It all seems so distant now. Then again, it’s only been five months since I got back here in the Philippines. The memories become fresh and vivid once again whenever I take a look at all my photos – glimpses of my journey in Taiwan. I miss that lovely country – a place where I had done many firsts, seen many things, and experienced life in many ways. With all the things, places, and people I have become fond of, it has been a challenge to think of the top 10 things that I truly miss about Taiwan. However, when I recall of things past, these things are what keeps recurring in my memory.
Night markets are very popular in Taiwan. Each city (that I know) has more than one. I lived in Taichung and I was able to visit all four night markets while I was there. The first one was the Providence Night Market, a name my JTA-mates and I invented because it’s just beside our university of the same name. It’s the smallest compared to the others I’ve been to but it’s convenient and sells cheap but yummy food and nice stuff. The other night markets we went to were Dong Hai, Feng Chia, and Yi Zhong. These three are quite far, the last being the farthest. They’re also bigger and if not careful, I could have gotten lost especially since I’m not a fluent speaker of Mandarin. The choices though, are more diverse and my friends and I had a better shopping and food-tripping experience.
My university is located in the mountains so the paths are sloping upward. There aren’t many guards, only CCTV cameras all over the campus and black dogs who like following you when you least expect it. These dogs seem to be the real “guards” of the place. Getting to my classes require a 5-10 minute hike from my dormitory. I miss this place because there are days when there aren’t too many people around and I can take a stroll, alone in my thoughts and breathing in the beauty that surrounds me. I love the library with its private movie rooms, the boys’ gym with their nice equipment, the cafeteria with its awesome food, the bleachers at night, the bridge where a famous Taiwanese drama was shot, the automatic doors of my dormitory which unlocks whenever I flash my id on the sensor, and my dorm room.
Originally, I’m not a tea drinker because I prefer coffee more. However, in Taiwan, I learned to love this drink so much. Why? Because in almost all the restaurants I’ve been to, tea is offered for FREE! It was here where I was able to try rose tea for the first time. I think it looked lovely with the floating petals and its pink color. Milk tea, meanwhile, is really cheap. I liked this drink even before I went to Taiwan but while I was there, I discovered that milk tea was really cheap. A large cup is around 35-50NT only due to the numerous milk tea shops present everywhere. I think it’s the only shop that actually competes with 7-eleven and Family Mart in terms number. One of my JTA-mates orders at least one Bubble Milk Tea everyday while I only order from time to time. It’s because I love their Yakult drinks as well which were blended with fresh fruits. My favorite is our school cafeteria’s Peach Yakult.
If the drinks are that good, imagine the taste of the food. I love love love the food there – even the vegetables. I’m more of a meat-eater but there I learned to eat my vegetables because each meal always has at least one vegetable dish. In my cafeteria however, the meat is always accompanied by three vegetable viands. Surprisingly enough, I learned to love it because it actually tastes good. If this is how our vegetables here at home tasted even before I went to Taiwan, it would not have been hard to convince me to eat them.
Aside from this, I love their dumplings or shui jiao which are cheap and are of different kinds – pork, vegetable, curry, kimchi, and shrimp – and could either be steamed or fried. Aside from this, their hotpot or huo guo is really amazing with all the flavor of the vegetables and the meat together in either beef or milk soup. It is served on a metal bowl or ceramic bowl placed on top of another metal can with a burning flame inside. Thinking about it right now makes me want to eat one again. To top it all of, the drinks, rice, and ICE CREAM are unlimited. I can finish around 10 small cups of ice cream whenever we eat a hotpot restaurant
Another favorite of mine would be the stinky tofu or chou tofu. Unusual as it seems, I love the taste especially when its topped with vegetables and a spicy sauce. My JTA-mates can’t stand the smell but my nose doesn’t seem to mind it. Taiwanese friends are amazed when I tell them I enjoy it while the foreigners think I’m disgusting. Haha.
Then, there’s their bread. Who can ever forget about their bread? Bread shops in my country are nothing compared to the bread shops in Taiwan. They’re not only cheap but they’re so tasty. The flavor, the presentation, EVERYTHING! There are days when my lunch is simply bread bought from either of the two bread shops inside my university. I love the various kinds of bread with meat toppings and their donuts topped with dark chocolate. Sigh.
It was while I was in Taiwan that I discovered my love for travel. The realization hit me when I chose not to use some of my money for shopping but instead opted to use it to visit someplace else and try the things each place offers – whether it is a theme park, or a biking ride in an island in Kaohsiung. For me, that meant something because I really really really love shopping. I spend a lot on clothes but during that time, I was more than happy to give that up in exchange for great adventures to new places. Aside from Taichung and all its nooks and crannies, we were able to go to Taipei City and Fu Long, Kaohsiung and Cijin Island, Nantou’s Sun Moon Lake, Hsinchu’s Mountains and the Smangus tribe, Changhua’s Lu Gang, Chiayi’s mountains, and Taoyuan’s Hakka Culture. When I come back, I want to be able to visit the rest of Taiwan such as Miaoli, Hualien, Yilan, Tainan, and Pingtung.
(c) Jonathan Kuo
No one told me I was going to find you
Unexpected, what you did to my heart
When I lost hope, you were there to remind me
This is the start…”
– At the Beginning, from the movie Anastacia
Love is a river, I wanna keep flowing
Life is a road, now and forever, wonderful journey
I’ll be there when the world stops turning
I’ll be there when the storm is through
In the end I wanna be standing
At the beginning with you.”