years ago,) Broady and I hopped on a plane to Taiwan with a bag full of clothes and nothing booked. No hotels, no tours; we were going to wing it as we went.

We landed right in the middle of summer. Which was also the middle of a rain-a-thon. Equipped with raincoats and a can-do spirit, we paddled through the precipitation, eager to see the island, one county at a time.

We started in Taipei, then made our way down along the west coast to Taichung, Nantou, Kaoshiung, then looping to the east coast to Hualien before arriving back at Taipei.

The trip went by in a blur. I remember being drenched by rain. Feeling exhausted. Amazed that although Taiwan was only a stone throw from mainland, the people were worlds apart.

I remember eating so much I was bursting at the seams. And I remember the beauty, the scenery, and the fun.

From my muddled memories have I retrieved the following 9 anecdotes from that fateful trip.

ONE: Craning to see Taipei 101

Location: Taipei

Taipei 101

One does not visit Taipei without gracing Taipei 101.

In other words, it’s one of those touristy things you do just for the sake of it. Nevertheless, tourist gimmicks aside, trying to fit two faces and a 1667 feet high icon in a selfie frame was strenuous yet rewarding.

TWO: Feeling like royalty at the National Palace Museum

Location: Taipei

Welcome to the National Palace Museum
Step into a world of enthralling narrations

My dad suggested once twice thrice that we visit the National Palace Museum. For context, my family has an intense love affair with museums.

So, naturally, Broady and I found our way there.

To summarise:

Chinese history – checked

Countless ancient artefacts – checked

All things Chinese – checked

Engaging and cultured experience – checked

THREE: Rolling in the greens of Qingjing Farm

Location: Ren’ai Township, Nantou County

Lush greenery everywhere.
A castle for the sheep
Hey, little man
Sexy much?
I loved Qingjing Farm, but spending a night there, away from civilisation, helped me realise how much of a city girl I am.

After bustling Taipei, we took a train to Taichung, from which we travelled to Nantou and landed up at Qingjing Farm.

The moment we stepped into the farm, rolling hills popped up to say hello. Fresh air rushed into our lungs as our eyeballs fixed on the lush greenery all around us.

Sheep bleat from every angle. It was as if we had stepped into a Fernleaf advertisement.

FOUR: Feeling enlightened at Fu Guang Shan in Kaohsiung

Location: Kaoshiung

Shan Guang Fu (If you read the words from left to right)
Each pagoda is numbered
Peace

My most vivid memory from Fu Guang Shan Monastery is of the pristine floors. You could eat a 3 course meal off those immaculate surfaces.

I also remember being super fascinated by the many murals, each depicting a different story. For people outside literary traditions, pictures and oral tales are their lifelines to the stories of their forefathers. It’s really interesting.

FIVE: Gawking at the beauty of Taroko National Park

Location: Xiulin Township, Hualien

Taroko National Park
The entrance to Taroko National Park
Heaven on earth
Taroko Gorge
Eternal Spring Shine
Ning’an bridge
Fancy a swim?

I say this with absolute certainty: Taroko is breathtakingly gorgeous.

We joined a paid tour that drove us into the park and to the scenic spots. They had helmets available for the (more) dangerous areas and provided a really comprehensive guide of the park.

But next time, I wanna go hiking.

SIX: Cycling around quaint Hualien City

Location: Hualien

Poyo-ing with my rented bike
Eating breeze (makan angin—it’s a Malay expression. Look it up!) by the waters

The quiet little town of Hualien is the kind of place I’ll like to retire in (just kidding. I’m going to retire in PJ, die in PJ, and get cremated in PJ. My friends have strict orders to ensure that my husband does not move my lifeless corpse out of PJ).

But spending a short period of time there was very pleasant. Pedalling around, watching the waves, posing by the railway tracks; like a character from the Taiwanese dramas I used to watch.

SEVEN: Basking in the light of Jiufen’s lanterns

Location: Ruifang District, Taipei

Lanterns
More lanterns

So, I read in a story somewhere that kissing under a lantern would guarantee a couple eternal happiness. Like an eastern mistletoe (or is a mistletoe a western lantern?) Except mistletoes don’t guarantee happiness—you’re simply supposed to snog. See how things are better in the east?

Anyway, if the myth is true, kissing anywhere in Jiufen would ensure you forever bliss, because there are lanterns ever-ree-wheree.

However, I must admit that there is nothing much in Jiufen other than the lanterns.

EIGHT: Strolling through the night markets

Location: Everywhere

Pasar malam (night market)
Stinky tofu. It’s actually really tasty
Another pasar malam
Looking at this picture reminds me of the flavours in my mouth. I can practically taste it when I close my eyes

No matter which part of Taiwan we were, every evening, we would visit a different night market (other than the night spent near Qingjing. That day, I changed my mind about ever living outside a city.)

We went night-market hopping, if nothing else, for the food. See point below.

NINE: Growing fatter and fatter and fatter

Location: Everywhere

Mee sua (vermicelli)
Lu rou fan (braised pork rice)
Hong shao niu rou mian (red-braised beef-noodle soup)

Please excuse the very non-appetising pictures. The fault is my terrible photography skills alone. I assure you, throw a stone, and it will hit 10 different delectable cuisines.

If the stone bounces, you’ll find another 10.

Everywhere we went, we ate.

And it was wonderful.