A must see for every traveller
Taiwan isn't on everyone's bucket list, but for me it was the most beautiful place I've ever seen – unspoiled and completely true to its heritage. Your mind might have gone instinctively to 'Made in Taiwan' (am I right?) and yes, part of the west coast is all about manufacturing and the large, high rise buildings you expect to find in Taiwan.
But that's only one side of the island. Travel a few hours east and there isn't a factory in sight. In fact, this area is so remote that no one speaks English and you can get a gin and tonic for less than £1 (not that this should be an incentive for going, of course!).
Taiwan’s rich history has seen the country ruled by both China and Japan, creating a great mix of cultural influences at every turn. It's amazing how both ruling influences can be seen so uniquely and with such strong integrity. We embraced every aspect of Taiwan’s culture, from Japanese temples to incredible nature reserves. One of my favourite sights was seeing an elderly monk leaving his offerings at a temple and saying a few prayers; I felt privileged to witness such an honourable act.
Another highlight was hiking through breath-taking scenery to Taroko Gorge, the famous bridge in Taroko National Park. Here, you'll find temples built at different levels within the mountains – some are so hard to find that you'll need a guide to take you up that high. The scenery is just as awesome as it looks in travel books. It was hard to believe it was so untouched and we didn't need any camera filters. We could have stayed there for days capturing pure, raw footage.
What was remarkable during our time in the remote west coast of Taiwan was the people’s belief that I would bring them good fortune! For them, blonde hair and blue eyes mean good luck, so families would come up to me and ask to touch my hair. Even more bizarrely, they also wanted pictures with me to take home. So my image could well be hanging alongside family portraits on living room walls, or I could even be famous in some of the villages. Of course, if I could bring luck to someone I would do my best to help them.
Driving through Taiwan, you come across rows of shops like these, all selling drinks and food. In every shop, you can find the local delicacy of raw prawns...but the very small ones. You’re meant to take them out of the tank and pop them straight in your mouth. I'm always open to trying new things but this time I really couldn't!
As you head out to the coast, the beaches are completely pristine. We drove along the coastline, popping to beaches which it felt like only the locals knew about. There was one beach where a local artist had made a creative space where people would go and paint, sculpt and meditate. You can also sample the gorgeous local, cuisine – we tried chicken curry which came with the claws still attached… The local artist collected the driftwood and anything else which washed up on the shoreline, using them to create sculptures to sell.
The people we met were friendly and always helpful, even though we only met one person who could speak any form of English. Taiwan really is a must-see country if you’re looking for somewhere that’s absolutely untouched and that unique feeling of being completely away from it all.