Radio Killed the Video Star

While I was in Taiwan, I gave a presentation to several students about my trip, and a few came up after to offer me suggestions for things to do on the last leg of it. One of them excitedly asked, “Are you going to visit Radio Taiwan International?! It’s the main source of Taiwan news for non-Chinese speakers!” I had done as much research as possible on media outlets to visit during my stay! How could I have missed that one?!

I still don’t know. Nor did I know, when talking to this girl, that a mere 48 hours later, I’d be a guest on that station.

With broadcasts in 13 different languages, Radio Taiwan International was founded in the mainland, originally as the Central Broadcasting System, in 1928. With changing tides of Taiwanese history came parallel changes to CBS/RTI; the 1937 Japanese invasion brought location moves to Hankou and Chongqing before returning to Nanjing with the Kuomintang government. Following World War II, the KMT government brought RTI to Taipei, where it remains today.

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Today, this independent, government-funded station serves as a primary source of Taiwanese news in languages beyond Chinese dialects, offering programs in French, English, Vietnamese, and more. More than 400 employees host live and pre-recorded programs, broadcast news updates, and edit material in pre-and post-production, amongst other tasks. Its English programming can be heard around the world online, and is broadcast on shortwave around the world to English speaking areas as far away as Africa.

I'm in there somewhere. Really.

I’m in there somewhere. Really.

One of their programs, “On the Line,” discusses current events, NPR style, in Taiwan and beyond. I spent my last morning in Taiwan as a guest on the show, discussing my trip with host Carlson Wong, an Indonesia native who has lived in Taiwan half his life. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome, and I’d love to do broadcasting work for RTI or a similar outlet in the future.

For now, being a guest’s cool enough. Take a look here for episode info, and to take a listen!

Until next time,

Lauren

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Panopticon of Contextual Kindness

“Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own”

~Carol Burnett

My last post was a love letter. It told you about the pleasure I took in meeting the Taiwanese people and reveling in their kindness towards me despite my nonexistent Chinese skills. I told you the experience caused me to think about how different I found their culture from that of the West in a way that was jarring, but admirable.

As I watched the Taiwanese line up to board the MRT, wear masks over their mouths when sick, and not sit in Priority seats for disabled passengers even when they’re open, I was like (I know. Smaht)…”Wow.” Can you imagine Londoners doing that? Wearing a mask out in public and cover the makeup they spent minutes putting on? Not taking a perfectly open seat on the Tube until someone comes along to use it? Lining (or, as the Brits say, queuing) up to board trains? I think not.

When I had dinner with my friend Sophie in London two nights ago, I told her all of this and asked her the same questions. We agreed that such behaviour seems unthinkable in London, and admitted that if a Chinese speaking stranger approached us with an address needing help to find it, we didn’t know if we would have stopped to walk them there the way that Chinese couple did for me. We also wondered where such inherent social gestures come from. With certain behaviors so ingrained in our subconscious, are we programmed by location to act like our neighbors? Would these brash, ironic Londoners think-and act-differently if everyone around them did?

In college, I minored in Sociology. I’ve always been fascinated by group mentalities and how they influence behavior, about how desire to conform outweighs anything else one might instinctually want. Michel Foucault’s Panopticon is all too familiar to me following my year at LSE, and after getting bashed over the head with it, the concept-that the mere chance you’re being watched all the time is enough to self-modify your behavior-is one that makes perfect sense. Each culture has its own panopticon, its own set of unspoken rules you’re born into and grow up absorbing. And fear of breaking one of these rules-and the social exclusion that follows-causes people to self-police. A travel blog’s not the right outlet to write a research paper on the topic, but the idea-that certain group mentalities breed corresponding behavior-is one that’s on my mind a lot after this trip.

Even so, I wonder whether I’m being too harsh on London. I don’t disagree with this years-old research that travel on the Tube makes Londoners more aggressive-you try 30 minutes on that thing without wanting to punch the person in front of you!

Still, in the past 48 hours, I’ve seen two strangers help a crying school kid who twisted their ankle onto the Southeastern train I was riding on and call a doctor; had a Starbucks barista ask how my day was going; and seen more than one Tube rider offer their seat to someone who looked like they needed it more. I doubt these incidents are suddenly popping it up. I think that after visiting Taiwan, I notice them more, just as I no longer run to catch trains where another one’s coming in a few minutes or have zero patience when commuting in the morning (it’s somewhere around 10% now. On a good day ;) )

Pollyanna? Maybe. But when you’ve repeatedly had urban strangers hold out their hands to you despite major language/cultural barriers, it’s hard not to be.

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Top 10 Babel/Good Samaritan Taiwanese Moments

“In our evolution language has been the greatest single contribution to our understanding and misunderstanding”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

After a whirlwind trip to Taiwan that left me with some fantastic memories, I made it back to London yesterday. I’m profoundly grateful for my experience, and throughout the trip I kept laughing at how I had worried beforehand that I might get bored being on such a “small” island for 10 days. I left with a laundry list of unaccomplished goals personally and professionally. I want to do everything I can to come back ASAP, and if I can somehow keep this ambassadorship going beyond a 10-day trek, I want to make it happen.

But let’s be real: the sunrises, mountains, people, and food aren’t all there is to travel! If I told you constantly how amazing this trip was, would you believe me? Would you wonder about any of the barriers I hit navigating a foreign country around the world where I don’t speak the language alone? About the jet lag that’s been so bad the past two days that it’s left me in tears? About being so thankful to have an unmatched travel experience but wanting to be home at the same time?

If this blog has been more descriptive than narrative, I’m sorry. I don’t tend to like books that describe, describe, describe without actually telling a story. I want dialogue, and lots of it! The problem is that with me not speaking more than two words of Chinese, there wasn’t much dialogue to be had on this trip.

There were, however, more moments of misunderstanding on my part, with even more moments of kindness on the Taiwanese’s part. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of Top 10 moments from this trip, complete with a group of total strangers with no obligation towards me going out of their way to be good people for no reason. If it restores your faith in humanity a little, then writing this has been worth it:

10) Babel: I am unsure of where I am supposed to meet Portnoy Zheng at the Association of Digital Culture, Taiwan‘s office and, on only my second day in town, have no idea how to get there.

Good Samaritan: The National Youth Commission lets me call Portnoy from their office using their phone (so I don’t have to pay to use my own internationally)-and I find out that his office number is the one next to their own.

9) Babel: I have the name of my second hostel written down in Chinese, but not in English-which proves to be a problem when trying to locate it my second night in the dark.

Good Samaritan: An older couple spends at least 10 minutes, if not more, helping me locate my hostel despite speaking less English than I do Chinese after I show them the address and can’t do any more than shrug, point, and say, “Thank you.”

8) Babel: I pay 100 NTD at Starbucks to use their WiFi, only to find out upon trying to log in with it that it requires a Taiwanese cell number that I don’t have.

Good Samaritan: A fellow Italian-American who does frequent business in Taiwan lets me enter his cell number so that I can use the Internet I’ve paid for.

7) Babel: On the bus from Chiyai to Alishan, I only have a 500 NTD bill, and the bus driver (who doesn’t speak English) wants exact change.

Good Samaritan: Seeing the confusion, a fellow passenger, who also doesn’t speak English, offers me five one hundreds bills in exchange for my larger bill so that I don’t have to go back off the bus to make change.

6) Babel: I have no idea how to get from the bus stop to my hotel (Alishan House) once we get up the mountain.

Good Samaritan: another fellow passenger, bilingual in Chinese and English, asks the bus driver in Chinese how to get there. When I tell her I had wanted to call the hotel myself but was worried they wouldn’t speak English, she says, “Oh, that’s okay! One of us can call for you!”

5) Babel: While packing, it somehow slipped my mind that waking up at sunrise in the mountains-in November-means it will be cold. As I stand in the lobby of my Alishan hotel waiting to go see their famous sunrise, I realize I’m in for a rough few hours.

Good Samaritan: A woman at my hotel, there with her 81-year-old mother, remembers me from the shuttle to our hotel the day before and frowns at my light windbreaker. When I tell her it’s the warmest thing I’ve brought, she runs back up to her room to give me one of her own down jackets to where. I shudder (literally) to think what that sunrise would have felt like without it.

4) Babel: Despite arriving 30 minutes early for my bus from Alishan to the Chiyai High Speed Rail, the bus takes off without me at 4:40 pm (since it was a much larger bus than the one I’d taken up the mountain the day before, I had seen it there, but assumed it was for a different group). It is the last bus back down to Chiyai for the day, and I don’t have a room booked at the (very expensive) hotel I’ve stayed at in Alishan the night before.

Good Samaritan: A woman in 7-11 tells me, in broken English, that I can take another bus at 5:10 pm that will involve one switch, but will also be cheaper and have more room. She shows me the schedule and exactly where to wait.

3) Babel: Despite leaving over an hour for me to travel across Taipei from my hostel to National Chengchi University to speak with students, I miss my bus stop after not hearing the English pronunciation of it and get trapped on a 50-minute ride back in and out of the city. This makes me almost a full hour late for my visit.

Good Samaritan: a Korean student at NCU overhears me asking the bus driver (who can’t speak English) where we’re going and, seeing me get visibly upset, tells me I can follow him off the bus when we get off at that stop. He shows me a map of where I need to be, asks me questions about my visit, and directs me to the correct building. Horribly embarrassed that I’ve made these students wait so long, I approach the room with trepidation, knowing they have every right to be mad at me. To my surprise, they are more than gracious, and what was scheduled to be a 30 minute chat about studying media in Taiwan goes on for 90 minutes.

2) Babel: After assuming that cab drivers in Taiwan at least know the names of major government buildings in English, I get dropped off at the wrong address twice on my way to a meeting at the National Youth Commission.

Good Samaritan: With no Chinese translation for the address written down, a woman on the street directs me to the police station, where a group of officers looks up the address in Chinese for me and takes me-in a police car-to my meeting. Meanwhile, after the first cab driver drops me off at the MRT station instead of the NYC office, he apologizes profusely for not speaking English, saying over and over, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

1) Babel: I lock myself out of my hostel bedroom on my way to the shower in a daze the morning I’m supposed to check out.

Good Samaritan: One of the managers walks through pouring rain from the other building to mine in order to key me back into my room.

Special shout out: After my 13 hour flight from Guangzhou and a 17 hour layover between Taipei and Guangzhou, my cab driver and I get stuck in three hour traffic from Heathrow to my house last night. Both of us hold our tongues despite being beyond miserable, and upon arriving at my house/helping my luggage out of the car, he kisses my cheek and says, “Get some sleep.”

I could have spent this post gushing about how utterly lovely the Taiwanese people-and (most) British cab drivers- are, but that wouldn’t be honest about the pitfalls of this trip. And I could complain about all the things that went totally wrong, but that would be a disservice to how the people of Taiwan went out of their way to help me. The island is known for its helpful ways and is often referred to as the “heart of Asia.” It’s not difficult to see why after my trip.

There’s an aspect of my life in London where I’ve had the feeling lately that certain people are only nice due to ulterior motives. They mean well, but anytime there’s something unsaid behind the curtain-money, religion, whatever-it leaves me questioning exactly why they’re being so kind, and whether it’s me they truly care about, or about that nagging motive.

There is no motive behind Taiwanese kindness; it’s simply who they are. And for that reason, it’s not a chore for me to use my trip to promote the island overseas as a destination for tourists and professionals alike. On the contrary, Taiwan is a hidden gem I think the world should know better. If you’re going to get hopelessly lost in a place where you don’t speak the language, take my advice and do it in Taiwan. You won’t get lost amongst a kinder group of strangers.

Lesson No. 8: When You Interview for a Job, Playing Interviewee’s a Fun Change

The past two days have been a whirlwind.

I had a blast playing Taiwan tourist for five full days, but I was starting to worry that I’d lost sight of the real reason for my trip. I came here through the NYC to play, but also to work . Since I’m passionate about media in many forms, I’m lucky to work in a field that I love. Taiwan’s status as Asia’s most free, crowded media market is what drew me to the island, and since all of my meetings with various outlets were scheduled for mid-week this week, it seemed a long way away. But the last 36 hours have more than made up for the slow start!

Party rockin’

Yesterday began at 10 am with rehearsals for the NYC’s Youth Trekkers’ Party. Myself and three other trekkers gave presentations on our trip to a group of students, several of whom came up to us after to ask questions and even offer gifts, including postcards and pictures. I remember how I was going to assemblies at that age and was worried I’d have a tough crowd. But these kids were more than generous, and I (truly) don’t think they were faking it! Since my Chinese is still sorely lacking, I had an interpreter who translated my presentation for me. Calysta, who recently graduated from university and is now job-searching, has studied in Norway and Denmark and told me she’d love to move to London someday. I warned her that Londoners might not be as patient with her as the Taiwanese have been to me-but I think she’s up to the challenge :)

Standing with a life size poster of myself at the Youth Trekkers’ Party. That was a sight to see!

Since my itinerary revolves around media, I had several members of the press approach me after my talk to interview me on camera and for print! Haven’t had time to search for them yet, but I was interviewed by media outlets including United Daily News and an online video station. Much as I love interviewing people for a living, it was great to be the interviewee. I loved chatting about my trip so far and sharing my experience in Taiwan! The other ambassadors were interviewed by several of the different media outlets as well, and we spent the hour following the party chatting with another reporter for a special feature on our trips that will be published in December in a Chinese newspaper.

Being interviewed by United Daily News after my Youth Trekkers presentation.

All of us during our group interview

After that interview, I booked it to City Hall, where I headed for the headquarters of Cubie to meet one James Hill. Referred to as “the man” by The Next Web Asia Editor Jon Russell, James works as the International Messenger at Cubie, a 500 Startup that is quickly growing throughout Asia. A native Londoner who moved to Taiwan to teach English, worked for their government, earned his MBA, and is now the face of Taiwanese enterprise, James knows how to make things happen. He hosted a startup drinks party at On Tap last night to introduce me to his contacts over here. His help was much appreciated-not only did I make great contacts including Financial Times correspondents and a swarm of Canadians-the 2 for 1 pasta night, nachos, and pear Rekorderlig with the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in the background were just what I needed for a touch on home on both sides of the pond :)

Maybe that Rekorderlig’s stronger than I thought. Maybe it’s the fact that I continue to run around town on no food or sleep. Regardless, it’s safe to say that today didn’t get off to the best start. Leaving my hostel in plenty of time to make my talk with students in the International Masters Program in International Communications Studies at National Chengchi University (or so I thought), I missed my bus stop when I couldn’t understand the English pronunciation and/or was in too much of a daze to do so. The result? I ended up riding the bus in a loop back onto the freeway, past Taipei 101, and back out past the zoo and-finally-onto NCU. Nice, Lauren.

Thankfully, even being (far too) fashionably late wasn’t enough to deter these students. What was scheduled to be a 30 minute chat with three Masters candidates turned into a 90 minute conversation that included IMICS Chairperson Yu-li Liu and another photo shoot that will accompany an article on my visit to go up on the website! I loved getting the students’ candid ideas about Taiwanese media. Since NCU was originally a KMT school that was moved from mainland China to Taiwan following the war, it’s often assumed that the school continues those ties. Richard, a student who’s worked as a journalist in Scotland and Saudi Arabia, told me, “The media [in Taiwan] is diverse and very creative. It’s Chinese democracy…the chance to study and learn about mainland China from the outside looking in.”

Cathy, who isn’t an NCU student but joined the conversation upon overhearing, has been educated in mainland China and Singapore. She added that her quantitative education in public opinion polls left her yearning for more qualitative analysis, as did an internship with the Communist Central China TV. All four participants-Richard, Cathy, Ruby from Taiwan, and Anna from Russia-agreed that when it comes to critiquing the mainland, Taiwan is far more assertive than neighboring Hong Kong. But they also agreed that the quality of reporting isn’t always there. “There’s not a lot of crime in Taiwan,” Richard explained, “So they need stories to fill air time. They all report things the same way, and there are too many channels.”

Chili Hu agrees. It’s the reason he works with PeoPo-the Taiwanese citizen journalism platform that served as the inspiration for my trip. Chili told me today that when it comes to Taiwanese media, quantity is far from quality. With 23 million citizens and 100 TV channels, Taiwan’s the most competitive TV market in Asia. Reporters Without Borders ranks Taiwan No. 1 in Asia for Freedom of the Press…but Edeman Asia-Pacific ranks Taiwan last in Asia for media credibility, at only 1%. Chili explained that in today’s digital age, grassroots journalism’s easier than ever, and while PeoPo hasn’t existed for long, its mark on Taiwanese journalism has been made.

PeoPo’s name stands for “People Post”—in Chinese dialect, that translates to “A smart way of doing things.” Their citizen journalists all volunteer for PeoPo with regular jobs ranging from teachers to bus drivers on the side. Lest you think it’s hard to entice people to participate, the opposite is true-Chili says they receive multiple applications a day, even years after setting up. All PeoPo applicants must endure ID authentication to become citizen journalists to ensure their credibility. PeoPo never edits its content, but users are required to report stories that they believe are incorrect or inappropriate.

With their reputation preceding them, that has rarely (read: almost never) had to happen. Citizen reporters are held accountable by providing their official authenticity cards to prove their identities, and 89% of reports hold college and/or graduate degrees. 48% are students, allowing them to gain valuable experience producing content for a platform that receives 952, 018 unique visitors to its site per month. So far, 6, 233 citizen journalists have produced 76, 147 news stories total. So while Chili acknowledges that this model wouldn’t work in commercial form because it eschews making money to the point of not even copyrighting material (which means the mainstream media often steals their reports without crediting them), it is nonetheless a breath of fresh air in commercial media with so little credibility that Chili says reporters are “thought of as actors or models.”

After visiting PeoPo, I received a very warm welcome (see above) from Taiwan Indigenous TV! Their Program Department Director, Maraos, showed me around and gave me an overview of their work producing news and lifestyle content related to the 14 indigenous tribes that inhabit Taiwan. Since English was a barrier, and I had no interpreter, the more in-depth conversation I had hoped for didn’t happen on this trip, although Maraos and I agreed to shoot for another one shortly. I told him how admirable it is that TITV exists at all. A year at LSE, where post-colonalism’s the topic du jour, taught how problematic it is that minority groups, especially the indigenous, are given no representation at all, effectively shutting them out of society. The fact that Taiwan’s media market includes channels such as TITV and Hakka TV that address issues impacting these minority populations, speak in their native dialects, and feature talent that looks like them is a major achievement, and the awards that both stations have, as well as PeoPo, are a testament to their quality. And in a population as diverse as Taiwan’s, both historically and today, this high quality programming confirms that the media market’s large size includes something for everyone.

My day ended as I met with Jessie Shih, deputy director of Public Television Service Foundation’s International Department as well as Taiwan Macroview TV. It was a fantastic conversation with far too many off the record quotes. Suffice to say, your takeaways should be that PTS imports fantastic documentaries from all over the world on topics ranging from assisted suicide in Switzerland to the legacy suffered by the children of Hitler’s nazis-a testament to how topics that are taboo almost everywhere find a place in Taiwanese media. PTS is also the largest buyer of BBC material, and they also work closely with WGBH in the US/Boston. Jessie recently returned from London, and upon hearing that my LSE Masters program was only one year, she asked how I managed to go to school and have a life (HA!). She also encouraged me to pursue a position such as hers behind the scenes in order to get more women at the helm of news. But I think your favorite tidbit will be Jessie’s thoughts on Downton Abbey. “I hate it,” she said. “It’s become so soap-y. But I still watch it!”

Don’t lie. You know you do too :)

Until tomorrow,

Lauren

Lesson No. 7: Din Tai Fung is Worth the Hype

I admit it: when it comes to food, I’ve been an ugly American during this trip. Rushing to catch subways and trains, make tours on time, and get to meetings early has left me little time to eat. So rather than sitting, relaxing, and taking in Taiwan’s status as one of the world’s hottest culinary spots, I’ve spent way too much time grabbing Cheeto’s, crepes, and spicy McChicken sandwiches to eat on the go.

I made up for that today.

The legend.

If you’re a foodie, you know Din Tai Fung. Ever since the New York Times named it one of the world’s best restaurants in 1993 and it later became the first Taiwanese restaurant to earn the coveted Michelin Star, this place has been a legend. Long before I left for Taiwan and memorized the name, all I had to do was tell friends, “I’m gonna eat at that dumplings place” and they knew exactly what I meant. Although Din Tai Fung has branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, California, and elsewhere, the original restaurant is right here in Taipei’s Daan District. Tourist that I am, I had every intention of heading to that one today as my main destination; rather than eating to get somewhere else, I wanted the restaurant to be the attraction. But after reading that the original Din Tai Fung, according to TripAdvisor reviewers, comes second to the restaurant in Taipei 101-and that the latter is the #1 rated restaurant in Taipei according to those readers-I headed to that one today.

Din Tai Fung’s mascot. Once you see this guy, you know you’ve arrived!

Located on the bottom floor of Taipei 101′s massive mall, I was prepared for a long wait and was surprised to be seated right away. I’d read that the original Din Tai Fung has minimalist decor, but the one in Taipei 101 is quite nice, and its larger size-with less wait time-attracted me to this location as well. The menu, with an English translation I appreciated, was far too extensive to pick just one dish. Desperate to try beef noodle soup, I ordered a bowl. And after a TripAdvisor reviewer raved about the pork truffle dumplings, I gave those a try too.

Braised beef noodle soup and pork truffle dumplings. Deliciousness.

Verdict: If you head to Taiwan, Din Tai Fung is a must. The beef noodle soup was spicy without being too much, and the braised beef was expertly cut. As for the pork truffle dumplings-that reviewer was right. The truffle sauce, imported from Italy, melts in your mouth and adds just enough flavor without overpowering the pork. The soup and five dumplings were more than enough to satisfy this hungry diner, and at 726 Taiwan New Dollars-equal to 25 US Dollars-it’s a small price to pay for such a great meal at one of the world’s best.

Ready to dig in!

I think my obsession with Spicy McChicken is done; after eating at Din Tai Fung, it’ll be tough for the endless amount of dining options here in Taiwan to measure up. There’s another Michelin restaurant on the same floor of Taipei 101, and I hope to try it before I ship out late this week.

Even so…something about this being located at my MRT exit makes me smile :)

Lauren

Lesson No. 6: The World Really is Smaller Than You Think

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living”

~Anais Nin

It’s Monday afternoon at 2 pm my time, and since I didn’t post last night, it looks like today will be a double header. I’ve got four days left in Taiwan before heading back to London, and they’re sure to be full on: I’ll spend Tuesday morning/afternoon with the National Youth Commission giving a presentation on my experience to Taiwanese students and rehearsing beforehand. Then, I’ll head to On Tap for a gathering generously organized by James Hill of Cubie to discuss Taiwan’s media/enterprise scene.

This is a time when contributing to The Next Web has come in handy; James told me TNW name would be enough to get peoples’ feet in the door, and he was right! I’m already writing a piece for publication on TNW soon about how Portnoy Zheng, who I met last week, and his colleagues at the Association of Digital Culture Taiwan are bridging Taiwan’s “Digital Divide,” and hopefully more material will come out of meeting James as well.

Then, Wednesday will involve visiting Taiwan Public Television Service’s International Affairs Department, as well as Hakka TV, Indigenous TV, and PeoPo‘s Citizen Journalism Platform. I might also meet with university students that morning. So between the next two days, my plans to trek Taroko Gorge on Thursday are looking more and more ambitious. It would involve around six hours of round trip travel to and from Taipei, so unless I can miraculously stay another day here, it’s looking like local sightseeing is in the cards that day.

All of this was confirmed yesterday, after being out for half a day exploring the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101. I then needed to make the PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow and send photos their way, so last night’s blog post went by the wayside. The good news is that the gorgeous weather in Taipei made for a fantastic park visit, as well as a lovely experience at the NPM and Taipei 101 My tour guide at the NPM, Stephanie, is a volunteer at the Museum on Sundays but works in banking full time. After overhearing me tell a fellow American tourist that I’m from Boston, she told me after the tour that she went to Smith College in the Berkshires! The world shrinks a bit more every day.

I’ve included some pictures below for your viewing pleasure. Rain is in the forecast this entire week, so this may be the last you-and I-see of sun. Enjoy!

National Palace Museum gives guided tours in English for free at 10 am and 3 pm daily. I was early for my 3 pm tour, so I took a walk and found this garden nearby. Easily the prettiest garden I’ve been to!

I also found a photographer taking pictures and asked her to take mine. She took several great ones, but I think this is my favorite.

After lunch (Spicy McChicken again!) and a walk through the garden, I spent the afternoon in Taipei’s National Palace Museum, one of the biggest collections of artifacts from the various dynasties that rules the Forbidden City of Beijing

No photos are allowed inside, but the view from the top of the Museum is fantastic. My highlights were the snuff bottle and jade exhibits. Plus, this view.

After staying until the NPM closed, I headed near City Hall to visit Taipei 101. From its completion in 2004 to 2010, Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world (that honor now goes to the Burj Khalifa Dubai).

Taipei 101′s elevator is equally famous-it holds the Guinness World Record for being the fastest passenger elevator in the world. You shoot from floors 5 to 89 in 37 seconds-and never realize you’re moving!

The view of Taipei below reminds you just how high you are. I loved seeing the city all lit up.

View of the rest of 101 from the observation deck on Floor 89. There are high bars that prevent you from getting a great look, and I couldn’t tell if it was fog surrounding us, or clouds. 1,667 feet up, it’s hard to tell!

I ended the day browsing the shops on Taipei 101′s observatory floor (there’s also an enormous, upscale mall on the first few levels) and getting my first milk tea in Taiwan. I chose hot hazelnut.

Lots of prep to do for the next few days, so I’m not sure yet what sightseeing today will bring. Keep your fingers crossed that I find something cool!

Cheers,

Lauren

Lesson No. 4: When Words Fail You, Let Photos Talk

“So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about”

~Marilyn Monroe

After a looong day in Alishan (I’ve been awake for almost 24 hours straight save for a nap between 9 and 11 am my time), I’m back in Taipei ready to do some city sightseeing tomorrow. But my brief stay in Alishan was just what I needed, and if you ever head to Taiwan yourself, a visit’s an absolute must.

Self-explanatory :)

Known to have one of the world’s prettiest sunrises and forests, I was able to experience both today, and while the 4:30 am wake-up call to watch the sun rise above the mountains put me back in bed for two hours after, it was more than worth it. This post’s more of a photo blog, dedicated to a hidden gem that I was lucky to experience. Enjoy!

At 4:30 am, Alishan House Hotel gives complimentary wake-up calls to patrons who want to watch the sunrise over Mount Alishan. You take the Alishan Forest Railway to get there-and it was crowded.

Running on three hours of sleep, around 5:15 am. Yeee…

Our arrival at Chushan Station via the Alishan Forest Railway to watch the sunrise. Chushan is the highest railway station in Taiwan.

There was so much fog that it was hard to see the sky, but Alishan is known to have the best sunrise in Asia and one of the best in the world.

Slowly, the sun makes its way out to light up the sky.

The view looked like an endless valley of clouds and is something no picture could do justice.

Posing with another tourist :) I was the only English speaker I saw during my trip to Alishan!

After an awesome (free!) breakfast at Alishan House and a nap to make up for the early wake up, I spent the afternoon hiking through Alishan Forest Recreation Park. The weather behaved for sunrise-sort of-but by lunchtime the rain was back in full force. Part of me was tempted to skip-but the four hour train/bus ride journey to one of the world’s most scenic parks kicked me into gear, and I learned that I can not only hike-and like it-but hike in the rain-and like it!

At Sisters’ Pond in Alishan Forest Recreation Park.

On top of the world. Almost :)

AFRP is home to many sacred trees that are more than 2,000 years old, such as this beauty-Alishan Sianglin Sacred Tree.

Incense burns in front of Alishan’s Longyin Temple of Chukou Village.

The BEAUTIFUL inside of the Temple.

I could have tried describing all that to you-but something tells me it wouldn’t have been the same :)