I’ve been struggling and struggling to come up with something “meaningful” to write about this week. I started a draft about the trials and tribulations of dating abroad, a draft about the pointlessness of life in general, and even considered a draft about my recent biking adventure to Wulai. But another member of the biking trip already wrote a post about it and now its seems pointless to write my own. If you want to know about it, I suggest checking out his blog. The pictures are heart-stoppingly beautiful.
I just don’t have the heart for writing about any of these things. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll regale you with exciting tales (ok, ok, horror stories) of my dating exploits. But not today.
So. In an effort to be positive on a day when I’m feeling anything but, I present to you some of the things I like about Taiwan and Taipei.
In no particular order here they are:
10. The Food.
Yes, it’s true, Taiwan has some crazy-assed food out there. You only need to swing by the local night market to see things like chicken testes, pig intestines, gizzards, claws and other internal organs to see what I mean. I’m not talking about that kind of food though. I’m talking about the good stuff. Vinegar noodles, Bao Tzi, dumplings, 40 different kinds of chili bean and garlic sauces, sushi, seafood, sticky rice, rice pudding, tea eggs, amazing vegetarian food the likes I’ve which I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the list just goes on and on. It’s a culinary adventure here in Taiwan. Whatever your heart desires, and foods your heart didn’t even know it could desire can be found for ridiculously cheap prices.
9. The Views
Travel but a few miles out of the city to experience some of the most stunning vistas nature has to offer. There’s a reason this island was named Ilha Formosa by the Portuguese when first they arrived. The name means beautiful island and as it was named so it continues to be. The unique mountains, valleys, gorges, and plains along with the weather offer spectacular views for anyone that ventures outside of the cities.
8. Open Alcohol Containers Are Allowed In Public.
This should probably be number one. Who hasn’t wanted to sit in the local park, enjoy the views and a cold brew? Well in Taiwan, that’s no problem. No need to fear an open intox here. On top of that alcohol is sold 24 hours a day. As far as I’m aware there are no limitations. And for all these legal freedoms its pretty rare to see anyone walking around with a beer in hand. I love it. It should be like this everywhere.
7. Taipei Metro System
The metro system is clean, efficient and relatively cheap. Starting at 16 NT per trip by American standards it is quite cheap, though by Polish standards it is actually more expensive and less comprehensive. The metro currently has ten lines spanning Taipei and New Taipei City, and the proposed phase three of the metro system seen below is simply amazing.
6. Taiwanese Friendliness
My first impressions after arriving in Taipei were about how extremely friendly and helpful the Taiwanese are. At least to foreigners. Grant it, I had just arrived from Poland a country notorious for its extreme rudeness, but I’d go so far as to say that people are more friendly than they would be in America too. Of course, you do have to take this with a grain of salt. After living here for eight months I can assure you NOT everyone is friendly and there are many many Taiwanese who are xenophobic and they don’t hesitate to make their feelings felt. Over all though, visitors are welcomed to Taiwan. The people here are very curious and friendly and willing to be helpful.
5. Bike Rentals and Bike Paths
Bike rental places are available all up and down the rivers of Taipei with daily rentals ranging from 1-5 dollars USD. A cheap way to spend the day exercising and enjoying the city. Taipei has a comprehensive bike path system that snakes all around Taipei, usually following the rivers and their tributaries. Biking is becoming increasingly popular here year by year and a great deal of money is being invested in supporting this sport.
Obviously crime happens here just like anywhere else, but all things considered, Taiwan is pretty safe. I felt reasonably safe(er) in Poland than in the US but I feel very safe here. It doesn’t matter the time of day or night, or where I’m at, I have yet to feel at risk or unsafe anywhere. I am not so naïve that I can’t tell what are seedier and more dangerous areas to be in, but even in those, I don’t feel bothered. I have no fears at all about traveling on my own anywhere in Taiwan. Generally speaking foreigners just don’t get bothered that much. As a foreign woman I get bothered even less. What the Taiwanese do to and among themselves can be a different story, but that’s a subject for an entirely different post.
3. City Parks
There are tons of parks in Taipei. A couple of big ones, and tons of small ones. Every couple of blocks you can find a city park. They’re usually tiny, with little play areas for kids, and some benches, plants and bushes. They don’t do much to dispel the feeling of living in a concrete jungle in any way, but its nice that they’re out there at all. The larger ones usually have very nice public toilet facilities that you don’t have to pay for. They’re tiny islands of calm in a very busy and noisy city and I love them for that. Also, they’re the perfect place to have a beer or two.
2. The National Health Insurance
Are you kidding me here? Do I even need to elaborate? It’s incredibly cheap, especially compared to the US. A pair of glasses can cost somewhere between 20-30 USD, dental visits around 10 USD, and doctor and hospital visits between 3-20 USD. That being said, of course procedures can be expensive and if you have health issues this can be cause for concern. But what’s covered is covered and it’s covered well. Service is quick and easy, with surgeries and procedures being scheduled within days or weeks rather than months, and care is modern. The US should certainly take a page from Taiwan’s book.
1.Free City WiFi
Taipei has free city WiFi encompassing the entire city. It went public in October of last year. While I don’t use it much, and I’ve heard it can be annoyingly slow, I’d say this puts Taipei at the forefront over many other cities I could name. Poland certainly won’t be having any free WiFi in, what—probably never, and even the US is only beginning to offer this in some select cities.
Have I missed anything? Feel free to offer up your favorites about Taiwan or Taipei.