Story: It is impossible not to be in awe of Taiwan’s vibrancy. I’ve visited many countries, but Taiwan more than any other felt like two juxtaposing worlds meshed together. Ultra modernity seems to be the overwhelming theme of the capital city of Taipei with its neon signs and pungent ‘stinky tofu.’ Yet only a few hours away is the breathtaking Taroko National Park, which is known for its marble-walled canyons and mountainous landscapes.
Further north is the quirky cat village of Houtong. Once Taiwan’s most productive coal extraction site, Houtong has since suffered a steady decline when the price of the fossil fuel dropped. In 2008, a cat lover organised a team of volunteers to clean Houtong’s dying streets to provide a better home for the abandoned felines. Over time, word of this community spread to the media and the Houtong Cat Village was born. Today, this kitty-themed village attracts thousands of tourists year-round.
When I roamed outside the city to Taitung, a smaller town in southeast Taiwan, an eerie calmness replaced the buzz of Taipei. In the midst of celebrating its Annual Balloon Festival, local artists painted thousands of small hot-air-balloon-shaped lanterns. At night, the illumination of the lanterns painted the suburban sky while reflecting their colourful light on those who walked below.