I left Taiwan in a hurry because of a family emergency, and therefore I didn’t get to do all the things I’d been planning like visit my favorite noodle shop one last time and say goodbye to friends. Maybe it’s for the best, though, because goodbyes are the worst and give me a ton of anxiety anyways and I didn’t know it at the time but I’d have more than enough sadness waiting for me when I arrived back in the States.
When I’d first arrived in Taipei, I posted my first impressions of the city varying from the delicious food to how safe the city is. All of my first impressions still pretty much hold up, although there are a few things I’d like to add:
Taiwan is really on island time.
This is something that will stick out to me about Taiwan for a long time to come. No matter where I was going, rush hour not excluded, people were walking so slow they might as well have been crawling. I was constantly trying to get past people, to which my friends will probably be quite shocked about because I’m usually known as the slowest walker of the group.
When I’d bring it up to friends that were local to Taipei, they’d be shocked and said that Taipei is so fast-paced compared to the rest of Taiwan.
It’s not only limited to walking, either. When I went to grab a coffee, I’d oftentimes find myself waiting upwards of 20 minutes for my coffee to arrive, which didn’t seem to be notable to anyone else besides me.
While it was cute for a few months, I really don’t think I can deal with it in the long term. I personally need more of a fast-paced city.
You’ll eat out for most meals.
This is essentially true in most Asian cities since people tend to live in very small spaces that aren’t condusive to cooking. The availability of cheap and delicious street food makes a much more appealing case to pop by one of Taipei’s famed night markets than to prepare a meal for yourself.
In Asia, you season most of the food yourself anyways, so you don’t have to worry as much about the added salt as you do at Western restaurants.
The transportation system is world class.
I think pretty much all visitors to Taipei can agree on this – even if you don’t particularly take a liking towards Taipei, there is no denying the efficiency of the MRT. The wait between trains is rarely longer than 3 minutes, people are truly respectful and give up their seats to children and the elderly, and it’s so clean due to enforcement of no food and drink, and the general respect that the Taiwanese have for their own city.
It’s almost too safe.
It was a regular instance to see people use their phone or purse (or both) to hold their table while they went to order food and use the restroom. This is a common practice in Taiwan, and no one would dream of taking their belongings.
The first few times I saw this I thought to myself, “What the hell kind of place is this?” But after awhile, you get used to not having to worry about your safety. In my case, I probably got a little too used to it now that I will have to acclimate back to New York, where my car was stolen right off the street in front of my apartment not too long ago.
Taipei is ranked as the third safest city in the world (behind Singapore and Tokyo), but having experienced traveling in all three of these cities, I have to say that I really felt most safe in Taipei, especially as a solo female traveler.
Taipei is an outdoorsy city.
Who knew?! I didn’t before I went there. The subtle mountainous landscape make hiking basically a national sport in Taiwan. Every time I’d be out drinking with Taiwanese friends, at least one or more of them would leave early because they were going on a hike in the morning. It’s a favorite weekend activity.
Because of my aversion to hurting myself around the world, I didn’t go on any of the larger and more challenging hikes like Taroko Gorge in Hualien. I can’t really say that I’m sorry about that, either. But if you’re the type of person that finds this appealing, then you must plan a trip to Taiwan.
I got used to all the rain (sort of).
You can learn to cope with all the rain in Taipei – mostly because the city is built around the weather. There are umbrella stands outside every store, restaurant, and shop and all walkways and sidewalks are covered. Furthermore, it made me that much more grateful for the rare occurrence of a truly beautiful, sunny day.
When I’d talk to people about the vast amount of rain, they’d compare it to places like London and Seattle that are also well-known for their dismal weather. However, in Taipei it’s actually RAINING and usually quite hard, which separates it from other cities that are just perpetually gray and misty.
That being said, I can almost feel the vitamin D deficiency in my body, and plan to lay out in the sun an excessive amount upon my return to the States.
The food is even better than I thought.
What tipped me over the edge was having one of the best cuban sandwiches of my life randomly at a night market. The fact that they even know how to do a fantastic cuban sandwich in Taipei is something that boggles my mind in the best of ways. The Taiwanese are also obsessed with all things Korean and Japanese, so that means having top notch Korean and Japanese food virtually everywhere, too.
This is just one of the reasons I truly believe that Taipei will be the next “it” city in Asia – it has many of the elements that makes it’s siblings so popular (the culture, food, efficient transportation) but at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re interested in visiting Taipei yourself, I’d highly suggest staying with my friend Waegook Tom, who hosts lots of couchsurfers and gets rave reviews. He also knows all of the best spots in Taipei, and will ensure your stomach stays full while you’re in town.
I really try to frame all of the experiences in my life as learning opportunities and I think living in Taipei was exactly what I needed to get ready for the next step for me in Hong Kong, which I’ve been keeping mum about until my visa is all sorted out. This should happen by the end of June, and I look forward to sharing more about it then :)
In the meantime, I bid you adieu, Taiwan. I don’t know if I’ll return in the future (maybe for a shopping weekend or to visit friends), but I’m a better person for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had there, and I’ll always look back on my time there with a big smile.
Onwards to the next adventure!