I have already waxed lyrical about my love of Taipei; how it combines culture and convenience without the usual ensuing chaos. I loved its café culture – like Sunny Hills’ mix of European design and traditional Taiwanese cakes – and my first experience of KTV private karaoke. But if, for some reason, you are short on time in Taipei, these are my top 5 must sees in the city.
I (embarrassingly) knew rather little about Taiwan before my trip but most of what I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. Taiwan was a complete surprise. Although you often read or hear travellers speak of temples in Thailand, cycling in Vietnam and trekking in Nepal, no one had told me you can do all this, and more, in Taiwan. For the past week I have been learning the true meaning of hidden gem – Taiwan is this gem.
Since arriving in Taiwan last Saturday I’ve travelled from the highest peak to the aqua ocean. I’ve driven through marble gorges and over fluffy clouds, hiked mossy mountains and cycled jade-coloured lakes. Taiwan has surprised me and consistently charmed me. I’ve got a few days left getting to know this country but these are my highlights so far.
I’m on the move again next week! My last two trips took me to familiar and favoured places; I caught up with friends in Australia and saw a new side to South Africa. But as a blogger on a mission to discover new places I realised it was time I went somewhere new. Somewhere I had no prior expectations of. Somewhere I could see with fresh eyes; awaking every morning with the exhilarating (and slightly scary) thought of ‘what’s next?’ I wanted to go somewhere none of my close friends had been (a tough thing to do amongst such a jet-setting crew.) I felt the pull of Asia as I always do and had some conversations with my travel industry friends to see what I could do.
(It’s a sign! Spotted on London Underground)
It was as if we were actually living in Melbourne, we felt so at home. Although I had to admit we could probably never afford this central location if we were renting here, and normal flats don’t come with fridges that are magically restocked with beers everyday (if only!). But I liked to pretend, if only for a few days, that the Ovolo Melbourne suite we were staying in was actually our home.
There was music and clapping coming from a marquee on a barren patch of land.
“Do you go to church?” asked our self-declared Rastafarian guide. I failed to see how this was relevant but replied,
He laughed as if I’d made a hilarious joke.
“Let’s go in,” cried our second guide from Cycle Soweto who was at the front of the group. We all peddled furiously up the hill towards the tent and turned off the road, riding right up to its fabric door.
I watched Invictus for the first time on the flight back from South Africa. It’s a powerful, incredibly moving film (Morgan Freeman is a mighty Nelson Mandela) and I found myself glued to the screen. The movie bought to life everything I had just learnt about during my trip. The scenes on the screen matched those of my memories, the thoughts of the characters echoed my own. My tears, which came often, were freefalling and unstoppable, because this wasn’t just a movie. This was real, raw and recent history. Invictus is a fantastic film, Freeman as Mandela is a marvel but, for me, in the movie and real life, South Africa is the star.
(Invictus – just watch it!)
I checked with my Dad and it turns out we did drive into Germany for a day on a family holiday during my teens. I don’t remember anything about the country though, where we were or whether I even got out of the car.
For all the years I had studied about Germany in school there was a lot I didn’t know about what it is like to live there today. I had no idea, for example, that in many German cities the cycle lanes are on the pavement. Within the first few hours of wandering around Cologne I had almost caused injury to several riders and myself.
This contest is now closed.
If you were given £10,000 to do something for the first time what would you choose? This is the question that Visa are asking their contactless customers in their super contest to win a £10,000 first time experience. Not 1, not 2, but 8 lucky winners will be having their dream first time experience come true.
Escape to a private island perhaps?
I’ve never stumbled, lost and dry-mouthed, through the desert in desperate need of an oasis, but if I did I’d hope to come across one that looks like the Fellah Hotel.
Nestled halfway between the bustle of Marrakech and serene Atlas Mountains the Fellah Hotel is a haven of shiny new villas hidden behind inconspicuous orange walls. The complex looks and feels like a self-sufficient village; the restaurant, pool, spa and guest rooms spread out amongst cactus-strewn gardens and the hotel’s vegetable patch.
I was more concerned about entering a room full of pretty young fashion bloggers than the actual results. The Cosmo Blog Awards at the Oxo Tower had gathered the best of Britain’s fashion and beauty bloggers for a night of awards, treats and celebrations. This year, however, they had also included a category for Travel Bloggers and I was absolutely chuffed to be shortlisted for it, even if flummoxed about what to wear.
At least my hair was in good hands. Super-talented and multi award-winning hairdresser, Errol Douglas, had kindly offered to take on my untamed long bob and turn it into something chicer. Whilst I sipped my tea at the Knightsbridge salon and had a good chinwag with Errol about his travels (which are even more extensive than mine) he trimmed and tweaked my hair into a sleek yet bouncy new style. The usually rough texture of my hair was tamed by a Moroccanoil Treatment and I walked out of the salon with a lot more confidence than I went in with.