Home Sweet Taiwan: My Return at Last

Last updated on July 31st, 2020

Sun Rising Over Taipei 101

Taiwan: My Home Away From Home

There are few things in life I look forward to more than returning back to my home away from home: Taiwan. However, no matter how sad I feel when I leave, I know with certainty I will be back, just as sure as I am the sun will rise again for a better tomorrow.

Although I was born & raised in America in the state of Tennessee and have lived the last 2 & a half years in Florida, I have never quite felt at home here, oddly enough. I can’t really explain it, but there are many times in my life where I have wondered if I really fit in anywhere.

Sure, I had plenty of friends in high school & college. The girlfriends came & went. All of the other aspects of my life are what people on the outside would consider “normal.” However, on the inside, I felt the complete opposite.

Reflecting back on this internal battle, it’s easy for me to see how I fell into depression. Travel ultimately brought me out of the abyss and provided me a level of happiness I didn’t know was possible.

Returning to Taiwan

Returning to Taiwan, My Home Away From Home

A little over a year ago, Mora & I went on a trip for a couple of weeks to Taiwan & South Korea! We booked our flight tickets via Travelocity, but we didn’t need a hotel as we were going to be staying with Mora’s gracious parents.

This was my first time going back to Taiwan in almost 3 years, which felt like an eternity. I missed all of my friends dearly and was so excited to see them again along with Mora’s family.

We finally arrived at the Taoyuan airport in Taiwan after waiting through a long, 7-hour layover at the Incheon airport in South Korea. Exhausted like usual, we were fighting sleep on the drive back to Mora’s parents’ house in Daxi.

On the way back, her dad was nice enough to buy us some amazing ji rou fan (chicken & rice); it’s a simple dish, but trust me, you wouldn’t believe how amazing they make it. This made it even easier to fall straight asleep almost as soon as we got to their place. We of course first visited with her mom, brother (Jeff), and dog (Bruno).

Mora’s Grandparents’ House in Taiwan

Mora's Grandparents' House in Yangmei, Taiwan

After a much-needed long nap, we felt rejuvenated and ready to go out for our first night back in Taiwan!

A Happy Dilemma

First up was a trip to Mora’s grandparents’ house in Yangmei. Sometimes, my visits there can be a bit overwhelming because Mora has such a large family compared to me. So, it can be difficult at times trying to keep up with what everyone is saying and making sure I don’t say or do anything that might be considered rude or disrespectful in their cultures. Her mom’s side of the family is Hakka, which is another ethnic group of people in Taiwan.

I never want to be inconsiderate of any local culture, so being around many different family members at once can be a bit intimidating to try to juggle your focus & attention. Most importantly, I want to set a great example and make a positive impression.

Kindness Transcends All Barriers

However, her family is really kind & welcoming to me. They do their best to make me feel at home when I’m there. Her parents, siblings, and cousins especially always go out of their way to talk to me and make the night less stressful. I definitely appreciate that. But the kindness shown to me extends to her entire family.

For example, Mora’s gong gong (grandpa) doesn’t speak English. However, he has always been so sweet & kind to me. He has quite the personality and never fails to make us laugh. In addition, he is so fascinated with life in America and always asks questions on how things are compared to Taiwan. A lot of times, I will just sit with him on the porch the way I used to do with my grandpa and papaw, who are no longer with me on this earth. I really enjoy those moments.

Also, one of her uncles who speaks English showed me around his art studio where he makes many different items from various types of wood. He is so crafty & talented and was even kind enough to provide some gifts for my parents back in Tennessee.

Drinking With Taiwanese Relatives

Some of Mora's Family in Yangmei, Taiwan

Lastly, another one of her uncles doesn’t speak English but is always so nice and tries his best to communicate with me. That night, since he knew I was not a huge fan of kao liang (a type of Taiwanese liquor made from fermented sorghum), he was nice enough to get a bottle of Johnnie Walker from gong gong.

He really wanted to have some drinks with me, which I thought was pretty awesome! I more than happily obliged, and we enjoyed what I thought was going to be the grand finale of our night.

But as I would soon realize, the night was only just getting started.

Reunited With My Bros Living in Taiwan, My Home Away From Home

After leaving her grandparents’ house, we made an unscheduled stop in Zhong Yuan to see many of my best friends in the world.

This was kind of a spur of the moment plan that came out of nowhere. Based on our history dating back to 2013, this is par for the course. The spontaneous moments were often the most memorable, and this night was no exception.

Words cannot express how happy I was to see all of these guys again after being away for almost 3 years (despite my lack of smile in the 1st picture lol not sure why I was giving a Ben Affleck Batman stare).

As one drink turned into 10, the stories & jokes became more hilarious. When you have great friends to share great moments with, it does not matter where you are or what you’re doing.

It has never mattered whether we take a trip, have a BBQ, play billiards, or just have some drinks at the local convenience store; whenever we get together, it’s always the best time.

Family Feasts: For the Love of Food

Over the course of our time in Taiwan, there was one thing we never ran out of: food. From amazing meals my mother-in-law prepared to outstanding restaurants we went to with Mora’s family, we were in a complete food paradise.

Mother’s Day Lunch With Mora’s Family

This year, we celebrated Mother’s Day in Taiwan with Mora’s family. As you know by now, every celebration in Taiwan involves delicious food. We went out to a traditional revolving roundtable restaurant in Longtan, which specializes in seafood.

This type of restaurant is where many dishes are brought out to the table as they finish cooking. Once the food comes, you share with the group of people you are with. For example, if you want the fish that happens to be on the other side of the table, you can easily move the table around until the food you desire is in front of you; though, please be sure to be courteous to others in your group who might have not finished retrieving food.

The name of the restaurant was Lu Ye Xiangcun Canting; their seafood was OUT OF THIS WORLD AMAZING! In particular, the fried grass carp (pictured above) is a dish I will order every time I come to this mouth-wateringly delicious eatery.

Summary

Overall, this is one of my favorite restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of dining in Taiwan! This is an absolute must-try when visiting Taiwan.

Xian Bier Lunch With Mora’s Family

Mora's Family in Taiwan, My Home Away From Home
Mora, QBao (Nephew), PouPou (Grandma), Ma, EnXi (Niece), GongGong (Grandpa)

Aunt Cindy set up a big lunch in Taoyuan with many of Mora’s extended family (most not pictured above). Every time Mora & I come back to visit, Cindy always makes an effort to get all of the family together to catch up, share stories, & have a great time.

Close to Taoyuan High Speed Rail (HSR) station, we made our way to Xian Bier, another magnificent revolving roundtable restaurant. Not only do they serve amazing food, but they even make their own beer!

I loved their beer, and it paired really well with the food, especially the diced beef cubes. The Kung Pao Chicken was incredible; this is par for the course for Taiwan when it comes to Kung Pao anything.

When it comes to the rest of the food, the fish, basil pork, and fried tang yuan (sweet rice balls) were some of my favorites. Mora also loved the shrimp & cheese-smothered tomatoes.

Summary

Overall, when in Taiwan, you should give this place a chance; you will come away full & happy.

Mala Hotpot in Taiwan: Best in the World!

Ma La: Best Hotpot in the World! You can find this in Taipei, Taiwan.

Perhaps the most memorable dining experience came in Taipei at Mala Hotpot. Mora & I met up with her cousins for dinner; they are all really nice & friendly. We had always heard great things about the place, but once we saw Mike Chen’s video over it, we made it a mission to fit this into our schedule.

For those of you who have never had hotpot, you have to try it! I myself used to not like it due to a couple of subpar places I went to, but if you go somewhere high quality, you cannot help but love it.

Hotpot Spicy & Regular Soup Bases - Mala Hotpot - Taiwan

When you eat hotpot, you get to choose 2 different soup bases. Since you’ll be sharing them as a group, work together to choose the types that best suit everyone.

Next, you choose what kinds of meat & toppings you want to get started with. Once the soup bases heat up, you are ready to start loading it up!

Condiments Station at Mala Hotpot

Be sure to go to the condiments station and create the sauce best suited for your tastes. When you finish up there, head on over to the beverage area; they have a multitude of juices & soda, but they also have unlimited beer & wine. For me, beer was the easy choice.

Over the course of the meal, you are able to get as much meat & toppings as you want; there are 2 catches, however. First, the Australian Wagyu is an upcharge but is totally worth it. Second, there is a 2-hour time limit; have no fear, you will be in a food coma by the time the 2 hours are up.

When you feel you have had enough hotpot for one meal, round off your night with some delicious Haagen Dasz ice cream!

Summary

Mala is easily the best hotpot restaurant I have ever been to anywhere! When you are in Taiwan, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you miss out on this place.

Where Do You Feel Most At-Home?

I would love to hear your thoughts on where you feel most at-home. As you all know, for me, it’s Taiwan without question (2nd place goes to Italy). What place do you feel that special connection to? Let me know down in the comment section down below.

Navy Destroyer Ship in Tainan, Taiwan

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  1. cbholganza

    great story! me and my wife were in taiwan 2 years ago. and i must say the hospitality was just great. even if they know very little english, they will strive hard to help you in finding directions, in knowing which food is good to eat, in everything. the taiwanese are truly a very friendly people.

    • Adam's Apple: The World

      I couldn’t agree more! While most of the younger generation does know a a good amount of English at least, one common theme amongst most Taiwanese people is the friendliness. I’ve been helped countless times.

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