People often ask me what’s my favorite destination in Taiwan, and I always tell them the East Coast – the entire East Coast. I love buying a train ticket from Taipei to Taitung and spending the better part of the day looking out the window at the stunning passing scenery – the mountains dropping off onto the green farm fields and rocky coast, with the vast blue Pacific Ocean stretching out into the horizon.
But when I think of all my travels over the nearly 10 years I’ve lived in Taiwan, the places I’ve visited don’t stand out the most in my mind. My best memories are of the things I’ve experienced and the wonderful people I’ve met.
I’ll never forget my first trip in Taiwan in the late 1980s when as a language student I went to Alishan with a classmate. While stopping in the southern city of Chiayi for the night, we went out for an evening stroll and happened upon a neighborhood where a man had set up a huge screen and film projector in a back alley and was showing a Hong Kong gangster flick to his neighbors. We found stools, sat down, and started watching the movie with the rest of the neighbors, who with typical Taiwanese hospitality welcomed us and shared snacks with us. I don’t know why, but movies are much more enjoyable when watched under the stars. I’ll never forget the strong sense of community I felt in that cinematic alley.
Another unforgettable experience was participating in the infamous Beehive Fireworks Festival in 2002 in the southern town of Yanshui. The locals build beehive-like contraptions that launch thousands of bottle rockets at the intrepid – some may say foolish – participants in the festival. As the fireworks screamed by my head or exploded in my face, I had never felt more alive. The rush of adrenaline is almost overwhelming and definitely addictive. As soon as one volley of fireworks ended, I couldn’t wait for the next to begin.
My most recent memorable Taiwan adventure was taking my 16-year-old daughter on a whale-watching trip in Hualien. I’ve always struggled with seasickness, and the water was choppy that day, so I was bracing for an uncomfortable voyage. The things we do for our kids! We spent a couple hours on the water and didn’t see any dolphins or whales. But we had a terrific time standing in the bow of the boat. A little girl who stood next to us entertained us by screaming “Whaaaaaaaaaahhhh!” every time the vessel crashed over a tall wave. I learned that I don’t get seasick if I stay in the front of the boat and focus on the horizon. We can’t wait to go back and try again when the next whale-watching season begins.
Reflecting on these moments reminds me of how fortunate we are to live in a beautiful place with such a rich culture. There are so many things to explore and experience here. This explains why our July travel issue of Taiwan Business TOPICS is one of our most popular reads of the year. It definitely inspires me to get out more and see more of Taiwan.
American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei