These are my last few days in Taiwan. I was given a 90-day visa-free stay here, and my time is almost up–I prefer to leave a bit before the 90 days runs out to ensure I don’t overstay my non-visa. It’s been a wonderful almost three months living in Taipei. This city has made things so easy and convenient that I almost hate it.
When I first moved to Taipei, I was told by a few social media contacts, including Kellen from Phonemica.net, whom I was able to meet for dinner once, that Taiwan is everything that’s great about China without everything that makes China frustrating and annoying. I quickly realized that it’s an accurate description.
Despite my immediate neighborhood filled with Japanese businessmen, prostitutes, and some shady characters, I’ve enjoyed staying in this city. Taipei is possibly the most livable city I’ve visited–it’s efficient, convenient, friendly, and affordable. As I didn’t get a chance to travel to Tainan, Kaohsiung, or Sun Moon Lake, there’s a good chance I will return to Taiwan.
I’ve done quite a bit around Taipei to make my time here worthwhile, but there are still things I missed out on. There are plenty of small parks, temples, and art museums that I didn’t see (and the art scene here is vibrant). I also didn’t go to see a show at the National Concert Hall or National Theater–both buildings are beautiful and they put on a lot of international and traditional Chinese shows (and tickets are much more affordable than in New York).
Taipei’s metro and bus system has made getting around the city pleasant–really, even the buses are easy to use here. Public transportation is also far cheaper that in New York or Tokyo (I don’t think I ever spent much more than $1 for ride). And if I didn’t feel like taking the metro or bus, I could hop on a YouBike and sort of make it to my destination if I didn’t get too lost, which happened more than I should admit.
Taipei has given me a bit of motivation to seriously study Chinese rather than just half-assing my studies. I’ve had opportunities to practice on some occasions with friendly people. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to not speak Chinese here–many people speak English well enough that I probably wouldn’t ever need to speak a word of their language. The people I have spoken Chinese with are also really good at understanding slightly mangled Mandarin–I know I’ve made mistakes in tones and grammar, and people still understand the point I’m making; whereas, in mainland China, people wouldn’t understand anything if I made a mistake on the tone of one syllable.
Plus, there’s all food around Taipei. The variety isn’t as great as in mainland China, but there’s some wonderful food, and it’s quite cheap. I can’t tell you how many dumplings and baozi I’ve eaten over the last few months–I’m obsessed with the slightly spicy bamboo-filled baozi at my local shop; they are far better than any vegetable baozi I used to buy in China. Unfortunately, most of the cheap street food consists of noodles or deep-fried something-or-other, which I’m sure can’t be good for me.
There are so many things to like about Taipei, and I haven’t even mentioned the people. I’ve made some friends in my time here, and I’m sure I’d meet more if I stayed longer (or took part in more activities).
If there’s anything negative I can say about Taipei it’s that the weather can be pretty bad and there’s a serious lack of good spicy Chinese food (I love Sichuan, ‘Hunan, and Xinjiang food).
That’s pretty much everything I’ve encountered in my time here in Taipei and why I hate it for being such a great city that I’ll miss. I will, however, find a new adventure in Korea over the next two months–first stop Seoul!