I’ve mentioned before both that I love Taiwan, but I really didn’t at all for a while either. I shared what I love about Taiwan, now, since I like to keep things real here, I’m going to share what I didn’t love as much.
Crossing the street in Hualien
This was the first place I was actually walking around and on my own and it took me forever to be able to cross the street. The first area I tried, there weren’t stoplights so you just kind of had to go and hope for the best. I eventually got the hang of it and did find crosswalks, so that eased my fears a bit.
I really don’t like Asian food. I knew this going into my trip, but I figured it was a good way to learn to like it. The first couple weeks, I avoided eating as much as I could or would just get stuff from supermarkets or 7-Eleven. I couldn’t tell what was a restaurant, what was open, and of course I couldn’t read anything. I grew to enjoy the food more, and had fun trying all kinds of stuff at night markets, which are way less intimidating because you can see all the food being made. You’ll see food on lists of things I love about Taiwan as well.
- Go to night markets, they can be intimidating with how much stuff is there, but it’s much easier to decide what to eat.
- If you are going to a restaurant, maybe find someone from a hostel to go with or if someone else is alone, ask if you can join them. It’s much less weird when you’re traveling than at home.
- Don’t be afraid to go to McDonalds. Sometimes you just want something familiar, don’t let anyone bother you about it.
I was SO determined to go here. No one was going to stop me. I got there and I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong, the island is insanely pretty, but it just wasn’t right for me then. It was way bigger than I anticipated and I couldn’t get anywhere. I couldn’t find any food. It was rainy. Almost no one spoke English, which isn’t usually that bad, I can manage, but it was all so overwhelming. This isn’t saying I’ll never go back though. All of Taiwan’s outer islands intrigue me. I will be back.
- Try and research the town you want to stay in to see what’s available food and hotel wise. Make sure it’s actually open if it’s low season.
- If you’re worried about being lonely, which you could be if you’re on your own in the winter, go in the summer. It’s way busier so it would be easier to do, well probably anything.
- If you do go in the summer, book accomodation ahead. It gets really busy. I would book ahead if you go anytime really, because they can usually pick you up from the airport.
- Rent a scooter if you can. It’ll be a thousand times easier to get around. Bikes are fine if you don’t want to go too far, it;s kind of hilly and would take most of the day to bike around.
- Check the weather before you book tickets to fly (usually from Taitung), if it’s bad they won’t go and you’ll have to wait. In the summer, you can go by boat too, from Kenting and Taitung.
Not being even remotely understood when I pronounce cities
This was frustrating. No one understood Lanyu. Or Jiufen. Or Huotong. Or Taitung. Or Hualien. I usually had to spell it out or type it and show people. I would say it a few times usually, and usually different pronunciations hoping for the best. Nope. Didn’t work. I know Chinese is heavy on the tones, but I didn’t know how to figure thsoe out.
- Write down the city names. If you have questions or need to buy train tickets or something, you can show someone.
- Ask someone who speaks Chinese how to pronounce certain cities or words, then you say it and have them fix it for you. This might help, who knows.
- Save city names and certain words in Chinese characters, too. This will be a life saver.
This falls under the food category. There was so much weird jelly food stuff. It just wasn’t working for me. And taro balls. Those are bizarre. And you can find little jelly candy cup things everywhere too. I don’t get it, man. To each their own.
This is just annoying, but manageable. Everybody uses umbrellas all the time, pretty much no matter the weather, but definitely when it’s raining. I didn’t see many rain jackets there. The annoying thing is almost getting poked in the eyes all the time. The pointy things on umbrellas were just the right height for eye gouging if you’re not careful. One bonus is if it’s busy, you’re pretty much always under one because everyone is using them.
Everywhere you go, no matter what, you get a receipt. After a couple hours, your pockets will be full. If you frequent 7-Eleven, you’ll have even more. There’s no solution to this, you just kind of get used to pulling receipts out of every pocket while you’re there.
When you try to pass someone on the sidewalk and they use their sixth sense to step in front of you and do the same when you go back so you can’t get around them
I encountered a lot of slow walkers and could almost never get around them. I think everyone can just sense when you’re behind them, trying to go around, so they just move a tiny bit in front of you. Just enough so you can’t get around. Even if you go into the street, there’s always someone waiting to slow you down. You sort of get used to it and walking slow, there’s not much to fix this.
Getting to the airport
Getting to the airport was a chore. Not necessarily the transportation, just the communication. Being that there were two in Taipei, well one in Taipei, then Taoyuan just outside Taipei, they wanted to know which one. It was always Taoyuan and NO ONE could understand that. Not one person. It took probably five minutes of attempting it before getting that across.
- Know which airport you need to go to. Songshan or Taoyuan.
- Also know which terminal you need.
- Write down Taoyuan and have the characters for it saved.
- Take Uber instead of a taxi at night, then you don’t have to say it.
- During the day, take the MRT and bus. It’s way cheaper.
Salty things that are sweet, and vice versa, hot things that are cold and vice versa
This is also a food issue. A lot of things that are usually sweet were salty, and salty things were sweet. And of course, hot things were cold and cold thing were hot. Taro ball soup could be hot or cold, which just seems weird to me. And not like leftover cold, just and option when you order. I had this breakfast in Hualien where everything was the opposite temperature. So weird. I don’t really have any advice for this, just go into food without any expectations of what it should taste like.
Of course, even with all of this, I love Taiwan, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t visit. Taiwan is a fantastic place to visit. It has everything. Mountains. Beaches. Delicious food. Citites. Everything. Definitely visit Taiwan.
Have you been to Taiwan? What did you think of it? Do you want to go?