LIFESTYLE

Imagine setting foot in the muddy, yielding soil, the water barely reaching your ankle. Freshwater is the lifeline of these tender shoots of the saplings; they grow taller by the day, reaching for the blue skies to be ready for harvest in a few months. The fountainhead murmurs its greetings to you as you wriggle your toes into the soft earth. It is time to dig out your itinerary, and block out a time dedicated to some rustic fun. Taiwanlook celebrates the beginning of spring to agricultural tourism, a new crowd-pleaser with a bucolic spin. Read on.

Farm villages in the Chinese communities worldwide operate like clockwork: farmers set out to work at sunrise, and call it a day at sunset. The day has a definitive beginning and end. In spring, they plant saplings; the arrival of summer signals a time for ploughing and weeding; when the trees turn gloriously red in autumn, the peasants commence the harvest; as the bleak wintertime sets in, they warehouse their harvest with utmost care. The four seasons are also marked by distinct farming projects. The result is that bowl of rice you have in your hands, where the white, plump, pearly grains lay, emitting a fragrance so appetizing that you just have to tuck right in. That bowl of rice represents the culmination of the hard work of those unsung heroes in the rice paddies.

Rice is the staple food crop in the Chinese community. It underpins Taiwan's history, culture, language, as well as its cuisine. Taiwan's cutting-edge rice farming technologies and production have not been challenged in years, and are simulated and studied by agricultural scholars and experts worldwide. Rice farmers on the island have an uncanny insight into pairing the best-quality rice species to produce even better cereal grains. The technological refinements in Taiwan's agriculture have done the country proud.

Tired of the corporate rat race in the city, many office workers have ditched high-paying jobs to succumb to the gentle calling of a rustic lifestyle. Farming becomes an envied vocation, and the previously unthinkable has taken place: Agricultural tourism has blossomed across Taiwan, and brought in needed income for traditional farming villages. So loosen your tie, or slip off those heels: it takes just an hour in the car to leave the restlessness in downtown Taipei to the undulating seas of rice in Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, and Taichung. Your rice pilgrimage has begun.

The most authentic traditional taste treats await you among the busy food stands of this city’s night markets, the most iconic of which are Shilin Night Market and Roane Street Night Market. Among the snacking delights you’ve likely never before experienced: oyster omelets, stinky tofu, and small sausage wrapped in big glutinous rice sausage. It’s a nightly carnival of snacking and shopping, and if you have only one night to spend in Taipei, spend it here.

Taiwan is synonymous with gourmet excellence: five-star restaurants, laid-back eateries and incredible food stalls abound to satisfy the most demanding gastronomes. To sum it up, Taiwan is perfect for both bite-size treats and sumptuous feasts, flavored with loads of fun.