One of my first real travelling experiences was with my closest friend, Rachy, she asked if I would like to go with her & visit one of her oldest friends, in his new home of Taiwan. This trip still remains one of the best experiences I’ve ever had & changed me for the better. So if you like beautiful imagery & a story of self discovery – enjoy!
When she first asked, it was one of those random conversations over a bottle of wine( or two ). At first, I think we both assumed it was one of those ideas that we probably wouldn’t see through, but we started talking about it more and both of us decided we wanted to make it happen!
We arranged everything with her friend, Adam, and he gave us some dates where he could get a bit of time off, to show us round. We picked our weeks and was told that all we needed to do was book our flights! As two penny-less graduates, who had only just started working full time, this wasn’t easy! I ended up extending my old student overdraft. (this is not something I advise! But not everyone can just jump on a plane, real people have to work for it!) The cheapest flights we could find were around £750 / £800, we booked them and didn’t look back. To get the flights we wanted mid-season (July/August) we had to have 2 stopovers both there and back. We flew from; Manchester-Amsterdam (2hours) – China (1hour) – Taiwan. Then on the way back; Taiwan – China (5hours stop) – Paris (3hours) – Manchester. Although this would probably put off even the most seasoned traveller, we decided it was worth it!
To give you a bit of a background story about why this trip helped, saved & changed me. When the time came to visit Taiwan, I was grieving the loss of a close family member. It was a horrible time and she unfortunately passed away, only 5 weeks before I was due to fly. At the time, I was convinced I wouldn’t go, that I couldn’t leave at a time like that. After speaking with my family, I realised, she had been so excited for me to go and I decided I needed to go for her and for me.
When it was time to leave, I’m not going to lie, I was dreading it. I didn’t want to leave my family, I felt as though I was leaving when everyone needed me most. But somehow I knew I needed this & couldn’t let my friend down, who had been there for me through it all. To this day, I don’t think I would be the same person I am today, if I wasn’t given that time to be away and get my head around what I was thinking & feeling.
The travelling was tough, but my friend and I worked really well together & we kept each other going. (If you’re thinking of travelling a similar distance with a friend, make sure you are super close with each other!) As this amount of travelling will make you hungry, sweaty, achey and generally annoyed. (we was hysterical by the end of it but I wouldn’t change a thing). Adam had arranged a pick up from the airport, to take us to his home. Once we got there (after about 20hours of travelling) we were so relieved! We got changed and went straight out drinking. (what else is there to do!?)
During our trip we did some amazing things, we swam in a lagoon under a waterfall, on the side of a mountain. (if that isn’t a bucket list moment, what is?)
Apart from all the typical tourist things, one of the main things Rachy and I wanted to do, was visit the Temples & unique buildings/cultural centres, which are all around Tiawan. We had seen online how beautiful they were and wanted to see them for ourselves! We travelled into the hills around Nantou City, which holds some of the largest Buddhist temples in Taiwan.
The first place we visited was Guanghui Cultural and Educational Foundation.
Walking through a place like this was a little surreal, I was used to seeing replica architecture of these types of building, in restaurants/shops and around any China Town in Britain. That when the moment came, of finally seeing authentic architecture and artwork , whilst both beautiful and amazing, it didn’t seem real. (it took a while for me to get my head around).
Blown away by what we saw, we then visited a large Buddhist temple, close to where we were staying. This was a working temple, this is where I first encountered a Buddhist temple & Buddhist monks.
One monk in particular, was beautiful and really stuck in my mind, she seemed so calm and happy and encouraged us to use the temple for its purpose. We lit incense and she encouraged us to spend some time sitting quietly and reflecting. (although I didn’t realise this at the time, that this is what we were meant to do, in my ignorance I thought we was meant to sit and think).
To me it was a moment I will never forget. She then showed us around the temple and showed us some of the beautiful murals painted around the temple of the Buddhist deities.
The next place we visited, which will stay with me forever, is The Mountain Buddhist Temple. This temple sits high on a mountainside and the gardens surrounding the temple were full of sculptures and idols.
The gardens are open to all and many people were sat contemplating / meditating.
This had to be, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen & visiting a place like this really does help mend a broken heart. I know there are many clichés, about how travelling helps you find yourself or can help you heal, after this trip I couldn’t agree more.
It was here that I realised, I had travelled to Taiwan, knowing nothing of the culture & religion. The imagery, sounds and people that surrounded the Buddhist temples, completely drew me in & I promised myself I would learn about all the things I have seen and learn about why the things I had seen, were so important. And I when I returned I did exactly that!
This was the turning point in the trip for me. The more I saw of the temples & Buddhist culture, the more I related too it. Being honest, learning about Meditation & Buddhism is the one of the things which really helped me cope with my grief. Instead of ignoring the fact I was in pain, angry or sad. I acknowledged it, accepted it & this way of thinking really helped me cope with my loss. I found a much healthier way to cope, than how I had been already trying.
I have so many more stories & images from our travels around Taiwan, but I wanted this post to show why I feel this trip, was so important to me. I would like to encourage anyone who is planning a trip to that corner of the world, to not overlook Taiwan. I would also like to encourage anyone who feels they need a better or new way of coping & understanding your thoughts or emotions. To consider learning a bit more about Buddhism, meditation & mindfulness. It helped me a lot.
I’ll link some of the books below, which helped me understand this beautiful culture & myself. I hope you enjoy looking at the images I took while over there! I’m going to be doing a post on Tips for travelling to Asia soon, with all the things I wish I knew before travelling to Taiwan!