Hello, beautiful people!
Wow, I’ve been back for over a week now and I still haven’t shown you my photos from my winter vacation? Crazy!
In any case, let me tell you where I went and what I did, since I kept it under wraps while I was away. Photos from my travel will follow at the end of this post.
As you can tell by the title, I went to Taiwan. For those of you who don’t know where it is, Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China. Its official title is the “Republic of China,” or R.O.C. (as opposed to mainland China, which is formally called “People’s Republic of China.” I know, it’s confusing). Taiwan is home to roughly 23 million people, 90 percent of whom are of Han Chinese descent (meaning, their ancestors came from the mainland) and 10 percent are Aboriginal. The recognized language is Mandarin, aka “Standard Chinese,” but Taiwanese is also spoken as well. The name “Taiwan” literally translates to, in Chinese, “Land of the Rising Sun.” I find that rather poetic. 🙂
I stayed in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, for ten days. I had gone with my mom and sister over there after the school term ended. We hadn’t gone back in three-and-a-half years, and so it was nice to return and see relatives from my mom’s side again.
Since we had a limited amount of time to do things (only ten days!), we tried to make the most of it every day. We went out almost each day, whether to the outdoor markets to purchase fresh produce (including some “exotic” fruits that you can’t get in the U.S.), the millions of restaurants on every corner, every street of the city, or simply just the sights and sounds of the city itself. And the night markets are BOMB.
Seriously, my family and I, we ate a lot. A lot. Taiwan isn’t a food-hub country for nothing! The Taiwanese pride themselves in their love for food, and so we were spoiled rotten, with amazing and delicious dishes like oh ah jian (oyster pancake), dabing bao xiaobing (literally, “big pastry wrapping little pastry.” It’s carbs on carbs, yo), xiao long bao (a kind of dumpling which originated from Shanghai), and, my very favorite niu rou mian (beef noodle soup). We went to a ton of mom-and-pop shops to eat, and so I can’t remember the names of these places. But in any case, the eating experience was pleasurable, full of gluttony, but who gives a damn when you’re on vacation? 😉
Taipei is a touristy place, and so obviously there’s a lot of opportunities to shop. From the high-scale, trendy, and expensive international stores at the heart of the city to the outdoor, bargaining districts, you need to prepare your wallet from the onslaught of shopping. 😛 My family and I typically went to outdoor shopping areas, just because the bargains there are so much better (aka better deal) than at shopping malls that sold generic brands like Hermès or H&M. Crazy enough, my mom was obsessed with purchased slippers, the kinds that, generally, Asian households wear inside the house. She bought, like, eight to twelve different pairs; I’m not kidding. She and my sister also purchased a ton of clothes. I, on the other hand, did not purchase clothes or slippers; I wasn’t into those kind of things, but what I did purchase were toys. Yes, toys. I’m still a kid at heart. ❤ Like, I purchased a small robot that functions as a clock, as well as a Minion plush toy at Ximending (popular shopping district for youths), considering that I love Minions from Despicable Me.
But another place that I found myself going back to again and again was eslite, considered the best bookstore in Asia. And it’s true: it’s five stories of books and books and more books; I could spend hours wandering around in there and reading. I even bought a book and a notebook from there.
Additionally, we also went sight-seeing. The two big places were 1) Taipei 101 and 2) Jioufen/Jinguashi. To start, Taipei 101 is in the heart of the city; it’s the second tallest building in the world (after Dubai’s), and home to the fastest elevator in the world. It took us only thirty seconds to get to the summit; incredible! The view from the top was amazing; we could see the entire city of Taipei, as well as the mountains in the background. It was my first time there, and I was so glad that I finally got to go.
As for Jioufen and Jinguashi, they are areas in the mountains, just a while off from Taipei. In fact, they are located in what is called “New Taipei City.” Jioufen is, basically, a small, crowded touristy area that serves tons of local Taiwanese dishes and offers a wonderful view of the Keelung mountains. Jinguashi is a bit further up, home to a former gold-mining town that was once active in the early 20th century. We even panned for some gold there, which was a pretty cool experience.
But aside from going out and exploring our culture, we also at times stayed home in my grandmother’s apartment and learned about our culture there as well. I got to brush up on my Chinese a bit, talking to my grandmother, my mom, and my relatives. Truthfully, though, I didn’t really converse as much as I would have like with them, because 1) the language barrier gap; true, I speak some Chinese, but it’s limited; I can carry simple conversations, but not long, thought-provoking ones on philosophy or anything like that, 2) cultural barriers; me and my sister were born in America, and so we grew up with American customs. My cousins, aunts, and uncles are all Taiwanese, and so their perspectives/views are different from ours. It can be difficult to talk to them about things that they (or we) may not exactly understand, 3) simple shyness; we were kind of timid talking to our relatives, because we don’t have the confidence in our grasp of Chinese. It’s a shame. At least we tried, though, and so I think that we did a pretty good job keeping up our Chinese, for the most part, while in Taiwan.
I’ve already said way too much on this post, but that’s fine. My stay in Taiwan, albeit brief, was, in a sense, reminded me of the importance of my heritage, reminding me why I was proud to be of Taiwanese descent. It’s also one of the last times, in a long while, that I will be able to return to Taiwan, considering that graduation is looming near and that my future seems tentative right now.
I will end with a few photos from my travel. Thank you for reading up to this point, and I will talk to you very soon. 🙂
– The Finicky Cynic