After getting hopelessly lost countless times, including going the wrong way on an express train for an hour, I have arrived in Japan in one piece. Taiwan was amazing and I wish I had more time in the country. I honestly prefer the scorching heat and humidity of Taiwan over snow.
The first week of my around the world trip had a lot of ups and downs, as one would expect at the beginning of such a long journey. I arrived in Taipei, the capital, at four in the morning on day one, so I basically had to sit around until things opened to get going. Fast forward a few hours and I had my phone SIM card, bus pass, and an o-nigiri from 7/11. Soon I was speeding through the mountains towards downtown Taipei, happy as a clam.
Getting off the subway, I got lost in the pouring rain mere blocks from my hostel. Google Maps, you failed me! I eventually arrived and plopped down my bag to be held until later that afternoon, ignoring the stares as I walked my soaking self to the bathroom to “freshen up”. Thus began my day where I walked around the city eating and walking through memorials and museums.
The rest of my time went much more smoothly, although I definitely got lost at least twice a day. A major adjustment I had to make was changing my behavior from hyper-alert to semi-alert. I am used to Buenos Aires, the last international city I visited, where everyone I knew had been robbed at least once and you had to be on the ball at all times. In Buenos Aires, you would have to leave the subways walking confidently even if you weren’t sure where you were going. This is not needed in Taiwan, I felt just as safe there as I feel in Wisconsin. I had to adjust to actually looking at my maps before I moved instead of waiting until I was sure I was in a private, safe place.
Notable things I did in Taipei were…
Hike Hushan Trail: (sweat more than I think I ever have in my life but look at the view!)
Ate at a Michelin rated dumpling joint:
Visited small towns outside Taipei:
(Shifen, Jiufen, and Yehliu)
After Taipei, I took the high-speed rail down to Tainan, a city in the South where my friend from College has been living. We spent the day biking and eating around until I went to my AirBNB where I had my own room (cue the gasps and applause). She took me the next day to a huge feast with people she knew in Taiwan. This was definitely the best part of my week. We spent hours eating dish after dish, everyone speaking chinese (I know ‘hi’, ‘ok’, and ‘thank you’. I was quite the conversationalist). Cheers were done at least every five minutes and the Taiwanese men were all impressed with how much beer I could drink (please, I am from Wisconsin), which made me laugh because it honestly wasn’t that much. Everyone was so kind and warm and it just goes to show how much speaking the same language or sharing the same culture really doesn’t matter.
My last excursion was to Kaohsiung for a night, where the international airport is. It was a simple 15 minute train ride but my clueless self went the wrong way on the train. No issue, I thought. I will just get off at the next stop, I thought. Well…apparently it was a limited stop train and pretty soon I found myself halfway across the country. I laughed and got off the train as soon as possible and turned around, arriving at my hostel a few hours after I intended. There, I met a great new friend from Taiwan who I spent the whole evening with at a night market. She bought me Papaya milk and I had a religious experience drinking it so the USA needs to get on producing that ASAP. People are kind everywhere I go.
Well, I did make it to Japan. My hostel doesn’t seem very social which is sad but luckily I got myself during times like these. And, honestly, who else would I want to get lost with?