Arrival in Tainan

Me pondering at Hayashi.

One of the first things we did in Taiwan was visit a Japanese department store called Hayashi. It’s one week on and I’m back here again, sitting in a café on the top floor, thinking about my time here so far.

The hotel that we stayed in for the first week was right in the centre of ‘downtown’ with most tourist sites nearby. Our walks were punctuated with Taoist or Buddhist templesAccording to our language partners, the influence of these religions in the daily lives of Taiwanese people has decreased, but culturally they still hold significance. 

A vegetarian restaurant five mins walk from the hotel.

Thankfully for me, this means it’s relatively easy to order vegetarian/vegan food here due to the significant minority of practicing Buddhists. There are a number of local vegetarian restaurants and even regular restaurants are very understanding when I tell them 我吃素,我不吃肉、鸡蛋、还有不喝牛奶(I am a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat or eggs or drink milk). As culturally, their view of vegetarianism is strict (aligning with the Buddhist diet) and more like a western vegan diet. 

An alley showing the varied architecture around our hotel.

The architecture is almost as unpredictable as the scooters on its streets. Each unit appears to be patched onto an existing structure or cut in half to make way for future dwellings. To get an impression, think English terrace housing with the variety of Auckland housing designs. Or just look at the picture. It creates an impression that the city has been added to with the influence of different cultures over time. And as we’ve learnt this week, Taiwan has been ruled by the Dutch, China and Japan over time. I wonder whether Taiwan’s history has influenced much of what I see in front of me when I walk along the street.

On Friday, we moved to the uni dorms, which has felt surreal. It felt like the trip was finally getting started, but also like we have already been in Taiwan for a long time. I know I wasn’t the only one who was looking forward to getting rid of the commute from the hotel to campus in the mornings. The streets also seem to be more spacious in this area, so I feel like the increased breathing space has really let me settle into a more peaceful uni routine.

I’m looking forward to the next week – living the uni campus life, being more skilled at ordering vegan-friendly food, and exploring more of the city.

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