Another blog post about Sun Moon Lake … or is it?

I’m not kidding anyone. This blog post is about Sun Moon Lake – only, through the eyes of someone who never saw its appeal until recently.

Usually when I hear of someone basing their travel plans around Sun Moon Lake, I would try my best to not scrunch up my nose and judge. It’s been done to death. Why put up with the crowds, and the horrible long-weekend traffic that can transform a one and a half hour stretch of highway into three, when there’s so much quiet beauty Taiwan has elsewhere? Continue reading

7 Less-Known Places for a Romantic Date in Taipei

Every one, in one small way or another, is a little romantic. Whether you are the type to wear matching outfits with your beloved, or just like spending quiet time with that significant other, it sure feels nice to get romantic once in awhile. For me, it’s about appreciating beauty and sharing a common interest with that special someone. So in the spirit of Double Seven Day (seventh day of the seventh lunar month also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day), here are my seven less-known (and low-cost!) places in Taipei for romance. Continue reading

Orchid Island (蘭嶼) – Island of Sunsets and Goats

July 2017 saw me return to Taiwan for a week of island hopping and scuba-diving. Starting in Houbihu near Kenting (後壁湖,墾丁), I boarded a boat to Orchid Island (蘭嶼). It was a beautifully bright and hot day, but setting my eyes on the island, I felt somewhat cool. To say Lanyu is green is really an understatement. Mountains covered in lush vegetation against a backdrop of the bluest of blue seas. I couldn’t help but felt immediately revitalised.

I was fortunate to have close encounters with the island’s numerous residents – a goat spent an hour relaxing with me and my partner under a shaded pavillion. The photo I took of its eye and the vivid scarlet sunset on the beach are two of my favourite shots.

Back in Taipei, I found myself admiring Jiantan MRT Station (捷運劍潭站), but unfortunately I had little time to people-watch and shoot at the same time. Next time, perhaps.

Jianguo Weekend Flower Market (台北建國假日花市) / Syntrend Creative Park (三創生活)

Summer of 2016/17. I finally found a Saturday to myself to stroll from my rustic neighbourhood to the modern tech mall, Syntrend, which actually has a lovely high vantage point to shoot. Highlight of the day was being allowed to sit next to the group of ladies at the market (pictured below), and having a stranger kindly take care of my things when I went outside to shoot the golden light over Syntrend.

 

100 Anecdotes: Inflation

In a quiet alley of Shida University district, there’s a shop that sells congee and ‘convenience’ noodles (方便麵). A single man in his 50s has been dolling these bowls of comfort food for years. But his business may not last much longer.

“The rent is getting heftier and heftier each year. Many stores have moved on and it may soon be my turn.”

I respond with a sad smile. The demand for larger western-style eateries come with the increasing international crowd. But what would local student life be, without slurping a bowl of heart-warming congee after a late night of study?

We took a photo, just in case it was our last time together.

 

 

Fei Cui Valley (翡翠谷)

Nature makes us happy. It’s why we seek the outdoors, and look for untouched wilderness. Lonely Planet’s coverage on hiking to wild hot springs as the latest trend has been picking up much interest amongst visitors to Taiwan, though these activities of finding paradise are of no secret to the island’s residents.

Natural Taiwan is really as good as it sounds. While some secret gems require a world of effort to get to, others are surprisingly accessible. It’s not everyday you come across newly uncovered rock pools and a waterfall metres away from a road, minutes from other popular attractions. Fei Cui Valley (翡翠谷) has been incredulously overlooked. Continue reading

I slept in a love hotel in Tainan, and it was the best place I’ve ever stayed in

At first look, Prince Hotel (太子大飯店) is not pretty at all. Fluorescent lights alongside chandeliers, a red counter to a green backdrop. The lounge in the corner is a couple of coffee tables and chairs, half of which are being used as a makeshift nail salon. Not far from its entrance are large signs quoting hourly prices. A telling sign of the kind of place, I have just stepped into. Continue reading

100 Anecdotes: Comfort in a Bowl of Congee

Ill and feeling sorry for myself, I went to my usual haunt for some comfort food. My small appetite fostered wistful thoughts for the owner.

“Your twenties and thirties are the prime of life – even when you’re not well. I used to spend all night out with mates, then work the next day feeling wrecked. But I could still do it. Nowadays my health is gone and all I have is this shop.”

Taking a moment to appreciate his words, I suddenly felt better. I finished my delicious congee, thanked him, and left to make the most of my prime.

Taiwan’s Abandoned: The Thirteen Levels

It’s impossible to keep abandoned places a secret when the structure itself is akin to an archaic fortress, sits precariously on a mountain face that overlooks the ocean, and also happens to be in close proximity to a number of major tourist attractions. I came across it almost like everyone else did; by accident, while on the way to other destinations, and because it really is that glaringly obvious. Continue reading

100 Anecdotes: 5am at a Taiwanese Breakfast Shop

One morning I found myself rising before the sun. Restless, I headed to a breakfast shop. It’s open from 3am everyday, offering handmade soy milk, buns and most importantly, you tiao (油條).

“They’re available from 5am only”, the owner said, as her trained hands rolled and cut dough. Bleary-eyed, I waited for breakfast and the sun.

True to her words, she placed the blistering curlers in front of me at 5am sharp. I hastily dunk them in my accompanying savoury soy milk. With every mouthful, the satisfying crunch and streaming hot liquids shook me awake. Far better than coffee ever did.

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100 Anecdotes: Things Weren’t Always Wonderful Here

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…When the KMT moved to Taiwan, they made it much harder for the locals here. They didn’t care for us. Their eyes were on China. They forced us to stop speaking Taiwanese, and they were prejudiced because we were educated under the Japanese system.

Though eyes bleary with age, he was sharp-minded and his hands didn’t shake as he unfolded the silk flag he had just purchased from his friend. It seemed fitting to give a foreigner the truthful rundown of Taiwan’s history as he presented the vintage piece.

Taiwan’s journey for democracy was turbulent, even amongst its own.

 

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