Taiwan, A Place to Remember

2021-10-25

Collect moments, not things... That is what I believe in strengthening the relationship.

I came to Taiwan to continue my studies. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been separated from my husband and my 2 years old son for a while. So the first impression I got when I set foot in Taiwan was sadness and loneliness. But Allah is Good. He brought me to my family after 3 months apart. So, I didn't waste every moment with my family to explore Taiwan.

The trip to Yilan, April 4, 2021, was very, very memorable. We entrust our travels with Muslim Certified Tour Guides, one of which is HaoQuan Travel. We only need to pay 799 NTD/person. It is included bus fare, assurance, and buffet lunch. We met at Taipei Main Station (TMS), one of the busiest stations in the world. It is connected to five transport in Taiwan. They are Metro Taipei (MRT), High-Speed Rail (HSR), Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA), buses, and Taoyuan Internasional Airport Access MRT System. The funny fact about TMS is even Taiwanese also can get lost here. So, no wonder even I had already come there before, I still got lost to find the meeting point.

We departed at 08.00 from Taipei Main Station. I was not expected that so many Muslim friends join this trip. On the bus to Yilan, we got to know each other. We exchanged stories and talked about our hometown while enjoying The Hsuehshan Tunnel, the longest tunnel in East Asia and the fifth-longest tunnel in the world. This tunnel connects Pinglin, Taipei County, and Toucheng and ends up in Yilan County. The total length of the Hsuehshan Tunnel is 42,323 feet. Kotei, the travel guide, gave us mineral water. He said we could ask for the mineral water as much as needed, especially when we went to the toilet. He understands that in Taiwan most of the bathroom is built without a closet shower. So, after you take a pee or poop, you need to clean your genital area with tissue. For Muslims, this can cause inconvenience. Because we believe that water is the best way to remove unclean things, or we call it najis. Contact with najis things brings a Muslim into a state of ritual impurity. Personally, I always bring the empty bottle and fill it with water whenever I need to pee. So, I am so satisfied that this travel agent is really concerned about that.

Our first tourist location is Mei Hua Lake. Mei Hua means flower petals. So-called because this lake has a shape resembling a flower petal. That morning was a little cloudy, but it was added to the beauty of Mei Hua Lake. A little fog makes the place even more beautiful and seems a charming mystery. We rented bicycles to ride together around the lake. We took time to take pictures of the famous Mei Hua Lake bridge. I wanted to enjoy Mei Hua Lake a little longer. But we had to go because another interesting spot awaited.

At 10.50, we arrived at our second location. Tian Song Pi Station. An ancient and beautiful old train station. We had the opportunity to ride an old train which is even slower than running people. A very unique experience. My mind wanders back to 200 years ago when the first trains were invented. Today even humans can move at a speed of 500km/h by High-Speed Rail. How fast technology is developing! On that old train, my son and I even had the opportunity to sit next to the driver. How lucky we are! My son was so excited to see the driver driving the train. He even wanted to join the push and pull of the lever! LOL. Tickets to ride the old train are free. Simply by buying something at the station's souvenir shop, we will get access to ride the old train.  

Before continuing with lunch, we took the time to pray Dzuhur together at an inn with Halal Certified. The inn name is Geothermal Rise Leisure Homestay. Very comfortable place. When we all pray together, I can hold my tears. I am feeling so blessed that I could travel and still pray together in this Muslim minority country. All praise to Allah. Not only that, we were even invited to tour by the owner to a workshop where he developed various technologies in agriculture. The owner is amiable, the inn is charmingly equipped with hot springs too 

At 12.30 we have lunch in a vegetarian restaurant. They served food in the buffet. We can eat everything we want. The best part is we know that all of the food there is halal. Halal means it is safe and allowed for Muslims. Food is one of the challenging things for Muslims in Taiwan. Muslims cannot eat any food containing pig and blood, such as pork, lard, bacon, ham, pig blood cake. Muslims cannot eat any chicken, duck, goose, beef, or lamb that has not been slaughtered in the Islamic way. We also cannot eat any food and beverage containing alcohol. All of that prohibited food is called haram. At that moment, I have a good conversation with Mr. Majed Tsai. He is Halal Affairs Supervisor. He helps a lot of Muslims to get information about halal and haram products. We talk about Islamic growth in Taiwan. And it makes me feel optimistic that one day, many people will know the beauty of Islam.

The last destination of our trip is Zhuang Wei Dune. Zhuang Wei Dune is an architectural space designed by architect Huang Sheng-yuan. The park includes a visitor center and sand-dune exhibition center. Not far from the building, there are many other beautiful places, such as the coasts of Zhuangwei. When my family and I walked, I really enjoyed having a simple conversation and hearing wave sounds. That is a lot of joy! I am feeling grateful to Allah, The Almighty. He gave us the chance to see the beautiful side of Taiwan and meet us with very kind people who really respect our belief, Islam. We went back after that, bringing a lot of souvenirs, photo collections, and moments to remember.

Taipei, October 21th, 2021

Nur Novilina Arifianingsih

(A writer is a Ph.D. student of National Taiwan University from Indonesia)