So last week, I wrote all about why I went to Taiwan, and as I previously told you, one of the main reasons that I did so was because quite frankly, nobody knows where it is!
I’m going to change all that!
If you missed my post last week, not to worry, here it is:
I really like Taiwan.
I might even return sooner than you think…!
I went to Taiwan for the first time and truth be told, there’s not a lot of information out there. In fact, I went searching for British bloggers living there, and ended up with just one fellow, from whom I heard of Taiwan in the first place, but sadly, he recently deleted his blog, and now there are none!
As a result, it’s left to me to take over the baton!
Oh, by the way, I went to Taipei!
Taipei, otherwise known as Taipei City, is the capital city and a special municipality of Taiwan.
It’s 25 km (16 miles) southwest of the northern port city Keelung and located on the Taipei Basin. Taipei has been the capital of the Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC), since 1949!
Taipei has a population of about 2.7 million people and is and one of the major hubs of the Chinese-speaking world!
It’s considered to be a global city and is part of a major high-tech industrial region in conjunction with Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore.
And let me tell you, I found Taipei to be a bustling city with a unique cultural landscape, splendid creativity, designs and aesthetics, coupled with hidden lanes and exotic alleyways. A city with local markets of varying character offering handicrafts, clothing, tattoos, music, entertainment, people-watching opportunities, and food!
HOW DO I GET THERE?
As you know, the only reason why Taiwan even came up in the first instance, was because I was in the Philippines, and thus in the region! And you know me, if an opportunity strikes up, I’m bound to choose it, and it did!
If you’re coming from Europe or the Americas, then of course you’ll be flying. Since I was already in the Philippines, I decided to fly from Manila after the TBEX jollifications, and then fly back to Manila again, before returning to Germany.
I flew with EVA Air!
I had heard good things about the airline especially about it’s Hello Kitty jet airlines, and I wasn’t disappointed!
The flight took just 2 hours and 20 minutes and cost a mere $102.37, making it a little over $50 USD each way!
We were even given a full meal of rice and pork, some fruit, dessert, and a box of orange juice! I wasn’t feeling well, and I had the trots, so I nibbled at the rice and veg, and drank the juice!
My flight left at 04:00 and arrived at 06:20! I’m not a lover of wandering around strange cities in the early hours, so I booked a hotel car! It might be pricier than a conventional taxi but when you’re arriving in the early hours, you still need to get money out, get a sim card, or whatever, but you don’t feel the pressure of the clock ticking, when you’ve already paid a fixed fee! However, do tell your hotel that you would prefer a non-smoking driver.
My taxi smelt like a chimney, and didn’t make the illness that I had picked up in Manila, any better….!
IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?
It’s not China you know!
Truth be told, I was there at the tail-end of their typhoon season, and you could pick out the Westerners who were visiting. In fact, you could hear them…!
Everywhere was pretty OK except for the markets.
They were packed!
With everybody! And so after about an hour, I felt it was more than enough, as I didn’t have the energy for it, and I left!
WHAT IS TAIWAN LIKE?
I was there for five (5) days and had to use two (2) of them to recover as I was starting a new job once I got back…! However, Taiwan definitely made an impression on me.
I knew that Taiwan would be modern but I wasn’t expecting it be squeaky clean! Not in the way that Singapore is bland clean, but surprisingly, it could give many Western cities a run for it’s money.
Signs and instructions were in both English and Chinese. The trains were easy to navigate and use, and were cheap, costing just NT$20 (Taiwanese dollars) or €0.60 cents per short hop journey!
The trains weren’t crammed or packed, and the floors were clean. I used my finger, and checked lol! There were plants and mobile-phone chargers everywhere, and even boxes for you to take a free umbrella!
If that isn’t service, I really don’t know what is!
The people were great. Nobody stared at a darker-skinned visitor (me!) in fact, it was quite the opposite. Everybody was helpful and cheerful, some high-school kids came with me to the Taipei 101 building, and one local shop-keeper actually ran after me ‘cos I was walking in the wrong direction!
Taipei is sort of Chinese, but it isn’t.
It’s a country eager to welcome tourists, and there were heaps of them from neighbouring Japan and other Asian nations. Having said that, it’s also quieter than expected, which I equally noticed in Manila. There was no honking of cars, or the shouting of tradesmen and pedlars, in fact, everyone went about minding their own business either reading, fiddling on their phone, listening to music, or eating!
I DON’T SPEAK CHINESE.
If you can speak a little Chinese (of any kind), it certainly helps!
But if you can’t, don’t panic! If you can speak English, people tend to be able to understand you, even if they can’t respond back. My fail-safe was my iPhone iTranslate app. It came out very useful, if people couldn’t understand what I was referring to.
And if you’re really lost for words, go to the nearest train station which has an information window. They’re able, and happy to help.
AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?
Of course not!
Taiwan might be from a developing country referred to as the Republic of China (ROC), but as one of the Four Asian Tigers, you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!
I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Hostels are not well-known in Taiwan, but there are plenty of cheap hotels to be had.
I can’t give you any details, but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is certainly available. But remember, you’re not going to find anything going for under €20.00! If you’re really stuck on a low budget, you’re either going to have to fly to Bangkok or travel to Lithuania instead!
I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?
I stayed at a rather intriguing 4-star art design hipster-style boutique hotel called amba Hotels & Resorts.
In fact, I stayed at two of them!
The first one was called amba Taipei Ximending!
Amba Taipei Ximending is Taiwan’s first homegrown international-standard art design boutique hotel, created by some of Taiwan’s hottest architects, artists, music stylists, and mixologists! The hotel has a sleek, artistic, industrial-steel, loft-style look. It’s located in the young, trendy Ximending location, and is slap-bang in the middle of the Asian hipster shopping and cool entertainment district!
If you’re young or like happening vibes being in the centre of everything, you’ll love it.
In fact, not only is the Ximending district a bit like London’s Trafalgar Square, it’s also the movie-film district, and indeed, there was the Taipei Golden Horse film festival actually taking place on the ground floor of the hotel building!
The amba Taipei Ximending is within walking distance of Taiwan’s youth cultures, combining cultural heritage, with an emerging design and lifestyle scene.
Merely steps away were atmospheric streets and alleys, curbside restaurants, hawker carts and bubble tea stalls, department stores on the pedestrianized Wuchang Street offering Western designer brands, and night markets. In fact, I almost fell on top of a British guy who was conducting some sort of street theatre performance!
The local Taiwanese kids seemed to be impressed!
The amba Taipei Ximending Hotel had 160 contemporary rooms and I was put in the Loft Room, which was pretty marvellous.
My loft was huge and consisted of two sofas, a large king-sized bed, a trunk (the type which my grandmother used to have to store clothes) in the middle of the room, an open closet, a writing table, a large-screen TV, a huge American-style sink section, free coffee, free Taiwanese tea, free daily bottled water, a kettle, a mini-fridge, a separate toilet, a separate rain-forest type power shower, fluffy towels, lots of power outlets (thank goodness), and free high-speed WiFi!
Included were amba-inscribed flip-flops (which were yours to keep), and a wonderful selection of ginger bath toiletries.
I usually bring my own shampoo and conditioner for my hair, but for the first time ever, I could use theirs, and feel the difference!
Breakfast was also included, on the 5th floor, in a loft-like space that had pop-culture album sleeves on bookshelves, as well as marvel comic memorabilia, and stuff like Harry Potter, & Star Wars dolls! And not to be outdone, there were loads of box games and manga books that customers could read.
Cost: from NT$3,500 or €105.00 per night. For two people that’s easily €52.50, a pop!
After two nights I transferred to the second hotel.
This hotel was called amba Taipei Songshan!
The amba Taipei Songshan hotel, is an urban oasis in eastern Taipei. In comparison to amba Taipei Ximending, this 189 roomed hotel was situated in the financial districts of Xinyi, Songshan, and Nangang, with direct access via a private walkway bridge, to the Songshan underground and mainline train station!
In fact, access was so easy and accessible that I soon became a pro. at navigating my way from one sort of train to the next!
I would say that the amba Taipei Songshan hotel is smart, sharper, and has a more affluent look than that of the amba Taipei Ximending. It’s more professional and sleek with fabulous panoramic views of both the Taipei 101 building and the Keelung River.
You know how I love river destinations!
I was given one of the extra large rooms.
Yep! My room was gorgeous and can be described as urban living with a twist!
The window was floor to ceiling huge, with a stunning view of the Taipei 101 skyscraper! It consisted of a large king-sized bed, a divan with huge comfy cushions which I enjoyed very much, an open closet, a writing table and chair, a wireless bluetooth vintage speaker, a large-screen TV, a huge American-style sink section, free coffee, free Taiwanese tea, free daily bottled water, a kettle, a Nespresso machine, a mini-fridge, a separate toilet, a separate rain-forest type power shower, fluffy towels, lots of power outlets, wooden floors (yes!) and free high-speed WiFi!
It included amba-inscribed flip-flops (which were yours to keep), a wonderful selection of ginger bath toiletries, and a free shuttle service to the Taipei 101 and the trendsetting Xinyi shopping and business district, which I should have taken, but didn’t!
I opted to walk to the Taipei 101, went through all the backyard nooks and crannies, and systematically got lost!
It took me 3 hours to find my way back again, but I didn’t mind too much as I saw a different part of Taipei, and also chatted to some of the locals while doing so.
I was exhausted when I finally reached the Taipei 101 building though, but it was worth it in the end!
In both hotels, a generous buffet breakfast of Chinese, Korean, and Continental origin, was included.
Note! Watch out for the sliced duck eggs. I was excited to try them and happily popped them into my mouth. Until I heard this crunch!
The shells were still on them! Eeek!
Cost: from NT$4,000 or €120.00 per night. For two people that’s easily €60.00, a pop!
Note! Don’t forget the 15.5% service charge and tax, added to the bill. That really hurt. Ouch!
That’s it for now. Part II coming up next week!
This article is not sponsored and even though I received a part-complimentary stay at amba Taipei Ximending and amba Taipei Songshan, all opinions and the trendy bubble tea experience that I had, are my very own!
Next week I’ll be writing Part II of what I did in Taiwan, and then returning to the Philippines again later!
I’ll be joining the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to celebrate Christmas on December 12th! I know! I’ve totally made it!!
In December/January, I’ll be going to Holland.
The British Shorts Film Festival will take place from 12th – 18th January, 2017
Berlin Fashion Week will take place from 17th – 20th January, 2017.
At the end of January, I’ll be skiing in the Czech Republic.
Save the Date!
November is going to be wintry!
Watch this space!
Please also note that there is now a Booking.com affiliate link (for the very first time) connected to my hotel. Every time some sort of accommodation is booked via my link I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself! A win-win for all!
What do you think of my first experience in Taiwan. Would you choose the more trendy amba Taipei Ximending or would you choose the smart, sharper amba Taipei Songshan? Let me know!
See you in Berlin.