So This Is Taiwan
My Taiwanese friends back in Vancouver are always praising Taiwan for its delicious night markets, authentic bubble tea and mountainous beauty. It was so cool to finally experience what they’ve been talking about all along.
The highways are literally high
After arriving at the Taoyuan Airport in Taipei, I took a shuttle bus to my hostel. Taoyuan International Airport is quite far from Taipei city centre, so the bus was on the highway for some time. The first thing I noticed was that the highways are literally high.
Another thing I immediately noticed was that all motorbike riders wore a helmet, which is the complete opposite of what I was used to seeing in China (no one wears a helmet).
After arriving in Taipei, it was like my eyes were set in a different hue. I was used to seeing brown in Beijing for the last two months (Beijing has a long winter), but now everything was green, wow! The mountains, the trees, and the shrubs planted along the streets were all green.
Everything is delicious (especially the stinky tofu, mmmm)
The night markets in Taiwan are the bomb. I went to four in total and tried so many things. My absolute favourite thing here is the 臭豆腐 (choudoufu – stinky tofu).
Okay, okay, it is stinky when you smell it, but it’s so 香 (xiang – fragrant, savoury) when you eat it.
A friend I met at the hostel was so reluctant to try stinky tofu. I couldn’t let him get away with it because I knew that he wouldn’t be able to find the same delicious stinky tofu anywhere else in the world. One time, he asked me if I could open a hotspot for him on my phone, and I made the password iwilltrystinkytofu. Hah! (He actually tried it later and didn’t like the taste. But at least he tried, right?)
A wonderful meal at the Modern Toilet Restaurant
I just did a quick Google search and there’s actually a location in Beijing (where I’m currently doing a co-op term)! Yay! Although I could have visited the location in Beijing, I got to try it out where it originated.
That day, my family friends from Vancouver (Kevin and his parents) and I just finished visiting Sun Moon Lake in Taichung, and we were going to hang out for the rest of the day. I told Kevin that I wanted to check out this restaurant. He was as stoked as I was; his parents were not, haha. They gave us a weird look and told us to check it out ourselves. Woop-dee-doo.
This restaurant is the cutest and most hilarious place ever. The one we went to was in Ximending in Taipei. The inside is all colourful with cute poop everywhere—okay, I know this sounds quite funny, but believe me, it’s super cute and not gross at all. I won’t tell you too much about it because I think you should experience it for yourself.
Somehow, always the right people at the right time
Time and time again, it’s like my timing is always perfect while travelling.
When I was going through immigration after arriving in Taipei, the immigration officer told me to go to the back and fill out my address on the arrival card.
I noticed that the person at the counter next to mine was also sent to the back of the room by her immigration officer. We ended up both scouring through our phones for our addresses, and I noticed that she had a Canadian passport. Out of curiosity, I asked her where she lives in Canada, and turns out she’s from Vancouver, my home! We chatted for a bit. She’s an artist and she was coming to Taipei to be part of an art exhibition over the weekend. We exchanged contact information and she welcomed me to stop by her the exhibition! So I did!
Last year when I was travelling with Lucy in South Korea, we met Emily at the hostel we stayed at. She’s Taiwanese and lives in Tainan. Emily was a solo traveler but she knew Gina, a Korean living in Seoul, so we four lovely ladies hung out for a day in Seoul, visiting a local university, eating hot pot and window shopping.
Turns out, Emily made a three-day trip to Taipei from her hometown Tainan during the week I was in Taipei, and Gina is in Taipei for a few months to learn Mandarin! How in the world could our timing have been so perfect?
Never a dull moment
I stayed in the same hostel near Taipei Arena for my whole trip (except for the one night I spent in Taichung) and I became good friends with the host and a few other travelers who were staying there.
I enjoyed my time indoors at the hostel, just as much as I enjoyed being out and about in the city. I love chatting with people and hearing interesting stories so there was never a dull moment during my stay in Taipei. Every night, we would chill together with desserts, snacks and drinks. I also learned how to play Mahjong, haha!
Taiwan is known for its beauty, so of course I had to go check out the scenic views. On my first full day in Taiwan, I took a train to Jiufen—the place that inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away movie—with Kevin and his family. We started the day off with stinky tofu, then strolled along the old streets, looking at traditional Taiwanese things and trying out other snacks. We finished looking around the old streets at around 2 PM, which was quite early. Turns out, I wore the right shoes on that day (a really funny story for you to read, I promise).
On another day, Kevin, his family and I took a train to Taichung, and then a bus to Sun Moon Lake. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole day so we had our umbrellas out with us while sightseeing. With all the mist, it was a little mysterious (no pun intended). It was beautiful, nevertheless. Next time, I’m going to come back in the summer and bike around the lake!
On the day we went to Sun Moon Lake, I had a thought. My feet were so cold, damp and uncomfortable from the rain that when I finally had a shower in the evening and changed into dry socks, I thought that I should be grateful: At the end of the day, I’m always in a place where I’m comfortable and warm.
I’ll be back, Taiwan
Seven days was too short. A new friend I made at the hostel did a two-week backpacking trip all around Taiwan. When I met him, it was his last day in Taiwan. He made a super cool video of his adventures, which makes me want to backpack around Taiwan in the future. I want to check out Hualien, Kenting, Kaohsiung and Tainan next time. So much to do, so little time!
Although I thought this trip was going to be a “solo” trip again, it actually wasn’t all that solo. I flew to Taiwan by myself and booked a hostel to stay in myself. The only place I visited alone was the National Palace Museum. The rest of the time, I was with good company and I made some great friends along the way. Thank you for making my Taiwan trip wonderful. Good luck, everyone! We’ll cross paths again, for sure.
Bye for now!