TAIPEI + RUIFANG DISTRICT, TAIWAN

A few weeks ago I had the enormous pleasure of visiting East Asia for the first time. Unlike anything I had expected, the island of Taiwan is a mega-city paradise. The summer is sticky and hot, like other places I've been in Asia, but the colorful coast and city alike were the refreshing and vibrant jolt I needed to withstand the humidity. 

Our team was running a camp for some expatriate kids in the area, and before we headed to another city to set up and get started with all that we had a couple of days to explore the capital city and the surrounding areas. All five of us were big fans of the outdoors, so we planned to spend the day hiking and taking a look at some waterfalls.

About thirty minutes into our public transportation journey we met a friendly local named Yosef (actually, I bumped rather ungracefully into him at a train station and he inserted himself into our day, which we were incredibly grateful for). Yosef was a local professor on his way to an area near the one we had selected to explore to meet some of his foreign students who were practicing Chinese on the train. He invited us to come along with him, and he proceeded to tell us which side of the train had the more spectacular views, give a little bit of historical and cultural orientation, and generally wow us with his impressive knowledge of language and science. Example: the first thing he showed us about his job was a pill. With a camera inside. No lie.

After riding to the coast with us, Yosef dropped us off at Shifen, where we browsed (and ate octopus, bubble tea, etc.) a market, walked along some paths to a waterfall and park and then proceeded to second guess our route home about a million times. We made it, however unsure we were at the time, back to our hotel with time to spare before dinner.

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One of my favorite parts of visiting Shifen was the amount of paper lanterns folks were sending up. Locals and tourists alike write their dreams and hopes and wishes on the lanterns before sending them up and hoping they don't burn down. This is something I've seen done all over Asia, but never with so many colors as in Shifen. I didn't ask about the wooden rods hanging from the trees, but the same concept seems to apply to them, colorful wishes dangling and floating all over the market.

When we made our way back to Taipei, the city welcomed us with a veritable downpour, and we freshened up for a dinner of duck wraps and other traditional Chinese food at [insert restaurant name I can't remember] with our hosts.

In the morning I took a little time to myself at a café shop called E'pin Bakery where I sipped a latté and picked up some maple cinnamon croissants, which won out over the Earl Grey loaf. So glad I took a little respite before our camp week started, 'cause it was go go go for the next six days, and I definitely needed that little charge.

Below you can see the results of a trip to 7-Eleven, brought to you by two former Asia dwellers. Can you tell we missed a few of our favorite things?