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Trip to Taiwan

In late March, I had a chance to take a one week trip with my parents to Taiwan. I’ve posted some of the pictures I took on Google+ (I’ll get around to properly captioning them at some point), but the trip was very meaningful for me as it was my first trip back to “the motherland” in over twenty years.

830DD97C-8BDE-4594-BBB8-48741A40EEC9Being able to see relatives I hadn’t seen in many years (some, like my grandparents, who probably don’t have much time left in this world), hear their stories about me as a baby, see sights that I have only the faintest memory of (now from a completely different vantage point), be able to actually visit the graves of my relatives/ancestors and participate in traditional ancestor worship rituals, and visit places that I had only seen in photos was very moving. And, while it was a tiring trip (I think I got way less sleep during this “vacation” than I would have in a normal week), its one that I enjoyed greatly (see picture left :-)).

Word of advice to those who want to visit Taiwan: March is a great time – warm and humid, but not excessively so :-).

As for why you should visit Taiwan sometime? Here’s a quick bullet list:

  • Huge swaths of the island are virtually untouched by people – this is one of the few places where you can have a pure tropical environment
  • Delicious (and cheap) fruit and gorgeous butterflies (consequence of the tropical thing)
  • Excellent (and cheap) food  — especially in the night street markets
  • Very easy to get around – they borrowed Japan’s penchant for labeling everything and also Japan’s pretty effective and ubiquitous public transit
  • The National Palace Museum houses some of the finest Chinese art you’ll ever see
  • There are some very gorgeous locations to see: Taroko National Park, Alishan Mountain, temples galore, etc

So go: support the tourism industry of the place I came from :-).

Also, it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t make some overarching generalized takeaway, so here it is: Taiwan’s culture is a very interesting amalgamation of China and Japan. first reaction after clearing customs in Taiwan was how Japanese everything looked. Its hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been to Japan, but the way that the text/fonts look, the way the graphical icons and signage looked – looked very Japanese. The sophisticated subway system and high speed rail: also very Japanese. But, the rural areas surrounding the airport and the urban buildings (and the fact that Chinese characters rather than Japanese katekana are on them) reminded me a lot more of China. Throughout my trip, I was quite taken back by the unique Taiwanese combination of the two – a little bit of one and a little bit of the other – and it certainly helps that many of the natives can speak some degree of both 🙂 and that Japanese and Chinese tourists were everywhere!

In any event, great trip and I hope to repeat it with greater frequency than once every two decades :-).

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  • see sights that I have only the faintest memory of (now from a completely different vantage point)

    Haha, yeah, I empathize.  The first time I went to my grandparents’ house after 1995 was in 2003, and I was surprised by how much smaller/shorter everything was than I remembered it being.

    Sounds — and looks — like you had a good time!

  • Ben

    Haha, I remembered a temple being really far from my dad’s home… it was across the street

  • DmfK

    I’m
    from the US, been here
    in Taiwan since
    1996, and I gotta ask where you saw “huge swaths of the island [that] are
    virtually untouched by people”?  I live in Hsinchu, and other than in
    the high mountains and a few sections of the east coast, I rarely see any usable land not being exploited by
    humans in one way or another.  Otherwise agree with your list of
    reasons to visit; and interesting to hear your perspective on the Japanese look
    of things, only been there for a few weeks so that had not registered with
    me.  Oh and the best time to visit is October to early December,
    usually sunny and dry but not too hot, like a second summer to North Americans…

  • Ben

    I was on the East coast 🙂

  • DmfK

    Ah, that explains it all right — the East coast, especially between Hualien and Taidong, is indeed awesome.  As a whole Taiwan is definitely worth a visit, just wouldn’t want your readers to come here expecting that the whole island is a tropical paradise, as they are likely to be disappointed and some may hold you liable for damages

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