One week in Taipei (and my first missed flight)
Taiwan has been on my list for a while. In April 2019, while I was in Bali, I decided to visit Taipei for a week and see if I like it enough to live here for a couple of months in the future.
Arriving in Taiwan
The flights from Bali to Taipei were no cheap. After all, it's a 6-hour flight, which can be considered long-haul. I ended up paying around $400, and that was the cheapest deal I could find.
I had a long layover in Singapore, which I didn't mind at all! Singapore is probably my favourite city in Asia. The first thing I did when I got off the place was to eat Kaya toast at the airport (I love Changi airport so much). Then I went to the city and spent a couple of hours in the Gardens by the Bay - I never get tired of this. I spent the afternoon working from my favourite cafe, the Book Cafe. Then I had laksa and dim sum from my fave street food places.
Finally I headed back to the airport and got on the plane to Taipei.
It was a night flight and I arrived early in the morning. I landed in an airport outside Taipei and had to take a train to get to the city. The views from the train were perfect - the sun rising over layers of misty green hills.
I had to wait until 4pm to check in to my Airbnb, so I spent the day sightseeing. Taipei was my first far-east country and I was pleasently surprised by it. The city is very clean and well organized, and there's lots of green everywhere. The main roads are busy but there's plenty of small, quiet streets.
Somehow Taipei looked just how I imagined it. For some reason it was strangely nostalgic.
I visited a busy Chinese temple. Despite the traffic, people were meditating in the front courtyard. Older women were practicing calligraphy in small books that looked handmade.
Then I took a walk in a botanical garden and saw a temple on the water, surrounded by beautiful lotuses.
Afterwards I visited to a couple of the main attractions, and decided to spend the rest of the time relaxing in the Daan park, which was near my Airbnb (unfortunately I got completely destroyed by mosquitoes).
I enjoyed my week in Taipei. I worked in the evening and spent the days exploring Daan (my neighborhood) and the rest of the city.
Of course I visited the famous 101 building. Then I hiked up the hills for a view of the city. I loved this hike and would have gone further, unfortunately I had a cold and was not feeling good, so I only did the first part. Still worth it for the views and all the nature.
I also met up with Steph, who happened to be here at the same time as me :) We had some dim suLet me know what time workm and a giant mango shaved ice.
I visited a couple of night markets and ate a lot of street food there. Lots of Japanese food. I loved the mochis! It was the first time I had real, fresh mochi, rolled in front of me.
The coffee in Taipei was amazing. There are small coffee shops everywhere that make perfect (and very strong) espresso. Also great for working.
Also, pastries - for some reason there were lots of pastry shops and bakeries in Taipei, very unusual for an Asian country in my experience! The pastries were amazing and I probably ate too many. They were almost European... but with an Asian twist of course.
On my last day, I went on a day trip to Jiufen, a small traditional village near Taipei.
I got a bus from Fuxing and it took about an hour to get there. It was nice drive through misty green hills.
Jiufen was very touristy, especially the main street. That's a market street full of small shops that sell mostly food and souvenirs. I had coffee bubble tea (!), fried mushrooms, icecream mochi and some other snacks.
Then I left the busy market street to walk around the city. It was raining a bit but I didn't mind. I saw almost no tourists outside of that market! So peaceful, I had the little streets all to myself.
Jiufen is said to be the inspiration for Spirited Away. It definitely felt like being inside a fairytale anime. The city is built on the face of a hill and there's lots of tiny stairways between the houses. Some of the "streets" go right through people's porches or rooftops.
There was also a "cat village" nearby, but I didn't visit as I had very little time, and it was raining too hard. I figured all the cats would be hiding from the rain anyway.
Showing up a day late for my flight
So * I thought * that I had my flight Saturday night at 1am. I arrived at the airport at 10pm and started walking around casually... Then I looked at the departures screen... Then I looked again... My flight wasn't there!
Then it hit me - my flight had already gone the night before!! 1am Saturday is actually Friday night, not Saturday night!...
In short, after running around the airport for 30 minutes, I managed to get a new flight to Singapore. It cost me over $200 and it was leaving in 40 minutes. I raced to the gate like crazy.
In Singapore I had to also buy a new flight to Bali, which cost me about $50.
A very stressful experience but it all ended well. I lost some money but nothing to cry over. In my 10 years of travelling on planes alone, it was bound to happen one day. I didn't imagine I would be a day late to my flight though :)
Anyways... here is some practical info about my week in Taipei.
I was actually very happy with my airbnb. It was a studio on the 15th floor, not too small, with a very nice and clean bathroom and kitchen. Also a big desk and fast wifi, perfect to work from. I paid about $30 per night which is a decent price.
It was between Daan and the Fuxing metro station. Daan is a nice area with lots of quiet streets and cozy cafes, and Fuxing is a very central station so it's easy to get everywhere with the metro.
I was definitely not prepared for the weather. One day it was too hot, the next day it was cold and rainy and windy. I even got sick on my last day!
I only had Bali clothes with me (flip flops, shorts and beach tops) which were no good for the rainy days. And even on hot days, I was not happy with my clothes - most people worked in offices and dressed smart, so I often felt like a bum in my beach clothes.
One thing I was not prepared for was the language barrier. Everything is in Chinese and people speak very little English.
Also, the plugs! They have American plugs and all my stuff is European (and I forgot all my adapters in Bali). It was impossible to find an adapter in the shops in Taipei :( Thankfully my airbnb had one, which saved me. So if you're coming here with non-American electronics, don't be like me and make sure you bring your adapter!!
And finally, the food. This was a big issue for me since I don't eat meat. Almost everything had beef, pork or chicken in it. Also there was lots of bread and fried stuff, which I try to avoid. I ended up eating in "healthy" western restaurants a lot, which are not cheap... I was paying around $15 for a meal. If I had stayed longer, I would have found a supermarket and cooked at home.
Despite the obstacles and missing my flight, I would definitely like to come back and spend a month or two here in the future. I'd really like to rent a motorbike and explore the island. The mountains in the center seem very interesting. I'd also like to visit the famous Sun Moon bridge, and the beaches in the south. Maybe in 2020, let's see :)