Last August, work brought me to Taiwan, so I decided to bring along my entire family of five there as well. My children have already blogged about our trip there, but considering it was my first time there, I thought it would be good for me to list down my thoughts of Taiwan as well..
1. Taiwanese are overall very warm, friendly and helpful. And if Taiwanese aren’t available, their road signs and signages are pretty helpful too.
2. Taiwan is one of those ‘left-hand drive’ countries. I had an unforgettable experience first hand at the Taiwan airport when we arrived when I almost boarded our taxi at the driver side..:-p of course, ‘left-hand drive’ countries would also mean having to adjust to walking on the right when not overtaking and left when over taking. It took me while to realise that when our taxi seemed to be speeding on the left lane..:-p
3. As a country that is undoubtedly in the forefront of innovation and technology, Taiwan sure has some of the more advanced looking bidets I have ever seen. Unlike the manual ones I’m used to seeing back home, most of these Taiwan bidets are computerised with plenty of touch buttons – basic ones being spray backside, spray frontside and dryer.
So I was rather surprised when I found one of these bidets with an additional button with a lightbulb logo. At first I thought it was some reading lamp but (out of curiosity) when I pressed it nothing happened. Until I stood up and saw this…
4. The Taiwan metro rail system is REALLY efficient. I usually measure this by walking blindly into one of the stations and see how easily and intelligent the signages and maps are able to get me to where I need to go. And in Taiwan, it was really easy. In comparison, the signages in Malaysia RapidKL rail system is so much more confusing. Seriously. :-p
5. In addition, the Taiwan metro rail is very family friendly too. Lifts were well and adequately placed in all stations. It was a very common sight to see families travelling TOGETHER on these trains, complete with their baby strollers! And you wonder why families in Malaysia don’t travel often in our LRTs….:-p
6. Apart from families, it is apparent that the metro rail is also very friendly to cyclists, pets, disabled people, etc. too. It was really surprising (and refreshing) to see many passengers travelling with their pet dogs in the train. Cool.
7. One strange observation is the poor marketing of their tourist attractions. For example, when I went into the Taipei Zoo souvenier shop, I couldn’t find any T-shirt with the design printed words of “Taipei Zoo”!!! Nor was there any “Taipei Zoo” imprinted on the fridge magnets or any other ‘basic’ souvenir too! Strange, huh? How about when we took the Maokong Gondola. There was practically no souvenir items promoting ‘Maokong Gondola’ at all! It was as their priority is to promote Taiwan (country) first before the tourist attraction. Hmmmmm.
8. It is undeniable that Taiwan is essentially a “Scooter” nation. It is the preferred choice of vehicle on the road….so much so to the extent that you get to see ‘Scooter waiting spots’ at traffic lights. And yes, all motorists are very well -behaved and do not invade these spaces..(in case you were asking..:-p)
9. Technology is also very well used in the area of public toilets. I noticed in some of the toilets found in the train stations where they have a large electronic board on the outside which monitors which urinal is or not in use. Seriously! :-p
10. I also observed that overall, the streets in Taiwan are pretty CLEAN. The surprising thing here is that you can NOT easily find the dustbins! So where does the rubbish go or get cleaned up? Amazing, huh?
11. As a pedestrian in Taiwan, you’d feel safe to cross the roads, especially at intersections where cars are ‘allowed’ to turn into a street where pedestrians could be walking, they have an unwritten ‘trust’ system that seems to work.
12. Wireless Internet is easily accessible in Taiwan. Of course, as a visitor you;d need to register yourself first. Just make sure you arm yourself with your passport ad you’re good to go! At the Taoyuan Airport, go look for the iTaiwan logo and register yourself. iTaiwan covers most of the buildings and enclosed areas in Taiwan. The other free Wi-Fi service in Taiwan comes via TPE-Free Wifi Access, which personally I felt had better coverage of most tourist spots and outdoor locations. You can register yourself in any of their kiosks or information counters, typically found in popular Metro Rail Stations. Having said that, I have to say that the connection, whilst fast when connected is not very stable and tends to break frequently. Also I wonder why there are TWO different services offering free public Wi-Fi. Hmmmm.
13. The city never sleeps! We even saw some restaurants advertising that they are opened till 4am?!!! Best part is that even though you can walk around during these unearthly hours, it kinda feels SAFE.
14. As long as you love BREAD and MEAT (especially pork), you’d enjoy eating tin Taiwan.
15. Bread is so popular here that almost every other corner we turn into is a BAKERY.
16. There are certain ‘default’ items you would find as breakfast here, namely warm soya milk, braised/minced pork on rice (lu rou fan; 滷肉飯 ) and sweet potato porridge
17. For an iconic tourist landmark like the Taipei 101, I was really surprised to see that it is NOT near at all to the nearest Metro rail station (ie City Hall). When I got down in City Hall, I was shocked that I had to walk like another 1.5-2 km to reach Taipei 101! Would definitely suggest for them to build a station closer to this landmark.
18. We already know that most makan places in Taiwan closes quite late, so we were in for a rude shock when we discovered that the Taipei Zoo closed at JUST 5pm?!!! Missed the pandas because of this. Sigh.
19. It is NOT easy to find souvenir fridge magnets in Taiwan. I mean, I would have expected them to be found and sold on every corner of popular tourist spots like Ximenting, but apparently not. I only discovered you’d be able to find them in ‘fashion houses’, those selling shirts and cloths. Ahhh..
20. If you intend to travel to Taiwan with kids, especially those aged 2 and below…please think again. Think twice over. Then think again for the third time. It is really, very challenging. especially around tourist spots with old streets, plenty of stairs and crowded hawker places. So if you are travelling with kids, be prepared to sacrifice on places you can visit and length of time you can spend on places.