Adventures in Asia 2008

my travels through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Archive for July, 2008

Ni Hao from Taiwan!

Posted by maudholma on 7 July 2008

Apart from the odd metro station name (it only took 4 days to remember and semi-correctly pronounce Zhongxiao Fuxing), “hello” and “thank you” are about the only Mandarin words I’ve picked up during 2 weeks in Taiwan. I have, however, become an expert in the art of pictionary-sign language-hand waving. Sometimes it works but since people here consider it embarassing or shameful to admit that they don’t know something, you rarely find out until afterwards even when it doesn’t! Although the Taiwanese seem quite reserved initially (especially in comparison to Filipinos) they’re actually very friendly under the surface and we’ve felt very welcome here despite the language barrier.

Apart from 4 days in the south of the country (S and I the main attraction amid Taiwanese trying to avoid the sun at all costs even when on the beach…) we’ve spent most of our time in Taipei. I expected a busy, modern, and unfriendly metropolis but was instead surprised to be met with a very charming city. It’s a place which has found a good balance between old and new – home to the world’s most reliable metro system, the world’s tallest building and fastest elevator, a 300 km/h high speed railway network, and designer malls filled with Lagefeld, Gucci, and Armani but also boasting a wealth of local markets, herbal doctors, early morning t’ai chi lessons in the park, tea plantations, hot springs, cheap clothes and accessories at various night markets, ornate temples, and the world’s largest collection of Chinese art and artefacts. A bit like the Taiwanese people, Taipei has a cool and glossy exterior with a warm, rich, and traditional heart.

We’re lucky to have been shown around the city by some of S’ friends and have because of this been able to experience things which we wouldn’t have seen had we been following a guidebook. The most exotic things have, of course, been food related: Dumplings, buns, pastries, soups, noodles, meat, fish, vegetables whether fried, steamed, cooked, grilled or raw. The only thing we decided we weren’t adventurous enough to try was “stinky tofu”, a local speciality which smells like someone dumped the contents of a septic tank onto a frying pan, but apparently tastes a little bit better. Maybe next time!

We leave for the airport in a few hours and I have to admit that I’m heartbroken to be leaving Asia, the continent that I’ve called home for the past 6 months. This trip has exceeded all of my expectations and has been hands down the most rewarding experience of my life so far. I don’t know if I’ll be coming back to Europe a new person exactly, but after half a year on the road I would be disappointed with myself if nothing had changed and I hadn’t gained some new perspective on life. If for nothing else, I vow to smile more!

All good things must come to an end, I suppose, but we still have 3 weeks in the US before this trip is over so there’s still a little more to go before we’ve made it all the way around the world.

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