Helloooo, everyone, and welcome, sadly, to my last blog :,) These past few six weeks have been the absolute best, with new experiences and new friends! My previous blog was written just before the new year, so I have a lot more to talk about within this one, including the New Year! (Welcome to 2023, by the way 🤩). The last three weeks in Taiwan were definitely jam-packed with lots of studying and last-minute exploring, as well as some important shopping for myself and my family back home. Let’s start with New Year’s Eve!
New Year’s Eve
On New Year’s Eve, a few of us decided very last minute to do a little excursion out of Tainan and to an amusement park! We decided on Janfusun Fancy World, located in Yunlin county, as it was only a one-and-a-half-hour commute for us. I managed to secure some super cheap tickets for us off Klook; they were only $24 NZD! (Basically half the price of a Rainbow’s End ticket). To get there, we first walked to the train station and took a train to Douliu (about 40 minutes to an hour ride), and then we caught a 15-minute taxi to the park. It was super easy to navigate to, as well, as it didn’t cost us much for the transport! We spent most of the day at this park, from 11 am to 5 pm, exploring the different rides as well as trying the food they had there. Since it’s Winter in Taiwan, their water park wasn’t open, which was unfortunate for us as Taiwan’s winter feels almost like a New Zealand summer.
After our daily excursion, we headed back to Tainan to rest first before going to the free Tainan Young Dec New Year’s Concert! This time it was being held from 6:30 pm to 12:30 am; however, after a long day of running around the amusement park, we decided we would go only for the last few hours. One of the main acts I was looking forward to seeing was a K-pop group called EPEX; however, to my disadvantage, we managed to arrive at the concert just after they said their goodbyes and left the stage… 🙁 Apart from this one sad incident, the rest of the acts were top-notch as normal. As it was getting close to 12 am, there was a countdown for a firework display. We all counted down in Chinese, and at 12 am sharp, there were fireworks lit behind us that went on for about 5 minutes; they were so beautiful! Being able to spend the new year in Taiwan with new friends that were made was truly an unforgettable and amazing experience to have.
New Year’s day was spent just relaxing in the dorms, especially after sleeping at 2 am from the excitement of being in 2023. To top it off, most of us decided to go and try some cheap ice cream that Simonah had come across previously. It was super affordable, around 4 NZD for three scoops! After chilling, we ventured off to the NCKU basketball and tennis courts to just hang around like Taiwanese high school students do.
Going on a scooter
Since coming to Taiwan, there’s been one thing I’ve been dying to try, going on the back of a scooter! Many Taiwanese people choose to commute to places via their own or a friend’s scooter, as it’s a lot cheaper to run and more convenient. I know a few of the people in our group have got language buddies that own a scooter themselves; however, mine doesn’t, so I haven’t been able to try the experience. Until recently!! I was given a chance to go on the back of a friend’s scooter and let me tell you, although it was such a small thing, I was SO HAPPY. I don’t know why but as soon as we started driving off, I was grinning from ear to ear, and tears started even coming out of my eyes! I feel as though this type of experience wouldn’t be as special in New Zealand, as it’s such a normal thing in Taiwan to do, so being a foreigner and experiencing it was just awesome. Also, surprisingly, the back seat is super secure. I’ve seen some people ride on the back of scooters without holding on, even just casually using their phone, and I get it now! However, there have been some interesting things I did see. Such as 3-4 people struggling to all fit on one scooter and somehow making it work? It’s very interesting to see…
Trying stinky tofu & going to the beach
One thing that you will be told is a must-try by Taiwanese is trying their famous stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is a dish that consists of fermented tofu and contains a strong, interesting…. odour. I finally got around to trying it with my language buddy, and, to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I expected! However, I don’t think I would try it again. After the first bite, the odour started to become a bit of the taste, and it really threw me off, but I find it super interesting how many Taiwanese love to eat it as a delicacy.
Another thing I got around to doing is going to the beach. Maia and my language buddies took us to old Anping first to do a bit of looking around. We tried an interestingly shaped ice cream, which surprisingly tasted very yummy! After, we headed to Yuguang Island, which is a beach on the shore of Tainan. Did you know that the Taiwanese don’t really go to the beach to swim? They go to take photos! Since we chose to go near sunset, there were most likely more people than normal. We took some really beautiful photos together and even took our shoes off to go walk into the water! It was a really memorable moment for me.
A solo adventure
I never expected to see myself doing something as big as I did in Taiwan. I went and got my hair dyed by myself! A Taiwanese friend back in New Zealand told me I NEEDED to get it done here, as it’s so much cheaper, and they do it well! I ended up being able to have some connections via Amelia which made the whole process easier and even cheaper than usual. I call this a solo adventure because I had to go to the salon by myself, and this salon wasn’t the closest to me! It was located in the Yongkang district, so I took a 45-minute bus there by myself, which was luckily super easy to navigate. I ended up spending five hours there, the staff were so lovely to me, and I felt super comfortable. I was lucky enough to have someone that had a little English knowledge do my hair, so I didn’t have to fully rely on my limited Chinese knowledge; however, I was still able to practice a bit while I was there. The ending result of my hair was so beautiful; I’m really glad I pushed myself to do this!
The following Saturday (January 14th), we got to go on a school trip to Pingtung. Within Pingtung, we first visited Taiwan Indigenous Culture Park. This park was so beautiful to see, it was located in the mountains and we were given a really special welcoming performance by the workers! We got to learn about the culture and about the Indigenous; I even got to try on traditional clothes with Simonah! After the park, we went to Pingtung Tobacco Culture Base, where we looked around a little museum that gave us insight into Taiwan’s tobacco use. There was also a light exhibition being held in the same area, which, for me, was a lot more interesting. They had different areas you could walk around, showcasing rooms with lots of light displays; it was really amazing to see! We took heaps of photos there.
Saying goodbye to language buddies
As the time was nearing for us to head back to New Zealand, Maia and I decided to do one fun last activity with our language buddies (who were friends, so we did a lot of hangouts as a four!). We all went bowling together the night before our two-day trip to a school, and it was super fun. It’s been really sad to think about how we won’t see these new friends for a while – if I even ever get the chance to come back again. I’ve become really good friends with my language buddy, and saying goodbye for the last time with Maia was really tough for us. We even teared up a bit, walking home from the hangout. I really hope one day they’ll come visit us in New Zealand, or anywhere, to be honest, as long as our paths cross each other again sometime in the future.
Overnight school trip
Our last and final group activity in Taiwan was an overnight trip to an Indigenous Taiwanese primary school in Pingtung. While we were there, we were given the opportunity to teach little kids about New Zealand culture and engage with them in their learning. It was really rewarding to be with them; they were absolutely adorable and loved spending time with us! Apart from spending time with these kids, it was also awesome to work together with the NCKU students to teach the kids and plan the lesson for them. Did I mention that the primary school was located in the mountains? From the school you could look out to see only other surrounding mountains, it was absolutely beautiful! On the second day of the trip, we left the school at lunchtime and went to another school to learn how to make flower headbands. These were super pretty to make and wear, as you can see from the photos I’ve attached to the blog.
Now that I am back in New Zealand, I can really reflect well on the time spent in Taiwan. The six weeks that were given to us went by way too fast; I now have a very strong connection to a small town in a country on the other side of the world; I could even consider it a second home. It feels weird to think I am so familiar with this town, the route to school from our dorms and the people who are still studying in the CLC at NCKU. I’m so grateful to UOA, NCKU and 360 International for giving me a chance to go and study in Taiwan; this whole experience will stick with me forever and be one of the best memories I’ve been given. My Mandarin has also improved immensely while being in Taiwan, and I will definitely have to return again in the future when I’m able to survive with my own knowledge of the language.
Taiwan, I love you so much; please wait for my return, and see you next time!