What a whirlwind trip Taiwan has been. From February to March this year I headed off to Taiwan to film my first TV show – a travel show hosted by Janet Hsieh called Fun Taiwan Adventures. Fun Taiwan is in its 8th year now and reaches 100+ million viewers in the Asia Pacific region. In this season’s Fun Taiwan, Janet Hsieh invites 12 bloggers to Taiwan on a mystery adventure around Taiwan, exploring a different area of the country every episode.
And guess what? The episodes I filmed are finally airing. Tonight (Sunday) at 11PM (AUS/NZ viewers) you can watch episode 8 of Fun Taiwan Adventures on Discovery TLC.
I spent the month travelling with Janet Hsieh, UK based Savi & Vid of Bruised Passports & Canada based Mike of Kick the Grind to shoot these eps and collected a lot of pictures along the way. With so many beautiful memories made and new experiences to be had, I thought I’d accompany each episode with a behind-the-scenes visual diary. Whether you read this post this before or after watching the show, I think it will give a really interesting glimpse of the other side of the show – all the crazy antics, outtakes and the little moments that happened through our long filming days. A special thank you to Renee & the production team for helping snap some of these pics for me as well.
FUN TAIWAN ADVENTURES EP08: BEHIND THE SCENES
LOCATION: TAITUNG 台东
TaiTung is the eastern county of Taiwan and was where episode 8 was based. To get to TaiTung from Taipei, you need to drive through long and winding highways along the coast. It makes for a beautiful drive but can most definitely give you motion sickness too! TaiTung was one of my favourite areas of Taiwan. It was near the beach, felt a little countryside too – I loved the tropical, carefree feel of it. There are lots of indigenous Taiwanese tribes still living here in small towns and I recall that there was one night in a hotel when my window was open, that I heard a community announcement being made via a megaphone across the town wishing everyone a good night. Such a sweet community thing to do. This area is also packed with fruit plantations with custard apples being a very popular one in the region. We bought an entire box of them for 110NTD ($4.50AUD) and munched on them during our drives to our daily filming locations.
STAND-UP PADDLE-BOARDING ON FLOWING LAKE
One of our first adventures in Taiwan was heading to Flowing Lake to go paddle-boarding. I’ve never been paddle-boarding before so was actually kind of frightened to be doing this for the first time on camera but everything actually ended up being OK. It’s much more easier to stay on the paddle board than it looks, as long as you find your balance. Perhaps weekly yoga helped?! I think the more difficult thing for me was actually attempting to make my board go where I wanted – the waves were much stronger than me.. you’ll probably see me floating off in the distance on TV. Oops!
DUO LIANG TOURIST STATION
An interesting place we filmed in TaiTung was the Duo Liang tourist station. It was one of those unassuming places that I don’t think I would have visited on my own but it was actually kind of pretty cool. We met a local tribe here, the Paiwan Tribe, who shared with us their artistry. The tribe makes glass beads which represents different characteristics and personalities which are then arranged onto a bracelet for each person. We had a go making glass beads over a flame – it was the most difficult thing ever and needs so much hand-eye co-ordination! It reminded me of how the Italians would make murano glass in a similar way and definitely makes you appreciate how small pieces of art can take years of skill & practice to master.
BANQUET DINNER AT QUEENA PLAZA HOTEL
One of the newly opened hotels in the region is Queena Plaza Hotel. It’s a luxurious 5 star hotel with the most gorgeous views both morning (pictured above) and night (last picture in this post). I had a massive itch to put my tripod into good use so convinced the butler to unlock the windows for me so I could take some shots. We also filmed a banquet dinner here where we tried all sorts of unique Taiwanese dishes such as salty egg tofu and crispy duck with cheese (a strange combo that actually works!). Here’s us above with our filming lights on because dinner in the evening never looks this perfectly lit in real life!
MOUNTAIN-TOP FREE RANGE FARM VISIT
I’ve always known about egg-rolls (my mum loves them) but never really thought about how they were made. Turns out that firstly, the snack is a Taiwanese speciality and secondly, there’s a special cooker that you can use to make them. Janet took us to a free-range farm where we learnt how to make these. Basically you mix flour, eggs, butter, sesame seeds and coffee together before heating it on the special flat pan for 15 seconds, 3 times each side. The hard part then comes next – you try your best to roll it up in a way that resembles the store-bought ones.
MOON LUTE DAY
We spent a day in HenChun (a town in the TaiTung county) learning about the traditional moon lute instrument which is slowly starting to die away. In HenChun, we visited a workshop that creates these instruments – It takes 3-4 days to make a moon lute by hand! – and followed it up with a music lesson from some kids from a local school. The instrument itself and its history kind of reminds me of the Australian banjo.
Wearing: Country Road striped top
HOT AIR BALLOONING
This was my personal highlight of the trip! I have always wanted to go hot air ballooning so you can only imagine my excitement when our director, Tim, tells us that we’re doing exactly that. We woke up at 3:30AM to drive to Luye Gaotai (鹿野高台) to go hot air ballooning with Sky Rainbow. Drifting 900 metres above the mountain ranges was one of the most magical experiences. We passed by rice paddies and yelled good morning to farmers all whilst the sun started rising. It was really a peaceful and beautiful morning aside from our shrieks of excitement & crazy face pulling whilst on the balloon!
SIDE-STOP TO TRY SOME CENTURY EGGS
It’s one of those things I’ve never craved but the century eggs in this corner of the world were actually pretty good. Every stall has its own samples to try and I basically filled up my tummy just trying the samples. I can confirm, they taste better than they look. Including that black jelly looking one.
Filming for Fun Taiwan Adventures was filled with ‘firsts’ and this was my first temple visit too. I’m not religious in any way so things like temples, churches and all the jargon and concepts associated are things I don’t take note of. Nevertheless it was interesting to experience something new, to see how different people in different countries worship and to also make a small offering to the Gods there as well.
Sushi t-shirt from Zara
.. the things that happen on/off camera. I’m not sure either but now that I look at this pic carefully, it seems like we were actually on camera at the time! Mike on the left is a break-dancer (check out his moves), Vid seems to be saving Janet and Savi & I are completely lost in the midst of it all..
KENTING NATIONAL PARK (墾丁国家园)
At the southern tip of Taiwan is this massive national park so big that you have to drive through it. We visited a coral forest – a place that had been underwater many years ago but due to environmental changes is now above land, weeping banyan trees which some of the production team were freaking out about (because apparently a horror moving was filmed here) and also a 100,000 year old limestone cave. The wind was especially strong when we visited the tip of the park (pic above) that it was so hard to even stay put in one spot. My cameraman thinks he likes this candid photo though.
WRAPPING UP THE WEEK WITH SOME TANG YUAN (汤圆)
Because we filmed on the day of the Lantern Festival (元宵节)!
Oh, and here’s a copy of the video I made for this episode. This show was the first time I ever use proper video editing software and my 2012 Macbook Air struggled hard.
SEE MY TAIWAN TRAVEL POSTS HERE:
FUN TAIWAN ADVENTURES EP09: BEHIND THE SCENES – coming soon
FUN TAIWAN ADVENTURES EP10: BEHIND THE SCENES – coming soon