- Overall what we did: 7 days split into: 4.5 days in Taipei, a half day in Pingxi and 2 days in Hualien from 5 February 2014 to 12 February 2014.
- Favourite part of Taiwan: A toss up between the Pingxi Lantern Festival and Taroko National Park – both were great fun
- Key tip: Learn a few kanji or Chinese characters before you go to aid in reading menus. The best food we ate was nearly always in restaurants which had no English or pictures of the dishes out the front
- Cultural points:
- Food: A lot of restaurants will have menus only in Chinese. If you can, brush up on a few characters so that you can recognise the main component of the dish (e.g. pork meat)
- People: Smile, have fun and don’t be afraid to approach people for help. The hospitality and friendliness of the people we met in Taiwan, from on the street to in our hostel was fantastic
- Highlights: All of the very kind people who helped us throughout our stay. As soon as we started to look even slightly lost there always seemed to be someone around who asked if we were alright, or even just said hello as we passed
- Best Experience: The incredible hospitality of the hostel owners in Hualien at the Sparkle Hostel. When we arrived they provided us with a spare blanket as they were worried we’d get cold, fed us home baked scones fresh out of the oven and provided us with directions to a restaurant for beef noodle soup. Iris and her husband made our stay very enjoyable and we’re very appreciative of their hospitality
- Worst Experience: There weren’t any particularly bad experiences, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather. It would have been nice if it was a bit warmer and a little less wet for our week in Taiwan
- Must See Attraction: Taroko National Park for the beautiful, Ximen for the street culture and Longshan Temple for the beauty of the architecture and to experience the religion in Taiwan
- Most Over-hyped Attraction: For us, probably Swallows Grotto in Taroko National Park. I had heard that this was one of the key trails to see, but didn’t realise that the trail was actually a walk way right along a road with lots of tour buses running along. Beautiful scenery but the Baiyang Trail was a lot more enjoyable
- Would I go back? absolutely. Taiwan really took me by surprise. It was a lot easier to get around without knowing Chinese than I expected. The people are incredibly friendly, warm and welcoming and the cities are clean with great transport. Plus, you can’t beat delicious pork buns and wonton soup!
Personally, I feel that Taiwan is an underrated destination. In 2012, Taiwan had approximately 7.4 million visitors but over 85% of those travellers where from Hong Kong, China, Japan, and other neighbouring countries. Only 64,000 Australians actually visited! This was very apparent as we moved around Taiwan, as we could get tours in Japanese but not English (Takeshi had a busy time translating) and I attracted just as much attention as when we were in Cambodia – there were a lot of stares and ‘Hello!’ as we went past.
If you’re thinking of heading somewhere in Asia, I would highly recommend visiting Taiwan.