Chuseok, which literally means “Autumn Eve,” can be loosely equated to American Thanksgiving. It’s a big holiday across Korea where people gather together with their families to pay respect to their ancestors and celebrate the year’s harvest. But if you’re an expat and your family is half way across the world, then Chuseok means you get the week off to travel!
First thing Saturday morning I packed my bag and headed into Seoul to catch a flight to Taipei. I sat next to a cute korean mother and daughter on the plane that gave me a cookie and wished me a happy holiday. My first impression after landing in Taipei was that it was so much hotter and more humid than Seoul. But the ladies at the hostel greeted me with refreshing watermelon tea and pineapple cake.
Taiwan is famous for being the birthplace of bubble tea, so as soon as I finished checking in I went to explore the neighborhood and search for some. Bubble tea shops are about as common as coffee shops are in Korea, so throughout the week we had no trouble finding cheap, quality tea.
All across Asia countries have their own version of Chuseok, and in Taiwan it’s called the moon festival. So on the first night we got together with the rest of the hostel, ate moon cake, and learned about how Taiwanese people celebrate the holiday.
On the second day we trekked across the city to take the Maokong Gondola up the mountain to a little tea village.
We wandered, found oolong and green tea ice cream, saw a giant spider, grabbed some food, and went to a tea house with a view. It was lovely.
Once we were full of tea and food we headed to Taipei 101, the city’s most iconic building. The views from the top were UNREAL.
Our last stop of the day was the Raohe Night Market, where we ate our weight in dumplings and stinky tofu.
Because our trip to Taipei has been mostly centered around food, on Monday morning our first stop was grabbing Taiwanese breakfast. We hopped on a walking tour where we learned about the country’s history and its many occupations by foreign powers. We ate grass jelly and beef noodle soup.
On Tuesday morning I had soy oat milk which was nothing short of fantastic, then went to go explore Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. We stayed to watch the changing of the guard, then grabbed bubble tea to fuel our hike up Elephant Mountain where we watched the sun setting over the city. After heading back down we went to see a temple, where we followed instructions made in broken English to burn incense and make our way around each of the shrines. The temple was a mixture of shrines dedicated to Confucius, Buddha and traditional Taiwanese gods and goddesses, so you could see in religious influences of the city’s various foreign occupations.
On our last morning we had our final Taiwanese breakfast complete with soy milk and one last bubble tea for dessert. Then we concluded our trip with a relaxingly painful Taiwanese massage.
Taipei was a great place for a short vacation and the perfect spot to visit for Chuseok.