6 Reasons Why You Should Make Taiwan Your Next Holiday Destination.
(Taipei 101 Building, photography by Wayne).
Hello, and welcome to another article about a destination that I think you should go soon, the place is Taiwan. I will try my best not to be biased with this article since I was born in Taipei-City, which is the capital city of Taiwan. My parents had immigrated to Australia when I was 9 years old, and I actually have lived more years in Australia than I have in Taiwan. There are so much I can share about this beautiful place, but first, let’s quickly look at a few questions with answers:
Where is Taiwan?
Taiwan is in East Asia. The population is around 24 million.
Is Taiwan Worth Visiting?
Taiwan is definitely worth visiting! Taiwan has a good public transport system, people are genuinely nice, and food in Taiwan is really delicious, and there are many types of cuisines you can choose from. Museums and natural landmarks is also worth your time.
Is Taiwan Safe to Visit? Can I Bring Kids with me To Taiwan?
Yes, Taiwan is safe for you to visit with kids, you would still need to keep eyes on your personal belongings like all other cities. The crime rate isn’t too high, just watch out for reckless drivers that don’t give way to people on pedestrian crossings.
Is Taiwan Expensive for a holiday?
Taiwan is cheaper compared to South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, it’s not cheaper compared to places in South East Asia, like Vietnam, Thailand, or Malaysia.
Below Are 6 Reasons Why You Should Make Taiwan Your Next Holiday Destination:
1. People are genuinely nice and friendly! There is a good chance you’ll be lost at a new destination, sometimes it might be a better idea to ask for directions than trying to figure it out your own. Many people are generally interested in learning English and is capable to answer to some of your queries. Look for people that are in their late 20’s or 30’s for a better chance of getting help. If you happen to ask someone that can’t speak English, most are nice enough to do their best to get help, so they can still try to solve your matter. That’s how friendly they are. In terms of my personal experience, whenever I meet someone new in Taiwan, they are always polite, friendly, and considerate. There was one time that I needed to attend a business convention down south of Taiwan and I’ve never been to that city before at that time, a good friend of mine was supposed to pick me up at the station when I arrived down there, she called me in the morning and told me she had food poisoning and had asked one of her friends to pick me up. Her friend came and picked me up and dropped me off, and that’s how nice people can be over here. If you are going to be in Taipei for a few days, you can always contact me for some tips if needed. Rule of thumb: Be polite and friendly, but avoid touching even if you are just trying to be friendly.
2. The Food there is awesome! There are lots of Taiwanese delicacies: Beef noodles, xiaolongbao soup dumplings, or minced pork with rice. If you are up for the stinky tofu challenge, some of my friends from South East Asia tried it, but never finished it (You should give it a try!). Don’t forget to get some bubble tea after your meal, it’s a sweet delicious tea drink with tapioca balls. There are so many other choices like intestine and oyster vermicelli, or pineapple cakes, which are both iconic too. You can buy the famous pineapple cakes at 嘉德 Chia Te Bakery in Taipei as food souvenirs while you are there. In terms of my favorite Taiwanese food, it’s got to be those beef noodles. You can choose to have thin or thick noodles, some noodles are made by noodle machines, which can taste pretty ordinary, you should go for the noodles that are hand made, and if you like spicy food, you should try spicy beef noodle soup. The aftertaste will stay in your mouth for hours and you should make beef noodle soup as your number 1 choice when you are there. Obviously there are many other cuisines like Indian, Korean, Japanese, and Croatian food you can try, some may alter the taste to suit the local people for business purposes, so do your best when you try to make judgments on what to eat (You only got one tummy to fill). My other suggestion is the red bean pastry (紅豆餅), you can buy from street vendors, or from department stores. If the red bean flavor is not for you, there is also custard pastry that the pastry chef can make.
3. The night market. I feel like to say this three times (Night Market*3!). Night markets are a must go if you intend to visit Taiwan. A famous one to visit is Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) in Taipei-City. You must try a fried chicken cutlet because it’s a unique taste, and ask for 加辣 (jja-la) if you like it spicy. Find a Hot-Star fried chicken store online and you’ll be able to find a chain store near you that sells chicken cutlets. Another food I want to recommend is Gua-Bao, it’s a steamed bun sandwich filled with some juicy braised pork. I can actually have Gua-Bao for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So go check it out while you are there. If you are into sweets, then maybe 豆花 (Soft tofu dessert), or shaved ice (搓冰), both are very flavorsome. You can always get a takeaway bubble tea drink before you head home, so don’t fill your stomach up with a large cup of Boba while you are trying to explore other types of yummy food. Food is not the only thing you can see in the night markets in Taiwan, there are clothing stores, street vendors that sell shoes, bag shops, accessories stores, kitchenware, and mini-games where you can try to win a few soft toys if you are up for that. My advice for you, if you have a huge space in your stomach for food, you can go have a light meal at a restaurant of your choice, and head straight to a night market with your family or friends. You can grab some food and walk around the night market for items you may be interested in buying. After that, I’d head to the games section to play a few mini-games and go have shaved ice with bubbles, green beans, peanuts, and yu-yuan (芋圓) You usually got 4 choices with your shaved ice in a bowl. The night markets usually starts around 5ish-6ish, some shops close around 12AM-1AM depending on the business and if it’s a weekend.
4. Accommodation in Taiwan is not so expensive. You can check prices from websites like Agoda, just need to enter in the city or the area. If you want something cheaper, you can search for motels or hostels and these actually do have nice renovation (Make sure it’s non-smoking room). If you are into hot spring, you can stay in Beitou (北投) for a few nights. Accommodations are easy to book and you never have to bring any toiletries for hotels and motels that you stay at (Toothbrush included!). Hotels like Grand Hyatt Taipei or W Taipei are still expensive since they are international, also because these hotels offer a lot more like bars and restaurants than just a room for the night. Hotel staff in Taiwan are friendly and helpful, if you need a taxi or need tips on where to go, these hotel staff can assist you with your needs, and they are able to communicate with you in better English. Usually check out time is at 12PM, which is great because a lot of the hotels in western countries require guests to check out at 11AM, so an extra hour gives more time for you to pack and you don’t need to feel so rushed. You can choose to include breakfast or not depends on the area you’ll be staying, do some research and see if there are any yummy Taiwanese food within the same area and skip your typical western buffet breakfast for some mouthwatering Baked Wheat Cake (Shao Bing, 燒餅), Baked Wheat Cake with Egg (Shao Bing Jjia Dan, 燒餅夾蛋), Egg Pancake Rolls (Dan Bing, 蛋餅), and sugar or sugarless soy drinks (Duo Jjang, 豆漿).
5. The nightlife in Taiwan. Since it’s pretty safe even at night in Taiwan, a lot of shops and restaurants open for 24 hours. Most of the 7-11 or FamilyMart stores are usually opened for 24 hours, you can get hot food, sweets, alcohol, and cigarettes. Drinking is permitted in public areas in Taiwan, so you are actually allowed to purchase any alcoholic beverages in these convenient stores and sit on the seats provided and enjoy a fresh cold drink. Some famous night markets shut after midnight on weekends, and if you still want to stay up, you can look up bars or clubs in the area you intend to stay in. A lot of areas in Taiwan is regarded as a sleepless city, you need to make a wise decision on whether you should stay outside till late or head back to your hotel room. There are taxis and Uber services everywhere, so you won’t have to worry about transport at all. If you took my suggestion on staying in Beitou for a few nights for some hot spring, you can actually catch a taxi and get the driver to take you up to Mt Yang-Ming (陽明山夜景) for some spectacular night view, there are some street vendors up there in the mountains at night if you get hungry. If you are into karaoke, there are plenty of places like Cash Box (錢櫃) or Holiday (好樂迪), you can enjoy singing some of the old English songs. There are places like KTV which gives you the freedom to pick a nice blue-ray movie to watch with your friends. Taipei has some really nice bars, and some are not even that expensive, so make sure to find a nice place to sit down and celebrate your trip. Don’t forget to drink some water before you head to bed if you had lots of drinks.
6. Beautiful scenery. This is another reason why Taiwan is worth visiting, you can start from places located up in the north. If you took the opportunity to stay in Beitou for some hot springs, you can go visit Mt Yang-Ming (陽明山) during the day, depending on which month you are there, best viewing time is from September to February. Make another day trip to the Taipei 101 building in Xing-Yi District, and if you have time, you can do the Elephant Mountain (XiangShan 象山) walk to the top, it’ll only take you 15-20 minutes, from there you’ll be able to see the Taipei 101 building from a different angle with some beautiful surroundings. Head down, and walk towards Forth Forth South Village Market (四四南村), the earliest village in Taipei, and a great spot for some photo shoots. At night, you can go visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, there should be lots of people there hiking, made by white marbles looking very stunning at night, this is also worth visiting if you are also into history. Taroko National Park in Hualien County is also worth visiting, this park offers a wide range of sceneries and you can book a day tour package prior to your trip. A lot of people want to visit this national park and this is the main reason why people visit Taiwan. If you have more time, you can also visit Kaohsiung (高雄), which is located down south. In Kaohsiung, you can kick off with the Dadong Arts Center (大東文化藝術中心) for something artistic, then you can go over to Takao Railway Museum (打狗鐵道故事館) to look at some of the oldest trains in Taiwan, the station was once bombed by allies in WWII. Make another stop at Kaohsiung Museum of History (高雄市立歷史博物館), constructed in 1939. At night, head to the Love River (愛河), for some spectacular night view along the river, there are some bars there if you are craving for a drink.
Culture Taboos to watch out while you are in Taiwan! If you are staying at a friend’s house in Taiwan and you want to buy the family a gift, do NOT buy them a clock, “Giving a Clock” (送鐘) sounds exactly like saying goodbye to a dead person at a funeral in Mandarin, and people will think you are trying to give them some bad luck. Living in Australia for so many years, I wouldn’t mind receiving a clock as a gift. You need to take your shoes off when you enter people’s houses, when I had Caucasian people over when I was living in Sydney, I’d had to tell them to take their shoes off when they enter inside, but they would tell me their socks smells really bad, but I guess it’s better than having to clean up their footprints later on when they leave. Do not use a red pen to write anyone’s name while you are there, people there only write dead people’s name in red. Some people believe that hanging your clothes late at night means you are offering some clothes for the “Ghosts” to wear, and may also lead to those spirits coming into your bedroom at night for some ghost press (鬼壓床). This also means don’t take any photos at night, there is a higher chance for you to photograph some of those spirits. Also, don’t stick your chopsticks vertically into a rice bowl with full of rice, this would mean you are inviting all the hungry brothers (Hungry Ghosts) to come eat with you, it’s said to bring bad luck. I could just be telling a ghost story though…Let me know if you got more taboos to share!
I hope you have gained more interested in Taiwan, there are four seasons in Taiwan, so make sure you do some research on the weather conditions so you know what clothes to pack. The food and public transport are awesome, and the accommodations are not too expensive. The main religion in Taiwan is Buddhism and Christianity. You can find local churches and temples everywhere if you need a moment to pray. Medical fees are also cheap compared to America, however, try not to get sick. Stay safe! Contact me for more if you need help.