Sunday, April 02, 2017

Things I've learned about Taiwan

As I reflected about my time in Taiwan, I found it difficult to think about things for this list. And then I realized that because of my time in some other countries, I was ignoring aspects of Taipei that made the city different from the western world of my childhood (despite some similarities to the countries I've now travelled to). Trying to keep that in mind, here are a few things that I've learned about Taiwan.
View from Taipei 101 on a cloudy day...
1. You can do everything at a 711. From my time in Korea, I already know that convenience stores are way more common and have a wider purpose than what I'm used to in Canada. Honestly, in Canada, I never really bought anything at a convenience store. Not so in the asian countries I've visited. I felt like Taiwan took it to an all new high. Not only can you buy almost anything you might need on the fly (from shampoo, pads, first aid kits, alcohol, ramen or milk), you can also top up your transit pass AND buy tickets for the train and other places. Seriously, it's your one stop store.

2. Stinky Tofu is really Stinky. I've heard of this "food" but I had no idea how smelly it actually was until my first time walking around the night market. It was bad. I thought about trying it, but for this trip, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'll just have to go again and try next time.

3. The Motorbikes. Having been to Vietnam, Malaysia and China, I think I was a little desensitized to seeing people stream around street corners, but my mum reminded me that it is not a common occurrence back in the true North. And while Vietnam still wins in my experience as the craziest motorbike-flow, Taipei still had enough that it is cool to see. They drive so confidently.
In the Shilin Night Market (Friday Night).
4. That Night Market Life. My mum and I visited Shilin and Ningxia Night Market and both were very different from each other. Shilin, being the biggest, reminded me more of Seoul's Hongdae-type shops with a Namdaemun Market atmosphere (if you know the references). There were a number of stores that sold clothing, phone cases, toys, stuffed animals, etc and then among them pop-up street stalls that sold all sorts of food (steamed buns, chicken, stinky tofu, sausages, fresh cut fruit, and more). On the other hand, Ningxia reminded me more of the Old Quarter of Hanoi meets a Kuala Lumpur food court. There were some hole-in-the wall restaurants along the sides of the street with the small stool chairs and tables along the sidewalk. Down the center of the street, there were two rows of pop-up stalls. Some stalls also had a section of stools and tables while others you just grabbed your food and went on your way. Really popular foods had some crazy-long lines, especially on the weekend, so be prepared. The selection of food between the two markets is also different, so if you are in Taipei, I recommend hitting up both of them.
Whatever this is, I really liked it. (Shilin Night Market).
Some delicious steamed buns!
5. Don't stay in the City. While there is a lot to see and do within Taipei, there are so many amazing places to go in and around Taiwan. Even if you only have a couple days, dedicate 1 to out of city.
Mountain Hike Views: Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan Fumaroles.
I climbed above the clouds over Yangmingshan with a couchsurfer and new friend. My mum and I had the chance to go to Taroko Gorge on one day, which was amazing and so worth it. On another day, we hopped on a bus and road along the North-East coast. We hit up the Queen's head and a couple other places along the way. I was initially worried about taking the bus away from the city because if we got lost in a small town without Internet and potential English, things could get complicated quickly. (Ha). But there were a couple buses that went along the coastal road and it was easy to hop-on and hop-off at your fancy. On the way back, we came through the Tamsui District which is the top of the Red subway line in Taipei. I really wish we had ventured that way a day earlier because I would have liked to explore the area in more depth. Le sigh. At that point I was tired and didn't take many other photographs.
The Yehliu Harbour; there's something about a portside photograph... 
View from the Yehliu Peninsula back toward the island.
Do I even need to say that my time in Taiwan was too short?
Love and Hugs.

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