It’s almost time for me to depart the city I’ve called temporary home for almost three years. Taipei has been a decent place to live, though there have been some bumps in the road and inconveniences. Overall, my time in Taipei has been mostly positive, though I’ll have another post on things I won’t miss about the city.
During my time in Taipei, I have lived in four places — one long-term hostel and three apartments. I’ve looked at plenty of other places to live as well.
My first apartment was through Airbnb, and that host did not mention that the neighborhood is known as the high-end prostitution district. It was a shock when I arrived, but the apartment was quiet and comfortable enough for my three months. I had looked at moving to northern Taipei as well as a place just south of where I’m living now, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of moving considering the prices would be the same anyway.
The long-term hostel was not a place I’d recommend. I lived there for far too long as I awaited news on a new job that didn’t come. I wasn’t sure where I’d want to live, so I remained in the private room in the hostel for NT$10,000/month. I knew I could find a cheaper place with roommates, but I didn’t want to be locked into a long-term lease at the time. In that room, the bed was uncomfortable and the walls were so thin I could hear every footstep.
My first leased apartment was an illegal two-bedroom rooftop for NT$17,000. My friend came to stay for a few months and split rent, which was certainly helpful. But that apartment was falling apart. It didn’t help that the landlord thought that he was “doing a favor” when fixing or replacing broken things in the apartment. He didn’t seem to understand the landlord-tenant relationship.
Then there’s the place I’ve lived for about a year and a half. When I complained about the rooftop apartment, my friend Tom asked if I’d like to rent his extra room. The rent was the same as that rooftop but utilities weren’t included. Of course, I’d only have to pay half. Plus, I got to live with Tom’s two dogs.
Cheap rent, a friendly roommate, and two lovable dogs. That sold me. Plus our landlady is nice and gets things fixed when needed. Of course, we sometimes need to use a bit of translation as she doesn’t speak English.
I will miss this apartment. I’ll definitely miss the dogs. Sorry, Tom, but I’m sure you understand.
The downside to accommodations in Taipei is that the buildings are not well constructed. There’s no insulation and some electrical installations (mainly air conditioners) are half-assed. There are also far too many disgusting places for rent — I’ve come across landlords who just don’t maintain the apartments. I’ve seen photos posted on the main Chinese-language rental site that look like horror movie sets.
I think I got lucky with this last apartment.
This is an obvious one, especially as the US government seeks to undo everything the previous administration did to improve healthcare. I’m not saying that the Affordable Care Act was actually good, but it was at least a small step forward. Ever since I graduated college, I’ve found that the US healthcare system is absurdly expensive and inefficient.
After living in Taiwan, which has national healthcare, I’ve found that the US healthcare system downright sucks. This is why Taiwan is one of the top expat destinations. If I go to the doctor here for a blood test, I pay NT$150 ($5), and it includes three months of medication. The last time I went to the doctor, she overprescribed my medication so I’ll go home with six months worth of medication that I won’t need to buy at about $30/month in the US.
If I want to see a dentist, it’s another $5. Even without insurance (because I have gone to have a checkup when I wasn’t insured), medical care is reasonable. The only problem in healthcare here is eye doctors — it’s not covered by insurance. The first time I got new glasses here the shop messed up the prescription and the glasses…twice. It was still much cheaper than back home.
Another easy one. I’m used to the New York subway system, the PATH, and NJ Transit. I’ve also taken Amtrak. I have nightmares about returning to all that.
The Taipei MRT system is wonderful and efficient. It goes almost everywhere I want. It can get crowded and some people are rude when they try to get on the train before people exit (I’ve gotten in the habit of elbowing people on my way off the train), but it’s still clean and comfortable. It’s also really cheap.
The buses are also pretty good. I live a long walk from the MRT station, so sometimes the buses are more convenient and cheaper. As long as I check the time of the next bus, I might be able to catch it instead of walking in the rain or unbearable humidity to the MRT station.
Then there are the wonderful YouBikes. They’re everywhere. And unlike the CitiBike in New York and Jersey City, there’s no membership fee. It’s just pay as you ride. Of course, if you don’t know where the YouBike stations are, it could get complicated, but there’s an app for that.
There is room for improvement with the YouBike system, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen before. Of course, when I return home I’ll have my bike and won’t need to worry about bike share programs.
I love hiking and Taipei makes that easy. There are a lot of hiking trails within the city and even more just outside. When I get back to New Jersey, I’ll have to drive somewhere to find a decent hike.
I’ve taken a few of the hikes numerous times, particularly Elephant Mountain while I was training to run up Taipei 101. I also enjoyed the views from Mt. Hemei in Xindian; it was even better because fewer people take that hike.
My biggest regret in Taiwan is that I didn’t get to the central mountains. Every time I attempted to plan a trip, something went wrong and prevented me from going. It’s also not easy to get to those mountains via public transporation.
How could I not mention the people I’ve met during my time here? It wasn’t easy to start as most people I met were here temporarily. Then I got a job with odd hours and couldn’t meet people as easily. But I managed to make a few good friends here in Taipei.
Those I’ve kept around me have been helpful and kind, willing to share stories while wandering the city and enjoying a meal. And some of them even joined me on a some hikes in the city.
I hope the friends I’ve made here will be able to visit me in the US.