My year in Taiwan is over!
My last day in Taiwan has come, at least for some time, and I’m sitting here contemplating what final thoughts I’d like to share before I leave this small Asian island.
Originally I set up this blog to write about differences between Sweden and Taiwan, then it shifted more toward a travel diary and finally it became a bunch of random topics that I felt to be interesting at the time. This post however – my last post (and the first one in English!) – I intend to be somewhat of a summary of my time here and I’d also like to share my top reasons of why I believe more people should come and visit this little magical island!
So… Where to start?
I guess I could go on about how beautiful Taiwan is, how amazing and accessible nature is, or talk about the insanely popular night markets with hundreds of different foods available. But these are all topics covered on almost every single webpage about Taiwan – so what else is there to write about?
Well… I can share my own experience of moving here.
When you first arrive to Taiwan, whether you’re a tourist or you’re actually moving here, some of the first things you’ll experience are “Hmm, is it always this warm?”, “Oh, I don’t understand anything.” and “Hmm, how do I say this address in Chinese” (*after realizing English Google maps doesn’t make much sense to Taiwanese taxi drivers). But regardless of how your first hours in Taiwan turn out to be, I’m certain most people will quickly realize there is more to Taiwan than what you would expect.
I still remember my first day here. I was walking outside with Daniel (one of my friends from Chalmers) and it started raining heavily as we passed a nearby hotel. Moments later, staff from the hotel ran out and gave us two umbrellas. And this was in fact one of my first experiences interacting with a Taiwanese.
And to me, this view on people didn’t change much throughout my year living here. Whether it’s interacting with Taiwanese people in class, at the local supermarket or when touring Taroko national park, I firmly believe that you’ll have to search far and wide to find friendlier and more hospitable people.
…Geez, another one of these overly positive posts?…
Despite being in a complicated relationship with neighbouring China, most of my Taiwanese friends seem to be fairly positive about the future outlook of Taiwan. And so am I. I’ll not dive into politics in this post, but rather touch on some of the aspects I consider differ the most when comparing Sweden and Taiwan.
Healthcare here is amazing, it’s cheap, efficient and with hardly any queues. Food is insanely cheap, and basically anyone regardless of their job can afford to buy every meal at a local restaurant (coming from Sweden this is super nice!). Transportation is cheap, reliable and very frequent. Basically I believe moving to Taiwan is way less of a readjustment than most people think it is. Apart from speaking chinese, celebrating entirely different holidays and having certain social rules (such as the fact you don’t greet by shaking hands), living in Taiwan is in fact fairly similar to living in Sweden.
Below I compiled a short TOP 10 list about my favorite places to visit in Taiwan, things to do and things to eat. Basically it’s my top recommendations, should you ever get the chance to visit Taiwan.
- Taroko Gorge
- Taiwanese Fruit
- Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
- Hiking in Wuliaojian
- Taiwanese Night Markets
- Hiking in Shuiyang Forest
- Elephant Mountain (Taipei)
Taiwanese Bubble Tea
The old gold mining village Jiufen was one of my first and also my last travel destination in Taiwan. I’d consider it on top of my list because it manages to encapsulate a very unique and yet typical Asian experience (red lanterns, narrow & crowded streets, tons of food stalls and beautiful scenery).
One of the most popular travel destinations in Taiwan, but deservingly so! Boasting scenery and landscapes found nowhere else in the world, Taroko Gorge lands a solid 2nd place on my TOP10.
Hmm, kind of strange putting fruit on a Top10? Not really. Taiwanese fruit is in itself worth a visit to this little island if you’re a fan of fruit. I’ll keep it short and just say it’s the best fruit by far I’ve ever had! (Top picks: Mango, Lychee & Taiwanese wax apple)
This small, dumpling-looking dish is my absolute favorite pick when it comes to Taiwanese food. Filled with broth, pork, chicken, veggies, mushroom or even chocolate, these little balls have amazed critics worldwide for many years (including landing several Michelin stars). Favorite restaurant: Din Tai Fung
One of the most remarkable places to see in Taiwan. Built and opened to the public as late as in 2011 but it’s still one my top recommendations of what to see in Taiwan. (Highly recommend taking the opportunity to speak with some of the super friendly monks there!)
Located in the Sanxia district southwest of Taipei, Wuliaojian provides one of the best day-hikes close to Taipei. It’s doable in an afternoon, but still provides some pretty amazing scenery.
Not only do Taiwanese night markets have hundreds of different foods to try, all at the same place, but also provide a great place for shopping, hanging out, strolling and just taking in the atmosphere. Favorite locations: Ruifeng (Kaohsiung) & Raohe (Taipei)
Also one of my top recommendations in you enjoy hiking. Not quite as easy to get to as Wuliaojian but the trail is to put it mildly out of this world. Exhilarating and somewhat dangerous as you have to walk on overgrown railroad way up in the air, but really freaking cool!
Just a short MRT ride from Taipei city center, you can reach the Elephant mountain trailhead. 15 minutes later you’re at the top, overlooking Taipei in all it’s beauty (recommend going for the sunset, but expect it to be crowded by then!). Also recommend bringing some friends, snacks and drinks and just hanging out at the top (just don’t forget to bring your trash with you on your way back!)
A TOP10 Taiwan list, in my opinion, would not complete without mentioning the super popular Bubble Tea. Not wanting to spoil the excitement of trying it out for the first time by me trying to explain what it’s like, so i’ll just leave it here as a subtle recommendation for you to try out should you get the chance.
That concludes this post, and also the blog as a whole. I feel I didn’t really cover as many topics as I originally planned for but I hope some of you might be a little more curious about Taiwan now then you were before.
A final shoutout to all my friends in Taiwan and at NCTU who made this year so memorable, it’s been a blast and I hope to see you again someday!
Erik, June 7th 2018