Taiwan marked its 100 years last October 10 and to mark it, I have decided to list the 100 reasons why I love the country. I haven’t really been all over the tiny island that is shaped like a leaf so the list could be limited. But that is my dream, to take one month off and just travel from north to south.
1. F4 — after all, they were the reasons why I became fascinated with this country in the first place (and yes, sorry China, I love you too but Taiwan is also a country to me).
2. Meteor Garden — without this, there won’t be F4. Clearly, not the best of all the Hana Yori Dango franchise (my vote goes to the Japanese version) but it was the original and it opened a lot of doors for everyone, from its stars to its producers to the fans who discovered a whole new world of entertainment outside their borders.
3. Angie Chai — the impresario behind MG. I am so fond of the woman, it’s always a joy talking to her; she’s so down-to-earth and funny.
4. Taipei 101
5. my OTP: Mike He & Rainie Yang — and April 23 & 24, 2010.
6. Jay Chou — he may hate the media and does not differentiate who’s paps and who’s not but that’s no reason to hate the guy. If Zhang Ziyi is China’s gift to Hollywood, Jay is Taiwan’s gift to the world: songwriter, singer, actor, director, producer, musician… he could even give George Clooney a run for his money as a Lothario. His music though remains to be his foremost asset and it’s an entirely different experience watching him perform live than just listening to his CDs or watching his DVDs.
7. nightmarkets — Blue Lan was right, every nightmarket is different from the other. Which reminds me, I have yet to watch his Night Market Hero.
8. Ma Ying-jeou — I hope the Taiwanese appreciate the kind of leader that they have (and not be like the Thais who did not appreciate Abhisit).
9. Ju Ming — omg, I can live in his museum. It’s a happy place for me and I’m like a kid in a candy store whenever I’m there. I especially love his painted wood series.
10. Jimmy Liao — I love his books and I’m looking forward to visiting his shop (I want to have that sheep bench). His illustrations give off a warm, happy feeling though his stories are quite adult in nature.
11. A Chance of Sunshine — better known as Turn Left, Turn Right, one of Jimmy Liao’s books that was turned into a movie.
12. Starry, Starry Night — another Jimmy Liao work-turned-movie. I cry every time I read the synopsis. How can this guy write for children yet touch on very adult issues?
13. My Little Perfect World — also by Jimmy: “My name is “Perfect”, but I am not a perfect child. My parents gave me the name because I was a perfect child when I was little. I am in third grade now, and I am not at all perfect. Tell you the truth, I am tired of trying to be perfect.”
14. Huashan Creative Park — this used to be a wine factory compound that had been abandoned and restored to be a place for Taipei’s young artists to showcase their work; everyday, there are exhibits and plays in some of the buildings there. It has also been featured in the ending song of the Taiwanese drama Love You with Rainie Yang.
15. Fresh Fields Spa Resort in Taichung — I love the view and the sunken bathtub.
16. Sheraton — one of the best hotels in Taipei in terms of service and accommodation.
17. Eslite — particularly the main branch in Xinyi district; my friends know I can hang out there the whole day.
18. New York New York — now no more; I saw how it has been torn down during my last visit so no more statue of Liberty. This place was a favorite location of many Taiwanese dramas (of course Liberty was conveniently excluded in the scenes) like Meteor Garden (that scene where Dao Ming Si and San Cai meet at McDonald’s) and Devil Beside You (where Ah Meng run and search for Qi Yue). Come to think of it, this was also the site in Why Why Love after Huo Da donated blood and chased after Jia Di. Drama memories this place holds.
19. Jerry Yan — funny how I planned a trip to Taipei with friends at the height of my F4 fangirling but never got around to doing it. Then nine years later, I got to interview him. On hindsight, it was good that I met him when I was not so much of a fangirl anymore because I might have ended up flailing and fawning over him. He was very nice by the way.
20. Maokong Gondola — I went to Maokong for the tea farms and took the cable car which was way too scary a little move would shake the entire thing, but it was still quite an experience.
21. chicken cutlet — one of the best snacks you can get at the nightmarket and local restaurants.
22. Shinyeh — one of the most famous local restaurants and the food is so hao chi! A trip there would always induce food coma.
23. sanbeji — Taiwan’s version of the Filipino adobo. Easy to cook and remember: one cup of sesame oil, one cup of soy sauce and one cup of Chinese wine, cooked with chicken.
24. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall — it’s nice to hang out in this place, especially by the majestic gate which is a nice photo-op background.
25. Sun Yat Sen — much smaller than CKS so it feels more crowded; people come here to fly kites and walk around.
26. Taroko National Park, Hualien — a friend forced this itinerary on me one time; I’m not really a nature tripper but I do appreciate the few moments of nature because they clear the mind and nurture the soul. My room at the Silks Place was next to a river so you can just imagine what lulled me to sleep.
27. mua-ji (mochi) from Hualien — Cengji Magi, a famous chain, has the best mochi I have ever tasted I even brought some for Mike He and his staff because I had a meeting with him the day after I came from Taroko.
28. Hualien cuisine — I am not big on eating strange leaves but Hualien cuisine has a way of making food delicious. I remember eating 山蘇 (shan su), a kind of fern that I’d see in my mother’s garden and surprisingly, it was yummy. Vegetarians will really enjoy Hualien.
29. bubble tea
30. xiao long bao — Arashi couldn’t stop talking about this when they visited Taiwan that they ate it on arrival and just before leaving for the airport.
31. baobing — or shaved ice. The most famous shop in Taiwan was Ice Monster that has been franchised (or copied?) in other countries. The shop closed two years ago due to a dispute between the couple that owned it. Divorce sucks but the goodness of shaved ice desserts (my fave flavor is mango) lives on.
32. yellow cabs — no, not the pizza company but Taiwan’s uniformly yellow taxis. They are new, clean and sometimes reminds me of Japanese taxis with their lace seat covers.
33. Ximending — said to be their version of Tokyo’s Harajuku. A lot of things are happening at the same time here especially on weekends; this is also a favorite place for stars to hold album/book launches, autograph events etc.
34. lu ro fan — or stewed pork on top of steaming white rice. So hao chi!!! This is the equivalent of Thailand’s khao kraphao moosap, which is a regular in any menu.
35. Presidential Office Building — built by the Japanese in late 1800s, it’s quite an imposing structure at the end of a boulevard. And the guards are anal I could feel their eyes on me while I walked by and took photos. Ni hao, I’m not a mainland spy.
36. military drills — sure, there was a recent hoohah about a failed drill ahead of the centennial celebrations but what I witnessed in Kaohsiung in 2007 was breathtaking (and colorful). I know it’s weird to cite this as reason to love the country but it was a rare experience for me.
37. Black & White — I haven’t forgotten that it was a Taiwanese drama that got me into this whole Asian pop culture business and they continue to produce decent works like this police drama which had the feel of a movie. I’m looking forward to the movie version.
38. Mark Chao — can’t mention B&W without mentioning Chao You-ting. He was the biggest discovery in 2009 and upset Vic Chou fans when he won best actor at the Golden Bell for the drama. I’d say the guy knows how to plan his career.
39. Monga — Mark, Ethan Ruan and the surprisingly good Rhydian Vaughan, already considered as one of Taiwan’s modern film gems.
40. Au Revoir Taipei — like Monga, this is considered as part of Taiwan cinema’s New Wave. I had the privilege not only to interview the director Arvin Chen and lead star Jack Yao, but to also bring them on a whirlwind tour of Bangkok. Both were cool guys.
41. Choya — this is a plum liquor that my Taiwanese didi gave me. It is supposed to be rich in fiber though I feel slightly alcoholic every time I drink it at night.
42. Roy Qiu — why you so hot???
43. Sylvia Chang — the filmmaker behind such gems as Tempting Heart and 20, 30, 40.
44. Mayday — my favorite Taiwanese band. Lian ai I-N-G, happy I-N-G, xin jing jiu xiang shi, zuo shang yi tai pen shi ji, lian ai I-N-G… (Nevermind the rumors about Ashin.)
45. Wang Lee-hom — I like him more as an actor than a singer though. Again, ignore the rumors. Even Jackie Chan said WLH is perfect.
46. Danshui — I love this area so much and apparently, locals too that it is so crowded on weekends, not with tourists but Taiwanese. Aside from the street food that always have long queues, I love the shops that sell old stuff including collectibles and candies from a bygone era (wonder if they are still edible).
47. Black as Chocolate — their cakes are work of art, their packaging divine and their shops minimalist and nice.
48. Taipei Main Station — from the outside it looks like an old building but inside, they have refurbished it into a modern mall with restaurants and shops to provide distraction and comfort to passengers while waiting for their train.
49. Taiwan High Speed Rail — it’s very comfortable and, well, fast. And SMART owes it for allowing our boy OTP to travel from the south to the capital in one hour in order to watch girl OTP in her first major concert. I’m swooning again.
50. Devil Beside You — the drama that made me discover my OTP.
51. Why Why Love — the drama that made me fall in love with them, especially the BTS, which was more interesting to watch than the drama itself.
52. EVA Air — nice service and in particular, their Elite class, which is between business and economy. It’s for those who want more comfort than economy could offer but balk at paying business class rates–in short, for me!
53. Red House — it used to be a theater that now houses shops of homegrown artists and designers. If you like taking home something that is both unique and homegrown, this is the place.
54. Wu Chun — OK, he’s not really homegrown Taiwanese… and I’m not even a fan. But meeting GKC, his real-life persona, has turned me into one. He’s one of the nicest celebrities I have met and this is based not only on a one-time meeting but through emails and two meetings (hah! more than one!).
55. Jiufen — I love their Little Shanghai with the labyrinth alleys and the restaurants, very vibrant and kinda reminds me of Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love. This city was the location for Hou Hsiao-hsien’s City of Sadness.
56. Taipei Arena — I like the giant screen outside but it’s in my memory because of April 24, 2010, the BTS not the concert. Thanks to my OTP.
57. milk pudding — and how every konbini would sell them. They even have a milk pudding ice cream. Yum!
58. Hokkien food — 油炸粿 (you chia ke).
59. Taichung — I love the vibe in this city, especially the art street.
60. Taipei’s street artists — they have finally caught on, at the MRT, in Danshui and Ximending.
61. Taipei 101 fireworks — it has become an annual tradition though locals have complained of the pollution it brings afterwards. It’s an ongoing process to make the event environment-friendly and at the same time fun for both locals and tourists.
62. MRT — fast, clean and not that crowded.
63. little cafes — you find them everywhere, quaint, cute and nice to hang out in. That’s the thing with Taiwanese shops, they have this cute factor which is an influence of their Japanese hangover.
64. Ferris wheels — especially the one in Miramar. There’s an OTP-related reason to it and though I don’t ride them, I love staring at that particular one because of its changing colors.
65. Miramar — see above.
66. Elephant Hill — this is a favorite spot for taking landscape photos of Taipei 101.
67. National Palace Museum — except for the fact that it’s always crowded with mainland tourists making you confuse it with a fish market, it’s really one of the must-see places in Taipei because of its extensive collection that you won’t even find at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Well, except the noisy unruly mainlanders that is.
68. Long Shan Temple — it’s a photographers’ Disneyland hanging out here.
69. Snake Alley Night Market — this is especially memorable because this was where we ran into Mark Zuckerberg.
70. SPOT-Taipei Film House — for the film buffs with its screening of indie films; its retail shop features a wide collection of local products. I might catch Seediq Bale there next month.
71. Chiang Kai Shek Residence — it has just been opened this year and it’s a nice place to walk in, plus the vintage cafe is nice.
72. random sculptures and art works — they are everywhere in the city. They don’t have to be a Ju Ming or a Jimmy Liao like the one in Nangang station. Speaking of which, while taking a photo walk one day, I glimpsed a Ju Ming sculpture inside a condominium compound, but just as I was about to take a photo of it, the snooty guard stopped me.
73. Jade Market — I’m not really big on jades but a visit to this weekend market is a feast to the eyes. Jades in all shades, shapes and sizes are everywhere.
74. old tea houses — there’s one I went to visit where they still process the dried tea leaves by hand. And if you’re lucky, the owner himself will brew tea for you to help you decide which tea to buy.
75. Mr. J Restaurant — the one located inside the Taiwan Medical University is more spacious and Jay’s piano that was used in Secret is there; there’s also a message tree where anyone can leave messages for Mr. J himself. On the walls are stills from Secret and some of his films. This is the closest one can get to the Chairman and there are times that he is said to pop in.
76. Fisherman’s Wharf — it’s very nice at night. I’m especially fascinated with the Lovers Bridge that’s suspended by cables. Very nice location.
77. Grand Hotel — its’ verrrry red and verrrry old. A tourist trap obviously with many tourists going there perhaps out of curiosity. It’s nice to hang out in its coffee shop in the lobby, but not in winter when it’s cold. But still nice to people-watch.
78. Fort San Domingo — near Danshui and a nice place to look around.
79. beef noodles — I have a Taiwanese friend whose ongoing quest is to find the best beef noodles in Taipei. I’m not really big on it but it is yummy and comforting to eat especially during cold winter nights Restaurants even enter an annual contest for the best ones in the city. That’s how serious they take their beef noodles.
80. Secret — I remember watching this film alone in a huge theater in Ximending. It was Jay’s directorial debut so I felt I had to go out my way and watch it since I was in town anyway. The film exceeded my expectations but I was spooked by the twist in the film that it was scary going out of that theater and walking back to my hotel in the middle of the night.
81. 月亮代表我的心 — (Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin) or The Moon Represents My Heart. This song by Teresa Teng is practically Taiwan’s national anthem.
82. CTS — well, it was the network that brought me Devil Beside You and Why Why Love so I’m eternally grateful to it.
83. Cape No. 7 — it brought back life to Taiwan’s film culture. The film is small and charming.
84. 24-hour konbini — whether Family Mart or 7-11, they’re always open and ready to greet you 歡迎光臨 or huanying guanglin that strangely sounds like go leeng, go leeng to me.
85. children’s playgrounds — they are like everywhere, not just in Devil Beside You. They add a cute factor to the urban jungle.
86. quirky souvenirs — like the DIY postcards or the jigsaw puzzles of Jimmy Liao’s artworks etc.
87. Sun Moon Lake — someday, we’ll meet each other but I already love you even before meeting you in person.
88. colorful scooters — they break the monotony of traffic just spotting interesting scooters and helmets to boot.
89. tea egg — yummy snacks available even in the konbini.
90. Taichung Museum of Fine Arts — I can spend a day there and hang out in the huge garden.
91. Vanilla Baby — the Flora Expo green robot that appeared in Jay Chou’s 好久不见 (Long Time No See) MV.
92. Cingshui Cliffs — we stopped by here on our way to Taroko Gorge, with its breathtaking scenery.
93. KTVs — this is one city where you’ll find one whole multi-storey building for KTV alone. Not even in KTV country Philippines will you find something like that.
94. quirky places — like Taipei Story House or the Modern Toilet Restaurant or the Miniature Museum.
95. cost of living — Taiwan is the cheaper option to Japan. Most everything is affordable.
96. street fashion — it’s not Harajuku or Myeongdong but shopping on the sidewalk can be fun with lots of cheap finds.
97. TV commercials — everytime I am in Taipei, I’m tuned in to the TV, something that I don’t do at home. I’m entertained just watching their commercials and playing a name-that-celebrity game.
98. idol dramas — they have brought the country to the consciousness of many people; let’s face it, without them, Taiwan may just be a “renegade island fighting independence with China”. It should take advantage of its soft power the way South Korea did.
99. food — aside from the specific dishes I have listed, the food in general is what makes this place special (and dangerous to one’s diet). Other people even love stinky tofu (I have yet to acquire a taste for this) but a walk through the nightmarkets or a visit to any of their local restaurants will give you an idea on how locals live to eat.
100. Taiwanese — I have made some good friends from Taiwan, and in general, the Taiwanese are some of the warmest, most friendly people in the world. That is why I always feel at home and welcomed whenever I’m in their country, so much so I think in my past life, I was Taiwanese.
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