This past week, during our week of vacation, CIEE took its students to one of three locations: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Gausu Province. I chose to go to Taiwan, so early last Saturday morning, I found myself on a plane with 22 other CIEE students bound for Taipei!
In total, we went to 4 cities: Taipei, Tainan, Kending, Hualien. We spent about a day in each city, going to museums, temples, beaches, night markets, and even one city council (in Tainan). Although Taiwan isn’t very big, since we got around mostly by bus, we rode for several hours every day.
Each city we visited had their own versions of the “night markets” Taiwan is so famous for, but Taipei’s were definitely the biggest and most exciting. I went to several, but Shilin Night Market was my favorite- seemingly endless stalls of clothes, jewelry, snacks, and boba all for dirt-cheap prices. I actually went there twice, once on the first night of the trip, and once on the last night of the trip, when we returned to Taipei for our flight home. Since we only had two nights in Taipei and I spent both of them at that night market, I hope you can tell that I really liked it there! I ate fried tofu, fried scallions, fried radish cake, you name it, and I ate it fried. Plus, I love bubble tea, and it actually originated in Taiwan, so I had no trouble finding that sweet drink in every night market! As a vegetarian, I was worried I wouldn’t find too much to eat at these night markets, since I had read that most are famous for their seafood, but I managed to eat to my hearts content at every market we went to.
My other favorite place in Taiwan was the Buddha Museum, which houses a Buddha’s tooth relic and aims to teach the world about Buddhism, all in a beautiful temple-like setting. My classmates and I were blown away by the expansive architecture and equal commitment to education and worship at this museum!
We went biking in the countryside of Hualien for about an hour, which was very peaceful and beautiful. Our tour guide told us a story about the nearby mountains: if you see them from a certain angle, they look like the profile of a woman, and many people in this region often tell this “woman” their hopes and wishes in the hopes that she will help them come true. We biked for a while, with farmland as far as the eye could see, cradled in a valley between several amazingly high mountains. I’d love to go back and explore that area more, but it was in a fairly rural area of Taiwan, so I am not sure that I will have the opportunity to return.
Taiwan is a beautiful place, but I am not sure I was able to do everything I wanted to do there. With such a structured tour, I spent a lot of time on the bus, and not very much time at all the museums, galleries, and markets which I find so interesting. I’d love to go back to Taiwan, now that I have am familiar with the area, and explore it on my own!