I Become a Wai Guo Ren (Taiwan 1)

Introduction

6 months ago I booked tickets to visit Taiwan. Why?

Map of UK to Taiwan
It’s 6000 miles from the UK to Taiwan. It took us about 12 hours to fly there with a short stop over in Hong Kong.

I have two brothers and a new sister-in-law that live there.  It, otherwise, would not have been high on my ‘to go to’ list. I’m not a chronic traveller. Europe, yes but much farther afield I’ve not really ventured. I had no idea of what to expect and that was exciting!

Having now spent 2 weeks in Taipei, I would recommend going there to anyone. Yes, it’s a long flight from the UK but in my 2 weeks in the capital city my days were filled everyday with fun, interesting and eye opening things and even on leaving I knew there was far more to do, not least to explore the rest of the country including Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Nantou and Hualien and the countryside surrounding them.

Rather than a blow by blow, minute by minute, account of exactly what I did in Taiwan (followed by Hong Kong) I’m going to offer 3 or 4 chapters with the themes of Food, Visits and Days Out, Highlights, anything else that comes to me and finally some details on the photos I upload.

I’ve invite Scribbles in the Sand to comment and amend any of these articles, add the Mandarin and any pics or other interesting tit bits. Feel free to ask questions about our stay. And for those who don’t know a ‘Wai Guo Ren’ is a stranger, a foreigner, other.

Map
Click on the map to enlarge it.

Above is a map of the places we visited. As you can see we did a couple of trips outside of Taipei, taking the bus to Yehliu and Longtan and the MRT to Danshui 淡水. Getting around was pretty easy. The MRT is great! All stations and trains are spotless, all stations have clean, welcoming toilets, free wifi, lifts and much to our great amusement, rubber stamps to record places visited and to add to your stamp collection. Gwilym was very patient while Rich and I stopped each and every time at connecting stations to search out the rubber stamp table. In due course I’ll upload a short video. But here’s a photo to show exactly what I mean. All tourist destinations have them and we were totally delighted by them.

Rubber stamps collected at Longshuan Temple MRT station, Danshui MRT station and Laurie's nearest MRT station.
Rubber stamps collected at Longshuan Temple MRT station, Danshui MRT station and Laurie’s nearest MRT station.

We were busy everyday of our fortnight in Taipei, visiting museums, night markets, eating out and enjoying the end of the celebrations of New Year with Lantern Festival. In between times we fought off Gwilym’s cute (but bitey) cat Dexter, attempted  to get the other cat, ‘Red’ to jump on our laps and get our mouths around some Mandarin phrases beyond ‘Ni How’ (Hello), ‘Sheer-Sheer’ (Thank-you) and ‘bi-bi’ (bye bye!).

  • 你好Nǐ hǎo = Hello
  • 謝謝-Xièxiè = Thanks
  •  拜拜/再見 Bàibài/Zàijiàn = Bye

Weather-wise we weren’t incredibly lucky, Taipei suffering the coldest February for 40 years but in fact the rain gave all the neon street lights added sparkle, offering  a Bladerunner-esque gritty appeal. The rain was welcomed at Shilin Night Market (士林夜市/Shì lín yèshì) as it kept the crowds at bay and we were able to browse and mooch all that wonderful place has to offer, dipping in and out of the various clothes, tech and foodie places at our leisure. Fi and I bought fancy new umbrellas, our respective partners standing patiently by whilst we chose from 20 odd colours available. As you can see in the pic below I went for blue and Fi for red though she nearly went for purple. 

Enjoying our new umbrellas at Shilin Night Market.
Enjoying our new umbrellas at Shilin Night Market.

We climbed up Elephant Mountain 象山, took a very fast lift up Taipei 101 台北一〇一 , had a head, shoulders neck and foot massage, tried Bubble Tea 珍珠奶茶, Pig Blood (in various different forms), stinky tofu 臭豆腐 and the famous beef noodles 牛肉麵,  took a 4km cable car, visited Beitou hot springs 北投溫泉 deep in Yang Min Shan mountain, the National Palace Museum 故宮博物館, a miniatures (dolls houses) museum, a paper museum (one of my top 5 things to do in Taipei!), dodged a burning giant paper lantern (video to follow!), met Mimi, Fifi and Miffy, drank Kaoliang 高粱, chewed betel nut 檳榔, had a luxurious haircut, visited a secret cocktail bar and loads, loads more!

Cocktails at a secret bar in Taipei. Me and my gin fizz, Gwilym's drink being made up and a candle on a barrel which provided much of the main light source (apart from the burning alcohol!)
Cocktails at a secret bar in Taipei. Me and my gin fizz, Gwilym’s drink being made up and a candle on a barrel which provided much of the main light source (apart from the burning alcohol!)

I did not miss the UK at all during my trip and there was nothing I longed or craved for food wise. I can easily see why Laurie, Gwil and Fi enjoy living in Taiwan and I look forward to my next visit there.

Here’s a pic of our very first night which gives a great sense of the welcome and fun times we had in Taiwan.

 i. Our plane at dusk in the UK leaving behind the floods.  ii. Deities from the local temples in Beitou. iii. Gambai! Drinking a Taiwan beer with our beef noodles and sides.
i. Our plane at dusk in the UK leaving behind the floods.
ii. Deities from the local temples in Beitou.
iii. Gambei! Drinking a Taiwan beer with our beef noodles and sides.
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