If I had to choose one image to represent Taiwan, it would be this one with the ratty and ugly cement city encroached on by nature and trees and with a small moment of beauty for those who simply deign to look up.
Taiwan is a great country of contrasts. There is urban Taiwan: polluted, sprawling, grey and truly one of the ugliest things I've seen. Then there is natural Taiwan: green and lush and gorgeous and truly one of the most beautiful things I've seen.
All in one little island.
I spend the overwhelming majority of my time in urban Taiwan, which can be a bit depressing, especially for someone from Seattle who is used to stunning mountain and peninsula vistas every time she steps outside her front door. What makes urban Taiwan bearable and even dare I say enjoyable? Cultural Taiwan: fun and colorful and present in every nook and cranny of the country from the dragon covered temples squeezed in between two buildings or fireworks going off at 2am or EVA Air Hello Kitty airplanes or a cartoonish canal in the middle of an overcrowded, busy, loud city.
It's easy to come to Taiwan and see the ugly. It's everywhere. The buildings fester in the weather and the streets often smell of sewage and the air chokes you with its exhaust and humidity. But the truly wonderful thing about Taiwan is all of the little snippets of beauty hidden in all of the ugly. Sometimes you have to look up to spot it, sometimes you have to look down. Sometimes you have to seek out hidden nooks and crannies to find a place for just beauty where no ugliness is allowed. But I promise you it is there.
Just open your eyes and look.
After living in Hsinchu for nearly two years, I set off on another scoot adventure and found this gem hidden not in the mountains but in the middle of the city I call home. This canal area is a place of lanterns and birds and flowers and temples and bridges and trees and artwork and reflections and so many people and so much color and so much beauty:
If you look real carefully, I promise you will find something beautiful.