Sunday, 8 September 2013

Taiwan - Good food, Good times

Holiday time....two weeks of no school, no kids, no sweaty classrooms, no kimchi, no mindboggling Korean logic.....we're off to Taiwan!!!

Hadn't heard too much about Taiwan before going there...I really wanted to go in February but I hurt my knee so couldn't managae it. I'm glad i waited and I'm glad I added an extra week to it as well.

Andrei and I headed off to Taiwan from Seoul on Saturday morning. After a hefty night out in Seoul on the Friday, Andrei joins me (fast asleep on a chair) at Incheon airport. Properly excited and ready to conquer we head off to Taipei.

Adnan has spent a week there already and Brian left the night before. Add on Mitch who now lives there, we know a few people in Taipei for our first day....We have booked a hostel right in the heart of Taipei. Perfect for exploring and perfect for nights out.

My first impression if Taiwan as we land and make our way to Taipei is not a particularly positive one. I wasn't sure what to expect, but architecturally it's an island that doesn't offer much. Until you get to Taipei of course. Home to the 101 building, once the tallest building in the world.

Taipei is an excellent city. Bustling streets and night markets, European and American shops, fancy cars, street vendors, cheap public transport and to boot the people are really friendly. It is so easy to base yourself there and day trip out and around the area. Andrei and I had a great little trip to the hot springs, made famous by the naturally smelly sulphur water. You can go in and wash your feet...I was shocked by how hot it was. The highlight though was a little Taiwanese girl grabbing me by the hand, chatting away to me in Chinese like I understood her, and leading me down to the water to stick my feet in. We had a little chuckle with her and she followed us for a little while, scampering around like she didn't have a care in the world. I got the impression though that she was really living on the bread line. It was extremely bittersweet. But a lovely experience nonetheless.

The first night out is always important in a new city....and we got told of a pink party. Wear something pink and you can get in for free and you can drink free for two hours. Didn't need an excuse really....a great time was had. It was a great introduction into how friendly Taiwanese people are. Really interested in meeting foreign people and happy to start up a conversation. There seems to be less of a self consciousness about Taiwanese people.

We spent five days in Taipei exploring what the city had to offer and eating a lot. I mean the food here is incredible. The night markets are amazing. After watching Fresh Off the Boat with Eddie Huang, I was determined to go to Shilin night market and eat some of the things he ate. I gained about 1kg in about 2 hours of eating some of the best food ever. I'd come back to Taiwan just for their street food. 

We went to this little picturesque town. Nestled in the hills East of Taipei...renowned for it views, tea and lanes busting at the seems with food, goods and tat.
It poured it down though, pretty much just as we arrived. It was actually pretty impressive to see this little place like this. I took some of my favourite holiday snaps here.......

A Canadian, an American and a Japanese guy all trying to be British...pinkies out chaps

After Taipei we head to Khaosiung city, Taiwan's second largest city. We'd made a friend in Taipei who said they would be our tour guide in Khaosiung because they were originally from there. You have to go through there to get to Kenting, our beach destination, so we though 'why not!'


We saw a little bit of the city...more night markets, some live music in a park but essentially there is no real need to go here. We had a good giggle, ate some good food and I got bitten by bed onward to Kenting.

Kenting, for those of you that don't know, is right at the bottom of Taiwan. It is popular in the Summer and dead in Winter. There is a lot of coastline and hard to chose a place to stay. Harder still because everything seemed booked up. We had to settle for a spot central to Kenting and right next to the night market, but not particularly close to a nice beach. As Andrei and I found out the next day, walking about 5Kms in the scorching heat til we found somewhere. But I quite liked our spot. After a day of just chilling out at the beach and watching the local wildlife.....we planned on renting mopeds and exploring the area for tomorrow. Brian planned to go looking forward to tomorrow...

Cue the tornado!!!

We wake up to grey clouds, a chilly breeze and what felt like Gods tears as the rain started to come down. "OK" we say...."what can you do in Kenting when it's raining....turns out, not so much unless you have transportation. Didn't really fancy driving around on a moped in the rain. We just hop on foot and continue to explore the area. 

The nightlife in Kenting was a little interesting...we had made the journey down mid week. So there wasn't a huge amount going on....but even if there was there wasn't an abundance of options. Ibiza this was not. They had one bar/club. The name escapes me....but downstairs they had a cheap Spanish/Mediterranean looking setup and upstairs a small club. They had a cover which we though was strange even to et into the bar...but we went along got two 'free' beers. They provided some entertainment.....this included about 7 ladyboys from Thailand and the Philippines walking around the room grinding on men and getting them to give them tips....the fiscal kind not the anatomical kind. Although for the right price I'm sure this could also have been agreed upon. 
It was actually amusing to see this going was just so surreal. We decided then....back to Taipei....If there is gonna be a tornado, might as well hang out there. 

The last couple of days are spent in Taipei...a little bit of shopping, some more weating and eating and eating and a few nights out....

Taipei clubs are quite interesting. Not really sure how they make any money. They're open from 11-4am and if you look you will find that on any night at least one of them will have an all you can drink promotion. You pay between 500-800ntd (15-20000 won....8-12 quid) and all you can drink til 4am. Excellent. And because everything shuts down at 4am you can't really get on the same levels as you would in Korea. So you can grab a bite to eat, drink some water and wake up the next day not feeling too bad. 

I had an excellent time and can't wait to go back...I would strongly recommend everyone to visit. People say to just go for one week. Well I filled two weeks very easily and I still have more to see. A lovely country.