鹿港 lovely Lugang

When I was traveling around Taiwan last November, I decided to visit the little town of 鹿港 Lugang (Lukang) on my last day. Not only is Lugang home to the world’s BEST fresh-fruit tea, it’s also the second oldest town in Taiwan so it’s got some beautiful, historical architecture and it’s pretty cool if you want a taste of old, traditional Taiwan.

How can you get to this cute little town?

*You can either take a bus from Taipei or any other major city in the south straight to Lugang, which will take you around 3 hours. Otherwise you can take a train to nearby Changhua, and then cross the road to the Changhua bus station and in 30 minutes you’ll be in Lugang.

*If you leave Taipei early enough, you can still get a full day of wandering and exploring in, before taking the last bus back at night which is at around 6.30pm.

Other than delicious fresh-fruit tea, what else does lovely Lugang have to offer?

*I recommend just picking up a little map at the tourist information when you get off the bus and seeing what takes your fancy. A few of my favourites were-

1. Longshan Temple

This was built in the 18th century and I liked it because it’s not over-the-top multicoloured like a lot of the temples found in Taiwan. It has a very simple design, and they haven’t repainted it so it has that authentic, rustic look. It’s a nice spot to chill in and soak up the incense.

2. Gentleman’s Alley (Breast-touching Lane)

This is one of the tiniest alleys I’ve ever walked down, and it is said that if a man was a gentleman he’d let the lady walk down first because a man wouldn’t be able to walk down without brushing up against a lady’s breasts, seeing as it’s so narrow. Haha.

3. Matsu Temple

Although this felt very packed and touristy, it’s still got a nice vibe. Lots of incense and people praying and colours everywhere.

4. Nine-Turns Lane

I don’t think there’s actually nine turns, but it’s a very quirky little spot where you can wander around the lanes and see some cool, traditional residences.

5. Old Market Street

OK, yes, this is filled with tourists and people selling stuff, but it’s also very fun and you can sample lots of snacks and soak up the culture.

Lugang really is a cute little place, and I think it’s perfect for a relaxing day trip if you feel like a little step back in time, or just to get a little peace from the hustle and bustle of Taipei city.

Have you been to Lugang before? Did you drink the delicious fresh-fruit tea? Unfortuantely, I have no picture of the cafe, or the tea, nor can me or my friend who is also obsessed with this tea find any information on the internet. All we know is that it’s close to a restaurant selling lamb- which is apparently famous in Lugang. If anyone knows anything with regards to the tea recipe or if this cafe is a franchise, please leave a comment below as we are desperate to sample it’s deliciousness again. Thank you!

Here are some of my favourite photos from my trip to Lugang, enjoy-

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Sorry about all the door pictures, I do like my Taiwanese doors. If you go to Lugang, have a lovely time!

p.s. You can find more info about Lugang here.

a Belle and her Beau

Last week I wrote about my best friend marrying the love of her life here and some of the hen party antics.

It’s suffice to say that it was one of thee most magical weddings I have ever been to! It was beautiful and full of amazing, fun surprises! When we woke up and saw the sun peeking through the gap in the curtains and then pulled them back and saw the bluest sky with not a cloud, we were ecstatic. Especially seeing as we’d had a full week of non-stop rain. The wedding birds were out in full song and the champagne was flowing.

It was so fun to watch the Belle transform into the stunning bride, and when she put her dress on and glided out to the garden for some photos against the green, it was a moment to remember.

The wedding ceremony was so beautiful too, and had a few laughs thrown in for good measure, such as when the groom picked up the wrong ring and when we all realised we were singing ‘hosanna’ which brought back hilarious memories of school church trips. Then there was the Star Wars theme tune played by the string quartet as we all exited the church. Classic. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from a die-hard Star Wars fan- that’d be the groom, not our bride’s choice, right Rachael?!

One of the readings in the church had me on the verge of tears as it was just so real and rang true-

The Way of Love- Corinthians 13:4-8

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Oh, love.

After the ceremony, the bridal party got driven in awesome cars to the cathedral for some professional photos. Some of them involved pretend tug-of-wars and I can’t wait to see the finished products. Afterwards, the newlyweds went to the West Sands beach to frolic, while the rest of us drank champers at The Golf Hotel, where the evening reception was held.

The speeches, the food, the dancing, the band, all of it was so much fun! A Scottish wedding wouldn’t be complete without a few ceilidh dances, and there was definitely some of that going on.

One of the highlights of the day was when we were all nibbling on our main course and one of the waitresses took to a microphone to randomly announce that this was her last shift at the hotel and that the head waiter had bet her she wouldn’t get up and sing in front of all these random people. So, she decided to prove him wrong. And, sing she did! She had the most amazing voice and sang a famous opera number that not only blew us all away, but also left us feeling extremely confused as to why this had happened. The groom looked completely bewildered, and after a lot of ‘what on earth is going on?’, we proceeded to finish our meal, but before the last bites could be taken- the ‘head chef’ popped out from the kitchen to sing a little number. A rather famous number in this part of the world- The Proclaimers- 500 miles. That was when we all realised something was definitely going on. The bride had the biggest grin and it dawned on us that she must have planned this! Sneaky!

Well, they kept on singing, and they did the most amazing duets, such as ‘That’s amore’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘I love you baby’. It turns out they are from S.O.S- Secret Operatics Society, which you can read more about here. It was the coolest surprise ever!! Personally, I think every waiter should be a secret performer. There isn’t much more fun than being served dessert by someone singing ‘That’s amore’. Yes please. And well done bride!!

Some of the personal touches that I really liked were the table decorations and the favours. Each table had an old wedding photo on it that represented a year and marriage from the bride or groom’s families. The favours were amazing! They had m&ms with their FACES on them. A teeny, tiny picture of the couple on each m&m and the date of the wedding. How cool is that!! You can find out more about this unique idea here.

It truly was the most fantastic day, and I’m pretty sure it was the best day of their lives. To the newlyweds, thank you again for letting me play such a big part in your day, and I hope you lovebirds are honeymooning to your heart’s delight!

I said I’d share lots of photos this week, and I will share a few, but unfortunately I didn’t actually take very many. I was so busy enjoying every little moment that the thought of pulling out my camera didn’t even dawn on me.

Here’s a few though, and one or two from various friends (hope you don’t mind me sharing)-

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The bride would have killed me if I whipped out my signature ‘peace’ sign in any of the professional photos, but I couldn’t resist one or two later on in the night…

I can’t wait to develop my lomo photos and see the professional ones too!

小琉球 Xiao Liu Qiu island

Dear 小琉球 Xiao Liu Qiu island,

It has been some months now since I ventured around your shores, but I think the time has come to unveil some of your hidden beauties to the rest of the world, if you’d be so obliging.

Love,

Luna.

Xiao Liu Qiu is a teeny, tiny coral island off the South-West coast of Taiwan. It is most famous for this cool rock formation, jutting out from the ocean. It’s called Vase Rock and I think it looks a little like the map of Africa (if Tanzania was all pointy and sticking out…).

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It’s pretty cool, and I really wanted to sit up on top and eat lunch. When you first arrive at the harbour (pictured below) that’s one of the things you’ll want to check out once you’ve picked up your rental scooter for the day, or given your feet a little pep-talk for the miles upon miles they are about to endure.

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Let’s cover the essentials:

How do you get there?

* It’s very simple. I did it as a day trip from Kaohsiung, so first I took a bus from Kaohsiung Main Station to Donggang, which took around 1 hour. Once I arrived in Donggang I hopped in a taxi to the ferry terminal as supposedly it’s quite a walk and I was in a rush. Once at the terminal, I grabbed some essentials from the oh-so-handy 7/11 (just incase the island didn’t have chocolate…) and proceeded to buy my return ferry ticket. There were a lot of people outside trying to sell special packages that included return ferry, scooter rental etc. Seeing as my friend and I weren’t sure how easy it would be to organise when we arrived on the island, we bought a package deal. I think it worked out at around 300NT each which was pretty good.

*The ferry takes around 25 minutes and it was very smooth, infact I slept sweetly the whole way. When you arrive- if you’ve pre-booked your scooter rental, you’ll be given a sticker- there are lots of people waiting around to offer you scooters, and if like us, you already booked, just hope that the right person finds you and ushers you off to get your ride for the day.

*I definitely recommend scootering if you can, however I do believe the laws have been tightened in Taiwan and you will need the proper paperwork and licenses etc. Come prepared, or say hello to blisters and tired legs!

*The journey back is simple- and once you’re back in Donggang, either hop in a taxi to the bus station, or if you’re lucky there will be mini buses waiting and you can whip out your Chinese skills and bargain with the driver and share with other tourists, and get yourself back to Kaohsiung or wherever you’re headed.

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What is there to see and do?

*There is a whole lot of colorful fun stuff to see and do. You can check out the island’s official site here for more information on the actual touristy stuff, as what I did and saw is a bit more random. I do know that you can go diving and see some cute turtles and there are a whole load of cool rocks and caves to explore.

*I recommend turning right once you arrive and doing a whole day of going anti-clockwise around the island. Arrive early so that you have at least 8 hours for exploring. When I was there the weather was just OK, but I imagine that if there’d been pretty blue skies, I probably would have wanted to stay there and wake up and explore some more.

*Don’t have a check list, don’t try and see and do ALL the sights on the island or you’ll miss out on the quirks that make it so unique.

*Do frolic around the coral rocks and visit a temple or two.

*Do eat some delicious seafood and some freshly-baked red bean treats from a random old lady selling them.

*Do buy some star-shaped sand from the cutest woman on the island.

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*Do explore and take photos and sit on the beach and ponder life. If you notice a mysterious little path- TAKE THAT PATH. Don’t let any sneaky elements of the island slip away from you.

*Have fun being an island baby for the day. Don’t wear shoes. Actually, wear shoes. That coral can be rough!

Have you been to Xiao Liu Qiu before? Did you have fun? Feel free to share your comments in the space below.

Here are a few ALOT of photos from my trip…

flowers grow out of the walls here

flowers grow out of the walls here

yup. that is a snake.

yup. that is a snake.

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my ride

my ride

stories of fairy maidens haunt the island

stories of fairy maidens haunt the island

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me and my best friends are totally going to live here one day

me and my best friends are totally going to live here one day

cutest little cafe/ ice-cream shop that was closed...

cutest little cafe/ ice-cream shop that was closed…

cutest.bell.EVER!

sweetest.bell.EVER!

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hello there, blue blue ocean

hello there, blue blue ocean

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my little friend

my little friend

boats that float, on rainbows

boats that float, on rainbows

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i'd like to live here

i’d like to live here

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tiniest bar ever

tiniest bar ever

the waterfront area

the waterfront area

If you are living or traveling in Taiwan, and fancy something a little different- an island where you can explore to your heart’s delight and discover it’s eccentricities and pretty caves and coves, I suggest dancing on down to  小琉球 Xiao Liu Qiu and basking in all it’s coral glory!

a wedding belle

I remember I was sitting with my friends in South Africa back in 2007 when I got the message; it was from my best friend to tell me that she had a boyfriend and how happy she was.

Five years later I was on a train when I got the message to announce their engagement, where he proposed by sunset, on a beach in California.

And it was a couple of months after that message that I had a Skype date- Taiwan to Scotland- with her, when she asked me to be her bridesmaid!

Now, it’s one day until their wedding and I am so excited for them.

This is my very first time to be a bridesmaid! I feel so honoured to play a part in her big day, and although I spent 10 months of her engagement on the other side of the world, I still made it back especially for her ‘Minnie Mouse’ hen party and for the run-up to Saturday.

Tomorrow we will begin the day with french manicures and champagne, I can’t wait! I cannot even begin to imagine the excitement and butterflies that must be floating in her tummy right now. I just know it’s going to be the most magical day ever!

I’ll be sharing lots of photos next week, some lomo ones too, yay! In the meantime, here are a few from her epic hen party in Edinburgh…

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Yup. There was a Butler in the Buff. There were Minnie Mouse ears. There was a Piñata filled with mini bottles of vodka. There was ALOT of drinking. There was drinking in a fire engine while singing karaoke and dancing on the way to the ladies race day (horse racing, and yup I won some money, yay!)- we are classy like that.

And now for the big wedding where we get to wear beautiful dresses and get our hair and nails done all fancy. I like being a girl!

The adorable Emma Magenta

Any book that begins with this line- “She became a cartographer of the heart”  with regards to hope and love, has me hooked. Emma Magenta is an Australian writer, illustrator, artist, lovely person, oozing creativity. My friend gave me a copy of her adult picture book- ‘a gorgeous sense of hope’ a couple of years ago at a time when I could definitely have used a little pick-me-up in the love department, and it quickly became one of my favourite little reads. It’s a love fable and it’s adorable…

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I just ordered one of her other books- ‘the peril of magnificent love’ which I’m really excited to read.

I think her drawings and quotes are really cute and can be uplifting, or just extremely hilarious. They are simple and yet, so evocative.

Here a few of my favourites from her Facebook fan page which you should join immediately here and also buy her books on amazon too…

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I’m sorry but aren’t these just amazing?! All of these photos were found on Emma’s Facebook fan page here…join it!

lost in a lavender land

Knee deep in strawberries, mud slipping off their wellies with every droplet of rain, they frantically filled their baskets, eagerly awaiting the clouds departure. The Tall Girl was rather amused at indulging in such an activity during the height of winter. In her country strawberry picking was a summer treat, but she embraced this side of the earth with both hands and vowed to pick the juiciest berries possible.

They would feast for days.

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And feast they did, on a journey into higher lands, deep in a forest of purple. A Lavender Garden on the outskirts of Taichung- a land of bewildering surprises, surrounded by puffy blue skies, secret bridges and fluorescent pink flower petals.

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As they frolicked through the maze of flowers creeping up the path, they stumbled upon little postboxes- so miniature that they could only be described as a warm retreat for the letters of forest dwellers, and the like. The Tall Girl’s friend- The Angel- squealed in delight at these cute quirks found in such a land. This was a place of merriment.

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Flower bulbs hung like the famous Chinese lanterns, dangling from tiny, fragile, life-giving threads. They appeared to be a family friend of the strawberry, in complexion and in size. In this land, even cats have bicycles, and instead of umbrellas, they use giant palm leaves to shelter from the typical typhoons that torment the forests of Taiwan.

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They moved onwards and upwards from the mischievous kitties on bikes, only to uncover the dreamiest scene of all…A sparkling, lit-up carousel, hiding on the tip of a rolling field of lavender. It was as if they had stepped into some fairytale land in the heart of France, as sweet French melodies swam out through the purple grass. The Tall Girl immediately hopped on an elegant horse that was wearing a rainbow sash of flowers, guarded by the Golden Eagle.

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The sky only seemed to get bluer the higher they climbed and the happier they became. Green fruits balanced on the branches, tickling the clouds and playing the ventriloquist with their ever-changing shapes.

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The once, pink fluorescent petals now shone purple, like the lavender emanating all around this land. Down below, The Lavender Lady groomed and manicured her home, urging local explorers to stop and ‘take a rest’, to bask in the delights and scents filling her green fields. The Tall Girl sat quietly on a wooden seat, silent enjoying the scene unfolding before her eyes…The carousel nestled at the feet of the hills, the freshly-trimmed lavender filling her nose with sweetness, whilst The Angel circled the area, eyes peeled for lingering beauty that may have escaped them.

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In this land of the carousel and Lavender people, cats that ride bicycles and flowers that could light up a deep, dark sky, they found a water tap in the form of a duckling. They washed their hands with the fresh, lavender juice, and prepared to venture on to catch the setting of the sun by the sea.

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They took one last glance back at the rainbow horses and the rolling hills, whilst contemplating a purple ice cream. The Angel reminded The Tall Girl of the berry delights snuggled in their car, and so off they meandered with the scent of lavender seeping through their skin and the anticipation of fresh strawberry juice quenching their thirst for yet, more adventure.

The Gift of Rain

“The most rewarding way to see the place one lives is to show it to a friend. I had taken the beauty of Penang island for granted for a long while now and it was only through acting as Endo-San’s guide that I learned to love my home again with an intensity that surprised and pleased me.”

The Gift of Rain- Tan Twan Eng

I have found this to be so true, not just with regards to my ‘home’ in Scotland, but also to wherever my ‘home’ may be at the time when friends or family visit. Being an enthusiast of most places means I rarely have a day where I’m not in awe at one thing or another in my ‘home’, but sometimes the sparkle can dwindle and all it really takes to relight it is for me to play tour guide, and before I know it I’ll be seeing my ‘home’ through rosier spectacles.

Acting as someone’s tour guide, just as the protagonist in ‘The Gift of Rain’ says, really does make me re-learn and re-discover the beauty in the little things that make my home so special. It really is all right before your eyes and it seems funny that it would take an outsider to reignite your enthusiasm for a place.

If, like me, you were bitten by the travel bug and love nothing more than a little exploring, why not purchase a copy of a travel guide to your OWN country. I just bought Lonely Planet’s guide to Scotland. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more of Taiwan and South Africa than I have my own country, and that’s not cool, especially seeing as Scotland is teeny tiny.

Have you been to Scotland? What was your favourite place? Actually, if you haven’t been, I suggest coming NOW. Like right NOW. Because I don’t know what is happening in the world…I’ve never seen this much sun in my life!! I’m more tanned than when I lived in hot countries (haha) and here the sun only sets at around 10.30pm in summer! What are you waiting for?

Next stop- Loch Ness and The Highlands. I’m not about to take this beautiful homeland for granted because who knows just how soon I’ll be flying East again…

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I love my little home.

50 things I love and miss about Taipei part 2

If you didn’t read part 1 already, here it is- 50 things I love and miss about Taipei part 1.

Some of these might be a little bit strange, but well, that’s why I love Taipei.

26. Getting caught in a torrential typhoon-esque downpour This is especially fun if you have no umbrella. In Taipei an umbrella is ESSENTIAL. You are a crazy fool if you don’t carry one everywhere you go. And if the heavens do happen to open and you happily skip out into the rain, people will stare. They will stare in sheer disbelief at the mad foreign girl running through the rain in ballet shoes, umbrella-less. It’s even more fun if there are at least another couple of crazies running with you. That moment when you catch their eye and both burst out laughing as you slip and slide across the streets. Priceless.

27. Huashan I love this creative park near Shandao Temple MRT station. This area is made up of old, renovated warehouses, filled to the brim with cool arty exhibitions, cafes, restaurants, and now the awesome SPOT movie house has opened a theatre inside the park. I also enjoy lazing on the grass outside to dabble in a bit of people-watching.

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28. Jianguo Flower Market Right across from the far end of Da’an Park lies the Flower Market. On sunny weekend mornings this is the place to be. I loved walking back through the park with a fresh bunch of flowers for my room, or cycling, plants and flowers balancing on the handlebars, maneuvering through the crowds. It’s a happy place to be.

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29. Secret KTV This KTV (karaoke house) really is a secret. If I hadn’t gone with friends, I’d have assumed we were entering someone’s house, not an epic KTV. At this KTV you can sip on Belgian beers of the strawberry variety. At this KTV you can sing Foster the People, The Smiths and other lovely songs by cool artists. No Mariah Carey in sight. Bliss.

30. The view from Maokong As I mentioned in part 1, I love the view of Taipei from Ellie Mountain. I also love the view from Maokong. Take the gondola up to the very top and wander around the little tea houses and fields of green before making your way back down towards the big temple. The view from the garden of that temple is stunning. I miss that.

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31. Reading in Pagodas It makes you feel all old and wise and intelligent. Like some emperor from back in the day. You might even meet an old person who will surprise you with his fluency in English. You can also sit and ponder life and gaze into the lake (if there is one) and feel all philosophical. I like the pagoda by the lake in the Taipei Botanical Gardens best.

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32. Nangang Bottle Cap Factory This place is very cool, and quite secret. I wrote about it before here. If you fancy yourself as a graffiti artist, or perhaps you want to get your ‘rave’ on, this might be the place for you.

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33. Taipei Artist Village This place is incredible. I went here on one of my first and last days in Taipei and it never fails to amaze me. I also wrote about it here last year. Go here!

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34. Getting a haircut OK, not so much the ‘cut’ part, but the hair wash which seems to last a beautiful lifetime and the massage thrown in for good measure, yeah, I’ll take that any day.

35. Secret Hot Springs Well, they’re not so secret, but they are illegal to enter. Oops. That doesn’t stop the groups of Taiwanese and foreigners alike traipsing across the river and scrambling up the rocks to reach this corner of natural paradise. It’s called Ba Yan Wild Springs and you can read more about it here. This place has real mud. Face masks, body masks galore, complete with a waterfall. Natural. Yup! Yes please.

36. Weekend Fever Lover of vintage clothing? Unique one-off pieces? Like supporting non-profit community groups and individuals with a flair for fashion and passion? If yes, then Weekend Fever might be right up your alley. I was cycling along the river one day when I happened upon hundreds of people hoarded under the bridge selling beautiful pieces. It was like finding treasure. You can find out where and when they are next in Taipei here on their Facebook page.

37. National Taiwan University (TAIDA) campus I loved cycling and walking through this campus to get from Da’an area to Gongguan. It’s always so peaceful despite the thousands of students swarming around, all on bicycles. Ah, but there’s nothing better than cycling down that big, wide, palm-tree lined boulevard that runs through the campus.

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38. Yangmingshan We all need our dose of mountains and fresh country air now and again, and in Taipei there’s a whole national park right on your doorstep, complete with cows and valleys and waterfalls and hot springs emanating scary sulphur. It’s quite the place. I recommend hiking the seven-star peaks. The view from the top is stunning!

39. The Brown Line Yeah, the brown MRT line. I love it. Especially when the sun is setting and you’re in the northern Neihu section, or passing Songshan airport wondering where that particular plane is setting flight for. It’s always such a calming ride and much better than being stuck under the ground. Plus, I conveniently lived on the brown line.

40. Sampling ALL the Vietnamese restaurants Yeah, this might have been more of an obsession. But it was a yummy one. I think I’ve been to them all, but my favourite one has to be the new one in Yong Kang Jie with green leaves hanging outside. Sadly I don’t know the name. But mmm fresh spring rolls, pho, Vietnamese salad…get in my face!

41. Playing the metro game I’ll admit that I didn’t actually play this as much as I used to in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but it’s still worth mentioning. Basically, if you ever have a free day and want to go exploring but aren’t sure where to go, close your eyes, stand in front of a metro map, and point. Wherever your finger lands is your chosen destination. Sometimes it can be a complete success and you’ll come running home with tales of a magical day. Other times, well, yeah, you win some, you lose some- better luck next time!

(but…p.s In Taipei, it’ll always be a magical adventure. I promise.)

42. The ‘ice-cream’ van It’s a lie, it’s a lieeeee. There is no ‘ice-cream’ van. That beautiful, childhood-memory sounding melody is not a funky ice-cream van on your doorstep, that is the RUBBISH truck. Yup. You’ll get over it eventually though. I almost did…

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43. Freshly-squeezed juice Ah, freshly-squeezed juice in Taipei is so cheap and convenient. My mouth is watering. Try all the combos. Right now try mango as it’s in season. Yum!

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44. Lanterns I love being on a dusty little street and looking up and seeing bright red lanterns floating in the evening breeze. It reminds me where I am, and they are so pretty.

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45. FREE toilets EVERYWHERE It’s only once you leave Taiwan that you’ll be like ‘oh my gosh!’ We have got it lucky in Taipei. And most of the time they are sparkling clean.

46. Little quakes of the earth Ok, these are more just scary and I’ll admit I don’t love them, but if it’s just a tiny little quake, just a reminder that the earth is alive and happy and filled with energy, then I don’t mind. It always provides plenty of conversation if there has been a little smidgen of a shake in the early hours of the morning. And yes, I do usually exaggerate them. That being said, they are not funny, and I hope that everyone in Taiwan is safe. Typhoon season is in full swing and it’s not a joke.

47. The proximity of the countryside It’s seriously right there! You can go deep into rural land within 30minutes of being on the train. For me, that is so essential when living in a big city. I want to be able to hop on the train, then dance in a field of fresh flowers if the notion takes me. You’re never ‘stuck’ in Taipei city if you don’t want to be. Go explore!

48. Little Thing magazine The prettiest magazine I ever saw, and you can buy it at Eslite in Taipei. Yay. Look at it- read me

49. The night life Cities totally come alive at night, and Taipei is no exception. From the night markets to night clubs to a casual drinking session in the park, to playing vinyls in roxy rocker, eating at a late-night restaurant, sipping tea in a cafe, going on a night cycle (don’t forget your lights) to watching a movie, or just wandering the streets taking it all in. In Taipei, at night, those little alleys filled with cats and lanterns come alive. In Taipei you need never stop exploring.

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50. When the sun decides to shine It’s true, Taipei likes to rain, and when she rains, she rains for days. Days upon days upon days. But when the clouds part and the sun comes out to play, she plays. There isn’t much more beautiful than Taipei on a sunny day after a week of endless rain. Everyone is stoked at life and the streets are abuzz with sunshine-loving people. That does, however, also equal umbrellas. Lots of umbrellas. Because in Taipei, when the sun is shining, the umbrellas all pop out. They know how to protect their skin in Taipei! I might have sneakily used one on my last day too, just for fun, but maybe I really was too hot…Either way, I love that in Taipei, a little-BIG thing such as sunshine can make all the difference. So Taipei, you rain your little heart out while I’m away. Because if, and when I return, I’m putting in an early request for gorgeous sunshine. Thanks!

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Again, thank you if you got through all 50 loves and misses. Perhaps you’ve lived or live in Taipei and have a love or miss you’d like to share? Please feel free to comment below! I love remembering all the little things that make a place so special.

Oamul Lu and his world of illustrations and animation

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this magical illustrator/animator from China, but I couldn’t resist sharing his artistic delights with you. His art is inspired by things he encounters in his daily life and he wishes that we can all find our own wonderful life and enjoy ourselves.

I think he’s adorable and I’d be over the moon if I could ever collaborate with him on children’s stories!! You should check out his site here and contact him if you have any ideas.

Here are a few of my favourites…

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bus fall map-of-the-world ROSE1700 ROSE2700 ROSE4700 star 雨水2bf0d44348b0c790b98dfce5384ccdd4 cd3346a16ef1ddbfda4a289d76a03c08All of these images were found here.

Don’t you think this is some of the most imaginative, beautiful work ever?! I love it!

50 things I love and miss about Taipei part 1

Having been back in the pretty homeland (Scotland) for a month now, it is to suffice to say that, despite Scotland’s overwhelming beauty and surprising sunshine and daily blue skies, I still miss Taiwan as if I’d lived there my entire life.

Why, you ask?!

If you have to ask why, you clearly haven’t been to Taiwan, in which case you best get your booty over there. It’s the best, and here are a few 25 reasons why.

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1. The food Need I say anything more?! The delicious food of Taiwan could take up all 50 misses, but rather I’ll keep it brief- I miss beef noodles from the beef noodle shop downstairs, I miss RED BEAN BUNS like nobody’s business (has to be the ones from the baozi 包子 shop on Shi Da Road, has to be!!), I miss the mangos, I miss DIN TAI FUNG’s xiao long bao, I miss duck, I miss mango shaved ice, I miss brownies (more on that later), I miss the fact that I can have anything I want to eat at any time of day from any country in the world. I miss the Vietnamese restaurants…You get the picture, I miss the food.

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2. The sparkly pavements In Taiwan, the pavements sparkle. Like there is actual glitter inside the pavements and they sparkle. All.the.time. Once you’ve walked on a sparkly pavement, those plain grey ones don’t work anymore. They just can’t compare.

3. Taiwanese people Seriously, did they get ALL the manners? They are so nice. Friendly, welcoming, optimistic, sometimes psychic!!, I just love them.

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4. Being able to cycle everywhere It’s all the rage these days to do a round the island bike trip, or if you’re not quite that fit, to at least cycle everywhere in the city. I loved my bicycle Lulubelle. I actually bawled my eyes out when I gave her one last glance as I departed my dusty apartment building. Come rain or boiling shine, I took her almost everywhere. Bicycles are the best.

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5. Taipei 101 It used to be the tallest skyscraper in the world, now it’s just no.2, but it is still the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. No matter where you are in the city, you’ll never feel far from home or lost or scared, because that big bamboo 101 is always out there, looming high above you.

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6. Speaking Chinese I really do miss speaking Chinese. Today I stayed in H&M for a ridiculous amount of time so I could practice my listening skills by eavesdropping in on a group of students from Beijing.

7. The alleyways Taipei might not be the prettiest, glitziest city, but her twisting, cute-as-can-be alleyways sure know how to win a heart or two. I loved getting lost in all those lanes.

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8. Cafe culture Taipei’s cafes are the best! (well, not Old Heaven best…but still). From perfect little girly afternoon tea spots, to quirky, eccentric mis-match sofa spots, there’s a cafe for everyone. And they are everywhere! And a good thing too, because if you know Taipei, you’ll know that the weather can be a little ALOT unpredictable and so thank goodness for all these lovely cafes lurking on every corner.

9. Heart-shaped leaves Yup. In Taiwan, the leaves are heart-shaped. That’s all I’m saying.

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10. The convenience of life You might think living in a foreign country could be difficult. There’s the language barrier, the differences in culture and the fact that you might be completely new to the place. Well, in Taiwan, that.doesn’t.matter. Taiwan, especially my beloved Taipei, is so convenient. In fact, it’s quite ridiculous. There is a 7/11 or Family Mart on EVERY corner. There are tailors, shoe-fixing people, bike repair shops, breakfast shops, clinics etc, on every street. It’s like a perfect little world. And then there’s ‘The Everything Store’. Don’t even get me started. Taipei is the epitome of convenience. If convenience was to be re-defined it’d be simple…T A I P E I.

11. My friends This should probably be no.1 really, shouldn’t it?! When I first arrived in Taiwan I knew a handful of people. Oh, how lucky I was, because that handful proved to be the bestest friends anyone could ask for. And it’s easy to make new friends there too. The majority of people who live on that island are lovely!

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12. Creativity everywhere The very first time I went to Taiwan was to participate as one of the winners of the Taiwan 4th Youth Trekker’s competition. My research was on Taiwan as a creative catalyst. I nailed it on the head! Taiwan is positively over-flowing with creative energy. Everywhere you go you’ll be sure to spot something arty. Even their metro stations are colourful and eye-catching. Every city should contain as many creative bones as Taipei does.

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13. Tea Fruit tea, green tea, bubble tea, milk tea, black tea, red tea, whatever colour tea, Taipei has it. (And coffee…but I haven’t started drinking coffee yet).

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14. Eslite Oh, you know those nights where you just can’t nod off, or maybe you’re in a club and a bad song comes on and ruins your vibe…what are you going to do? You could try and get to sleep, or…you could go to the 24hr Eslite!!! What’s Eslite, I hear you wonder? Oh, only the biggest, coolest book shop EVER! And yes, the one in Zhongxiao Dunhua is indeed a 24hr store. Happy days! I personally love the gigantic one at City Hall MRT station. It has everything! Book wonderland.

15. Cold Stone Creamery OK, I know this has nothing to do with Taiwan. Infact, it’s probably American?! But we don’t have it in Scotland, and so I associate it with Taipei and going to Eslite. Their ice-cream is thee BEST.

16. Lomography I love Lomography and luckily for me, Taipei has a big Lomography Gallery Store. I was fortunate to do an internship here which was so much fun! It has a very creative atmosphere and if you need to get some photos developed or want to experiment with an analogue camera, or just see what Lomography is all about, then this is the place to go. It’s in Zhongxiao Dunhua which is a perfect location for it. Tucked in a cute back street, surrounded by hip boutiques and cafes, it fits in nicely.

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17. Meeting old people in Da’an Park Haha yes. A walk through the gorgeous, green Da’an Park would not be complete without bumping into a friendly old face or two. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been sat on a bench or flopped in the grass scribbling my Chinese homework, when out of the corner of my eye I’ve noticed an old person peering over my shoulder and grinning. Conversations begin, nuts and snacks are shared, an old friend is made. Haha. Some of them are psychic. True story.

18. FUDGE brownies You’ve had a really bad day (doesn’t happen often in magical Taiwan) and you crawl home and jump on your bed, when all of a sudden your nose begins to itch. In one second you find yourself in the kitchen surrounded by the sweetest smell you’ve ever come across. Brownies. Gooey, chocolatey, fudgey brownies. Being baked in your apartment. You know you’ve got it good when your roommate makes brownies for a living. Not any old brownies. FUDGE brownies…the best brownies in the entire world, hands down. I believe I started to smell like chocolate. That.is.a.good.thing. And those caramel brownies…girls, they taste so good you don’t even need a boyfriend! Amen.

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19. Bubble Man on Heping Dong Lu Who? Why, Bubble Man of course. I like a bit of continuity in my life and when Bubble Man is selling his bubbles on the same street corner everyday, I’m happy. From 9am until 6pm, Monday to Friday, he sits and smiles and blows his bubbles, contentedly waiting for a passerby to purchase a bubble pack or two.

20. The Simple Market- Good Cho’s Bagels Situated in the sunny shadows of Taipei 101, Good Cho’s is a very funky cafe-come-shop-come-delicious bagels spot. I highly recommend their sun-dried tomatoes and chill bagel and their spinach bagel. Yum. Or their duck and grapefruit bagel-hello!  And go on a Sunday because that’s when they have The Simple Market and you can browse some delicious foods and treat yourself to the best ice-lolly in the world- fresh passion-fruit ice lolly. ‘Nuf said.

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21. Roxy Rocker Where else can you be your own DJ in a social environment? Deep in the basement, in a soundproof room lie hundreds of vinyls just waiting for your excited little hands to select and spin. I can’t tell you how many fun nights I’ve had down there. Crazy dancing!

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photo by Gamy Wong

22. Yong Kang Jie  This is one of my favourite areas in Taipei. Right behind the mandarin training centre, so perfect walking distance for a spot of lunch if you’re a student there. This area is swarming with cool. Antique markets, coffee brewers, tea houses, galleries, boutiques, Leora’s apartment for tea, vietnamese restaurants, cute cafes, the best mango ice in town, and the list is endless. Go here.

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23. Beitou Library This is probably the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen, well from the outside. It’s a totally wooden structure, nestled on the side of the foresty Beitou hot spring area. It oozes peace and quiet and makes browsing books all that more special.

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24. On Christmas Day, bus drivers dress as Santa Claus Or maybe it was just that one guy, but still, respect! For a guy who isn’t westernised, thus doesn’t celebrate Christmas, he’s pretty darn amazing. And he had a sack of sweets for the passengers. I like that. Going the extra little mile to get people in the mood for other people’s cultures. Taiwan!

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25. Elephant Mountain This is my favourite place to get an awe-inspiring view of Taipei city. From the top of Taipei 101 you get a cool view, but you get an incomplete picture seeing as 101 is missing. Thus, from Ellie Mountain you see Taipei in all it’s magic. I love the fact that 101 looms out like this gigantic futuristic bamboo plant, and the rest of the city dozes below, smiling in all it’s dusty antiquity. The old and the new, hanging together, combining to create the whimsicality of Taipei.

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…And if you got through that small thesis, stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!