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Thinking about Taiwan in February
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Posted 13 May 2019 - 12:01 PM
I am planning a trip for my DS for when he finishes school, and he is very keen on visiting Taiwan. We were planning on going in early February, and tying in with a trip to Singapore.
We were thinking a bit less than a week - has anyone been or have any advice on what the best things to see are?
Posted 13 May 2019 - 12:27 PM
February is a good time to visit. Chinese New Year will have just finished. Weather is nice. I’d plan a few train trips. To get some inspiration, see Janet Hsieh on “Fun Taiwan”. These are old but I found them a great introduction. Check out Scoot if you’re flying to Singapore too. Or Eva or China Airlines.
Posted 13 May 2019 - 01:41 PM
We’ve been and there were parts my kids loved and parts they didn’t enjoy. I’ve also got family there so I’m sure visiting them and and playing nice was a drag for them.
It’s more crowded than Singapore and not as clean. We found the mainland Chinese tourists to be really full on but you get that everywhere at the moment.
What is your DS interested in?
Taiwan’s famous for its food and love of food. Because labour costs are so cheap, you can get Michelin star fine dining at a fraction of what it would cost in America or equivalent in Australia. Street food is in the national psyche but they are not as strict with hygiene inspections as Singapore. Although I am willing to try some cooked street foods, I was less keen for my children to.
Taiwan also has some of the best examples of Chinese artefacts left in the world because they were taken from China with General Chiang Kai-shek retreat from Mao’s Communist revolution. Much of what was left in China was destroyed.
The island was named ‘Formosa’ by the Portuguese which means beautiful island. Industry and population growth has destroyed some of it but you can still find areas of well preserved nature quite close to city areas. The mountainous nature of the landscape had a big influence on the politics of the island. I enjoyed visiting the tea plantations where some of the worlds most expensive teas are harvested and processed by hand.
The effects of the Japanese occupation can also still be seen if you scratch the surface. The indigenous population which is different to the (now) majority Chinese han population, has a proud history and tradition.
I love visiting Singapore because it’s clean, convenient and easy but I think even if I lived in Taiwan for a year, I’d only be scratching the surface.
My family struggled with the lack of health and safety standards we take for granted in Australia. In developing countries you accept they are lower but we found it challenging in a country that is so modern in so many ways, little things like sensors in elevator doors to open if something (like a hand) is jammed in it. Many of the escalators to the metro system are narrow and very steep. Auto shut offs for escalators if something gets caught in the teeth. Driving!
I’m trying to convince DH on a return trip. One of my children and I love it. My DD enjoyed the luxury end of it but didn’t want to see the poverty and homelessness that comes with rampant capitalism and corruption.
Not sure if that helps.
Posted 13 May 2019 - 05:51 PM
We've been a couple of times and love it there. If you're planning less than a week then I would pick one area and do some day trips. It will be warm in the south so you could pick Kaohsiung and do day trips to Tainan and into the mountain region, you might catch the last of the butterflies in the Maolin region for their winter migration. If you picked north, you could base in Taipei and do day trips to Yehliu geopark or Jiufen for example and see a really good amount of the city. If you give yourself more time, you could include Sun Moon Lake and/or Taroko Gorge.
I agree with the poster above in that the food is incredible but I am careful with what street food I let the kids eat. It can be really good to hire a local guide, we've done this twice in Taipei and we saw so much that we wouldn't have otherwise and also learned a lot from a locals perspective, she took us to the best food stalls at different markets and we really enjoyed chatting with her learning about her life and sharing our own stories, we booked it through a company called With Locals.
I love Taipei, there is so much to see and do and a real variety around the city, the people are friendly and the public transport is amazing and so cheap! I thought it was very clean, the public toilets are pretty amazing in the metro stations which is more than I can say in many other countries! I also really enjoyed Kaohsiung, we actually spent a whole week there much to many people's dismay as many people don't think it deserves that much time- we didn't want to rush though and really enjoyed the city, it's got a much more laid back, slow feel than Taipei. We spent some time in Taichung and to be honest, I wasn't too impressed, there are definitely things worth visiting/enjoying in the area but the city itself was nothing to write home over (busy, bit grittier, bit less English spoken which made it a little harder but still their English is way better than my Mandarin so I shouldn't complain!)
If I had to pick a city for a first time visitor I'd probably recommend Taipei just because it's the most international city in Taiwan meaning there are more people who speak some English, the metro goes all over town and even to some areas slightly out of town and it has the most things to see and do.
Posted 14 May 2019 - 10:16 AM
That's so helpful. Thanks for all the detailed responses.
The street food thing is interesting / a worry. I would normally be eating this way, is eating vegetarian choices a good idea for dealing with the food safety, or is it not really an option?
DS is really interested in history and the natural environment. It sounds like there is plenty to do to cover his interests.
Are the trains easy to navigate for non-Mandarin speakers? DS speaks a little Mandarin, but I'm not confident it would be enough to help us get around easily.
The local guide sounds good. Did you organize this from Australia or once you were in Taiwan?
Is accommodation easy to organize? Is it best to stay near a train station? I'm thinking that seems the best way to get around.
Posted 14 May 2019 - 01:01 PM
It's very easy to get around even if you don't speak Mandarin, my knowledge is limited to a few numbers, thank you/please and hello/goodbye. It's good to keep a business card from your hotel on you in case you can't find your way back, it will have the address written in Mandarin so locals will be able to help.
If you're vegetarian then street food will be less of any issue, my concern was that a lot of the meat/seafood was sometimes not refrigerated as well as I would like (e.g. just sitting on ice out in the open in the heat before being cooked). Some stalls though are so popular that food is turned over really quickly so I wasn't worried so much (e.g. if you go to Raohe Night Market in Taipei try the pepper pork buns, there will be a line but they're worth it).
Take a look yourself but if your son enjoys history and natural environments then I think Taipei would probably suit you best. There is an incredible amount of culture to be explored in the city plus the National Palace Museum is said to have one of the greatest collections of Chinese artifacts as can'tstayaway mentioned above. Then for incredible nature head out to Yehliu, Yangmingshan National Park, Jiufen is beautiful in the mountains or do a night or two at Taroko Gorge.
I organised our tours through With Locals before we left, you pay a small deposit when you book and then you pay the balance to the guide in person at the end of the tour, I thought this was good as I knew the guide was getting the majority of the fee. We also hired a few drivers, one I organised before we left through Tripadvisor reviews in Kaohsiung and then we also did a couple of impromptu day trips organised through the hotel front desk with drivers which worked out great too. I had our accommodation booked before we traveled as I like to research and like to be organised. The metro is a great way to get around the city, especially in Taipei, it's cheap, efficient and easy to use- get yourself an Easycard on arrival at the airport (there were staff at the ticketing machines who helped me) and then you just top up as you need.
Posted 14 May 2019 - 02:58 PM
A lot of the younger adults (40 and below) would speak English because it’s taught in schools. Many of the older folk (70+) probably won’t speak mandarin because it didn’t become the official spoken language until after Chaing Kai-shek’s withdrawal. Written mandarin will be the traditional form so if your son learned the simplified mandarin, he may have trouble reading some of it and vice versa.
I found it good to drop a pin on my phone’s maps and save it. It is an easy way to find your way back when walking. Even when using a taxi, we used hand signals and our maps to direct the driver on a few trips due to the language barrier. For one trip, we were given a written address by a family member that we showed the taxi driver. He couldn’t read mandarin so we got our hotel concierge to translate but she couldn’t speak Hokkein which the taxi driver spoke. It was very funny and because they were so lovely, it didn’t cause us any agitation or upset.
The metro was easy to use and the staff very helpful. We found taxis to be easier most of the time because of our young children and lots of shopping bags. Even the department stores are an experience. They actually offer customer service lol. My son still talks about it.
With the street markets, I was hesitant to let my kids eat anything, even vegetarian foods, because the risk of Hep A is just not worth it. The restaurants are cheap but no guarantee of food hygiene I guess. We could live at Din Tai Fung. They are the best dumplings and noodles and rice lol.
I also second the suggestion of Taipei if you are going to stick to one place and do daytrips. I like my 5 star hotels and we booked them online. Again, it’s cheaper than Australia so we ended up with a massive suite for less than $300AUD/night. The equivalent here would be at least $1500.
Posted 15 May 2019 - 06:32 AM
We went in December as a stopover on China Airlines. Just did Taipei and one day with a driver to see Yehlin, Juifen, and Shifen. We enjoyed the time. Did the Mekong Gondola, the museum, lots of Din Tai Fung, a couple of street stalls (I’ll eat it if it’s super hot ie kill most things).
It was easy to get around, and friendly. I’m not sure I would do it as a single destination, but combined with Singapore would be good.
Posted 16 May 2019 - 03:04 PM
I really enjoyed Taiwan and we had a wonderful experience staying in Taipei for a week.
I have written some info here on my blog for when we took our three kids . The highlights for us was easy public transport, great food, easy to navigate and super friendly people x
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