I recently explored the island of Cebu, Philippines, with Silk Holidays tours for destination training. Not always known as a beach destination, I discovered that the Islands are home to white sandy beaches, turquoise water and a scuba/snorkelers paradise. During certain times of the year, scuba divers converge to the islands of the Philippines to take in swimming with Whale Sharks, an experience not to be missed.

The marine life paired with 80 degree warm waters will make any ocean buff smile. With locals speaking English, to my surprise, it was easy to communicate and made ordering food and shopping very easy. For the shopping inclined, markets are the way to go and is an experience in itself. The people were friendly, welcoming and always smiled upon noticing me, I felt very safe at all times. With the main religion being Roman Cathlism, there is no shortage of beautiful churches throughout the cities paired with Buddhist and Chinese temples throughout. If you’re looking to travel to somewhere new, exciting and out of the ordinary, then take in the sights, smells and excitement the Island of Cebu has in store for you. With flights departing Vancouver VIA Taipei, Taiwan with EVA Airlines, I was able to spend some time with a stopover to Taipei. At first I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this city, but I was wrong. I found this city to be wonderful. My stay at the Howard Plaza Hotel had views of this bustling metropolis city with skyscraper reaching into the sky

. I admit, I am an architecture buff. I also didn’t expect it to be so warm, temperatures reaching into the 30 degree mark. Our first tour took us to some temples, where I was able to witness the locals take in their daily prayers. There is something magical to me when I witness people who seem to be at such peace and happy when at times the world seems scary. Watching a young boy with his father, learn the faith of his family and his god was heart whelming. Next stop, to the top of Taipei 101 tower, the 5th tallest in the world. As we wander through the mall at the bottom of the tower, I notice the high end shops, Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, the list goes on and on, a true high end fashion paradise for those who dare. I arrive to the elevator that will take me to the top, with a plaque from the Guinness book of World records stating I will experience the fastest elevator in the world which whisked me up 88 floors in 30 seconds. Arriving to the top, the views were breathtaking. Sunset was upon us and the lights of the city began to light up I could watch the movement of the city below me. Next stop, dinner. We were able to get into the DIN TAI FUNG restaurant, named one of the “Top-Notch Tables” by the New York Times, Rated Asia’s Best Restaurant and has received the Michelin Star for 5 consecutive years. Famous for their dumplings or locally known as XiaoLongBao, you can witness teams of people rolling and stuffing dumplings in front of your eyes through the Kitchens viewing area. We sat down for what seemed to be a 15 course meal that did not disappoint, a taste bud overload of what can be described as delicious. Finally, I Finished the day off with some time in a local market, my senses were on high alert. The sight of people walking the streets eating, shopping and hanging with friends and family seems to be prideful here. With Vendors cooking and serving food , the smell in the air was ever changing. I enjoy going to local markets all over the world, for me this is where I really get a sense of how locals live, eat and shop. What I liked about this particular market was that the vendors were never pushy to sell their products, were kind and very polite.

I was able to browse with a bit of peace, a change from most other markets I have been to around the world and at no time did I feel unsafe. I spent over 2 hours in the Market and was time to get back to the hotel, for I was leaving in the morning to Central Taiwan. In the morning, I was on my bus heading to Sun Moon Lake, Located in the mountains of Central Taiwan. With a few stops on the way, I received my “Diploma” in Bubble Tea making, dined in local restaurants and made Sun Cake pastries at one of the many “DIY” workshops you can attend. My stay was at the Sun Moon Lake hotel, where the next morning I took in the sunrise on my balcony overlooking the lake sipping my morning coffee, before heading out for a morning bike ride, all the hotels in the area offer their guests free use of bikes where you can ride the paved trails and boardwalks alongside the lake. One last tour on a boat around the lake and I headed back to the airport for my return home. It was a quick trip to say the least, jam packed full of tours, eating lots of local food and seeing the sights that the Philippines and Taiwan have to offer. I was given the opportunity to learn more about different cultures, learn more about the people, the foods and the world that is so different than my own. This always propels me to be more human, more caring and more open minded. If you’re travelling to Asia, make Taipei a quick stopover on your way to the Philippines or Southern Asia, you will not be disappointed.