November 10 – 18 // 2016
After just 3 months of settling into Paris, Will and I flew off to spend the holiday months in Taiwan visiting family and adventuring! My grandparents have been so kind to let us stay in an apartment of theirs, which has been uninhabited for two decades. With some renovations to the place, walking the door feels like stepping through time a bit…think new bedroom floors and a fancy LED-lit vanity mirror, but aged paint cracks in the walls and the original pastel mosaic tiles in the bathtub.
We love living here and have spent a lot of time walking around our neighborhood of 永和, in New Taipei City discovering small eateries and shops. The infrastructure is quite unique compared to the more modern parts of Taipei, because the streets here twist and turn into little alleyways that don’t make much sense in the practicality of modern city planning–but following standards doth not a special city make.
It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve arrived here, but I do feel that my Mandarin has already improved quite a bit with all the interaction and conversations with my family and Taiwanese locals. Growing up in California and not being a very good Chinese school student kind of stunted true fluency in Mandarin, so one of my biggest goals on this trip is to work on my vocabulary and leave with confidence in talking about more advanced topics and expressing myself. My grandpa and grandma speak so many languages between the two of them: Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka, Japanese, English, and French. Grandpa started teaching himself French at 70 years old (what!), and has had quite a blast conversing with Will these days. Grandma and grandpa both speak Japanese because of Japan’s previous occupation of Taiwan. They are definitely my language-learning role models. Anyhow, here’s a look at some of our first adventures here in Taiwan!
T A I P E I（台北）|| Y O N G H E（永和）|| S H I F E N（十分）|| H O U T O N G（喉痛）
The entrance to our apartment…full of history.
A busy intersection in our neighborhood of 永和.
There are so many lush green plants lining our alleyway, nourished by days of constant rain.
My grandparents in 1959. My grandma was 25 years old, the same age I am now. Time flies.
Intricate design and beautiful colors atop Dragon Mountain Temple (龍山寺).
Families, students, people both young and old came to pay respects to passed relatives and gods.
Each basket of these delicious xiao long bao dumplings (小籠包) costs ~$2.20USD.
I can never look back at American or French prices, dear god.
Love the English translations here: onion floss! The damn tastiest floss I’ve ever had😂
Sweet soy milk + savory soy bean milk + beef pie = my typical lunch
Taiwan’s unofficial national dish: beef noodle soup! It was my favorite food growing up.
Get the real experience by pairing it with bean curd, kelp, and peanuts on the side.
Another classic in Taiwanese cuisine: dry noodles with black vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil and chili flakes. Wonton soup, fish ball soup, a plethora of small dishes, and fried chicken + pork cutlets make this feast complete😍
The view looking out from Chiang Kai-Shek’s Memorial Hall. The building on the right is a concert hall and on the left a theatre.
“Blue sky, white sun, and red earth” describe Taiwan’s national flag.
People write their wishes on bamboo and string them up in random places in Houtong Cat Village.
Another way to make wishes: writing them on lanterns that you light into the sky!
Think Disney’s Tangled in real life😍 My family did one together and they had us do the cheesiest poses which was hilarious.
The fire is lit…getting ready for lift off…
Off she goes! We watched it fly higher and higher into the sky alongside the other lanterns.
Looking up into the sky, I was so happy to be surrounded by my loved ones in the country that my culture and heritage comes from. Despite spending so much of my life away from some of my closest relatives, coming back always feels so right and fulfilling. This will forever be one of my most important and favorite memories❤️