We were in Taiwan for only four days, and frankly, it wasn’t long enough– if I had another day, I would have visited Tainan City1 and visited the port of Kaohsiung City if my schedule allowed six days.
Next time in Taipei I’d like to visit the National Taiwan Museum and National Museum of History (note, it’s in the middle of renos as of Nov. 2018). I’d like to go up Elephant Mountain for some green tea and a night view of Taipei or maybe the ride the ferris wheel at Miramar Entertainment Park2. I’d like to walk on the beaches and see Taroko National Park. There is so much to see– it feels like I only scratched the surface.
I have not travelled with a backpack for years, so it was good to get back into the groove– I learned lots about Taiwan. For example, I will not change hotels in Taipei next time—for Taipei adventures I would stay in one hotel near Taipei Main Station– transportation is so efficient – and day trips to Keelung and Jiufen are entirely feasible if you base your travel from Taipei. Staying one night in Jiufen would also have been really cool alternative and there are a lot of hostels and guest houses to choose from.
Take taxi’s in Taipei—seriously, if there is no direct subway or bus link to a destination, take the subway as close as you can and take a taxi—they are very inexpensive and convenient. Often, the driver used the GPS on my Google Maps as it was in English and the drivers seemed to feel it was a convenient way to do things. It also gave me the piece of mind that I wasn’t being railroaded into a longer fare.
On the topic of Google Maps– it worked really well for us when we traveled through Taipei, Jiufen and Keelung– no issues at all when it came to using the subways and buses which was great– note, we did not take any trains– so can’t comment on those.
If I am able to go to Taiwan again, I will study some Mandarin, so at least I know a few basics– numbers would be nice, and some basic foods would be helpful too– you can’t always find a young person to bail you out!
I felt safe everywhere we went. That’s easy to say when you are a guy, however, I saw several young women travelling by themselves and spoke with a young woman from the States and she said she felt comfortable travelling here alone.
$1 Canadian is about $25 New Taiwanese dollars. You can spend $4 Canadian on a cup of coffee here too but generally speaking food costs seemed around 1/3 to 1/2 what we would spend in Canada for similar food items.
I didn’t use my $60 plug converter that I bought at YVR… Maybe I’ll need it in Japan.
The food was really good. I wanted to try the most authentic type Taiwanese meals possible, so we went out of our way to hit the backstreets and the small stalls and markets in Taiwan to find something different. A chili/five spice type powder seems common and there is a lot of fried food. In Taipei you can find any type of food you want especially if you go to the modern shopping, night life area– there is no shortage of variety– Western, Japanese, Chinese Italian, Indian– it’s all here. If your hotel has a breakfast, it’s probably really good and reasonably priced – and it’s easy especially as you get ready to head for the airport.
I try to avoid convenience stores in Canada – however, in Taiwan a convenience store3 is a destination. In addition to great food and tasty iced coffee drinks, they have free Wi-Fi, and ATM’S with an English option.
If you want to catch a local bus, you need to wave at the driver. I don’t mean a casual ‘how’s it going wave’. I mean a flap your arm like you ‘want to go airborne wave’ to make sure they stop.
Put on the seat belt when you ride a taxi- it is practically a contact sport.
I wish I brought some Canadian pins with me… Lots of kids have said hello- actually we’ve said hello to a lot of kids and they replied… It would have been nice to give them something. It was a great opportunity to be an ambassador for my county, I should have known better.
There is enough English where is counts – the MRT (subway system), to a lesser extent buses, hotel clerks and transportation employees speak enough English to get you out of the glue. To be clear, I have no expectations that the residents of a country I am visiting will speak English. The onus is on me to learn their language. I knew Taiwan would be a challenge and I’ve enjoyed it. A smile, body language and inflection in your voice make all the difference- if the person on the other side will play along you can almost make anything work. I can read a lot of Japanese and some Mandarin characters are close so I had a bit of a leg up… knew the difference between chicken and pork for example- although obviously still had to point.
Generally younger people are game, older folks not so much. We went down some really small alleyways in Taipei and into some small markets where some vendors were not so inclined to play charades with me– they were there to sell to locals and local businesses- that’s fair. Then you meet people at this coffee shop in some obsuce market on an early Sunday morning, and they are happy to engage. A few times when the going got tough at a night market a friendly stranger came in and bailed me out and I’ve had high five’s at a few shops where younger people enjoyed the exchange. You gotta put yourself out there realizing that you might get burned- and sometimes you will– but more often, it turns out great.
We had a terrific time in Taiwan– it was great to travel again outside of Canada.