I’ve just finished up my mini trip around Taiwan, a country I only knew beforehand as a place that manufactured our products, yet am leaving with it’s green mountainous landscapes engraved in my mind.
I’ve split the blogs into three different parts, click through to check out each one:
It’s been a thrilling and fast two weeks, with some frustrations as it turned out the first week was Chinese New Year – celebrated for 9 days here – meaning lots of places were booked up and prices higher than usual. The celebrations are also quite a family affair, so it didn’t mean that there were tons of parties, just very busy markets and fireworks going off everywhere.
The Taiwanese love their fireworks! I don’t think there was an evening where we couldn’t at least hear the bangs of them going off, including a rather fun final metro journey across Taipei with fireworks going off near the train line.
Taiwan is basically a huge central mountain region with populous areas created along the coastline. It is incredibly beautiful, but can make travel a bit of a pain, with the train line only running around the country and the one centrally crossing road inaccessible to buses so only viable if you have a car.
Which we didn’t. I’d annoyingly forgotten to renew my international drivers permit whilst I was enjoying my days of leisure in London so couldn’t hire cars or mopeds, they’re very strict on you having one. If you are planning on visiting I’d definitely recommend you get one, my one regret was that we couldn’t zip around some of the mountain roads on a bike.
Their train booking system is frustratingly outdated. The majority of the trains are covering most of the country, and if someone books even a small section of the journey the seats become unavailable to reserve. As I discovered, the Taiwanese merry go round of seat swapping is a bit of an in country joke, with people unable to save seats so swapping multiple times in a journey. That being said, even in Chinese New Year we could just book tickets and get on a train with unreserved seats. On our longest journey, when we swapped the East for West coast, we were completely undisturbed in our unreserved seats, a bit of a rarity I think.
Our accommodation varied from a 16 bed shared dorm room to a very modern en suite room thanks to airbnb coming to rescue when every placed seemed to be booked up or hugely expensive. It was only upon arriving in our final location before returning to Taipei, Sun Moon Lake, that I was able to finally get some bartering done on rooms as we wandered the now semi empty hotels. Other than that it was often a bit of a last minute search of every room booking website I knew to find somewhere to stay, I would firstly recommend avoid travelling near China during Chinese New Year or if you have to then pre-book in advance!
This trip was a fun experience, but did get me thinking about pre-booking/planning, something I have very rarely done in all my previous trips. In the coming year my trips will all be mini-trips in vacation time from school so under a fairly short time constraint. Being able to relax about everything being booked and knowing where I’m going/staying may be something I think about a bit more.