Case number one: you’re a digital nomad living a happy life somewhere in Thailand – might be on Koh Tao or maybe Chang Mai. But pad thai for breakfast starts tasting a bit boring and those crazy nights out are simply killing your liver. Also, thinking about seeing another backpacker with dreadlock, hairy armpits, wearing SAME SAME singlet and Aladdin pants makes you wanna scream.
So far your longest travels were those with your finger on Google Maps. But you want to change something – tired of your own country, craving to do something exotic. Move out, go far away and start anew. You’re grabbing your suitcase, but….wait, where to go?
Well… maybe Taipei? A capital of Taiwan, perfect spot to go and make your base while exploring the rest of this amazing country.
Being absolutely honest with you – I never planned it. Taiwan? It was a piece of land nobody has ever told me about. People were doing Bali, gasping in amazement over Thailand, Lara-Crofting in Cambodia, sushiing in Japan, but…Taiwan? Dafuck?
I came across this country absolutely by accident, when on my never-ending journey I had to go <<somewhere>> after Bangkok. My visa was about to expire, so I launched Skyscanner and tapped “Bangkok to everywhere”. Taipei was one of the cheapest options. Clicked. Booked. Done.
And then I started googling to find out where I was about to go.
The UFO experience
The first story that I came across made my cheeks burn and my eyes glossy with excitement: the UFO abandoned village (google that shit!). I still remember messaging nearly half of the Taipei population on Couchsurfing asking questions about this peculiar place. But unfortunately – it turned out to be demolished. Despite anything – I had my ticket already, so there was no point in changing my plans.
Within the first hour after landing at Taipei International Airport I realised, that I was starting my 2 weeks of hating myself for deciding to stay there for such a short time only.
Why? Here we go!
Seriously. Tiny islands, slopes, hills and mountains hiding in fluffy clouds that decided to go all the way to the ground and adorn those beautiful places. Serpentine paths lazy crawling among majestic mountains – pure magic.
MY PERSONAL TOP 5:
- Jiufen – a little town located on the hill where you can spend hours strolling aimlessly among stalls offering mouth watering food, souvenirs and penis cakes. That’s right, a penis cake. Jiufen is famous for it’s A Mei Teahouse that was an inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki creating ” Spirited Away”.
- Yehliou Geopark – a geological park full of fossilised wonders and other nature-created specimens in craziest colours. I strongly recommend to do a bit of hiking all the way to the lighthouse – you may end up surrounded by a black haze of butterflies that look as if created by La Perla or some other dude very skilled when it comes to laces.
- The High Heel Shoe Church – for real. Actually, it’s a wedding chapel, it’s blue and glossy. Insta-crazy I’d say…
- Taiwan’s Highest Road (3275 m) – Hehuanshan Road leads up from Puli past Wushe (Ren-ai) and Chingjing Farm up to Wuling.
How it was…
Tyson: We’re gonna get there on a scooter.
Me: OMGGGGGG AMAAAAAAAZIIIINNNGG! But i’m not a very skilled scooter driver…
T: Don’t worry, I drive like a granny.
<<mountains, abysses, mist, rain, tunnels, serpentines road>>
T: Well, this road was much more adventurous than I anticipated.
Me: T….T…Tyson, I was driving 4th time in my life and I didn’t tell you but I’m scared of heights.
Anyways! The road is out of this world. With a gigantic abyss on both sides of the road that curls like spaghetti on an Italian fork, driving in a thick mist feels like dashing through clouds.
- The rainbow village – Caihongjuan Village (Taichung, Taiwan). A beautifully painted village that will take your breath away. I’ve been there so far only via Google images, but it’s a great feeling: knowing, that there are still some reasons to go back and some wonders to explore.
Besides that: hot springs, amazing hiking trails and glowing, lively city centres beating in the rhythm of the night markets that are open every single day and beautiful temples playing music in the background and offering free…WiFi.
Awesome (and weird) food
Starting with 7/11, not only Beyonce’s song, but also famous convenience store, through another one called Family Mart, Hi Life – all of these equipped with pots full of eggs hard boiled in tea extract (yum!), hot dogs, coffee, other CRAZY consumable goods, chairs, tables and free wifi. Heaven. Heaven Eleven.
<onigiri, marinated octopus, rose flavoured milk tea, rice rolls and…omg I don’t even want to start with the sweets they have>>
But it’s not the end! – night markets. When you’re a European Digital Nomad with crazy evening working hours (evenings&nights, like me) you’re gonna be delighted. After 9 pm the city is anything but dead when stalls with finger lickin’ goods start popping up like mushrooms surrounded by other stores and stalls offering every type of fashion, music and other most ridiculous stuff you could ever think of.
TOP 3 NIGHT MARKETS IN TAIWAN:
Tainan Flowers Market – Tainan
Feng Chia Night Market – Taichung
Shilin Market – Taipei
The Urban Explorer wet dream
Seriously. I’ve never Imagined something like that would be possible to happen: we break into an abandoned amusement park, stroll there for an hour, we’re stopped by the security guard. Doesn’t look any good, does it? But instead of ending up in a Taiwanese prison the story finishes with the security guard saying “hello”, smiling widely, and next, kindly showing us the way to the exit. Because he believes we’re lost. Climbing-over-the-fence-lost. Insane!
When it comes to Taipei Urban Exploration scene – it’s a paradise. Not only there are as many buildings and other various places to visit, they are very well preserved and easily accessible as well. Once I said that if they would demolish all of the abandoned treasures, half of the Taiwanese infrastructure would be gone. And I mean it.
Abandoned leprosy sanatorium, the hospital in Klukuuk, hotels, apartments, towers, restaurants, temples – all within a reach of a hand (and very well documented online with all the tips and tricks you need). You can spend three years exploring and it’s still gonna be just a drop in the ocean.
Just teach, gonna be O.K.
Taiwan is probably one of the easiest places to make two ends meet. Of course, only if you’re a native English speaker, or at least you speak this language on a very good level. Besides official schools craving young teachers like an average woman craves pizza, there are also numerous opportunities for those, who never bothered with passing any of the FCE, CAE, ETC, OMG, WTF. Online pages offering easy, hustle free board with announcements, that helps connecting potential students with potential teachers (tealit.com). So if individual lessons are your thing – go for it! I was told, that if you play it smart, working even only 12 hours per week could be enough.
Won’t pay an arm and a leg
Definitely, important part if you’re not lucky enough to have some serious savings. Taipei is cheap. Taichung is even cheaper. The more south you go – the cheaper it gets. Random prices:
small water – 0.5 USD
small coca cola – 1 USD
onigiri/sandwich/hamburger – 1 USD
average dish on the night market – 3.2 USD
What’s not so cheap is alcohol with 2 USD for a small can of beer, 3.2 USD for a big one and at least 10 USD for a bottle of cheap wine. But for this type of beverages, leave the convenient stores behind and proceed to a supermarket, like Wellcome, for example.
Arriving in the new place you might sometimes feel lost. Overwhelmed by the complicated metro and buses net covering the city in the way, which you absolutely do not understand. But not in Taipei. The transportation system is so easy, that there’s no way to get lost. It’s almost idiot-friendly. Every metro station precisely marked with all station names both in English and Chinese.
Fun fact: you are not allowed to eat, drink (water included) or even chew gum on MRT trains. Violation is fined with a penalty fee between 50 and 250 USD.
When it comes to a digital nomad scene in Taipei, I’ve tried a couple of coworking places. Usually, I was pretty disappointed. But there’s one place, that caught my heart: Impact Hub. Lovely people, warm atmosphere, convenient working conditions, easy to get there. Don’t be surprised when while focused on your work you’ll be disturbed and – offered a free tiramisu or a plate of homemade pasta. I absolutely recommend.
Taipei is one of those spots on the map I’ll always be missing. Not because I cannot go back there because I can and I probably will, but because it’s impossible to be in more than one place at a time. And this is, in my opinion, one of the cities you’d love to be in for ever and ever.
- You can order a taxi in….a convenience store. Using an ATM-like machine (if you can read Chinese) or using a cashier who will use it for you.
- There are no outside big trash containers. In order to empty your bins, you need to be at home at a certain time in the evening and listen. Listen till you’ll hear a melody, usually Beethoven “Fur Elise” – it’s gonna be a garbage truck (scarper machine) slowly circling among the lovely streets and collecting rubbish.
- If you’re about to sell or rent an apartment where someone gave up the ghost – well, you are obligated to let the cat out of the sack. Plus, it’s gonna be in the papers – no way to conceal it. Taiwanese people are very superstitious and particular about this stuff.
- Also, if the apartment is going to be on the fourth floor it’s gonna be way cheaper and usually rented by foreigners. Why? Four in Chinese is ‘SY’ a sound very similar to Chinese word ‘death’. Nobody wants to live on a death floor.
- There’s a national receipt lottery! Every single receipt you’re given shopping anything from a can of coke to a half of H&M collection has a unique number. Each two months the numbers are announced (one for the main prize and some for smaller 40-50USD prizes). Imagine checking all your receipts…I’ve tried, it took an hour. I didn’t win.
- Betel nut – a seed of a type of palm tree with a long history for being chewed for its mood-enhancing effects. What’s interesting, in Taiwan it’s sold by young girls…not wearing too many clothes. The more south you go – the fewer clothes they have 🙂