I know I wrote in a post a couple months ago that I would be returning to Nepal to do the Annapurna Circuit Trek this month, but I changed my mind. When you’re single with no children and essentially retired you can do that. Until plane tickets are purchased and hotels are booked you can change your mind. In both everyday life and travel, time stretches out in front of you like a vast open savanna of possibilities. Your days, weeks, months and years are yours to spend as you like.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we drift through the world directionless, like a fallen autumn leaf blown this way and that by the wind. That’s definitely not my style. Candidly, I think it’s much easier to make the case that I’m structured and disciplined to a fault than that I’m carefree and aimless. Major life priorities and goals would change only with a significant amount of reflection but I think individual plans should be made but kept flexible.
I’m living in Bangkok on a tourist visa which gives me the opportunity to travel internationally every three months. Nepal in April and the US and Iceland in July meant another journey at the end of October. As I started thinking more concretely about travel plans for this month my feeling was that the trips so far this year were both trek centered and I wanted to do something different this month.
So here I am zipping along at 300 kmh (186 mph) down the west coast of Taiwan on one of that country’s Japan level awesome high speed rail trains. Having spent a week in Taipei, I’m now heading to Chiayi, where I’ll take a bus to Alishan National Scenic Area, one of the most beautiful natural areas in the country, and almost certainly the subject of at least one future post.
Taipei was so rich in beautiful parks and other nature areas, vibrant markets, a world class zoo with possibly the world’s cleverest panda and other great memories (including a park full of chess playing homeless men!) that I’ll probably do at least one more post just from that city but because of the large number of photos I decided to do a “first impressions” post with my best images from just the first full day in the city. I think I first did this sort of “just the first day” post last year in Mumbai and at that time I thought of it as a way to convey just how much beauty and wonder there is in the world, if we can just travel through it with curiosity and open-minded awareness.
As I walked the streets of Mumbai that first day I don’t think that theme for the post had formed in my mind yet. Now though, having done that sort of post several times since, I’ll sometimes wake up on the first full day in a new destination and have that sort of post as a fun challenge to start out the trip – “Can I get enough good photos to share with readers in just a single day?”
For much of the first day in Taipei I didn’t think I would be able to meet the challenge, not because I wasn’t enjoying the city, but because it was raining and I visited two nature areas (Daan Forest Park near my hotel for a morning walk after waking up and then the Botanical Garden after breakfast), and the nature photos didn’t feel emblematic enough of the city for a “first day in Taipei” post.
The lack of enough photos for the post in the morning and afternoon created just the right sort of challenge for the evening. I met a friend from Thailand who was in Taipei last week and we went to Shilin Night Market, a vibrant center of youth culture with carnival style games and great street food. Night photos of people are really challenging because there’s little light and they are easy to blur but the market was full of interesting people, delicious Taiwanese food and atmospheric street scenes and it was easy to find enough good photos from just that first full day in Taipei.
Daan Forest Park
The Botanical Garden
Shilin Night Market