That’s a question I’ve been asked several times before I left, and since I’ve been here on the island of Taiwan.
There’s no good reason.
Lots of mini-reasons to come here:
-It’s cheap (compared to San Diego)
-People are nice
-There’s some English spoken
-It has city and nature
-I’ve never been here before
I’ve been here a week and a couple days now, and I have no major complaints!
Ok, here’s my view of Taipei so far and some experiences.
Taipei is surprisingly NOT that crowded.
I was expecting it to be like other big Asian cities. Packed with people wherever you go. It’s a busy city, for sure. During rush hour, some subway lines you may have to stand. But there seems to always be plenty of room. In fact, everywhere I’ve gone, there seems to be plenty of space. It’s surprising and not what I expected, but I’ll take it!
Everything is SO orderly and efficient
I showed up here not knowing the language or how to get anywhere. Right away, after purchasing a Smart Card at 7/11, I was off to using the subway or MRT. It’s the easiest thing in the world to use. Google will tell you which line to get on and how many stops. And when you get off the train- unlike the NY subway, every exit has a number, and Google tells you which number to exit to get to your destination. Stations are incredibly clean, and everyone stands in these neat lines and there’s no pushing and shoving.
And the rides are incredibly cheap. It seems like most places I go cost about 50 cents.
And, everything is in English and Chinese. Even the announcements. So it’s very hard to get confused or lost.
People are super helpful in general
The first morning I was here, I went to this little breakfast spot nearby where I’m staying. It started raining. I stood outside of the restaurant and was searching places nearby to buy an umbrella. Then the owner came out and opened up and handed my an umbrella- “No charge”! So nice. I’m still using that umbrella with all the rain happening here.
Today I was on a walking tour, and one of the girls on the tour had what looked like bug bites all over her legs. Someone walking by noticed this and randomly stopped and offered her some kind of lotion for the bites.
Related to this, there are a lot of people smiling here. I didn’t expect that either. I have yet to see anyone get angry, other than an occasional driver honking (which isn’t even that common).
I don’t have a kitchen in my Airbnb
It’s super common for apartments to not have kitchens. It’s SO cheap to eat out here, and groceries are generally pretty expensive, so why have a kitchen? It’s the exact opposite of Norway, where going out to eat is a rare luxury, and cooking at home is the norm.
The Taipei situation is not ideal for a traveler like me who wants to eat healthy, but I’ve found some bright spots to it. I’ve discovered a couple of items at the store that are working for me. One is canned sardines, which I haven’t eaten much of before, but they are tasty! The other is these hard boiled eggs they sell here, for some reason, they are extra good! Even though they look a little brown.
The other night I bought a Scallion Pancake at a night market and took it home. I got the 4-egg one, huge and cost about $3.50. Sadly, they used soy oil to make it- not exactly a healthy oil, and cooking with it makes it a partially hydrogenated oil, wreaking havoc to human bodies worldwide! I ate half of it and was stuffed.
It’s easy to be an adventurous eater here
I took an eating tour though a night market, and got to try the following:
-Chicken butt (?)
-Pigs Blood CAKE
-STINKY tofu (GROSS!)
Pigs Blood Cake
I still have a long way to go to try all the local delicacies. I’m going back and forth between having more traditional Taiwanese meals, and trying to seek out my American standby’s (have yet to find tacos here but I’m sure they exist!)
I will NOT be learning Chinese while I’m here
Even when I speak the words, I know I’m saying them wrong. I can’t seem to pronounce anything correctly. And it seems like it would take YEARS to read the characters. I also don’t know how I would write them as my handwriting in English is bad enough, I don’t think anyone would know what I was saying in Chinese!
Having said that, I am doing the Duolingo lessons, which may be helping a tiny bit so far to say like 3 or 4 words.
It’s HOT but not unbearable
Ok so it’s only June and not officially summer yet, but the hot, humid days haven’t bothered me too much. The massive amounts of rain are a bit of a downer because I can’t seem to plan hiking- the weather says it’s going to rain nearly 100% of the time, even though it doesn’t. It also helps that I was living in Texas before this, so I was prepared to be hot. And, this is nowhere near as bad as Bangkok, so I’m not going to complain. Much.
Taiwan is not part of China. But it is. But it’s not.
It’s a confusing situation. It’s the Republic of China, but it’s not part of China, but many people expect that China will eventually take the island back (like what they are trying to do with Hong Kong currently)
In addition to hiking, I’m going to get out to a few other cities while I’m here, including Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Tainan.
More soon from the “Middle Ground” of Asian countries!