I've become a bit lazy of late in terms of writing posts per city that I visit, so for Taiwan I thought I'd write more of a highlights post covering the food, places and cultural differences in enjoyed while travelling around Taiwan. It doesn't quite meet the highs of Japan, but none-the-less it's still a fantastic and largely untravelled country and one I hope to return to in the future.
Things I learnt...
- Taiwan has the most mountains over 3000m in the world, 258 in total, which is quite amazing given its size (half the size of Ireland), making it mostly mountainous. Given the above facts, it's fitting that it also has the highest concentration of mountains in the world.
- For me, the beauty of Taiwan wasn't in the cities, or even the food, but in the outdoors. It has many mountains a lot of which aren't very accessible at all. It has beaches, good surf, small surrounding islands,reasonable diving, plenty of rarely touched climbing areas and a nice warm climate.
- People in Taiwan are very passionate about food. The culture is typically not to eat at home (unless cooking for a large family) but rather to go out and eat. Night markets are a very common thing dotted all over the place and are busy every night of the week. The food is cheap and generally tasty, although not always healthy (they love deep frying things).
- I still don't get the attraction to stinky tofu, or some of the other dishes. The food is good but still a way down my favourites list (of which Thailand and India top). I'll probably get lynched for saying this but I think the Taiwanese overrate their food (only by a little bit though). Chinese hotdog and hamburger come highly recommended though.
- In terms of cultural similarities, Taiwan is obviously closest to China but there are differences. No yacking/spitting, less litter in most places, and generally friendlier people. Taipei is unique compared to other cities on the island, which resemble typical Asian cities more (like Hanoi or Fuzhou) where the scooter is king, sidewalks rarely exist and walking to places is seen as crazy.
- It's hot, even if the Taiwanese says it's cold. Highs around the mid 20's Celsius in November! While all the Taiwanese are walking around in trousers and jackets I was still in t-shirt, shorts and flip flops... sweating.
- Quite a few Taiwanese girls aren't afraid to approach solo white travellers, or that was my experience. Usually out of curiosity and to practise their English. So it's quite an engaging country, and awkward at times.
- Most people that seem to travel Taiwan are from Hong Kong or South Korea. They usually come for only a week, and virtually all the time is spent in the north. It's still a largely not travelled very much as I was the only one in quite a few hostels. There are also a crop of new hostels popping up all over the place.
- The garbage trucks play the same music as the ice cream vans in the UK. And people run out to see the truck, in order to put their rubbish in it. So same principle to lure people out just rubbish instead of ice cream.
- In most shops, if you spend over 75TWD, the receipt has a code and is lottery ticket. So hold on to your receipts! At first I'd take the change and walk off and wonder why they'd shout after me just to hand me a receipt. It makes sense now. The lottery takes place each month. It's done to encourage people to spend at tax paying shops.
- Museums and temples are "nice" in Taiwan but nothing special when compared to what other countries have to offer. Often the outside of the museums look better than the inside!
- The club scene in Taipei is fun and open bar clubs do exist (usually around 700TWD for a guy). They did seem to be majority male though, and because of this had a slightly tense/aggressive feel to them.