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Taiwan | 30 November '18
To be a photographer is to always travel with storytelling in mind, and I was shown so many stories.
I've always been eager to see Asia, and though I consider myself fairly well travelled, I've somehow come this far without ever stepping foot here. On this trip, I finally got to see this vibrant part of the world right! Journy gave me a depth of perspective I couldn’t have imagined previously. We didn’t just eat at the best restaurants—we visited the kitchens and met the chefs, watching them craft the perfect combinations of flavor. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with enthusiasm. Doors flew open for us, and we jumped at every opportunity to learn more.
After a breezy flight on the new China Airlines route direct from Ontario, CA, we landed in Taipei and checked in at the luxurious Palais de Chine hotel, which would serve as our home base for the week. The level of comfort and attention to detail was stunning—even the included breakfast was a highlight of my trip. After a power nap and a change of clothes, we headed out to take our first looks at the city.
One of my favorite things about photography is that your camera can be a key to the world. In Taiwan, people were so hospitable and welcoming. Following my lens around the city allowed me to see Taipei from an angle of observation. To be a photographer is to always travel with storytelling in mind, and I was shown so many stories.
Rain is always attractive to my photography senses: the sounds, the smells, the colors of the city are enhanced by this extra layer of reflectivity and atmosphere. My first impressions of Taipei were drenched in raindrops and neon lights and I was thrilled. The city swirled around us, as we moved through the streets, ducking under awnings and sliding into hole-in-the-wall restaurants to catch a reprieve from the open skies. It was a night filled with laughter and adventure, and there was so much to take in, I didn't quite know where to turn.
We took a break from hours of rain and photography at a members-only speakeasy, where we met the staff, had incredible snacks, and sampled a wide variety of some of the best cocktails in the city. Our drinks were delicious sculptures, prepared meticulously. Sitting at the bar, we had the best view in the house—and the art deco design was a thrill to photograph. As a New Yorker, nightlife and the local bar scene is something that I'm always curious to see.
After a few days in the city, we switched gears and drove into the gorges of Taroko National Park. The scale of this place was shocking. You'd follow a ridgeline with your eyes all the way to its peak, only to see another peak towering just behind it. Dotted throughout the jagged green expanses were temples, shrines and bridges, with bright colors that accented the dramatic landscape. It was an immersive experience, overwhelming in the best way, and filled us with excitement about the road ahead.
One of my favorite parts of my Journy was the mountain town of Jiufen. It felt like stepping into a movie. The winds and rain that enveloped the town muted the lights and made cozy cocoons out of tea houses. After wandering through the winding, narrow streets, we sat for tea and dinner, listened to the howling wind at the windows and looked out on the blue vistas, punctuated by the orange tint of sodium lights. After our rest, I headed into the maze of streets. Though crowded, I found moments of solitude by taking random turns down alleys and up stairs, and I got wonderfully lost following my camera through the magic of this city. Some of my favorite images from the trip came from this evening in Jiufen.
The legendary Din Tai Fung is the golden standard for soup dumplings. Considering this is nearly my favorite dish of all time, I was ecstatic to hear that Journy had arranged a kitchen tour and lessons for how to make this succulent steamed treat. It's way harder than it looks—these masters whip up thousands of dumplings a day, for a level of demand that makes a line out the door. My dumplings didn't make the cut, but luckily we had as many as we wanted, made fresh by these masters of the craft.
Taiwan was a country of incredible contrasts. I was enamoured with the densely packed city streets, the neon lights and rain, the umbrellas and lanterns and tucked-away tea houses. Driving through the mountains, I was equally in awe of the towering landscapes, the lushness of the mist-capped peaks, and the delicate man-made structures that drew our attention as we wandered the paths through the gorges. The warmth and hospitality of the people we met along the way is something that will stay with me for a long time.
We felt more than welcomed, even embraced, as we explored and learned about all that Taiwan has to offer. On our last day, all I could think about was how soon I could come back, to make more pictures, to eat more incredible food and to make as many new friends as I had on this beautiful Journy.
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