My flight to Bali had a layover in Taiwan, and I could stay for up to a week for no extra charge, so I decided to have a look at the little island off the coast of China. Taiwan had never been particularly high on my list of places to visit I’ve always heard that it has amazing food, so in the worst case I knew I would be eating good.
Taipei is a big, clean city with a great public transportation system (a subway ticket costs $.65 and can get you just about anywhere in the city). It’s vibrant and bustling during the day but mostly sleepy and quiet after about 10pm at night. The people are friendly but a bit reserved and everyone is very polite. The heat during June is pretty intense and most days it was in the upper 80’s to low 90’s with very high humidity.
Taiwan had been a Japanese colony for about 50 years and you can see the Japanese influence all over the place; the highways, the subways, the education system, and even in the customer service. Overall it felt a lot like a Chinese version of a generic Japanese city.
The cuisine is distinctly Chinese; noodles, dumplings, fried rice, but with an attention to quality and presentation that you typically don’t see with Chinese food (at least in my experience). Pretty much everywhere I ate, from street stalls to fancier sit down places, was clean, had extremely fresh food, and had good customer service. Overall the food definitely did not disappoint, it’s worth a trip here to eat.
Getting out of the city
My favorite day in Taiwan was the one day I made it out of Taipei. Nichole, a friend of mine from college who grew up in Taipei, introduced me to Hiroshi, another Taipei native who went to Lewis and Clark. I didn’t know him while we were in school but he offered to take me out to the coast, a place called Longdong Bay, for some climbing and scuba diving.
I’ve only climbed a couple of times in my life, and that was always in a gym, so I definitely had a hard time keeping up with Hiroshi and and his girlfriend (who are both pretty serious climbers). It was a blast though and as soon as a started trusting my feet and not trying to do everything with my hands/arms I was actually able to complete a decent sized wall.
After we finished climbing we met up with the the diving instructor. They were both working on getting their advanced open water license, and though I already had mine it had been a few years since I’d dove so it was nice to get a little extra instruction. Our first dive was used Nitrox and explored the cove. The cove has an average coral reef with a 20-30 foot wall and a good amount of small fish (nothing big though). It’s definitely not Thailand but was more active than I thought it would be.
After eating some seafood at a local stall we went back for a night dive which was actually more fun because there were a lot more critters out. The coolest thing we saw was probably this squid:
If you are ever in Taiwan and want to dive hit up Dennis at Fun Divers Taiwan, he’s a friendly Canadian, speaks English, and knows how to have fun under the sea.
I didn’t go out much in Taipei, but the coolest spot I did go to was a bar my friend recommended called Fucking Place. The bar tenders were very hip, lots of tats and piercings, and there was a DJ playing good old-school hip hop. They have an awesome selection of single malt Scotches and a fun crowd of expats and locals.
My overall feeling on Taiwan is that is has great food, friendly people, but doesn’t have much of an edge (with the exception of Fucking Place). If I had it to do over again I would spend 3 days in Taipei and the other 4 days exploring the rest of the island and looking for surf.