Friday, May 20, 2011

Taiwan Vacay: A breath of fresh air.

It was about a month and a half ago that my friend Liu and I losely begin talking about a trip to Taiwan. So when we both received 4 day weekends for Buddha's Birthday, we decided there would be no better time. Korea spring has been treating me well, but a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air had been a long time overdue.

To be honest, prior to the trip, I knew little about Taiwan despite it being just a 2.5 hour plane ride away. What I discovered was one of the cleanest and  most colorful places I have ever been. The people are beyond friendly, relaxed, and genuinely happy. I hadn't even made it to my hotel and 4 people had already initiated conversation with me.

Wherever I went, I felt I was surrounded by individuals able to recognize the small, but largely important beautiful things that make life so very special. This tenancy is contagious and so I just love being around people whom which poses it. Another thing I loved, and also appreciated about Thailand, was the toughness of the women. I love being somewhere that I do not stick out like a sore thumb simply because I regularly wear jeans instead of a skirt, refuse to wear 4 inch heels, am not scared of a bug and love the outdoors. These qualities, in my eyes, make me no less feminine. Unfortunately, I often feel Koreans feel otherwise.

The trip was particularly unique because Liu and I met four of her work friends that, like Lui, are from China and speak Chinese. Since Chinese is the official language spoken in Taiwan, I felt we were able to to experience Taiwan in a light off limits to many tourists. It also didn't hurt that our entire group was fantastic company.

I met Liu at the hotel late Friday night. She had flown in earlier in that day and had gone to bed for the night. Being the sweetie that she is, she gladly got dressed and took me for a mini tour of Taipei City. Of course, it wasn't just any tour. We started seeing people dressed in zombie attire and makeup everywhere we went. Suddenly, we found ourselves on a crowded street and surrounded by men in army wear and carrying guns. "What the heck?" we thought. Oh, you know, it just so happened there was a zombie flick being filmed. AWESOME.

We got an early start the next morning. After some tasty Taiwanese food, we took the bus to The National Palace Museum. Although it's considered one of the world's five most import museums for its 700,000+ artifacts from the Neolithic period, my favorite part was the gardens that surrounded the premises. In one of the ponds, these giant fish were enjoying a feeding. I couldn't believe how big their mouths were!

Lunch was nothing less than TASTY...

Slowly, we then made our way to the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. The  surrounding brightly colored flowers and perfect view of the Taipei 101 building are enough to make anyone feel tiny, but in a grounded, humbling kind of way.

Looks like two statues inside the memorial, huh? The guard is alive and wow, can he stand still. These men guard for periods of one hour without moving. I watched one's face for at least 4 minutes straight and never did he blink. The only clue to him being human were the beads of sweat sliding down his forehead.

We just had to take the popular trip to the top of Taipei 101. If you've ever heard that it's overrated, then you've heard correctly.

The next day was all about a bus trip to the old city. I'll let the photos do the talking because nothing I write could possibly do the sky, architecture, ocean, mountain, or market justice.

The third day was hands down my favorite. The group headed back to South Korea while Lui and I headed to Yangmingshan National Park. We ended up on a trail headed for Mt. Hsiangtien. The crater at the top was said to be a lake, but it turns out it dries up during this time of year. We didn't mind at all because, at the risk of sounding crazy, we experienced something much more special. We parted with the woody forest and entered a giant green, grassy area. To our right we could see a large mound that Liu immediately recognized as a grave. As we walked forward we also spotted a memorial stone that, in Chinese, said something along the lines of "live again." The grassy crater was beautiful, yes, but also very spiritual. I'm not religious, but maybe, just maybe, whoever it is burried, is indeed, living again on Mt. Hsiangtien. If so, he must be bringing peace to all visitors because Liu and I went silent for a good half hour, just soaking up whatever surrounded us. Oh yeah, and there were butterflies everywhere!

And that was Taiwan :) I'll surely return because it was absolutely impossible to see all there is Taiwan has to offer during such a short trip, but what I did see, I fell in love with.

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