I travelled to Taiwan in September 2017 with a friend of mine who was also working in Korea as a Native English teacher. Our holiday was during Chuseok, a Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving. My first recollecton of Taiwan was walking to the exit of Taipei Taoyuan International airport and being increasingly bombarded with a wave of heat the closer I got to the doors. It was unreal! Korea had gradually been getting colder in time for Autumn, so it was a shock experiencing such a sharp change in temperature within just a few hours.
Walking around Taiwan, I immediately noticed the sheer numbers of scooters on the roads. There seemed to be more scooters than cars – they ruled the road. I assume this is heavily due to the tropical climate of Taiwan, even during Winter. In some streets, you had to walk on the narrow road due to the lack of pavements so we had to be cautious in the vicinity of scooters, all of whom seemed to be going very fast (though it may have been our close vicinity to them that gave that impression).
As you walk around Taiwan, there’s an interesting combination of the old and the new, with modern buildings being built around small, old temples – you can see a timeline of Taiwanese architecture walking down a single street. It is fascinating! During the daytime, we also noticed many people standing in the shade while waiting for the traffic lights to change, to avoid the intense heat of the sun. Soon enough, we followed suit (I burn easily). I love little inconsequential cultural behaviours such as this – they’re quirky and individual.
My greatest experience in Taiwan was visiting the various night markets in Taipei. The street markets are heaven for foodies, with streets after street offering fresh, tasty, cheap food! We ate out at the night markets every evening. Unlike Korea, many places in Taiwan do not have English translations and so we often found ordering food in restaurants difficult due to the lack of both pictures (I have resorted to pointing many a time) and an English menu. The night markets, therefore, were easy and accessible. Many Taiwanese people also ate dinner at the night markets and some even bought large portions of street food to take take home on their scooters. Like the regular side streets, the night markets were very narrow and labyrinthian.
I found Taiwanese food to be quite different from Korean food – not only in terms of spice levels. Taiwanese food is greasier and thicker (stock, sauces, stews) than Korean food. It was a refreshing change to my palate. Another thing which tickled my foodie bug was the various fruit and vegetable markets available, it seemed, on every other street. Produce was stored loosely inside and outside and at a very cheap price! Honestly, I didn’t know the names of many fruits and vegetables that I saw, this being my first trip to a tropical country. I tried as many as I could, with my favourite fruit being the longan.
My brief time in Taiwan was just enough to give me a taste of what the country has to offer, like a sip of water to a parched throat. I am satisfied for now, but I long to go back and explore soon.