Taiwan offers the perfect blend of nature and a vibrant city life. Coupled with the comforts offered by a well developed country, travelling around is a breeze as long as one manages to get around with slight language issue.The city of Taipei offers some good mix of nature, history, culture, modern life itself and in fact, one can spend a few days in the city itself and still not get enough of it.
Taiwan – Truly a great place, great people and great hospitality
Also, within small distances on the outskirts of the city, one can get to natural hot water spring resorts, mountains and the sea, amazing natural rock formations geo-park and so on. Overall, there is plenty the country has to offer and one can easily spend 1-2 weeks if one wants to see the country wholesomely.
Read on for
- Taipei – a city we loved for its warmth (in people)
- Day 2: Trip to Shifen and returning to see the Taipei 101
- Day 3: Yehliu, Beitou and Fisherman’s Wharf
- Taroko Gorge and the city of Hualien experiences.
TRAVELLED IN DEC 2012
Covered North Taiwan, including Taipei, Shifen and Taroko Gorge, Hualien.
Still to see the rest of Taiwan such as Koahsiung, Taichung etc.
- Airport/transfers: Taipei has two airports – Songshan Airport which is within the city and Taoyuan Airport which is further away from Taipei and bigger and more recently built, having an increasing proportion of international flights. Taoyuan airport itself is very well built, has a good modern feeling to it and quite efficient. The staff, like for more Taiwan people, are very warm and friendly although my dad mentioned his officer didn’t understand English which was surprising. The rest of us didn’t have that issue though. Access from both airports is easy with buses (including Express Airport Bus), taxis (more expensive option) and Touyuan also has the High Speed Rail (HSR) access. Overall, it is more expensive to come to the city relative to Songshan.
- For transfers after arrival, there are cabs, buses, MTR and the HSR (from Tuoyuan). We are told that the city is very safe to come by yourself even in late evenings and public transport access is a breeze.
- Phone connection: Surprisingly, we didnt find a lot of phone shops offering simcards. There are 7-11s which give sim cards but we were looking for proper shops so we could discuss what plan we wanted, as I wanted that having more data and less of talk time, since I can do my international calls through data (VoIP). There were some FarEastone shops but they were only selling mobile handsets so I was bit puzzled. However, this could be one off our experience.
- Money exchange: As a thumb-rule one should not exchange FX at the airport, but after coming out of the arrival gate, there are bank counters, which did offer competitive rates. So, the thumb rule didn’t matter for Taipei but nevertheless, the rate offered was still 1-2% less competitive than city rates, for whom it matters.
- Language: Mandarin is very commonly spoken there, and language is somewhat of an issue for non-Mandarin speakers. However, the people in Taipei and Hualien (where we travelled) were so warm and helpful that they did run around and find someone knowing bit of English to help us. While roaming around the city, we can say that most people knew English reasonably and all these factors helped us overcome the language issue quite easily.
- Getting around: Public transport is easy and convienient and not too expensive. Language was not much of an issue with taxi drivers but bus stops had all destinations written in Chinese only which was disappointing, though signs at Subway stops were in English and well displayed and that was never an issue. We went with our parents who were not very restrictive in their walking and hence accessing the public transport was not difficult at all. That said, if walking is a constraint, then access to some public transport such as Metro/Tube/Subway/MRT/MTR (whatever u call in your country) can be slightly more challenging though there are elevators and facilities in train to take care of that.
- Food and eating out: Taipei is known for some great street food for non-veg lovers and we think the reputation is not without a reason. The local food in the city is very good and a must try for those who like to experiment new cuisines, though for some time, forget that you’d be having more oil than your daily quota. Drinking Chinese tea with it will also help. For the not experimenting and veggies, there are limited options as such on the street as well as in local restaurants and Western restaurants are not that easy to find except in main streets and popular spots in the city.
- Tipping tips: Tipping in China is not as mandatory as in the US though typically tipping 5-10% is not bad anyways and some of the people we tipped appeared pleasantly surprised we did that.
Read on for Taipei and Taroko Gorge in Hualien experiences.