Do You Smell That?

As soon as I landed in Taipei, Taiwan on Thursday evening, everything seemed different.  It was a much needed vacation within a vacation that exposed me to a whole different side of Asian culture that made me think deeply about what I have been experiencing for the past two months.  Taiwan runs on a democratic system even though it is considered part of China – as one of my classmates said, it smells like freedom.  I met some young people in the Democratic Progressive Party and spoke with them about the interesting role of politics in Taiwan compared to the mainland.  They were interns just like I have been for the past two years in government agencies.  Their perspective on life as a Taiwanese in general was particularized and culture-specific.  At the end of the end, bubble tea in the mainland originated in Taiwan.

One of the most moving sites in Taipei was the Buddhist temple that we visited.  Of course, like most Chinese religions, it was a mix of many different religious practices together.  We walked in at the perfect moment: right in the middle of a ceremony.  We had the opportunity to hear the chanting, watch the people in their robes, and smell the aromatic incense.

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan and is among the tallest in the world.  It is visible from almost anywhere in the city because it is so much taller than all of the other buildings.  It has the fastest elevator in the world!  The elevator takes people up eighty nine floors in thirty seven seconds, pretty impressive.

Speaking of climbing to high places, a small group of us hiked up a mountain in Yangminshan National Park.  Yes, I hiked to the top of a mountain… It was basically stairs straight up for over an hour, but going down was a lot easier.  It was totally worth it; the view from the top was spectacular and unlike anything I had ever seen.  The entire city was visible from that point and it was a breathtaking moment.