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).

1. my first flight experience on China Airlines, on a B777 300ER

1. my first flight experience on China Airlines, on a B777 300ER

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.

2. about to land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

2. about to land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

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.

Visa
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.

Weather
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.

Muslim-friendly food
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.

 3. David Yeh, owner of 清真肆集 Halalan & Toyyiban Mart, pose in front of his eatery

3. David Yeh, owner of 清真肆集 Halalan & Toyyiban Mart, pose in front of his eatery

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”.

4. Muslim food section at the coffee house of City Suites Taoyuan Gateway

4. Muslim food section at the coffee house of City Suites Taoyuan Gateway

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.

Currency
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.

5. duck noodles at 斗六門當歸鴨麵線

5. duck noodles at 斗六門當歸鴨麵線

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.

Delicacies
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.

6. skewered bishop's nose - at Taipei Lunar New Year Festival

6. skewered bishop’s nose – at Taipei Lunar New Year Festival

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.

Communication
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.

7. shopkeeper is conversant in Hakka dialect in Beipu Township

7. shopkeeper is conversant in Hakka dialect in Beipu Township

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.

8. driving on the right in a left-hand drive car

8. driving on the right in a left-hand drive car

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.

Power outlets
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.

Internet
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.

9. rented travel WiFi router from Travel Recommends

9. rented travel WiFi router from Travel Recommends

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.

10. local prepaid SIM pack

10. local prepaid SIM pack

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.

People
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!

11. (L-R) Tour Leader Ms Goh Suet Eng of Golden Century Tour & Travel, Fushin Hotel (Tainan) Executive Vice General Manager Mr Solomon Lin, yours truly and Ms Tammy Chien, Sales & Marketing Director of Polo Holidays Co. Ltd., pose for a photo at the hotel

11. (L-R) Tour Leader Ms Goh Suet Eng of Golden Century Tour & Travel, Fushin Hotel (Tainan) Executive Vice General Manager Mr Solomon Lin, yours truly and Ms Tammy Chien, Sales & Marketing Director of Polo Holidays Co. Ltd., pose for a photo at the hotel

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.

12. Taiwan is a dog-friendly country. This is available in Beipu Township.

12. Taiwan is a dog-friendly country. This is available in Beipu Township.

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!

13. See you again, Taiwan!

13. See you again, Taiwan!

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With love

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