By: Brooke Chenoweth
All Shook Up
Taiwan sits on an active fault line so earthquakes are frequent. There were three while I was in Taipei and while the city is built to withstand them, they can give you a bit of a fright. Read up on what to do in an earthquake and download the weather bureau’s app (cwb.gov.tw/eng) before you go so you’ll be prepared and save yourself an anxious night of Googling!
Chinese for Dinner
Eating is a national pastime. Except in the major tourist areas, very few restaurants have English menus. If you’re lucky there’ll be a picture menu and you can point to what you want. Otherwise you may have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help you order. As a vegetarian, this was how I ate most meals. Like in many Asian countries, the best food is to be had on the streets; check out where the locals are eating and follow their lead.
The Not-So-Restful Room
In many hotels you’ll find luxurious Japanese-style toilets, but in public restrooms the facilities are much more basic. Be prepared for squat toilets, and BYO toilet paper, antiseptic wipes, and thighs of steel.
Timing is Everything
April to May and September to October are the best times to visit Taiwan. The climate is much like Hong Kong, with rain in the summer months and cold weather in the winter, although the mountainous areas remain cool year-round. There are over 10 million visitors to the country each year – four million from mainland China. Many of the more popular tourist spots are inundated (the National Palace Museum sees 10,000 visitors a day!), but travelling with a guide who knows the best visiting times (usually lunchtime), and how to avoid queues can save you a lot of time and angst, especially if you’re travelling with children.
The People Make the Place
The Taiwanese are friendly and welcoming. Those who couldn’t speak English attempted to make themselves understood, and did so with smiles on their faces. My tour guide Sam retired from a corporate job a few years ago and works as a guide simply because he really loves Taiwan. His passion and enthusiasm for the place is infectious, and I got the sense that this national pride is the norm. Taiwan is a very safe place to travel, with a low crime rate, world-class public transport, and locals who are waiting to welcome you with open arms and share their fascinating country with you.