Ah, Taiwan, we hardly knew you. Though our M.O. of working for the first month and seeing the country for the second isn’t very fair to a one-month stop, I was getting pretty fond of it by the end.
So what did we like about Taiwan? Let’s check out the report card.
Nocturnal resident friendliness: A
For starters, Taipei stays up late. At 2am on the weekends, you’ll see elderly couples taking walks (or maybe heading home from the clubs?) alongside kids hanging out. No matter the hour, there always seem to be people out and about.
There are night markets all over the city that are open well past midnight, and there were plenty of little eateries near our apartment that never seemed to close.
Even during the day, public grounds are always hopping. Around Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall we’d see people practicing Tai Chi, flying kites, and dancing. Off to the side there’s a perfect area for workouts.
Record-setting buildings: A
The Taipei 101 is just a few minutes away. We’d heard the tallest building in the world had a fantastic grocery store in the basement.
It’s true, and the view from the top ain’t half bad either. You can cruise up in the world’s fastest elevator and check out the counterintuitive counterweight system that keeps the building from swaying. Apparently putting 600-ton weights at the top helps counter the wind?
It doesn’t look so tall from the ground, but from the Mao Kong gondola you get a real appreciation for its scale.
Public transportation: A+
How many other cities have gondolas in their people-moving arsenals?
Taipei’s MRT (subway) consistently ranks among the best-run in the world. It’s very fast, super clean, and there are very helpful full-service booths in every station. Buses go everywhere you’d ever want to go too.
And the trains! They’re about as fast as the Japanese Nozomi and a fraction of the price. We paid about $20 for a reserved ticket from Taipei to Taichung – and it only took 50 minutes at 300 kM.
Most people would schedule a trip outside of monsoon season. Not sure how we missed this one.
We definitely would have done more around Taiwan if we hadn’t been working around the rain, but it only got in the way a few times.
Electric scooters: F
If they hadn’t died almost directly in front of another branch of the rental agency, we would have had a looooong walk ahead of us.
There’s no better vehicle for driving around Sun Moon Lake, but don’t put much faith in the battery gauge. We had to see the pagoda Chiang Kai-shek built across the lake in his mother’s memory. It’s magical when the clouds roll in.
It was a real treat to stay at the Lalu when we were here. I don’t think working ever looked so good.
Availability of electronics: A++
Akihabara is the mecca, but Taipei’s electronics district isn’t far behind. You can find all the same things, but instead of an entire building devoted to butterfly washers there’s only a booth. And I’m ok with that.
The largest OEM electronics manufacturers like Foxconn (who actually make all your Apples, Nokias, and Motorolas) are Taiwanese, so computers, cameras, phones, etc are about as cheap as you can get.
Next year we’ll have to stay for the Computex trade show, where everyone shows off their latest and greatest.
I also have to mention the fantastic product support. Three days after dropping my camera off at JVC’s Taipei office, it was good as new. They even emailed me pictures of the salt-encrusted insides!
So we didn’t see as much of Taiwan as we would have liked, but what we did was more than enough to earn it a spot for next year.