5 THINGS THAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT TAIWAN
I had no idea what to expect before I travelled to Taiwan. I had only heard discouraging words from those who had never been. 'Why would you want to go there??' 'I would never go to Taiwan..too close to China...' or 'There will be nothing there apart from Taipei!' But even though I knew by now not listen to negative comments from those who were totally unaware of what they were talking about - I still wondered...would it be worth the trip? I decided to go with little plans, a complete open mind and a hope for a refreshing surprise. Taiwan totally succeeded all expectations of what I could of possibly had, it's somewhere I never even touched the surface of. Here are are the 5 things that surprised me the most.
Taiwanese people are some of the most welcoming and helpful people I've came across on my travels. Most just seem to love having you there visiting their country and grateful you've came to their shop or restaurant or town. Their customer service is excellent and I found they jumped at the chance to practice their English with you rather than it being an annoyance or embarrassment. From the kind staff-member of a hostel we weren't staying in, phoning up the manager of our guesthouse requesting for her to come and meet us in the street because we couldn't find where we were staying. To the elderly people peacefully practising 'Falun Gong' in the parks in the afternoon. To the staff at the train station who would rush as much as they could through your purchase so you could run and catch the next train. To one of the guys selling Bubble Teas asking everything about my trip, my travels and myself just because he was interested and intrigued. To the waitress who hurried to get me a bag to put my handbag in so I didn't have to put it directly on the floor...
The list goes on! The people of Taiwan are wonderful and interesting and their ways only left me captivated to learn more.
HOW MUCH IS FITTED INTO THIS COUNTRY
For a country that's only 245 miles in Length and 89 miles in Width, it's shocking how much beauty, different environments and varied scenery there is on this island. You can find it all, from neon lit cities, to sleepy mountain side villages, to volcanoes and waterfalls, to dramatic cliffs plunging into white sand coastline to surfers, to indigenous tribal towns, to epic national parks and wild terrain. The culture and untouched nature of Taiwan is breathtaking. There is just so many hidden places and unique towns to explore making it a struggle to run out of things to do.
Taiwan was SO much cheaper than I originally expected. With hostels starting at NT$200 (£5) per person, some of my favourite things to do being FREE and modern and dependable metro, train and bus rides starting at NT$20 (50p) -- makes it a pretty cheap place to travel around! You are getting the most out of your money with transport. The quality, service and reliability is first class. The small amount you are being charged -- it's worth every penny.
Some of the highlights of my trip was seeing the Waterfall of Shifen and hiking the Elephant Mountain trail in Taipei .. both being free.
HOW EASY IT IS TO GET AROUND
Not only are the prices attractive but the public transport system is incredibly easy to navigate and use. This is such a relief if you want to tour the country but don't have a lot of time. Their metro system is excellent and so well connected - it's one of the best I've used! Plus the station names have the same name as their famous landmark they reside next to, making everything that much clearer.
Trains and buses outwith the cities are also easy to figure out. Friendly and helpful staff at the stations go out their way to make sure you know the route you are taking and that you're catching the correct train or bus.
I never expected Taiwan or even Taipei to be so green. Beautiful, unique parks can be seen all across the city and the pretty mountain village of Maokong which is where you will find tea houses and walking trails is just a short journey away.
If you travel a little further throughout the North, you will find hot springs, national parks, staggering waterfalls, mountain valleys and lush green scenes.
Central Taiwan brings more beauty with multi-coloured painted houses in Rainbow Village to mountain landscapes and the enchanting Sun Moon Lake and Alishan National Scenic Area.
Head East and you will come across the gorgeous coast line of the Pacific Ocean. Plunging cliffs, white sand beaches, more national parks and fun activities such as white water rafting and surfing.
There's beauty and fresh nature to be seen all across the country. Don't limit yourself to just a few days in Taiwan, take the time to explore and fall in love with this stunning space as much as I did.
These are the 5 things that took me by surprise when travelling Taiwan! I hope they encourage you to pay this incredible country a visit.