Goodbye Taiwan. Hello Vietnam!

Taiwan Final Thoughts

Oct 30, 2014 - ourglobaltrek

As our time in Taiwan comes to an end, we leave with our minds full of good memories, our hearts partially broken and a huge hole in our stomachs. After spending over three weeks going around the island, visiting some of the major landmarks and eating some of the greatest foods out there, here are some final thoughts and impressions we had about Taiwan.

His Final Thoughts

Carlos among Giant Red Cypress Trees
Carlos among Giant Red Cypress Trees

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect of Taiwan, since I didn’t know much about it to start with. All I knew was that it would culturally resemble China, but be more developed and technologically advanced. I guess I wasn’t wrong.

Taiwan offered such diverse landscapes from the mountain forests of Alishan to the gorges of Taroko, as well as diverse cities from the metropolis that is Taipei to the rich historical town of Tainan. All in one small island! I was surprised by just how much there was to see and do everywhere.

Taiwan was a great place for me to learn more about history, not only Taiwanese history, but also Chinese and general history. The island has strategic geographical advantages that served the purpose of many explorers during the Age of Discovery. It also belonged to China for a long period, but was then used as an exilium to the losing party during the civil war. The Japanese were here, too (hence the hot springs and mountain railroads). To put it in a few words, Taiwan’s history is rich and influenced by many of the previous powerful empires that we know of.

Another thing that struck me was that Taiwan was incredibly clean and organized. If Taiwan resembles China on the historic and cultural front, it certainly does not have that much in common when it comes to cleanliness and organization. The streets, parks and public areas in general are super clean. There are signs (in both Chinese and English!) with useful information and directions almost everywhere in the cities. Brazil has a lot to learn from Taiwan on this front!

Overall, it was incredibly easy to travel in Taiwan. Backed up by great infrastructure, organization and friendly people, traveling within the cities and around the island was straightforward, fast and cheap. I do regret not going to a few places, like Yehliu / Keelung / Juifen to the north or Taitung / Kenting to the south, but all in all, I had a great time and I would certainly go back for more!

Her Final Thoughts

Julie at the Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung
Julie at the Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung

Taiwan had so much more to offer than I could have ever imagined. All I really knew was Taipei coming into Taiwan (like most people), and don’t get me wrong, Taipei was great by all accounts. I could probably live in Taipei for an extended period of time. But the rest of the island was the hidden treasure for me. The authentic Taiwan. Taipei is like the first bite of a soup dumpling – a gateway to the rich, soupy, meaty fillings that is the rest of the island.

Since I started talking about food… oh, the food. I will dream about the food for many years to come. I ate too much in Taiwan. Bakeries, street markets, restaurants, bubble teas, cafes, dessert shops… we’ve tried them all. And then gone back again. Basically if you like Asian food, you’re going to love Taiwan. And if you don’t like Asian food, you’re going to learn to love it by the end of Taiwan.

The infrastructure in Taiwan was pretty great. It was very easy to get around the island by train, or take the subway or bus within a city. Public transportation in general was highly dependable and cheap – we never felt the need to take a taxi. This takes a lot of the headache out of the literal traveling, so that we could do more of the metaphorical traveling.

Taiwanese people are some of the kindest and most polite people I’ve ever met. Everyone is very respectful of not just foreigners, but also their fellow citizens and surroundings. You can learn a lot about the Taiwanese people from a simple subway ride in Taipei. Priority seats are never taken, leaving them empty for those in need. Everyone lines up to get on the train – there are literal lines painted on the platform. Everyone stands on the right of the escalator and walks up the left, even if that means a big line to get on. It’s the little things that people keep up every single day that make all the difference.

Weather was a bit of a downside for me personally. Maybe it was the time of year that we were there (September), but it was so unbelievably hot and humid. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in very cold and dry places. We were pretty lucky to have very few rainy days though, which was a blessing and gave us ample time to go sightseeing.

I did feel some pressure in Taiwan being ethnically Chinese myself. There was almost an unspoken expectation that I would always know what’s going on – everyone would automatically speak Chinese to me and assume I was from mainland. Often times I wouldn’t completely understand their accent plus my Traditional Chinese reading was not great. On the other hand, I did know what was going on most of the time and could communicate what was necessary with the locals. I knew I would miss this once I had to start dealing with serious language barriers in other countries. There’s no doubt that our travels were made easier due to my Chinese knowledge as compared to your average foreigner.

So long, Taiwan, until we meet again. Next stop: Vietnam!

Goodbye Taiwan. Hello Vietnam!
Goodbye Taiwan. Hello Vietnam!