Taiwan's the perfect blend of ancient and modern worlds
ABOUT 15 of us crammed into an elevator like a school of sardines.
It's the only way up, I'm told. Walking is not an option here.
At 101 floors high, it would take all night to climb to the top of Taiwan's most famous building.
The doors shut and we were off. No awkward wait, lame music and slow ascent here.
After all, I'm standing in a world record-breaking, high-speed pressurised elevator with its speed of 1010 metres/minute.
The 37-second ride from the fifth floor to the indoor observatory on the 89th wasn't as bad as I had thought - and this is coming from a guy who got trapped in an elevator for 30 minutes when he was a kid.
But any flashbacks to that horrible moment in the Myer centre back in Hobart were miles away in my mind as I stepped out of the elevator high up in the landmark skyscraper.
I immediately went to the windows.
The cloudless night sky took over the city.
Welcome to Taipei, I told myself.
I took a week-long journey to Taiwan recently as a guest of Taiwan Tourism, discovering the north and north-east of the island.
As you would expect it was so different to what we're accustomed to in Australia, and different from travel experiences I've had in places like Thailand and Fiji.
Taiwan is in a class of its own.
As we travelled around, the line between traditional and modern became increasingly blurred.
We saw the fantastic creations of modern civilisation such as the Taipei 101 and rode the Taiwan High Speed Rail train, all before seemingly gunning it to 88mph in the Delorean and going back thousands of years.
There was so much of traditional Taiwanese culture to experience.
The Chio-Tian Folk Drums and Arts Troupe was one such example.
We stopped by their training and accommodation facility as part of our trip for a sneak peek and a behind-the-scenes look at how they bring their show together.
Even in rehearsal, when they're not covered in paint or in their colourful costumes, this troupe of parading Din Tao drummers has a powerful presence.
When it came time to suiting up, the exuberance and passion their leader Chen-Jung Hsu spoke of just popped out.
The story behind this group is fascinating. It was founded in 1995 to engage youth in crisis and help keep them out of trouble.
They've come a long way in that time. They've even starred in their own movie.
The performers were the inspiration for and stars of the 2012 flick Din Tao: Leader of the Parade, which received critical acclaim in Taiwan.
At Yehliu, a cape on the north coast, I came to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature.
The Yehliu Geopark is famous for its sea-erosion landscape, and its rock formations with their imaginative names based on their shapes.
It's easy to see where the name "mushroom rock" came from.
The most famous feature of all is Queen's Head, which when viewed from a certain angle, resembles the profile of Queen Elizabeth II.
Taiwan is a beautiful part of the world, unlike anything I'd previously experienced.
It's bristling with sights, activities and festivals all year round that made this traveller want to stay and experience more.
(Source: QT The Queensland Times by Patrick Williams 9 Dec 2012)
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