My time in Taiwan has been filled with incredible memories and experiences. However, up to this point, my experiences had been largely limited to Taipei and the surrounding districts. During the four week winter holiday, I was given the chance to take two trips to the south-west portion of the Island. I saw vivid sunrises, beautiful architecture, and some of Taiwan’s cutest inhabitants, the Formosa Macaque.
Our first stop was the central mountains. We ventured away from the urban cities to see a more cultural side of Taiwan. The number of Temples hidden in the foothills was incredibly high. Each of them represented their own god. Some temples represent the god of money, while others even represent doing well on tests. While in the mountains, we stopped by Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, said to be home to the spirit of Taiwan. The weather was less than agreeable, but we still got to experience the architecture of the visitor centre.
After the mountains, we ventured towards the cities that populate Taiwan’s west coast. We spent one night in ChiaYi 嘉義 , a small city centrally located in Taiwan. It was there that I experienced one of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever seen. We reached the roof of our hotel just as the first golden rays of light reached the buildings around us. I watched the sun rise over the mountains that we had just explored.
Tainan, 台南, was the next stop of our trip. Tainan is known for having a rich cultural heritage. It was at one point the main post of the Dutch explorers who rules Taiwan. They built Anping Fort, which we visited. A well known attraction in Tainan is the ChiMei museum. At first look, the surrounding architecture appears to be ancient greek design. The private museum is filled with countless artifacts and pieces of art. Also famous in Tainan is its main city park. One night, Lorenzo and I explored the beautiful park. The traditional Chinese design was an incredible area to photograph. Tainan was the city hit hardest by Taiwan’s January earthquake. Multiple buildings collapsed resulting in over 100 deaths during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. Luckily, we were not in Tainan at the time.
Kaohsiung – 高雄 was the final stop on our trip. It is an incredibly beautiful city that houses Taiwan’s largest port and a majority of Taiwan’s industrial production. I was lucky enough to visit Kaohsiung twice during the holiday period. The second time, I travelled with my third family to celebrate Chinese New Year. During that period, the Taiwan earthquake took place. It startled me out of my sleep, but I had no idea that the damage was so severe until the next morning when my host dad told me that buildings had collapsed in Tainan, the city just north of where we were. In Kaohsiung, I saw a different side of Taiwan that I hadn’t seen in Taipei. I saw a more laid-back way of living. There is a significant amount of nature from mountains to beaches within the city, which is found less in Taipei.
Above all else, my favourite part of my trips to Taiwan’s south was the new friends that I made. Both in the central mountains and in Kaohsiung, I saw monkeys. It was the first time that I had seen wild monkeys. They were adorable, but not to be messed with. One monkey stole an orange from a hiker in Kaohsiung, while another stole our bus driver’s bag of peanuts in the central mountains.
It’s tough for me to put into words how grateful I feel to be where I am. The opportunities that I have been given will stay with me forever. This entire exchange has opened my eyes to the beautiful things that this world has to offer each and every person. Take a weekend for a road trip, call up an old friend, or go out and explore a new part of your city. Make the most of every day.
open heart, open mind
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