Back to the Motherland Part 1: Ilha Formosa

On New Year’s Day 2016, I started the year off by making one of my New Year’s Resolutions to travel to a new country every year. And I’m proud to say that this is one resolution I’ve actually kept (I can’t say the same about my other resolutions, as I’m still waiting for these abs to come through but I digress…) I love love love to travel, to anywhere really but especially to different countries. There’s just something about boarding the plane in the familiarity of America and stepping off the plane into a brand new world that just takes your breath away.

So around this time last year, I made good on my resolution, traveled to a new country, and had one of the best experiences of my life. I got to visit the motherland, the beautiful island of Taiwan, and it was everything I ever dreamed of and more. At 29, I was pretty much the last of my family to visit Taiwan, and I had heard so many amazing stories from my parents, brother, cousins, and family friends that I was desperate to go and experience it firsthand.

From the minute I walked out of the airport into Taipei, I fell in love with Taiwan. Nicknamed Formosa, which means “beautiful” in Portuguese (in the 1500s, Portuguese sailors saw the island as they sailed past and gave it the name Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful Island”), this small but magical island embodies all that this word means. From the rich culture, to the awe-inspiring landscape, to the rustic language, to what is, in my opinion, the best food in the world, Taiwan does not disappoint its long-standing nickname.

For anyone that wants to visit Taiwan one day or is just curious about the country, I’m going to recap my trip in a series of posts and hopefully by the end of it, you’ll see why it’s a must-see destination on your travel bucket list.

Although Taiwan is not much bigger than the state of New Jersey, don’t be fooled by its small size. What it lacks in size, it offers in substance. Everywhere you turn, there is something new and exciting to be discovered, and I would recommend budgeting between one and a half to two weeks to visit all the most important places.

My family and I spent two weeks in Taiwan. During the first week, we had a personal driver who took us around the entire island. (Well, what actually happened was we were supposed to be a part of a larger tour group, but the other people never showed, so it worked out in our favor. Personal driver sounds fancier though lol.) Starting in Taipei, which is in the north, we made our way down to Chiayi City, where we strolled through the lively night market trying not to buy everything in sight, then we moved east to Alishan, where we wandered through many acres of lush green trees and vibrant flowers. As we made our way around the island that first week, we came face-to-face with a 130 foot Buddha statue at Fo Guang Shan, posed with one-of-a-kind rock formations in Yehliu, danced with the Taiwanese aborigines people in Sansiantai, and went on a boat ride across the jade-colored waters of Sun Moon Lake.

The second week, we stayed in Taipei and visited all of the popular sights in the country’s capital. We rode up 101 floors to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world, learned about Taiwanese history at the National Museum, sat in the front row at a “koa-a-hi” (Taiwanese opera show), took in all the bright lights at Ximending – Taiwan’s version of Times Square, and ate a whooole lot of stinky tofu.

I don’t want to give away too much too soon, but hopefully this first post gives you a little peek into the beautiful country of Taiwan. In Part 2 of the “Back to the Motherland” series, I’m going to dive deeper into the culture of Taiwan and discuss what aspects of its history, arts, traditions, and people make Taiwan so unique and special . Stay tuned!

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