Getting out of Taipei for the “non-city girl”
One of my favorite things about living in Taipei is, paradoxically, getting out of Taipei! Not that I don’t love the city, because I do. In fact, I was quick to discover that Taiwan itself is really a sweet little package of everything I adore about Asia… The sticky humidity, the kind people, the questionable yet ridiculously delicious street food, the vibrancy and aliveness that permeates through the jam-packed streets and across the smiles of strangers, and the outdoors.
The outdoors! Although I live in the biggest city in Taiwan and appreciate many things about city life, I honestly just don’t fit the mold as your typical “city girl”. I need the outdoors like I need a routine dose of spicy chili peppers. I need to be able to immerse myself in nature, go to the beach, climb a mountain, ride a bike, and just be able to be outdoors. As much as I enjoy the smell of stinky tofu wafting down narrow alleys in street markets, it’s got nothing on my love for the smell of the rainforest and the feel of waves crashing against my back.
And this is the real kicker for why I chose to move to Taipei. In the heart of the city, in the midst of traffic fumes and the faint smell of incense from a nearby temple, I can kick back at a small plastic table and indulge myself in tasty gua bao and a cold beer. I can wander narrow alleys swarming with friendly faces, street stalls selling everything under the sun, enjoying the smell of BBQ mixed with an undefinable funk. This scene is one of my true loves about bustling Asian city life. And, Taipei is immediately surrounded by mountains, volcanos, beaches, and small villages, nearly all of which are very easily accessible, and beautiful. Truly the best of both worlds.
After another high-impact week of science projects, art projects, drama classes, basketball lessons, dancing, shouting, playing chase, and listening to endless stories about flying dinosaurs with my six-year-olds, nothing feels better than taking a break and escaping the city to unwind and recollect.
Almost every weekend, I make day trips out of Taipei and explore other parts of Taiwan. I happen to live right next to one of the main train stations, so it’s easy for me to catch a train to.. well, anywhere. And that’s often what I do. I’ve been known to show up at the train station on a Saturday morning and essentially flip a coin.
I recently went to Fulong Beach, where my friend and I rented bikes and went on a four hour bike ride along the coast line. The views were spectacular, and as soon as we got off the beaten track and scrambled over some rocks, I found my perfect seat. Bliss ❤
I also recently went surfing, and had a blast. I had no idea I would enjoy it so much. We took a train to Wai'ao, a beach town on the East side of the island, rented some surf boards, and spent the day battling the waves. I'm proud to say I got up a few times, although I did get a couple small scars on my legs to add to my thriving collection. It revved up my engine to want to continue trying to surf again.
Last weekend, while everyone was hunkering down inside their apartments in preparation for this "typhoon" that was supposedly looming on the horizon, my housemates and I took advantage of less foot traffic and jumped on a bus to Yilan. The three of us feasted on some glorious Japanese noodles, and then visited some traditional Taiwanese hot springs. The hot springs were each dyed a different color because they had been infused with different healing herbs. It sounds good in theory, but definitely feels a little strange stepping into hot springs that are bright red (infused with rose). Caps are mandatory!
I’ve also gone hiking in Yangmingshan National Park, the biggest national park in Taiwan, Keelung Mountain, Elephant Mountain, and recently went wandering through some temples up in the ZhongHe Mountains.
In Taipei, there really is such a fine line between the "urban jungle" and "jungle-jungle", and it's something I find myself loving more about this place every day. There is still so much to explore, but the way I'm going (like a bat out of hell, but a relaxed version), I will see a lot 🙂