I have always wanted to visit Taiwan. This desire increased after I watched the Taiwanese drama “A Thousand Goodnights” during the pandemic. The beautiful and slow-moving story showcased Taiwan’s natural beauty and its interesting culture captured my attention.
I was happy to say yes when my god-daughter Adelene and Yip, her husband, invited and gifted my wife and I with a vacation in Taiwan. We were very moved and felt blessed by the Lord, who knew my heart’s desires. My wife had been there before for her sister’s wedding but this was my first time to Taiwan.
I was excited as the day of the red-eye flight drew near. We landed in Taipei in the early Saturday morning of 21st of January 2023, Lunar New Year’s Eve, and Mr Huang, the driver-guide was there at the airport with his Volkswagon MPV, and our tour began immediately.
We would visit cities and places near Taipei, then down along the western part of Taiwan: Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung and be driven all the way back to Taipei. We had a lovely, pleasant, enjoyable vacation with delicious food, good hotels, interesting places and things to do, and great and easygoing company.
Let me summarise some of the highlights of this trip:
Most Meaningful Activity
We picked strawberries, visited a museum and two art and cultural centers, and rode on the Old Mountain Line Railbike in Miaoli county (north of Taichung).
But for me the most meaningful activity was the release of lighted lanterns to the sky. Shifen is in the mountainous Pingxi area east of Taipei. It is a railway station and on both sides of the tracks are lanes and alleys, homes and food and souvenir shops, and there are those selling the experience of writing your wishes on huge lanterns and releasing them into the sky. We wrote wishes and verses onto the lantern before lighting and releasing the lantern into the sky.
Most Delicious Meal
Several of our dinners were night market snacks and food that were bought, shared, and eaten while standing or walking. The idea was to try many types but share the food so each of us gets to try a great variety – usually seven choices each night.
However, my favorite meal was the Hakka set meal at Meinong Hakka Folk Village. The dishes served were deliciously simple and simply delicious!
Most Interesting Place
The Jingzaijiao Tile-paved salt Fields of Tainan was for me the most interesting place. Too much salt is bad for the body but is good for tourism. Thankfully it was not overcrowded and I loved walking around the salt fields taking photos and walking by the windy shore. It was so relaxing and refreshing.
Best Hotel and Scenery
All the hotels we stayed in were very good but the best of the lot was the five-star Grand Li Lai Hotel in Kaohsiung. They gave us an upgrade and the view of the pier, harbour and Kaohsiung Music Centre was simply gorgeous at sunrise, sunset and at night. In the lobby of the hotel was a section which boasted the photographs of famous people who stayed in the hotel including the late Michael Jackson.
Most Instagramable Place
One is the MRT station (I forgot the name) at Kaohsiung. Although the art piece takes up a comparatively small area in the station, it makes such a big online footprint and impression.
However, the Flower Home, a lovely and sprawling botanical flower garden in Miaoli County, where we stayed a night is a great place to capture portraits with exquisitely designed and manicured flower gardens in the background. For me this colorful place takes the prize for being Instagram worthy.
Best Memorial Sites
We went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall at Liberty Square but all the buildings and museums were closed because of the Lunar New Year. All we could do was walk around the huge square and take photos. What I preferred was the National Dr Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, where we managed to witness the impressive change of guard hourly routines and learn more about this hero admired by countries on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.
Best Night Activity
Without a doubt, visiting the various night markets in all the cities we were in was a treat. It’s about more of the same thing but I somehow did not get tired of “night markets”. Maybe it’s the food, or the festive feeling or family vibes. I tried my hand at night photography handheld and found it challenging but fun anyway. Always learning new things about photography. By the way, photos in this post are not all mine but also Adelene’s.
Most Horrible Experience
We were brought to the Taiwan Glass Temple and Glass Gallery in an industrial area in Changhua county, near Taichung. We saw some pictures of this place on the internet and it looked impressive. But those were pictures taken at night. In daytime the Mazu Temple looked awful, an ugly and badly maintained glass paneled structure that had seen better days. I walked out as quickly as I walked in. A big disappointment. I did not even want to take pictures of it.
Of all the countries I would not mind visiting again, Taiwan would certainly be up there together with Japan. Taiwan is forty times bigger than Singapore and I love the space and can now understand why Stephanie Sun and JJ Lin can live and work there for many years without complaints. The people are gentle and polite and very helpful. My only regret is that I do not know Mandarin and wish I had a reasonable command of the language. I would have loved Taiwan much more. Nevertheless, God willing, I will be back for another visit.