During the rainy month of April, we ventured out into the lush state of Washington for a quick getaway. Discontent to linger in the busier city of Seattle, we instead made our home base on secluded Whidbey Island, about an hour’s drive from that great city. Surrounded by rolling green hills and towering pine trees, with intermittent showers and a moody landscape, we found ourselves at home among the whispering woods, waking to the cacophony of cheery bird songs in the early mornings. We took our slow, sweet time to explore this charming island, untouched by the frenzied environment that defines our usual daily lives. Here, one could breathe deeply, walk slowly, and absorb the ancient wisdom of the trees into our often unsettled minds.
When we travel, we enter into a different dimension—one that peels back the layers veiling our eyes—those layers that tell us our worlds are the only worlds. We bring ourselves—all of our hopes and dreams, disappointments and sorrows—all of our humaneness into a new world. And when we do, we find that though the world is the same, it is we who have changed.
On a recent trip to Taiwan, we got to take a mini road trip to Alishan near the southern part of the country. After landing in Taipei, we dropped off some luggage and headed straight towards 阿里山 (Alishan / Ali mountain). We took a few food detours along the way, so it was pretty late at night when we finally made it to our hotel at 奮起湖 (Fenqihu / Fenqi lake). I was super impressed by Tiffany’s cousin’s driving skills as he navigated the narrow and winding mountain roads at night.
Walking the streets of Shanghai, one may notice the people bustling past in rich garbs of fancy coats, expensive boots, toting quality purses—emblems of their high status in a diverse city. On the same street, an amputee beggar jingles a small bowl of coins in one hand, pulling himself along with the other while his body rests upon a wheeled wooden slab. Within one city lie two divides, two separate worlds that rarely, if ever, intersect. The superrich hurry past without a single glance at the minorities, disabled, and poor mingling along the margins. These are the faceless and voiceless of China.
About two hours away from our home base of San Diego lies an expanse of cacti, sand, and yes–tumbleweeds. It was here, where the wind swirls up colorful paintings with billowing sand, that Michael uncovered his fascination with the cactus. An interesting discovery, considering he spent most of his life in southern California, where there is no shortage of these funky-looking plants. On the other side of the spectrum, I freely admit that I have no great love for the desert; my heart is instead drawn to the cool shade of lush forests. However, I found an eerie, quiet beauty in the vast openness of Joshua Tree. Something about national parks seems to transport one into another dimension.
Sometimes life starts to get a little overwhelming. Sometimes, getting away from reality for a bit can help free the mind trapped in an endless hamster wheel of duties, obligations, responsibilities. It’s a way to usurp the days of routines, to recenter, and reset.
During our trip in Taiwan, we also visited 花蓮 (Hualien) with Tiffany’s cousin and his family. Hualien is located on the east side of the island and spans most of the eastern coast. It is basically a giant valley formed with the central mountain range on the west and mountains along the coast on the east. There are also lots of rivers, lakes, and even hot springs in the area.
During our Taiwan trip, we visited Tiffany’s aunt in the Longtan district (龍潭), which lies on the outskirts of Taoyuan city (桃園). The name came from the pond in the middle of the city, and it translates to “Dragon Pond.” The area feels very different from the busy city life of Taipei. Buildings are more spread out, you see a lot more trees, and people seem just a little bit nicer. However, the food is just as awesome! We really appreciate Tiffany’s aunt showing us around all these cool places.
Taipei Overview Post | Part One: Sandiaoling Part one of our day trip outside Taipei led us through a memorable adventure in the mountains. Part two will now bring us back to civilization, to old streets rich with history from early mining days.
Taipei Overview Post | Part Two: Shifen + Jiufen Yes, Taiwan has amazing food and shopping, but it is also a beautiful tropical island, replete with the kind of natural splendor one doesn’t usually find in California. Just an hour outside of Taipei, you’ll find hauntingly majestic mountains and unrivaled coastlines. Here begins my story of our day trip to Sandiaoling, Shifen, and Jiufen. Tis a story about foolishness, a broken camera, getting lost in the wilderness, and finally finding our way back to civilization and mass tourist crowds.