My Five Week Gap Year: Part 3
The location we stayed was in a very shopping focused area of Taipei, in the Ximending District. The streets surrounding us was an exciting place filled with little shops selling anything from shoes and accessories to books and clothes and so much more. We were fortunate to stay with family friends of mine in the Muzik Hotel which is part of several hotels throughout Taipei. This was our base for nearly three weeks so we made ourselves at home. We were lucky enough to be staying in a hotel that was comfortable when my travel partner in crime (TPIC) had unfortunately got quite ill. Here begins my first Taiwan memory, going out in the search of food from our local surroundings whilst she stayed in the safety of the indoors, not venturing outside for several days. This made an interesting trip to the doctors in Taipei, followed by plenty of rest in hope of any attempt to revive her from the horizontal position she’d unfortunately been in for a good while.
I did however, during this time of me being a partially solo traveller, attempt my first art gallery of the destination which was the Museum of Contemporary Art. On this miniature excursion out and about (trying not to leave my unwell friend in bed by herself alone for too long), I tried out Taipei’s MRT for the first time and navigated myself to the Museum. Upon arrival it was evident that most of it was being renovated and after walking around the two or so rooms that were open, I swiftly turned around, boarded the MRT for the second time that day, returning myself home having had a marginally unsuccessful outing. Nonetheless, as someone who used to have bad travel anxiety, I managed to tackle a short trip and a whole form of public transport all on my own and anyone who knows what it’s like to be filled with pure dread at the thought of making it from one place to another in an entirely new place will understand that this was a good achievement.
After my TPIC felt gradually better, we managed to go out slowly more and more as the fab duo we had been previously. We only walked down the street for coffee at first, or for brief browses around the little stores in the lively centre. Our discoveries were gradual as we found our way around Taiwan’s capital. We visited the local restaurants and went to history museums. I even saw a few Picasso pieces in one gallery, which as an art nerd, was a lovely surprise.
There wasn’t much we didn’t do in terms of being a tourist as seeing as much as possible was our aim. We ate at all different kinds of places, gathering together a few favourites. One of my most memorable experiences was seeing my family friends and having a dinner at the Shangri-La hotel. This dinner was quite surreal as it was 10 years prior that I’d been at their wedding.
GREEN ISLAND AND KENTING
We wanted to travel to a different part of Taiwan to see more and venture out of the capital and well, this was definitely an adventure to say the least!
We booked a hostel on Green island because it was said to have beautiful scenery with great snorkelling and diving, a definite change from the energetic dynamic in the busy capital. We started our day of travelling to the island taking about 5 different forms of transport in one day beginning with a fast train from Taipei down to the south of Taiwan. From there we got a coach, a taxi and a boat ride which we were extremely apprehensive about after reading horror stories about the rocky sea beneath it. Luckily it wasn’t that bad and after a full day of travelling we arrived in Green island.
The next morning was the point we realised travelling around the island would been an issue as it became clear that the only way of getting around was to use an electric scooter or motorbike. We proceeded on with a treacherous struggled attempt of starting one up using our collective experience of none whatsoever. After our anticipated failure, we headed back to the hostel to figure out our next move. Plan B came into action as decided to visit what we could in the places around where we stayed, doing the activities that were closest to the hostel. The absolute highlight of the trip was the experience of snorkelling in the fascinating coral reefs. The stunningly colourful underwater scene was thoroughly picturesque and truly made the trip to green island worth it.
A funny memory, was a night we tried to find dinner by exploring without the slightest clue of an actual food location, crossing approximately a thousand deserts and twenty oceans, miraculously stumbling across somewhat of a restaurant. Up to this moment we’d managed to figure out the language barrier, however on this occasion there was nothing we could work with and essentially played a game of guess the food. We came to a vague decision on our mostly estimated order and actually had a fairly nice dinner. From this point on, I decided that there was no use in being fussy when it came to trying new foods as a situation like this as it was eat or go hungry!
Another funny fond food memory was when we decided to go to a restaurant where we had to barbecue everything apart from the skewers themselves. It was quite an experience cooking everything from raw. Kind of made me feel accomplished when it worked and I didn’t walk away having poisoned myself with my own cooking (though I think thats pretty much mostly down to my TPIC guiding me in what to do).
Kenting was the next destination on our itinerary in the south region of Taiwan. This turned out to be a much more accessible place, with a walkable distance beach, shops and restaurants. We spent time at ‘Little Bay Beach’ swimming in the sea being taken with huge waves. It was the best fun and a good way to get a bit of exercise in. It was quite spectacular to be swimming in the sea half way across the world in the South of taiwan, as living in Brighton I could potentially swim anytime. However one downfall being there was the extreme weather. I had never seen anything like it, sun one minute and then a complete torrential rainstorm the next! Crowds of umbrellas still roamed the streets making the most of the busy night scene and street food stalls available. The beach holiday break in the middle of our city adventures was definitely a fun few days before returning to the capital again for our final week spent in Taipei.
Back in Taipei
In our last week before the end of our five week adventure, we did the things we’d saved until the very end. This included museums such as the National Palace Museum, Beitou’s hot springs, going to a cat cafe and running around trying to collect souvenirs. We tried to savour the last few days of our travels. We also saw my family friends again for drinks in one of Taipei’s highly classy bars. My last catch up with them was fun and a great way to say farewell with the end of our trip fast approaching. My TPIC and I, had what turned out to be a truly remarkable evening, the ending of which has been described to me as what I can only imagine to be a true quest of a journey back home to the hotel.
Soon after this it was sadly time to pack up and leave, boarding onto one last flight, this time back to the UK, taking away our unforgettable experiences. We had laughed, cried, God knows how survived and I will never forget the memories made.