taiwandering.

without googling it, can you picture where taiwan is on a map?

besides the fact that your favorite shirt was unfortunately made there, do you know anything else about taiwan?

before our detour to visit ryan’s sister-in-law’s twin sister (carly) in taiwan back in january 2016, my answer to both of those questions would have been no. taiwan was a country somewhere in asia that i would probably never visit and didn’t really have a desire to learn anything about.

and then we flew in from japan (thanks for the free upgrade to first class delta.) and quickly realized that taiwandering is actually a pretty enjoyable pastime.

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from the temples to the mountains to the beaches to the hot springs, there is plenty packed into this often forgotten asian island.

taiwan has an interesting history, a sort of back and forth struggle between china and japan, and the influence of these cultures is apparent. after coming from china and japan, taiwan felt like a happy medium. the chaos and the calm.

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our tour guide, carly, has been teaching in taiwan for the past three years and knew all the perfect places to take us adventuring tourists.

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a ride on the “fastest moving passenger elevator” to the top of the taipei 101 tower to take in the full scope of taipei. to take “the journey that’ll change your life.”

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building upon building squeezed together and butted up against the layered mountains. this has become a tradition of ours. pay the ridiculous fee to go to the tallest tower and stand in awe of the view from above. get our bearings. discover new things. feel small.

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taiwan has a lot of things to make you feel small. the mountains, the markets, the bottomless hot pots… we got lost in it all. literally…

a bus ride from the city up into the hills to find the hidden bayan wild springs. carefully watching the little blue dot on my google maps app as we tried to follow carly’s instructions to the hot springs.

we preemptively hopped off of the bus (at my direction) and found ourselves at the bus stop before the one we actually wanted. it was raining. it was cold. ryan was not happy with me. but we walked down the highway with our rain jacket hood strings pulled tight and eventually found the dirt trail that led to our magical forested escape.

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once you slip into that sweet sulfur stream, every care in the world disappears. the cool raindrops become a blessing, and the foggy skies meld with the steamy waters. i could have stayed there forever, covered in mud (said to be good for your skin) and loving every minute of it.

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the head-sized breaded chicken at shilin market stole my heart (or clogged it) as well. rows upon rows of vendors showcasing their hilarious t-shirts and kitschy trinkets. fresh fruit waiting to make your fingers sticky and hundreds of people moving together through the maze.

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and ending up at the all you can eat hot pot restaurant. (if everyone wasn’t going there, they should have been.)

imagine a buffet of meats and seafood and vegetables just waiting to be thrown into the boiling pot of broth at your table. endlessly. i’m glad carly warned me to wear a my fat pants otherwise i definitely would have left with my top button undone. yum.

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speaking of yum, my memories of taiwan all seem to come back to food. besides the hot pot and oversized friend chicken, there were michelin star soup dumplings and thai burritos and of course, the insane scallion pancakes that were right below carly’s apartment.

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there were pork buns and taro buns and questionable meat buns that ryan still ate. and to wash it all down, there was bubble tea. lots and lots of bubble tea.

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so in the end, i left my custard heart in taiwan and gained a hot pot belly. perfect for my new life of living in bikinis and sarongs on oahu…

thanks for taking us taiwandering carly.

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