If you follow us on Instagram or read our personal blogs back when we had time to blog about non-wedding-related miscellany, you might’ve gathered that we’re fans of international travel. In the ten years that we’ve been together, we’ve journeyed to London, France, Spain, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan.
One destination that we can’t seem to stop visiting is Taiwan (four times in six years! Here’s one of Chris’s many posts and one of Lily’s), and we literally gasped with delight when Jen and Roly told us they’d be hosting an engagement banquet in Taipei (Jen’s family is Taiwanese) in addition to their Bay Area wedding. Knowing that they’d be doing a pre-wedding photoshoot in a studio while they were there, we offered to capture their explorations of the city—a vacation session, if you will. Happily, they agreed.
The first stop of our two-day session was Zhongzheng Memorial Park, home to blue-roofed Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and the ornate National Concert Hall and National Theater. There, we crossed arched bridges spanning koi-filled ponds, maneuvered past thick crowds along expansive plazas, and marveled at the looming architecture and dizzying flagstone.
We then caught a cab to Raohe Night Market, which is perhaps second in popularity to Shilin Night Market (read more about night markets here). However, this particular Sunday turned out to be a holiday or celebration of some sort and the already-sweltering lanes of foodstuff and tchotchke vendors were extra-crammed with hungry, curious droves. Punctuating the evening further were colorful floats, pole dancers (!), and fireworks by the grand Ciyou Temple, which sits at the night market’s east end. We ended the evening with some much-needed quiet reflection in the shadow of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building until 2010.
The next day, we left the city via minivan for three well-known tourist attractions: Jiufen, Jingtong, and Shifen. Since it was Monday, the crowds weren’t too bad—certainly better than the ones we encountered in Taipei!
Jiufen is an 1890s Japanese gold-mining mountain town full of narrow winding paths, crumbling buildings, and vendors galore. Its main street inspired the animated Miyazaki classic Spirited Away, and the 1989 film City of Sadness was filmed there. On a clear day (which this wasn’t), one of its alleys opens up to panoramic views of the valley and the Pacific Ocean. The lack of visibility, however, didn’t dissuade plenty of visitors from taking selfies with the fog. We took a break from jostling elbows by stopping in a classic Japanese teahouse, and later filled our bellies with copious snacks, including the famed Taiwanese “meatball” wrapped in a sticky glutinous-rice skin, a shaved peanut ice cream crepe, and skewered fishballs.
Our next two stops, Jingtong and Shifen, were along the Pingxi Line, an eight-mile, early-20th-century, single-track train line originally built to transport coal but now shuttles travelers between seven tiny former coal-mining towns (here’s a digital flipbook Chris made of our first visit). In Shifen’s case, the train cuts right through the middle of town, which can be pretty startling.
Our driver dropped us off at Jingtong, which couples descend upon to tie bamboo wishes (think sustainable love locks) on Lover Bridge as well as trees and other structures. Since the town is at the end of the Pingxi Line, our couple took the scenic train ride to Shifen, a perfect opportunity to catch their breath and rest their weary legs.
Shifen is best known for its waterfall, swinging bridge, and paper sky lanterns but, sadly, we only had time for the latter. Jen and Roly did a terrific job painting theirs before lighting it and watching it float into the dusky night. You can see for yourself how we spent our time together. Yes, it was fantastic and unforgettable and we can’t wait to capture their wedding day!