My introduction to Taiwan:
I first had interactions with Taiwanese in 2009 when I travelled to India and befriended a couple of ladies from there who soon became my close friends. We assured each other that one day, we would visit each other.
First forward to 2011, I heard about the Taiwan Youth Trekkers competition that is run by the Taiwan Youth Ministry that seeks to reward travellers with a fully paid trip to explore Taiwan. One was required to develop an itinerary highlighting the places they would want to visit and why, associated costs and how they would share the trip with the world. I was totally crushed when I didn’t win but I didnt lose hope. Come 2012, I cleaned up my application and this time I was successful, making me the first Kenyan and the only first African to ever win the competition. Even though I was on crutches, I was not detered-I wanted to explore Taiwan by hook or by crook. I got to travel to Wulai, Pingtung and Taipei and was almost in tears as I returned home, this place had ended up feeling like home.
In Taipei, I was able to engage in the below.
1) Celebrity Status
I knew we were to do presenatations to the Minister of Youth and her colleagues, Officials of National Youth Commission , members of Youth Trekkers, the media among others but I didnt expect what I found. As I entered the room, there were pictures of our experiences as well as full size banners of ourselves-talk about celebrity status.
I was able to share information about Kenya and Africa and I was honoured to have been an ambassador, most of those in attendance hardly knew anything about Africa. We also got the chance to share our experiences in Taiwan thus exposing Taiwan to Taiwanese and thus promoting local tourism.
2)Visited Taipei 101
This was the tallest building in the world up until 2010. This building is so tall that it actually looks like its peak is piercing into the heavens, with most of its top floors covered by fog during the cold season.
3) Family and Friends
I was priviledged to meet up with some of the friends I had met on the road and made the agreement, “I will visit your country.” I was also hosted by one of my friends family in her absence-the things travel offers.
3) Sampled delicacies:
Whenever I travel, I always sample most of the main delicacies-so go on,try some.
Being an Island, most of the meals they eat are from the sea. I got to sample and enjoy some of their delicacies, everything from squid (Huatzi), ocean weeds, steamed bread, chicken lolipop among others. Yum Yum.
My body however kept away from Stinking tofu even as the smell beckoned me from afar, you will know you are in stinking tofu territory without anyone having to tell you.
5)Spread the love
I felt loved in Taiwan and I believe this huge statue truly represents the love in Taiwan. Everywhere I went, I stood out, people looked at me and then broke out into a smile. Those who spoke English would engage me in conversation, where I was from, how I got there etec and all would end with-Welcome to Taiwan, have a great time.
The Chen Family, went over and above their call of duty. I had made friends with their daughter called Katy and when she heard I was travelling to Taiwan, she liased with her family to host me- even though she was away. They treated me like one of their own, they showed me around, they shared Taiwan with me and I will forever be grateful.
I was elated, I was over the moon and then reality started hitting home-challenges. Taiwan doesn’t have a Consular in Kenya, with the nearest being in South Africa. I emailed, I called, I bombarded all contacts of all their offices in Africa and finally I received a response from the Taiwan Trade Center in Taiwan-they would assist once legitimacy was confirmed.That is how I eventually had my passport flown to South Africa via DHL and there after received a visa for a whole month. I will forever be grateful to Richard Wu and Rosaline Ireri of Taiwan Trade Center as well as the Taiwan Youth Trekkers team for all their assistance as well as the Government of Taiwan for running the competition.
Taiwan made me feel special, loved and yearn to travel more. The people are warm, the various places amazing, the food-top notch and the experience life changing. Thank you Government of Taiwan through the National Youth Commission for selecting me to experience beautiful Taiwan, the Chen family for hosting me and the friends I met and made- I will definitely be back to explore more. I hardly noticed that people spoke Chinese as I spoke English yet we communicated-body language, sign language and smiles communicate a lot. I highly recommend visiting Taiwan to everyone. More on my experience in: