Do you like food? Do you like nature? Do you like hiking? Do you like city life? Do you like good public transportation? If the answer to those questions is "Yes" then sit back and read an amazing story of one of my favorite countries!
First off the capital Taipei is a bustling city filled with millions of people and more scooters zooming around than you could imagine. However, don't let that throw you off. Taipei is a well designed city with one of the best and cheapest public transportation systems I've ever been on. Their subway called the MRT here has cars wide enough so that you're not totally crammed next to someone even during rush hour. Having been in Seoul and Tokyo even more that's a total relief. They also have a public bicycle program called YouBike that is super cheap. Getting around Taipei is no problem. It's very cheap and easy. Really no excuse for not being able to get where you want unless you're simply put...an incompetent fool. However, the only downfall to the MRT is that it closes quite early after midnight so you better hurry to catch that last train. That seems to be the running theme for most Asian countries with developed transportation systems. Maybe they want to avoid the drunken salarymen undressing in the passenger cars.
One thing that I love here is the food. Simply amazing. I had hotpot at home in Orlando and it was not cheap. It was such a simple concept, but so expensive I couldn't believe it. However, in Taipei there are hotpot restaurants everywhere. You can find places everywhere for cheap. Usually 120NTD which is about 4USD.
Another thing that has really got me hooked is beef noodle soup. Oh man the flavors that burst on your tongue from that beef broth with those fresh noodles cooked al dente...oh man. Not to mention the ever so tender pieces of beef that almost melt in your mouth. So far the best place I've found is a place in Ximen, but you actually get off at Beiman station. 建宏牛肉麵 That's the name and the way to get it is, 牛肉麵 大碗 粗麵 or beef noodle, big size, thick noodle. I have to thank my friend Dabon for writing that out for me to show.
My next favorite is stinky tofu. Don't be adverse to it by the smell or name. I relate it to cheese. The stinkier the tastier. How true it is when it comes to this delightful treat. There are two ways I've had it so far. In a soup or fried. I prefer it fried because you get a nice crispy outside and then a nice smooth creamy inside. When you throw a little hot sauce on there too...BAM it's on! Also I'm American so anything fried is always better...usually. The best Stink Tofu I've had so far isn't in Taipei but in South Taiwan near Taitung. It's called 福原豆腐店 and can be found on Google Maps. Holy mother of baby Jeezus is that place good.
The breakfast foods in Taiwan are also no joke. My favorite so far is this rice burrito thing with eggs, bacon, and some other stuff that I don't exactly know...but every time I have a minimum of 2. My friends here have gotten used to my ridiculous appetite and often order double of things for me ahead of time. Good people.
So what's there to do besides eating all day, which can easily be done, well you can explore the several museums that they have here for free or my personal favorite go hiking and end it with a relaxing hot spring. With so much volcanic activity this island used to have and being on the ring of fire in he pacific there are bound to be endless hot springs and mountains. Yangmingshan is the big mountain north of Taipei and also features endless hot springs. Some of which you need to pay for and others that you can hike to for free. The most amazing hot spring to me is 八煙野溪溫泉 Bayan Hot springs. It's basically a river hot spring that mixes with the mountain river and the hot spring source to create an amazing place. Just be sure to bring a light with you at night because otherwise you won't be able to see anything.
Atop the mountains in Taipei you can also catch a view of some amazing sunsets. The most amazing sunset I had seen up to this point had been in Okinawa, however that changed when I saw it from above the clouds in Yangmingshan 大屯山助航台. The day itself was quite gloomy and overcast even driving up the mountain we barely could see the sky until finally we broke through the cloud layer and rose above them. This made the experience even better. I had never seen anything quite like it before. Photos don't do it justice. It's simply an experience that you have to see in person. If you're feeling a little patient the night view of Taipei reflecting its amber glow on the clouds just feels relaxing.
Tamsui is a district in the north edges of Taipei that is besides the river that is filled people, street vendors, and is actually a cool place to hangout and chill. If you're looking for a relaxing day I'd say Tamsui is the place to go.
One thing that won't get old is the amazing view of the city from up high and the close by mountain Yangmingshan.
Taipei has easily become one of my favorite cities in the world. The people, the food, and atmosphere are all there for what you could want.
My favorite place in all of Taiwan. Home to some of the most beautiful nature that this country can offer. The magnificent Taroko gorge also lies in Hualien so you know that it's already great. The drive down the east coast of Taiwan is by far the most scenic and best drives I've been on.
First off if you don't drive a scooter through Taroko then you're 100% missing out on the awesome thrills and sights that this place offers. You could take a scenic bus tour through here but that is too touristy and they rush you through like cattle. Taroko requires a time to really enjoy all the amazing views it has. There is a free campground there that my friend Lennie and I stayed at. Probably the best camping site I've ever stayed at. Waking up and seeing a giant cliff face in the glowing morning light is something everyone needs to see once, even if you hate outdoors stuff. No one can deny natural beauty.
We spent a week there camping and hiking. Ending each day in a natural hot spring that shoots out from the side of a mountain. There is simply nothing better than relaxing in a hot spring after hiking all dam day and laying in that 45C 113F water to melt all your pains from the day away. The hot spring in Taroko is Wenshan Hot Spring that is technically closed but you can still go to. Just gotta hop a fence and shimmy past a gate.
The second largest city in Taiwan. There's considerably less traffic here due to the streets being more well organized, and actually a planned city. It's right by the ocean and features a lot of interesting things that anyone could want to see. However, most things here can be scene in about two days if you are just going from place to place and wanna save money. The MRT here isn't very expansive and they also use a different card than Taipei so you have to get a new one if you want to use that convenience. There's only two lines that go from north to south and another from east to west. It'll be a few more years before they expand on those according to the people I talked to.
Lotus Lake is in the middle of Khaosiung it features a lot of large idols and twin dragon and tiger temples. It's a cool place to walk through and chill. It's always occupied by tourists and old people though. Also like the rest of Taiwan there's plenty of street food to satisfy your needs. Almost too much to choose from, sometimes making it hard to choose what to get. However, I usually just get about 10 different things anyways and go back to the good ones later again.
In Formosa Boulevard Station there's a huge stained glass structure called the Dome of Light. It's cool if you're passing through, but I wouldn't make a trip just to see it.
Down in the southeast of Taiwan is Taitung. A small city by the coast that's very relaxed and calming. This is a place where you definitely need a scooter to get around. However, most places only rent to Taiwanese licensed drivers. The way around that is become friends with a Taiwanese person and ask them to rent it for you. At night there's a lot of people who go to the park downtown. I stayed at 5F Hostel which was really nice...minus the snoring monster I experienced one night. I thought I was in a dam war zone with how loud it was. I didn't even know that was humanly possible to snore so loudly and consistently. Quite impressive really, but still annoying as hell. Ear plugs did absolutely nothing to block the sound.
Since Taitung is right by the sea it features some beautiful beaches. Also you can simply hop on the train and go down a couple stops to see some other towns and beaches.
Just a short scooter hop up north is the most amazing stinky tofu place I've been to in Taiwan 福原豆腐店. Not to mention the drive there through some beautiful rice fields makes it quite worth it as well. Anyways if you've got the time to visit there and you like stinky tofu...well THEN DO IT!
A short two hour scooter ride to here on some of the best mountain roads in Taiwan is totally worth a run. Yilan has a lot to offer in terms of nature. I stopped here several times throughout my stay in Taiwan. The most memorable was after a bungee jumping trip with some friends. We went to Mingchi Forest Park 明池国家森林游乐区. It's in the mountains and surrounded by thousand year old trees. The day we went was quite foggy which gave it this mystic overtone like we were in some far distant land like middle earth with mythical creatures.
That's it for now.
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