Before leaving Taiwan, I brainstormed with the boys on how many travel blog posts I could write before it became obnoxious. Five? Ten? Fifty? But these past couple of weeks I’ve felt at a loss about how to articulate just how monumental this trip felt to me.
Good? Lifechanging? Nothing like “Eat, Pray, Love.” My answers have varied from food reviews to my adventures in a Korean bathhouse and while I can’t promise this to be coherent, it is my attempt to answer your question “How was your trip to Asia.” But mostly it’s just a giant photo drop.
12 hours after landing in Taiwan I lost my phone on a bus in Yangmingshan National Park. I was so excited to hike and see the sulfur pits that I completely lost track of everything I owned. You know, classic first time traveler. Looking back, it was a bit of a blessing. Without my phone, I was fully present for every part trip — except when the jetlag kicked in and I’d fall asleep on the subway — and able to overcome my nerves of using my camera at all times.
In four days, Emily and Howard whisked us everywhere, from Yangmingshan National Park for point-to-your-chicken-and-its-yours soup to the coastal city of Tamsui where we drank beer and walked around the city’s cultural center. We ate pork cakes and sweet wedding cake before taking the train back into Taipei for drinks at a speakeasy named Ounce followed by street meat. The following days were filled with cat villages, exploring the National Palace Museum, eating everything in sight (my favorite being the bread, custard apple, soup dumplings, and brown sugar cake from the local market next our hostel), launched paper lanterns together for the new year, and visited temple to make wishes before our trip. Taipei feels like someone built a huge city and placed it inside Jurassic Park, it’s the greenest place I’ve ever seen. The multi-dimensional apartment buildings and scooter infested city streets easily blend into the winding, cramped mountain roads as in five minutes you can travel between city and mountainside with ease. Well, Emily can travel with ease and spent her entire trip just making sure the rest of us were in the right spot.
Visiting the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taipei.
One of my favorite moments of drinking Guinness with the boys on Chinese New Year Eve, right before three of us went to see a movie. Here JJ and Howard are exploring Joe’s Hinge account and Howard is clearly delighted.
Highlights: Emily and her planning and thoughtfulness around our visit. She planned the cat village for me, continuously kept us fed on the best local food, made traveling effortless, and looked out for everyone throughout the trip. I felt grateful knowing my friend had such a loving partner to share his life with in Taipei. Other highlights: Trying chicken heart, learning how to properly brew and serve tea, getting my fortune told at temple, and realizing how amazing my friends are as they’d go in and out of speaking the many different languages they’d picked up over the years. JJ speaking Chinese AND Korean was a particular surprise since he said he was “passable” at both. He was not, he was excellent as was Joe who is now carrying on jokes in Korean.
While a little crooked, this last picture depicts one of my hands down favorite moment of the trip. Before JJ and I got on our plane, we all went to temple. As we walked through the traditions together, making wishes to the historic figures of Taiwan, I was stuck by how five friends, living five different lives around the world, were all together making wishes for our futures, individual and as a group. Being back with all the boys, it held an element of being home in a foreign country, and getting to wish them all well felt like an unexpected parting gift.
In total, this trip was lifechanging and thrilling and relaxing and everything in between. But mostly it made me proud and appreciative for this group that I get to grow old with and get to plan great trips to go visit.