Taiwannabe With You!!!

Had a quick visit to Taiwan recently. My wife and I wanted to give the family a short respite, something we haven’t done together for a long time. The last time we had a fam-time abroad was in 2013, when we had a quickie vacation in Vietnam. (Pls read: Vacationing in Vietnam.) This time, I wanted them to experience a different, yet equally beautiful and proud culture, that of Taiwan.

Our children, Bianca, Carlo – with wife Freedom and that cutesie-patootsy grandkid, Buchi – plus Alyssa and Joshua were all in on our planned trip. This time, they would do the research and planning for us, based on their interests, and our collective capacity (or was it incapacity?) for long, strenuous walks. Of course, we also had Buchi, that luvable lil grandkiddo (he calls me Lodi by the way, short for Lolo-Daddy!) who would have to be walking, running around, sleeping – yes, sometimes he’d have to be carried around – and all the pee-and-poo kiddie-stuff. Plus me and the wifey no longer have the young legs to go for serious long walks.

I have to commend Freedom, who took on the task as primary planner. And with the able assistance from Bianca and Alyssa, what we eventually had was a do-it-yourself itinerary. Cheaper, and better fit to our collective interests. I must say that they had great choices of places to see, compared to my selection during the first trip here with wifey, Wit, a few years back. (Pls read: Tantalizing Taiwan.)

Where did we go? We didn’t have to go far south or east as we did in our previous trip, as the kids found many interesting places to see near Taipei.

On our first day there, we went to see the majestic Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and witnessed the ‘Changing of the Guards’. The memorial is a national monument and tourist attraction honoring the memory of the much-revered General Chiang Kai Shek, the Chinese leader who served 5 terms as President of Taiwan.

Then, we went to see the Treasure Hill Artist Village. The Village is an elevated patch of old houses which used to be an anti-aircraft military station which doubled as a village for military families. With the tension between China and Taiwan diminishing through the years, it became a squatters’ area. The area has since been renovated and soon became a popular destination for artists and art lovers.

The following day, we went to the Houtong Cat Village, because my kids are all cat-lovers. Houtong is a village in Ruifang District famous for its love for cats. It used to be a booming coal-mining town, but it has since been converted into a tourist destination for cat lovers. If you’re a cat, come over to Huotong, where cats are treated like kings.

From there, we went to Jiufen, where everyone had a blast exploring the Jiufen Old Street. Jiufen clearly demonstrates the Taiwanese people’s strong desire to retain their proud heritage. Walking along Jiufen Old Street is like being transported back in time, except that the bustling alleyways are jam-packed with tourists. The Jiufen Old Street has a narrow main alleyway lined up with small food stalls, colorful tea houses, souvenir shops, and pottery stores. So much like old Chinese alleyways bustling with business actvities. Perhaps they can have a special alley there that will present old-style cooking, with the vendors in old costumes. Maybe they can also come up with a store that rents out old Chinese dresses for souvenir photos.

The next day, we went to the century-old Longshan Temple, another must-see for foreigners. It is an awesome place that’s always busy. Here, we not only witnessed people praying for good health and good fortune; we marveled at intricate wood carvings and astounding Chinese decors, calligraphy, etc. Nearby, we wandered into Xichang Street, popularly called Herb Lane, where we were intoxicated by the blend of herbal fragrances that my wife so adores.

Along the way, we also dropped by the Taipei Old Town Exhibit in Dadaocheng. Dadaocheng is a fascinating neighborhood in Taipei where one can experience how the people developed from the old traditions to the new modern ways. It is the first urban area to develop in Taipei, and it seeks to conserve old heritage and culture, and while embracing new, creative innovations. The exhibits serve to showcase the island’s development through the years, and promote the people’s pride in the country’s march to the future.

On our 4th day, we went to the Addiction Aquatic Development Center. Addiction, also known as AAD, is a seafood lover’s paradise. It’s like the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, although smaller in size and situated in a more comfy air-conditioned area. They sell different varieties of fresh fish, and you can just eat your heart out right there. We all had a great time, trying out so many different types of fish. But then, we just had to leave some room for dinner with my classmate.

Yes, that evening, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with an old PMA classmate of mine from Taiwan. Hsueh Chao Yung and I were Charlie Company-mates during our plebe year in the Academy. Unfortunately, he had to go back to Taiwan when our President decided to recognize Mainland China in 1975. With a heavy heart, Chao Yung would leave us on oders of Taiwan’s authorities, and it would take such a long time before we would touch base once again. Chao Yung treated us to a plush restaurant in Taipei’s East District, the newly-developed area in Taipei. We had a wonderful time reminiscing those good old days, and the kids were all in awe of Chao Yung’s stories. After dinner, the kids had a great time exploring the goodies and shops in East District.

Chao Yung regaling the family with his memorable experiences in PMA.

The following day, we went to Beitou District, where we had a great time with the Hot Spring Museum, the Ketagalan Culture Center and Library, and the biggest treat of all, a dip at the Thermal Valley Hot Spring. Buchi was having so much fun with all the kiddie stuff in the Library. The Hot Springs in Beituo, on the other hand, are a favorite among old locals. It is said that the hot springs can help cure a number of ailments. And I have to say that it helped loosen up my frozen shoulder. Now, there is more movement on my right shoulder, something that I had been having some difficulty with. You should try it if you’re in Taiwan too!

We had 1 more day to spare, but we decided that each one of us would be allowed to go to a place of his/her own choice. I decided to join Carlo, who wanted to explore the Scuba Warehouse, after which we went to a local sports store for more last-minute shopping. The ladies, on the other hand, went to explore Zongshan and other distinctive Chinese neighborhoods. For more shopping of course.

The next day, it was time for us to fly back home. Taiwan will always occupy a special place in my heart. Its grand monuments; its amazing balance of tradition and modernization; its inspiring green, lush forests and ever-clean environment; its friendly and helpful people. Taiwan, we’re truly glad to have visited you!!! Taiwannabe be with you indeed; as our airline of choice for this trip – Cebu Pacific – proclaims. And I shall always be grateful for the friendship and camaraderie that my old friend, Chao Yung, gifted me. Hope you can come visit us in the Philippines soon, mistah!

Till our next adventure.

For a closer look, just click on the pics.


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