After the Chinese New Year, my cousin and I had planned to travel to Taiwan. It was so cool to know that traveling in Asia, while in Asia, is extremely cheap and is a must if you’re planning to stay for a long period of time. This was the first time I’ve traveled without older adults in a foreign place. At least by now I am a pro at packing.
Taipei, Taiwan is a four hour plane ride from Shanghai. I was so curious to what Taipei had in store for us.
Upon arriving, I was so amazed that this island was a small hipster city surrounded by nature. The people were extremely helpful and kind and there were so many night markets (happy belly). The first thing my cousin and I did after dropping our things off at our cute little hotel was find food at the local market. At the market, I noticed that the average age seemed to be 20’s and early 30’s. Everything was very lively.
What I also noticed was that there was a large variety of seafood. How I regret not trying some fresh oysters while I was there. But the noodles, sticky rice dumplings and fried food was still amazing.
The weather there was more tropical than in Shanghai. Also, the pollution was not as bad. Once our tummies were happy, we planned on visiting as many temples as Taipei had to offer. We visited Buddhist and Confucian temples. This reminded me of my professors back home. Professors Lori Stewart, Pollard and Gastil inspired me to appreciate and love all religions and cultures. I loved remembering what they taught me and using that to soak in all I was seeing.
After my first half day in Taipei, we went back to the hotel and rested to start our second day in Taipei. Waking up to a humid hotel room, my cousin and I had the strength to head out to the natural hot springs and baths in Beitou and Yangmingshan National Park. There you could enjoy not only the hot baths, but nature sightseeing all around you — especially with the flowers blossoming.
Getting there was very easy. The metro system in Taipei is convenient and it’s only one dollar to get to your destination. In Beitou, we visited “Hell Valley,” also known as “Thermal Valley.” The valley has a history of more than 200 years. The temperature of Hell Valley is up to 80 or 100 degrees Celsius, so this is obviously not for humans to dive into and enjoy. This is one of the areas where Taipei gets its hot water so can enjoy hot baths. The reason why the water is extremely hot is because Taipei is on top of volcanic plates that continue to heat the waters in Taipei.
Taiwanese people were also not in the habit to bathe in hot springs, but during and after the war between the Japanese and the Chinese, Japanese culture began to flourish and Taiwanese became accustomed to bathing like the Japanese. You are able to enter public hot baths or slightly more private hot baths in hotels. Before my cousin and I soaked in a hot bath, which by the way are entered in the nude and separated by sexes, we took our adventure to Yangmingshan National Park.
At the time, I was not accustomed to using the bus system. Out of fear, we spent a little more money on our next destination. Heading up north from Beitou, our taxi driver explained what we could see and expect on our way to the national park and while we were in the national park. He explained how we could see monkeys, the hillside, geysers, waterfalls and the beautiful flowers that China has to offer. Once arrived, we embraced nature and a sweet treat of ice cream.
As we walked to the park, we tried to find the waterfall and hot springs we could soak in and enjoy a beautiful view of the national park. The national park is enormous. There were so many trails and signs that helped us decide what nature we should explore. We first tried to go to the waterfall. The sound of it was so peaceful, we could just sit and admire it all day.
After, we were so anxious to get in a hot bath and soak in more of what nature had to offer. We wanted to go to the northern side of the park called the Jinshan region. The park offered signs, which we followed, but we could not find our way around. We even went up this very dangerous trail. It was going uphill, with nothing to hold on to. Looking down, my cousin and I got dizzy. When we got to the top, we did not find the hot baths, but instead a great view of Taipei city. We then decided to head back to where we came from, which was even scarier than going up since we could imagine and picture how bad it would be if we fell down the hillside.
But I was also in love with the nature around me. This trip had me realizing that I could become one with it if I really wanted to.
Back to solid, safe ground and still anxious to soak in hot baths, I decided to try the bus system and figure out how to get to the Jinshan region. Once we finally figured out what to do, we found out that the bus to our destination and back was going to stop running in 30 minutes. We decided to head back to Beitou, find the first hotel that offered a hot bath and enjoy the natural hot waters Taipei had to offer. After relaxing in the hot baths, my tummy started to talk to me so we headed to the most famous night market in Taipei, the Shilin Night Market.
The Shilin Night Market was extremely packed and filled with delicious street food. Offerings included steamed bread filled with beef, pork, onions and garlic; fried seafood with spices; and cereal that was covered in liquid nitrogen so steam would come out of your mouth and nostrils when you took a bite. My favorite was cooked dried squid; squid jerky, I guess. For drinks, I had limeade, bamboo or sugar cane juice and taro (purple sweet potato) tea with boba (or bubble is what you should call it there). Even after I was quite satisfied, I kept on buying food and drinks here and there because I never knew and still do not know if it will be my last time in Taipei.
That is the bittersweet feeling of traveling, enjoying and loving the places you go, but always wondering if it will be the last time you come back.
The last two days were the same as the first. We went to a town right outside of Taipei called, Wulai. There our eyes were so amazed with the nature all around us: A tall waterfall on the mountainside amd a river where locals can soak and relax in the hot water. Wulai also has a lot of history. The natives living in Wulai are called Atayal and are one of the four largest native groups in Taiwan. Unfortunately we did not have time to see museums and visit the villages since we did not know what time the bus left to go back into town.
Next day, we headed out back to Shanghai. I loved my overall experience in Taiwan. As China, I would have never guessed I would visit this tropical city island. Things were cheap, beautiful and the people in Taipei were so kind. I would definitely say that this as a short, fun, and inexpensive trip that a college students, like myself, can enjoy with peace of mind.
Nasreen Nabizadeh is a public health junior. She is studying abroad this spring at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China.