Backpacking Taiwan. (13/02/18 to 08/03/18)

Oh wow what a surprise Taiwan has been! Not knowing much about this tiny island we ended up in Taiwan by pure chance following my discovery of the ‘explore’ option within the Skyscanner app. The flight itself was very cheap although on a backpacker’s budget, Taiwan has been bit of a struggle. Thankfully I feel we managed to see the majority of sights this country has to offer by being extra careful.
Taiwan is filled to the brim with millions of cute toys, out there fashion, an obsession with arcade games and everywhere you look people push their fluffy dogs around in prams without batting an eyelid. (It makes me sneeze thinking about it). The Taiwan people were so, so polite. For example, if we bumped into someone by accident, they would bow in apology to us! We got lots of free upgrades, people constantly wanted to talk to us and if we ever looked lost for a split second, someone would always come over to help us, often going completely out of their way. It actually makes me emotional thinking about how kind these people were to us.
We began in Taipei, a capital city which was really easy to navigate. We wandered the streets stopping off at Peace Park, checking out the stunning colours of the Confucius temples and rather than having meals we snacked on curry dumplings, custard cakes, and pork sausages wrapped in rice, washing it all down with milky almond tea. Taiwan is a country for foodies and like China, nothing is off the menu.
Unfortunately I had another travel accident adding to the list; of one very painful electrocution, being stung by a strange bee and being in a shower when an electric fire started… This time I fell from the top bunk of a dorm bed, which was over two metres high. (There was no handle to assist people to get up or down from the bed). I landed on my back and consequently this slowed us down a lot so we didn’t travel around too much as I was unable to lift anything heavy, struggled with stairs and wasn’t able to walk anywhere fast. Poor Tim had to carry my backpack as well as his own. He’s such a gentleman 🙂
It was Valentine’s day and Tim’s birthday so we visited the famous Shilin night market. Tim played the arcade games determined to win me a teddy (he did it!) and we found a cute pub to try out our first Taiwan beer.
From Taipei we took a bus to the famous Sun Moon Lake, learning about the aboriginal Thao tribe and taking boat trips and a cable car to soak up the pretty scenery. On a walk around the lake we met a man and his wife who insisted on teaching us Kung Fu! It was hysterical. While in Sun Moon Lake we experienced our first earthquake together which was a little bit scary. Sadly a few days before there had been a huge one on the east coast where seventeen people had died so we were advised not to travel to the northern east coast area.
We decided instead to venture to Kaohsiung city to check out the art scene. We wandered the huge warehouses, known as Pier2art which was full of inspiring art, Taiwanese hipsters, people walking with their pet cats on leads (what the hell?) and coffee shops. The art really provided us with an insight of how the youth of Taiwan are buckling under the pressure of expectations to succeed educationally. They literally study all day and all night. We ended our time in Kaohsiung watching amazing live bands at a local blues and jazz bar. I was in heaven as I love blues music.
Next we took a bus to Hengchun so we could rent a scooter and check out the south coast. We wandered the traditional night markets and had far too many nights spent drinking with a Swiss girl who had a pendant for Japanese alcohol, local Taiwanese girls and a girl from Boston who was able to drink every man and woman under the table. To clear our heads we visited the largest aquarium we have even been to and scootered along the coast admiring the stunning scenery and watching surfers catch curling waves.
We moved to a nearby coastal village of Kenting so we could check out the beaches and to get a photograph of us at the most southern point of Taiwan. After we had enough of relaxing, it was onto Taichung. We had the craziest time here! There were beautiful cycle routes, our favourite being Forest Park. We tasted bubble tea and seafood omelettes in the local night markets (I’m NOT a fan), and we were lucky enough to bump into two Canadian men who advised us to stay on for the Bombing Master Handan Festival. I’m so glad we stayed as we managed to see one of the most outrageous (and dangerous) festivals in the world. On the first night I stood on a ladder drinking beer, watching crackling bonfires and fireworks going off all over the street while thousands of people partied. Safety was by no means paramount to this festival so it was a case of cover your eyes if a firework came too close and cover your ears to protect your ears from the deafening sounds. That night we drunkenly cycled home stopping off an American themed bar which was probably not the best idea! The next night the party continued so we joined in again, drinking outside the local 7eleven shop which we bloody love. It’s not like back home where your likely to get agro from young little shits or indeed cautioned for loitering, all kinds of people including business men sit on the tiny plastic chairs chatting and swigging away. The climax of the festival was the following night where we witnessed the most spectacular and longest fireworks we have both ever witnessed after hours of entertainment including traditional dancing and singing and watching volunteers, naked to the waist, have firecrackers thrown directly at them. It was mental and the smoke was something else.
Feeling a bit battered from the non stop partying, we took a train back to Taipei so we could enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery up the coast and so we could see the famous pandas which were given to the people of Taiwan by China. This was met with some political resistance and is often referred to as the ‘panda diplomacy’. They were very sleepy and super cute 🙂
With some sadness we had our final Taiwanese meal together, watching as the chef flash fried pepper beef and all kinds of vegetables for us. We then poured our leftover coins into arcade games trying to win more cute toys to bring home.

Taiwan has been one of the most interesting places to travel. It’s relatively undiscovered, is so safe and the people with their hearts of gold, made it a personal favourite. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

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