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Before this trip, I had no idea about the extent of Japanese domination as a world power. Then I go to Taiwan and understand why the first time I met Nel I was sure she was Japanese.

Taiwan was once called “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island), a name given to it by the Spanish who sighted the island from afar and were mesmerized even before landing.20161028_111946

Nel takes us to the Gold Mountain where we see the impact of Japanese rule over this people. I can still feel the no-nonsense aura of typical Japanese people. Everything looks like it was planned. You want to behave yourself here. The Japanese are long gone now but who knows, if you try anything foolish, some Ninja or Samurai might jump out of the meditation garden and peel your head off.  (I have an active imagination and Taipei didn’t help).20161028_160616

We head to the Yehliu Geo park. The terrain is like nothing I have ever seen. Taiwan used to be water, nothing else. But then the waters receded. The national park is everything that was once beneath.2016-10-28-15-11-04-024

My favorite part of our tour is Jiufen. The street market is everything. We eat and eat and yet spend less than 10 dollars apiece. Taiwan is a foodie heaven and your pockets won’t notice.

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Stinky tofu, peanut ice cream, tea of all shades, braids pork, fish rolls soup, green bean noodles – it felt like my taste buds died and went to heaven.20161028_131803

The Taiwanese love their sweets as well. The first time I try the famous Chia Te pineapple  cake I can feel the sugar rush literally.20161028_124301

We take silly photos,  I and my friends. I tease Gift endlessly for her choice of shoes on the trip. Everyone else wore sneakers for the trip up the mountain, everyone except vain Gift and her nice sandals. It has been three years since I last teased her in person and so I enjoy this very much.received_10153751390396503

When I told people I was going to Taiwan their first reaction usually was ‘why?’

To be honest, even I didn’t expect this. The Spanish called it ‘beautiful’. They were off the mark by a couple of miles. All they could see was the outside, the shell of this place. They had no idea that it shielded a people, a landscape that was even better than they thought. 20161028_104148

Taiwan is a pearl but until you visit all you will see is an oyster shell. That is beautiful too but no one ever fought wars over mere oyster shells.