Taiwan is a gorgeous country not only in its architecture, but also in its breath-taking canyons. Taiwan’s nickname is Ilha Formosa which means “Beautiful Isle.” This country presents various contrasts from its skyscrapers in Taipei to its hill-top temples in the South. My grandpa and I visited Ilha Formosa in February of 2005 and those memories I have of this island will never escape my memory.
We flew on United Airlines from San Francisco, California, to Taipei, Taiwan, via Nagoya, Japan. I pity the pilots of those aircraft in that the must be awake for the majority of the 15 hours of flight-time. When we arrived, it was nearly midnight; after meeting up with my grandpa’s Taiwanese Friend, we secured lodging at the International Hotel and then drifted into peaceful slumber. Though I must say, however, that the matrices of Taiwanese beds lack much depth. The following day we explored a popular temple before the festivities for the Chinese New Year commenced. Later our native friend, Chunging, dined with us at a buffet which served exotic items such as asparagus juice and fresh sorbet, which happened to be chilled to the n-th degree! That evening we watched as hundreds of Chinese lanterns were lit and sent up in the air. I learned later that because there was such a great number of lanterns, several of the major airports were forced to close.
The next day we entered the more urban region of Taipei. Chunging bought us tickets for the elevator travelling to the observation level of the Taipei 101. This enormous skyscraper appeared like a square bamboo shoot and rose to a height of 1,671 feet. The elevator traveled at over 1000 meters per minute upward and 600 meters per minute downward; such speeds caused our ears pop extremely easily. The tower was surrounded by cloud cover that day, but the view was still worth the price.
After adjusting, we drove with Chunging south on the eastern side of the island to Su-ao, a port city about one-third of the way to the southernmost tip. This city offered a unique amenity: cold springs. In fact, if you wished to fill your bathtub with the cool, subterranean water, the water would bubble up from the bottom! We went to the market and found jujubes of 30 Taiwanese dollars (roughly 91 cents) per kilogram; our benevolent guide obtained us several. This fruit looks like a small pear and tastes similar to an Asian pear; they quickly became a favorite of mine.
The next few days we explored inland through the gorgeous canyons. Rocks showed their beautiful faces as the river water below eroded the next layers away. One formation resembled a man’s profile turned up-side-down. At one village, we climbed up a seemingly endless stairway leading up to a mountain-top temple. The view from such a vantage point was beyond description. A nature museum lay farther down the road; it contained several stuffed creatures from parts of that charming region.
After travelling back to Taipei, Chunging and his wife took us to the famous Lovers’ Bridge of Danshui. As we browsed the market there, we found a vendor who sold Turkish ice cream, a variety that is kneaded instead of churned. Later we strolled across the bridge and found a several painters and other various artists. One such virtuoso utilized chalk and pastels to sketched out my face. After visiting with Chunging’s family that evening, we slept our last night in Ilha Formosa. The following morning our flight departed for Los Angeles, California, via Tokyo, Japan.
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