If you have been following my social media platforms, you would know that I was in Taiwan (Republic of China) in mid-January.
I visited the island country for 6D/5N at the invitation of Golden Century Tour & Travel, with the support of and in collaboration with the Tourism Bureau of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
I have to say that as a banana (Chinese who is non-conversant in Mandarin), Taiwan is the last country I would choose to visit if I were to plan a personal holiday.
Therefore, this trip gave me a golden opportunity to get to know Taiwan, and I am thankful that the itinerary took us out of Taipei City to explore the lesser known attractions of Taiwan. In short, during this trip, I was able to get to know the warm Taiwanese people and understand the country at a deeper level beyond its capital city.
As with all new countries that I have visited, this is a post where I share my perception and knowledge to anyone who is planning a trip to Taiwan for the first time.
As Malaysians visiting Taiwan, we are granted 30-day visa on arrival, so it is not necessary to apply for a visa, unlike travelling to China or India, for example.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to plan our trip or arrange our accommodation. This is because we might be queried by an immigration officer. Of course, we should reply confidently with a ready answer, to avoid getting red flagged by the authorities.
Our trip to Taiwan was in mid-January, so it was still wintertime. It was cold, but not unbearable. The temperature only dropped to about 13°C in the dead of the night. Our days got warmer and even hot as we travelled south of the island. So, it is part of the locals’ lifestyle to check the weather forecast on a daily basis because it can sometimes be rather drastic.
On the evening of our arrival in Taoyuan, the weather was just cool with slight drizzle. About two hours later, the wind started to blow fiercely. Thank god we had reached our hotel. One instance in Fuxing Township, Changhua County, the wind howled furiously in the night while we slept snugly indoors. That was a situation that I wouldn’t want to see anyone caught outdoors.
Prior to my trip, I installed the Central Weather Bureau mobile app to receive Taiwan travel advisory and to check the day-to-day weather forecast of the cities that I planned to visit. It also became a much used app during my stay in Taiwan.
Throughout my time in Taiwan, I was aware that Halal food is available to Muslim tourists. There were not that many compared to Malaysia, of course, but one just needs to know where to go.
In fact, Muslim tours to Taiwan are the trend these days. In Taipei City, I came across a Halal-certified restaurant called “清真肆集 Halalan & Toyyiban Mart”, or loosely translated from Arabic as “Legal and Delicious”.
Also, at one of the hotels that I stayed, City Suites Taoyuan Gateway, there was a Muslim food counter at the coffee house, with separate sets of plates, bowls and utensils, to cater to Muslim guests.
Just to put it down, my exchange rate was TWD100 = MYR13.90. Though not the best deal, it also wasn’t the worst. Well, when we need foreign currency, we have no choice, even when the Ringgit is weak at the time.
When I was shopping or dining, to know the amount in Ringgit that I would be spending, I just multiplied TWD with 0.139 for MYR.
Just to give you an idea on food prices in Taiwan, a bowl of noodles topped with shredded duck meat from a popular duck eatery in Taoyuan upon landing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, cost TWD60, so that was RM8.34.
Talking about food, local favourites include fried oyster omelette (蚵仔煎) and large intestines rice vermicelli (大肠面线). I don’t take innards at the best of times, thus I only tried “mee sua” when it was cooked with other ingredients, such as pork or chicken.
What amused me greatly was coming across skewered bishop’s nose for sale at a food stall during my visit to the Taipei Lunar New Year Festival, something like Malaysia’s pasar malam, specifically set up for pre-Chinese New Year shopping.
As this was my maiden trip to Taiwan, I thought that the locals only speak Mandarin as the official language, and Taiwanese as their mother tongue.
In fact, Taiwan has a large Hakka community, especially in Hsinchu County and Miaoli County. Many locals can speak Hakka, and the store keepers have a sticker at the door to indicate their ability to converse in Hakka. This makes it convenient for Hakka descents to shop.
A small number of senior citizens are able to speak Japanese, as a result of the Japanese Occupation from 1895 to 1945. In fact, Taiwan was also colonised by the Dutch in the 17th century. However, during my visit, I didn’t chance upon a Taiwanese who could speak Dutch.
Some locals are able to speak Cantonese. Oh, you can’t imagine how glad I was when I came across them! In Taipei, I bumped into groups of people who spoke Cantonese among themselves. Turned out they were tourists from Hong Kong.
Driving in Taiwan
Taiwanese drivers drive in the opposite way of Malaysians. Generally, our cars are Right-Hand Drive Vehicles (RHD) and we drive on the left side of the road. Cars in Taiwan are Left-Hand Drive, which means that the steering is to the left of the vehicle, and the car is driven on the right side of the road.
While we Malaysians overtake on the outer lane, Taiwanese do so on the inner lane, same as in North America. Hhmm it takes time for Malaysian drivers to get familiar with it.
Just like driving, for power outlets, Taiwan has the same electrical standard as USA and Canada at 110V, 60Hz AC. Meanwhile, the standard voltage in Malaysia is 240V and frequency, 50Hz.
Electrical sockets are different and we need a universal power adapter while in Taiwan, but a power converter is not necessary. Do note that the time required to charge our batteries and devices takes twice its duration.
The basic power plug that we use in Thailand can be used in Taiwan, though it could pose a risk as it does not have earth connection. In very rare cases, you would be able to find the three-pin power socket that we use in Malaysia.
Just for your information, I fused my universal power adapter while using a Taiwanese hair dryer, made for their local power supply.
As my life revolves around the internet, getting connected is one of my biggest concerns when I am out of the country. I used Travel Recommends travel WiFi router upon the recommendation of fellow travel bloggers. The rental price is currently RM15 /day for unlimited 4G WiFi connection.
Upon landing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, I discovered that we can actually purchase a local SIM pack online and pick it up from the company’s kiosk at the airport. One of the better deals is offered by Chunghwa Telecom, at the price of RM38 for 5 days unlimited 4G connection and mobile service.
Well, a pocket WiFi router such as the one provided by Travel Recommends and other similar companies allow for connection of multiple mobile devices, up to five simultaneously, from mobile phones to tablets and laptops. WIN.
Granted, more devices are connected at the same time, the faster its battery is zapped. Don’t worry, it can be charged via power bank. Still WIN.
Travelling from Taoyuan south to Tainan and back north to Taipei over 6D/5N, you bet that I met more than my fair share of Taiwanese people over the course of my visit.
While the Taiwanese are not curious about me as the locals were in Jordan and India, essentially we are Orientals, they were warm, friendly and very hospitable. They know of Malaysia and its spicy curries!
I also found it heartening that many locals made an effort to speak to me in English (or Cantonese if they could), when they realised that I did not comprehend what they were trying to share.
And with these friendships forged, Taiwan has actually grown on me and I am beginning to reconsider Taiwan as a good vacation destination for me. I wouldn’t get lost as I had feared! Moreover, the country is pet-friendly and people are free to take their pets out as they wish.
Just to put it out here again, my trip was arranged by Ipoh’s premier travel agency, Golden Century Tour & Travel. Ground tour was handled by Polo Holidays Co. Ltd.
Despite being a banana, not once was I made to feel left out of the tour as the important points were explained to me diligently by my tour leader and tour guide.
I was also at liberty to pose any question that I wanted, which made the exploration of Taiwan so much more enjoyable! See you again, Taiwan!
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