This Chuseok, I was given a whole week off of work, as opposed to just the usual half-week, so I took the opportunity to explore Taipei area and Hualien in Taiwan. I almost didn’t go, because I was feeling sick in the few days before I was supposed to take off for my trip. I didn’t want to cancel because I was afraid of making the same mistake I made when I cancelled my flight to Cambodia, but right before I was supposed to get on the plane, I told a stewardess I didn’t want to fly. At that point all I wanted to do was rest and I didn’t want to get on a plane at all. However, I didn’t want to cancel if I couldn’t get a flight refund, and I wasn’t able to contact the airline to ask about a refund because their office was closed for the holiday. So, I got on the plane.
The first couple days in Taiwan I still didn’t feel well so I stayed mostly in the hostel to rest. Then Typhoon Dujuan hit, so even if I wanted to I couldn’t go outside. Luckily, the day after the typhoon, I started to feel better and ultimately went through with the trip as planned.
I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted partly because I was sick the first three days and partly because of the typhoon, but I managed to do a lot of what I wanted even in spite of those obstacles. Taipei is a fun and safe city with a laid back vibe, bustling night markets, good street food and cultural attractions.
Another popular cultural attraction is the National Palace Museum, which has more ancient Chinese artifacts than Beijing’s Forbidden City. As would be expected it is quite popular with mainland tourists and can be quite crowded. There is a long line at the jade exhibit which features a cabbage made out of jade. The Chinese pottery is quite beautiful however so I was glad I visited. The museum has to be reached by bus, but it’s only about a 15 minute ride from the Shilin metro stop on Taipei’s MRT. The fare is NT30.
Taiwan has an interesting history, being colonized by the Japanese during World War II, then controlled by the Republic of China (as it is now) after it was driven out of mainland China by the communist forces. Unlike many other countries in Asia, Taiwan actually benefited from Japanese rule and had a positive view of Japanese control. After Japan had to surrender all of its colonies, the Republic of China took over. However, Taiwan’s economy became worse under ROC control and their standard of living was lower than under the Japanese. So the Taiwanese protested the government and were brutally suppressed. This suppression is known as the 228 Incident.
Near the NTU hostpital station on the MRT is the 228 Memorial Park. A museum of the incident is at the park, but it was closed the day I went because of the typhoon the previous day. However I found the park nice to wander around.
Of course one cannot talk about Taipei without discussing the food, especially street food. There are several night markets around Taipei, the largest being Shilin. I didn’t make it to Shilin but I did do a tour of a market with my hostel and tried pork buns, fried chicken, a type of pancake with wrapped bacon (forget the name to be honest but it was delicious). There’s also stinky tofu and blood sausage cake but I wasn’t brave enough to try those. After a meal of street food, there are plenty of stands with some refreshing bubble tea to wash it down.
Taipei also has several cafes serving breakfast and brunch foods such as omelettes and eggs benedict with a side of toast or home fries.
My accommodation in Taipei was Meander Taipei, a large hostel located near the Ximending shopping area (similar to Seoul’s Myeongdong), the location was great with plenty of eateries and shops around and the subway stop 10 minutes away. The beds were surprisingly soft and the female dorm was comfortable, equipped with an en suite bath.
They also had a theater and played a movie during the typhoon.
Despite the rough start and the mostly rainy and humid weather, I enjoyed my time in Taipei and was really glad that I went in the end, and avoided the same mistake I made over summer. Taipei is only a two hour flight from Seoul and it’s a very affordable city and convenient and easy to get around. There’s an excellent MRT system for the city and a train system for getting around other parts of the country.
In the next post, I’ll share my experience in Hualien County, home of the famous Taroko Gorge.