Words & Photographs by Brandon Wiltshire
In 2012, while trying to decide where my wanderlust would take me to next, I received an offer for a teaching position on the island of Formosa. While I originally signed a one-year contract, I ended up staying almost four years, falling in love with the country, its people and my adorable elementary students. During my stay, I explored the island as much as possible, not only to learn and soak in the culture, but also to attempt to capture its beauty so that I could share it with the curious and those who might one day make a similar journey. I’d like to share just a few of those images, with the hope that, at the very least, you go and do a little research of your own on what the local tourism industry refers to as The Heart of Asia.
Ilha Formosa, named by the Portuguese, is a beautiful island in the heart of Asia. Many parts of Asia today are quickly losing parts of their traditional cultures to ever-increasing influence from the West.
Conversely, Formosa is managing to hold on to its unique past. Once controlled by both China and Japan, the island has borrowed elements of surrounding cultures through colonialism and expansion to make it truly one of a kind.
If you’re not familiar with Formosa, perhaps you know it by its more common name, Taiwan. While Formosa is a fitting name, the name Taiwan comes originally from an Aboriginal area of the island discovered by the Dutch more than four hundred years ago.
China, once thought of as the center of the world, has lost some of its cultural history due to political purges, such as Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s. The cultural aspects of China that have disappeared in recent years still, in part, remain alive in Taiwan.
Mix that in with a sprinkling of Japanese culture from its fifty-year occupation, along with some Portuguese and Dutch influence from the seventeenth century, and you truly have one of the most unique places in Asia.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what I consider to be one of the best features of Taiwan—its people. Friendly, warm-hearted, welcoming, willing to completely go out of their way to help local and tourist alike, the people make this beautiful land truly shine. Oh, and the food’s not half bad either.
Brandon Wiltshire is an amateur photographer whose day job is teaching English as a second language (ESL) around different areas of the world. He started teaching ESL in South Korea back in 2008, later moving to Taiwan to continue his teaching career. In 2014, he received an MA in Applied Linguistics in 2014 from the University of Birmingham, U.K., and is currently living in Australia.