Before our trip,  I often been asked “why Taiwan?”. Same with me one year ago, when our friend Matz kept pushing: “Let’s go to Taiwan for vacation”. Everything that we then fond on the web since and where told by Taiwanese made us think positive. Finally the cheap flight with China Southern Airlines pushed us over the fence. The tickets were only about 400 USD for the flight from Frankfurt via China to Taipei. I have never had a cheaper ticket to the far east!

It is a great country and worth to visit! That’s why I decided to post my impressions here. We found also many useful tips on travel blogs before and during the trip and maybe my tips will help you to decide.

Note: I am writing only my personal experiences and impressions. Please check out other pages about the current situation in Taiwan, safety and health care! I do not want nobody to complaint, when he get’s the shits…

Overview

(If you want more details, check out Wikipedia)

Taiwan or “Republic of China” is a relatively small island, smaller than Switzerland and larger than Belgium. It has 23 million residents of which 98% have Chinese ancestors and 2% are indigenous. The population density is, after Bangladesh, the second highest in Asia. 75% of the people live in cities, while at the same time many areas, especially in the mountains, are very sparsely populated. The most densely populated area is the Taipei region and the flat areas along the west coast.

In the central of the island you find a steep mountain range that stretches almost over the entire length of the island and has mountains that go as high as 12,966 ft. The coastline has only few developed, touristy sandy beaches and is rugged and steep in the east. This may also be related to the non-existent (beach) bathing culture of the Taiwanese. “Pale is beautiful” as in many other Asian countries.

It’s a tropical island and therefore very green. The steep mountains are covered up with (rain) forest and even the plains, around the cities are green, because there are rice fields or orchards. I absolutely like this kind of vegetation! And although Taiwan is an industrialised country, there is so much beautiful nature and landscapes. We regularly swam in mountain streams, made rainforest walks, visited national parks.

Taiwan’s industry is highly developed. Thus, 80% of all laptops sold worldwide coming from Taiwanese factories. The cheap consumer goods of the 70s and 80s were replaced by high-tech products. In terms of GDP, Taiwan was ranked 37th in 2016, after Cyprus and before Slovenia. Unlike in India (!), Thailand or Vietnam you hardly see beggars on the street (in Stuttgart you definitely see more) and the infrastructure is very well developed (more below).

People

Very nice and very helpful! They don’t always make contact immediately but as soon as you’re in touch, they’re quite open and pleasant. The hosts in B + Bs always took very good care of us: cooked, washed laundry, tips, etc.

When you’re lost somewhere, trying to find your way, it happens often that somebody offers help and gives directions. When talking to the people they always wanted to know where we came from. “Oooh, 德國 [Déguó, Germany]… nice!”

Best time for travelling / climate

The climate is tropical. Unfortunately, we were very close to the beginning of the summer rainfalls, which this year started very early and extremely heavy. (According to the Taiwanese weather service, we had “Extremely Torrential Rain” several times). The rain messed up some hikes we had planned and also somewhat interfered with other travel plans. March to May and September to November seems ideal weather wise.

It’s hot and humid! Even in the rain often had over 30 ° C ( 86° F) and I’ve never sweated so much on any other trip. In the mountains, the higher ranges, it becomes cooler.

Shorts! I’ve only been wearing shorts for 3 weeks. I felt so uncomfortable putting on long pants for the flight back to Europe…

Safety, Health

Taiwan is considered a very safe country and Taipei as one of the safest cities in the world. We never felt queasy and strolling around in cities at nighttime was no problem.

More than your purse, one should keep an eye on the weather. Taifun saison is from June to October and strong rains can lead to landslides, rockfalls, flooding and spoil outdoor activities. There are also earthquakes regularly, which fortunately rarely are strong. The state’s Central Weather Bureau provides comprehensive and up-to-date information.

No special vaccination is required, the standard “travel vaccination” is sufficient. No Malaria, very seldom Dengue fever. The health care system has western standards. And if nothing else helps, powdered sea cucumbers, candied spiderbones, ginseng root, green tea sweets or what else Chinese medicine offers as a cure 😉

Taipei is perhaps the cleanest Asian city I have ever been to. Outside the cities: No fluttering plastic bags in the bushes, no burning housefill dumps, no rubbish in the street ditch, as seen in other Asian countries.

The tap water is clean. I used it to brush my teeth and also drank it. It doesn’t always taste good, because it’s chlorinated often. In travel books you usually read that you should rather buy and drink bottled water. The water from the tap did no harm to me. Your decision…

There are poisonous snakes and wasps, none of which we’ve seen. Some walks through the bushes became unpleasant, because of the Indian burn, which was itching even after 2 days (remedy: long pants, stick’em into the socks). Oh, Babs had a leech on her ancle after a hike in the rainforest …. yuck!

I ate almost every day from street stands and my stomach was doing well.

Infrastructur, transportation, communication

Taiwan has worldwide one of the best coverage with internet, public Wifi and cell phone network. When I arrived at the airport I bought a prepaid SIM for just about 34 USD which was valid for 4 weeks with an unlimited data plan. In the arrivals hall all major telephone companies have their stalls and the offers are almost identical. Within 5 min. I was online. Very convenient to have www on the go because we navigated with the mobile phone and Google Maps in the car. On top we often use the Google Translator app and somehow there is always something to check on the www: directions, opening hours, accommodations, subway plans, etc. Without mobile phone and the internet traveling would have been less convenient. In most cities (and also in some small villages), also in all our hotels and guesthouses, they had free Wifi with fast internet.

Public transport in the cities (over land we used the rental car) is excellent and punctual. The roads are wide and in good condition (which is a tough job, especially in the mountains, due to the many landslides and rockfalls), most direction signs are in Chinese and English, the Taiwanese are relaxed drivers. Right-hand traffic!

The rental bicycles (YouBike), which you find everywhere in Taipei and in many other cities, are great. With the Easycard (see below), you can simply hire a bicycle and drop it off at another station. That’s only 20 Taiwan $ (= 0.65 USD) / hour. The app on the smartphone directs you to the next station and displays how many bikes are available.

Rental cars are expensive compared to Spain, Italy etc. Babs, however, found the link to www.cheapcartaiwan.com on a travel blog. Eddie, the owner, is from South Africa and quite relaxed. Although the Toyota had 210,000 miles on, was quite worn, it did an excellent job.

We went by train to Taichung: 2 hours drive, 23 USD / person.

Taxis are quite cheap. They use taximeters, bargaining and tipping is not common.

A different story: Communication, talking with people. I have written a blog post about it.

Accomodation

While travelling we have used AirBnB, Booking.com, Agoda to book our rooms. Always a couple of days ahead, as soon as our travel plans were set. A double room was between 35 und 90 USD (incl. breakfast). Some places I liked:

Food

Absolutely must: night markets! The night markets always offer a huge choice of good food. Cheap and delicious! The prices in restaurants are less expensive than e.g. in Germany but more pricy than in Thailand. The food is somewhat Chinese like, but we also had Japanese, Korean, Nepali and Indian food. Unfortunately I always compare to what I already know and thus no food in the world wins against my favourite cooking from Thailand.

Chopsticks: must use. Practice at home! You can eat giblets, chicken feet, etc. but you don’t have to.

They have excellent espresso, cappuccino etc., brewed in huge Italian coffee machines. In addition, Taiwan grows coffee. Bubbletee or fruit juice with bubbles is funny and delicious. The fresh fruits are a dream! Also, peppermint M & M, machacao sweets, oulong tea, soup, soup, soup.

Stinky tofu can be skipped. At the seaside (and elsewhere) you get delicious seafood.
The food is not spicy, unless you order something hot and spicy. Caution: The tasty bratwurst, which you find everywhere, has a sweet taste …

Our travel route

We stayed roughly for 3 weeks Taiwan

  • Taipei (5 days), trip to Wulai
  • Took the train to Taichung, picked up the rental car, drove into the mountains, direction Taroko valley (Hiking) → Must Go!
  • Yuli
  • Kenting
  • Into Wutai valley, back to Sandimen
  • Taichung
  • Alishan
  • Shuili und Yuchi (Sun-Moon-Lake)
  • Taiching (drop-off car)
  • Taipei (one night)
Other Tips
  • Easycard: Pay with the card in the metro, bus, YouBikes or even at 7eleven. We received ours from the taiwanese Tourist office  in Frankfurt. They sent also a pile of maps and brochures.
  • Tipping is not common.
  • Don’t point to other people with chopsticks. Don’t stick them in the rice bowl, because this looks like the incense sticks in the temples.
  • Hello on Chinese: „你好, Nǐ hǎo“
  • Visit all temples: Colourful and pretty decorated, on every corner.
  • Tea tasting: Oulong Tee, brewed up to 8 times.
  • Get a haircut (cheap and good)
  • Foot massage? Not my thing…
  • Mango juice, so good!
  • Download the Google Translator app on your smartphone.
  • Skip the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Unless you’re into pottery, porcelain, calligraphy and so on.
  • Try every food at least once, as long as it doesn’t look or smell disgusting.
  • Taipei 101 visitor platform when the weather is good.
  • The giant Buddha in Changhua
  • Did I mention: Food on the night markets!
  • Travel blogs (German language):
Conclusion

Would I travel again in Taiwan? Of course! The gorgeous landscape and nature (GREEN!), nice people, easy and convenient traveling make the country very attractive to me. Before, however, there are still some other white spots on my map to fill.

Johannes’ Conclusion: “On to new bridges”

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