Taiwan – why we fell in love

  • People are really, really friendly

Many times we have been looking at The Book and people have asked us if we are lost and helped us, or just chatted to us when we crossed the road and given us great advice. Our Taipei host, Fiona, made us so welcome, checked our itinerary each night and advised us what to do, how to get around, even gave us a lift to the port when we were leaving.

  • Coffee is cheap and tasty

Chains and non chains of coffee vendor are everywhere and they are all really affordable and blooming great! We have now gotten to be coffee snobs, with a penchant for mandheling coffee. Drip coffee and single origin is very popular and isn’t just a new thing, coffee shops have been around since the 1950’s. 

  • Tea is expensive but worth it

We saw tea being grown, then tasted it, learning how to make a proper brew it wasn’t as intricate as a Japanese tea ceremony, but we could taste the difference in the teas and styles. We are now tea snobs as well.

  • Taiwan is compact and bijoux with excellent infrastructure.

It is simple to travel around due to its size but also because of helpful signage and announcements in English, and stations having good maps of the local area. There is also the Ezy card,  which acts as an Oyster card,  being able to be used on all transport in Taipei, but you can also use it all over the country, brilliant and saves you money.

    • Excellent food

    Taiwan is reputed to have the best Japanese restaurants outside of Japan which is some compliment as the Japanese are so particular about their food. The seafood we had at Aquatic Addiction was some of the freshest we have seen outside of Japan, and that experience was one of the highlights of our trip so far. We have also eaten middle eastern food and Indian curries, and seen Mexican and Greek restaurants. Sadly no Georgian restaurants have opened yet. Also, night markets – see below

    • Night markets

    The reason we first got interested in Taiwan was for the night markets, and they are amazing. All so different, some just for walking and snacking, some with cafes, restaurants, all with an amazing variety of foods.

    • Environmental Diversity 

    Whatever you want to see you can get it within a short train or bus ride. We have experienced clear beaches, sulphurous thermal spas, volcanos, stunning mountains, blue lakes, with opportunities for hiking, cycling, or scootering! Just travelling around you see a lush, green landscape full of wildlife which is unique to this small and perfectly formed beautiful isle . 

    • Taiwan beer, mango beer and Best whisky 2015.

    These are just a few of the great alcoholic drinks we have had here, it is not a drinking culture, we rarely saw anyone drinking, but did manage to try enough beers and whisky to convince ourselves we liked it.

    • South and North Asia mix.

    There is the Asian living life on the street, but with an efficient infrastructure which makes this country a fabulous mix of cultures. It is cheaper to eat out than cook, so you see kids having food on their own which would seem strange at home, but is perfectly normal here. There are are street stalls everywhere, each having their own speciality, which we often don’t know due to the language barrier, but we have still enjoyed delicious food all over the country. 

    • Cultural diversity

    In a marked difference to other countries we have recently visited there is a refreshing vitality about the people, their fashion and sense of self. They all have individual style and are happy to be different to the next person having dyed hair, tattoos, and diverse fashion sense! There is also a refreshing sense of equality here, women are just as likely to be in positions of power in business and not just meant for the home (our views are from advertising and reading). It is also clear there is more sexual equality here, gay pride and gay rights are the most progressive in Asia and we saw gay couples being openly affectionate.

    • Train station food court

    At home a train station food shop is to be avoided at all costs, here it is somewhere to go on a Saturday night for dinner. The one at Taipei main station is the best we saw, it had sections for beef noodle soup, Taiwanese and curry. There were also many  Japanese restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops, with queues outside the popular places.  

    • Love of animals

    You see many strollers here and don’t know if they contain babies or pets. The Taiwanese love their pets, especially dogs who are often carried down the street as if they were little china ornaments.

    • Respect for elderly

    You are likely to see youngsters accompanying their grandparents on a stroll,  especially at the weekend. It’s the Asian respect for the older generation which we are finding more and more appealing.

    In the interests of balance (you know, like the BBC) the only criticism of Taiwan is there are not enough rubbish bins. That is it. Everything else is just peachy.

    So I think we can safely say that this is one of the best countries we have visited, and we are planning on visiting again.

        10.12.16 Sun Moon Lake

        With no one in our dorm we sleep in, so a later start than we wanted to go to Sun Moon lake. 

        For better info on how to get to the lake, have a look at this blog – lazygirlideas

        We take the tourist shuttle bus which goes via the HSR station and takes about 2 1/2 hours. The journey drags and I’m wondering if its worth it when we round a bend and see sunlight shimmering off the lake which is surrounded by green mountains. With the blue sky above, it’s nature at its finest and I’m glad we came. 

        I’ve never visited the north Italian lakes which are supposed to be beautiful but the scene in front of me reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of them.

        We arrive at shuishe pier where the bus leaves us. It’s a busy tourist village and there are many bike rental shops, restaurants and tea shops. Al is off food but I dive into a leek pancake with egg. The vendor tops it with chilli sauce and its really good. Sweet, savoury and greasy, perfect for breakfast.

        We follow one of the walking trails along the lakeside. It’s Saturday morning, so there’s a lot of weekenders enjoying the sunshine and glorious scenery. We read the information boards and learn about trees, plants and birds and drink in the views.

        Al isn’t so feisty so I know she’s ill, and we divert from the radiant sunshine to a cafe where I try my first proper bubble tea. I love it! Sweet milky tea and toffee tasting tapioca tadpoles hoovered up through a wide straw. Riding a sugar wave, I get carried away with my travel skills and order tofu with preserved egg and scorched greens. The scorched greens are welcome but the preserved egg is more flavoursome than the last one we tried. This one smells of ammonia too but also tastes of it. I only eat half.

        We stop for the loo in the tourist village before we catch the bus back. In the gents, above the urinals are quotes from Socrates and Nietzsche. Amazing.

        Back in Taichung we wander round the downtown area. We watch a hip hop dance contest then crawl around bakeries. Smitten with bubble tea, I have another.

        In our room we have new flatmates. A Taiwanese guy who is going to England to learn English, a guy from Hong Kong who is cycling round Taiwan and two young fellows who don’t speak. We chat to the guy learning English and try to give him advice.

        Eventually, everyone goes out and Al feels better so we go for Japanese noodle soup. We get home first, followed by the cyclist who rustles carrier bags till 2am, the English student who quietly does stuff on his laptop till 3am and the quiet couple who come back separately after 2.30am. 

        Cyclist snores like a vibrating bass drum amplified into a cavenous disused warehouse where the echo resonates loudly enough for seismic activity. 

        Occasionally, he wakes himself up, rubs his face and starts the rhythm again, like Ravel’s Balero, starting slow and building slowly, adding bass and depth until the wallpaper vibrates.