Just four days after leaving Adelaide, I have settled in nicely in my new home. Everything seems familiar as though I’ve been here all along, but altogether strange and exciting! It may be too early to tell but I feel that I’ve made a most wonderfully correct decision to be a new resident here.
Look up Taiwan on a map and you will find that it resembles somewhat like an upside-down sweet potato. Small in size, the island is only 36,000 square kilometres (for comparison, that’s about the same size as Switzerland), but its geographical location allows it to boast all climates and an impressive array of ecological treasures to boot – much like Australia!
This may not be apparent though, when you first arrive into Taipei and admittedly Taiwan was once seen as the ugly duckling of the East. As with most cities that experienced rapid industrialisation and growth, they can become monotonous concrete jungles and Taipei is no exception. Coming in from Taoyuan International Airport, I found myself observing the roads through the eyes of a first-time visitor to Taipei. And it was definitely not the pretty picture most people would expect – big grey and drab highways and bridges with little greenery and wildlife. I passed old cramped buildings, derelict and blackened by the years, wondering how the hell they’re still standing. From this angle, Taipei leaves you with much more to be desired.
But blink and you’ll miss Taipei’s surprise. All of a sudden the city transforms into bright lights and lush green. To your left, the Grand Hotel stands traditional yet proud, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it’s much more than a hotel. To your right, Taipei’s 101 tower points to the sky like a modern beacon of promise that you’re about to enter a city full of life. It is this very mix of the old and the new, the contrast of great infrastructure and natural scenery, that the city first enticed me and still continues to do so.
I held onto this train of thought as I ventured about my new life in Taipei. I have moved into a comfortable apartment that comes with a free gym membership. Being on the fifth floor with no lift, I am in for better cardiovascular health and tighter buttocks and thighs. Despite the old-school apartment, I live in Xinyi which is arguably the most modern of Taipei suburbs, where many of Taipei’s contemporary icons, including the 101 Tower lie. The irony is not lost on me, but I am definitely thriving in such a diverse environment.