TRAPPED IN TAIWAN
February 24th, with Covid19 on the horizon, I wrote a one month itinerary for a trip to Taiwan. I never imagined that my plan for a quick run-around of the island would turn into over eight months of lockdown.
To my surprise, Taiwan proved to be abundant in interesting places to see and things to do, immeasurably adept in dealing with a pandemic, and very welcoming to stateless wanderers like myself
Before the virus really took hold globally, I was in the north of India trying to reignite the spark of traveling after feeling isolated and unfulfilled in tourist-run Rishikesh. I decided last minute that it was time for a quick run home to Canada, something that has been a rare event in the past 4 or so years on the road.
With an absurdly expensive last minute flight from Delhi, I returned home to the icy February cold of my small alpine town in British Columbia. But, while cooped up at home for a month, and in typical traveler fashion... I got bored. And thats when my focus shifted to Taiwan. A country I've been meaning to see for years.
In my mind Taiwan was this melting pot of culture mixed with familiar comforts. My friends all reviewed the country well, and I imagined it as a haven for travelers. Not too expensive, just different enough from western culture, and fortunately, very experienced with handling contagious viruses.
But things quickly took a turn for the worse, just days prior to my flight from YVR to TPE... Italy, the first country of many, began to close their borders. Following in tow, on March 19th Taiwan would do the same. Somehow, randomly, I managed to sneak through the smallest possible window of opportunity, by landing in Taipei on March 11th - avoiding the legally mandated two-week quarantine by a margin of 2 days.
HOW IT STARTED
After choosing to self-isolate for a week, my exploring began - and boy does Taiwan not disappoint. From Taipei, in a clockwise direction I hit almost every major site. First starting with the North in the geologically diverse area of Shimen and Jinshan - Found rich culture in Keelung, and Ruifang. Headed east by train to see the marvelous beauty of Hualien’s Taroko Gorge. Continued down the coast to rainy Taitung. Took a miserable ferry to Green Island, and saw 12m tall corals. Endured the long bus to Kenting for pristine beaches. Eventually, I relaxed in Kaohsiung, and found a community on Lambai. I traversed narrow streets on bicycle in Tainan, and climbed through misty tea plantations in Alishan. With months under my belt at this point, I headed back to Taipei, where I sit writing this entry.
I'LL BE BACK
I will go into further detail about each city later on, but I would like to end this post by thanking Taiwan for being the most gracious host. The country welcomed me in, at a time of uncertainty, and has continually extended my stay without need of any application. Taiwan has been precise and hard-hitting with it’s C19 restrictions, but has maintained an environment of compassion and understanding. I am grateful for choosing such a warm place to get trapped in. It is August as I write this, five months after arriving, and it’s likely I will stay months longer. Taiwan will always be a second home to me, a place of refuge, and a light amidst such dark times.