Today was my last day wandering 4 different cities in Taiwan. Its also my birthday so today went out here in Kiaoshung wandering in an area I had not been yet. The area is by the National University and has this cool tunnel that links the downtown to the university for students and whoever else wants to walk the tunnel. I also walked back down by the ocean and harbor. Kiaoshung is a city that has so much to offer. There is wonderful history and culture, shopping is good, food is wonderful. I wandered into a variety of restaurants both with and without English menus. Last night wanted Beef Noodles so found a place and had some of the best beef noodles and the family looked after me and made sure all was to my liking. Tonight it was Taiwanese Steak at a local place down the street. For about $15 I got a nice cut of steak, noodles, rich spicy gravy, salad, and soup. I added in a beer. So good! Happy birthday me!
Each city offers something to the wanderer. Hsinchu is quiet and seems more peaceful. I found an excellent taco place where each time I went for lunch the folks greeted me so warmly. In Taichung, I found this steak place down the street. Taichung is huge! I only barely dented it in a week. It has beautiful parks, wonderful cultural and historic properties, and shopping is very good. Tainan is a wonderful city steeped in the history of Taiwan. It was once the capitol and was settled and re-settled by the Dutch and then Japanese. There is a wonderful department store right downtown that was opened in the 1930s that has been painstakingly restored. Its a joy to wander through. Be sure to get to the Anping District if you go. A bus ticket costs less than $1 USD. Finally there is Kiaoshung which is very large too. It has both a light rail and an MRT which runs in all four directions and lets you explore the city so easily. I just rode the MRT the last few days after getting a 48 hour pass. Food in Kiaoshung is wonderful! There are really nice American and western food options, great Bistros which offer a mix of food and then there are lots of Taiwanese noodle shops and good Japanese food.
What I found in all 4 cities is that its very safe day or night. There are so few backpackers and tourists or travelers that there are no scams like in other places. You are pretty much left to wandering the city day or night with your smartphone out with no fear. I don’t believe that people would ever steal from someone on the street. There are no tuk tuk scams, no people trying to sell you stuff. None of that.
Now that I’m approaching only three days left in Taiwan, I always have to ask at the end if Taiwan is worth it. Does it offer something to the visitor that wants to go slow? Well, to start with, if you have an American passport you get 90 days here with no visa. Its a great deal to explore all over and Taiwan has some very nice things to bring you here. One of the nicest things and perhaps its a basic thing is that most people speak English. I had conversations with baristas in coffee shops, noodle shops, nice restaurants. It makes doing things easier. The other thing is that all signs you will run into for streets, directions, train and bus stops are all in English too. I think it would be hard to get lost but I did a few times because I like leaving and never looking at a map. If you decide to come to taipei for 3 days or a week, good luck. You will not find the city. You will find what 3 or 7 days will give you. Taipei offers so much more down the little side streets and alleys. Shopping districts and day markets where there are no tourists. I went many days even in Taipei without seeing backpackers or other travelers. Very nice!
Next Steps and Stops
Now I sit in the hotel room my last night after a birthday dinner of Taiwan steak and am drinking some beer. Tomorrow I leave Kiaoshung for Taipei for a few days. I have Tuesday to wander around the city again which I will do gladly. Then Wednesday in the morning I to back to the airport and fly to Manila for a few weeks. Next year is one of wandering the Middle East for the first six months and then I get back to Cambodia for a bit and on to Vietnam where I think I will stay for awhile. I have a number of places to visit and people to see there. Hanoi is definitely on my list again but I would like to see Hue again as well. I have no interest to see Nha Trang or Hoi An again. Been there once; done that.
So on to Philippines and to see some old friends that are expats there. Then back to the US for a visit and a train ride there I have wanted to do since forever. Yep! 2020 is gonna be an interesting year.