Wednesday, 24 March 2010

My Take on Taiwan

Although not as beautiful as Japan, I like Taiwan and will definitely go back. It's an affordable alternative to expensive Japan if you want to visit a Sino-Japanese country. Taiwan has many Japanese influences because of their history and many Taiwanese speak Japanese too. The architecture and scenery is Oriental but the people have the grace of the Japanese.

Weather
Taipei's weather is very erratic. It can be super hot one day and the next, freezing cold so for tourists, packing is a pain. I suggest packing a jacket for cold weather and just wear something normal inside. Layering is a good way to avoid baking to death in hot weather because you can remove the outer layers. For some funny reason, Taiwanese girls all like to wear long-sleeves even in hot weather so I was the odd one out in short sleeves. even if they wear short sleeves, they'd wear a long sleeved top inside and the short sleeved top over it... They also don't really wear shorts without stockings. According to Grace, it's because they're conservative and also they don't want to get dark.

Sights
Quite beautiful although not as nicely developed and designed as Japan. For example, the flowers in Yangmingshan were very nice but the landscaping is just not as artistically sculptured.

Getting Around
Definitely cheaper by taxi here than in Japan which will cost an arm and a leg >.< but Japan has the advantage of a very well-connected train system and up to date one stop website where you can check train times, platfom etc. We felt safe travelling around as in we didn't feel like we will get conned like in some other asian countries (i won't say which one). The taroko express is modelled after JR kyushu k, don't play play... the leg room is so much better than SQ. It's more like business class type of leg room.

Language
If you can read traditional Chinese you should do fine but i had difficulty navigating and ordering food >.< i love the way the Taiwanese speak Mandarin... it sounds so melodious and poetic. For example, i called the front desk to ask, "请问水龙头的水可以喝吗?” (can the tap water be drunk?) and the girl replied, “水龙头的水可煮来饮用。” (you may CONSUME it after boiling) wa... i say 喝 (drink) she say 饮用 (consume)... more elegant hor? and the guy who langahed our car kept apologising to us,“很抱歉耽误了你们的行程,为你们造成了困扰。”(i am very sorry to have delayed your schedule and caused distress) it's the way they speak it la... like singing a song hahaha

People
I can understand why Grace loves taiwan so much. The taiwanese we met are generally very helpful, polite, sincere and honest. Pris felt the same way too. She said their Taiwanese friends went out of their way to make them feel welcomed. they're also very civic-minded and environmentally friendly. No spitting and blowing snort out (i won't say which country does this) and they will switch off lights, not waste food (unlike Singaporeans who go for buffet...) etc.

Food
I'm sorry, some of the local food is just not too my liking. i don't know how to decribe it... it's just something not right. for example, i ordered 芹菜 which i believe means spinach but they served us some unidentifiable veg we have never come across which tasted like leaves... and the 白斩鸡 steamed chicken had very bloody centres >.< and i CANNOT stand stinky toufu. if you go to the night market, it's EVERYWHERE!!! when the pong hits you, you feel nauseous and giddy and lose all appetite. but the beef noodles and mango ice are very nice la. fruits are very fresh and sweet too.

Cleanliness
The place is not as clean as Singapore and Japan but it's still generally quite clean. most parts we went to (with the exception of the city centre, shopping areas and business districts) are rather run-down... not well- maintained. public toilets in city areas are ok but in the more rural areas... hm... got smell but i didn't see anything offensive... acceptable la.

Culture
Keeping to one side of the escalator is the norm here. there's one thing i cannot get used to and think is quite disgusting... they throw their toilet paper in a bin beside the bowl instead of flushing it down >.< ya, so you wipe your behind then you throw the stained paper in a bin and not all bins have lids k >.<||| no wonder in Japan they have signs in their toilets that say, "please flush toilet paper." cos i guess they get a lot of chinese and taiwanese tourists. some toilets that are shared have a urinal for guys which is separated only by a curtain so you could be peeing in the cubicle and an uncle comes to pee at the urinal so that when u emerge from your cubicle you can see his backview >.<

Shopping
well, tea and tea pots are good here. Alishan Oolong is the best buy if you don't know what to buy. 天仁 Ten Ren teahouse is everywhere (there's one near Din Tai Fung). and you feel safe buying because they won't cheat you and tell you it's 紫砂 zisha teapot when it's actually some toxic mud and the oolong is really oolong, not some inedible dried leaf or worse, cardboard scraps (i won't say which country does this). bring passport if you intend to buy teasets cos can get tax rebates. clothes are cheap though may not be the best quality. it's like This Fashion prices. chris bought two shirts for SGD$5 each. priscilla says contact lenses are cheap which is true. one box of 30 daily disposables in Singapore costs about SGD$50 but in taipei it's NT620 (about SGD$30) so can you imagine you buy one year's supply how much you will save?? two boxes for one month that's savings of about SGD$20, times 12 that's more than SGD$200. chris bought two boxes cos he uses them when exercising (which is rare).

luxury items are very expensive though.