So I’m in Taiwan for the next few months – it was time to leave Charlotte and start a new adventure. I bit my lip and stayed put for as long as I could but I really am made for this sort of thing! Now, if only I could get paid for it…Still working on that part.
Taipei! One of my favorite cities on the planet, bar none. I lived here for 8 months back in 2015 teaching English, and find this somewhat off the beaten path Asian capital to be charming like few places on Earth.
I’ve been trying to decide why that is over these past few days of wandering Zhongzheng with the smooth hiss of the MRT and AC units going full power. It has something to do with the fusion of modern polish and Asian grit combined with the sheer organic mess of the place. On the one hand, you have a subway system nearly as efficient as Tokyo or Seoul and leagues better than anything outside of NYC in the US. Classy skyscrapers and fine dining restaurants, grocery stores, jewelry shops, and malls just like in the States. And a block away, there’s this:
It’s just an immensely fun city to spend time in – when I’m hungry I just pick a direction and start walking. If I’m bored, I can also do the same thing – it’s just not organized in the way many other major cities are. One of the best things about Taipei (and Taiwan in general) is the vegetarian restaurants. Bar none, some of the best in the world. There are vegetarian buffets often frequented by Buddhists that have ala carte by weight options. They lay out dozens of different choices and you load a paper tray to be weighed up. Mine usually run around NTD$150 or around USD $5.
I often add my favorites to Google Maps but just as often I pick a random place to try. It helps that you don’t need a ton of Chinese to get by in downtown Taipei; even the older adults often have a basic grasp. My Chinese has gotten embarrassingly rusty but it doesn’t help that I don’t get much practice since people tend to just reply in English.
Why am I here? I’ve come seeking opportunities to expand on my photojournalistic ambitions. In fact, an opportunity has already presented itself! My friend Turner Wright, an ESL teacher and fellow traveler in Japan, hooked me up with someone who has an in with a conservation group in China. I’ll be part of the international delegation for a government-sponsored photography tour focusing on rare insects in the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve in western Yunnan, China, near the Burmese border. If you’ve been following my work for any length of time then you’ll know I’m immensely excited by any opportunity to point my lenses at bugs.
Also I haven’t been to Yunnan since 2011 and it’s a place like few on Earth. The natural and human diversity is unparalleled; it’s sort of China’s West Virginia. Tremendously mountainous in ways that impede development yet preserves human and natural cultures from those same pressures. Western Yunnan is the side of China where people live in mountain villages, speak dialects far removed from Standard Mandarin, tourists are few, and endangered animal and plant species still thrive.
Just need to buy a.) a zoom lens, b.) a ticket to Hong Kong, and c.) a Chinese visa sometime in the next two weeks. I didn’t exactly budget these things…But they need buying nonetheless. Mainland China, here I come!…Again!