I went to Taipei, Taiwan for 2 weeks in the spring of 2016. It was a really great adventure filled with food, family, and sights. I encountered so many things, but I'll try to capture the highlights in this blog post.
Food is everywhere, cheap, available, less regulated
There would be a food cart or small restaurant pretty much every 20 feet in residential neighborhoods. Food is relatively cheap and so tasty.
Night market culture is really cool. You can basically walk down the length of a street and choose food from dozens and dozens of stalls. The one we went to also had small permanent restaurants in the area that turned customers in and out quickly as customers would shuffle between stalls and restaurants.
Tamsui Old Street
Tamsui is a waterfront neighborhood in New Taipei City. The waterfront has a really nice view of a mountain on the other side of the river. There's people biking along the waterfront and overall feels like a nice place to spend the day.
Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung is a restaurant famous for their soup dumplings. Anthony Bourdain once described them as "pillows of happiness" and I have to concur. I've had a lot of soup dumplings in my life and never had any quite like Din Tai Fung's. Their shell is so thin, but so well crafted and strong.
A lot of this is stuff you can't get in the states. A lot I had never had before, and don't even know how to describe.
There's lot of Japanese food in Taiwan. My grandpa grew up during the Japanese occupation, so him and everyone his age speak fluent Japanese and have a lot of Japanese cultural influences. I'm going to write a post just about him in the future.
Not pictured - black beans that came with every Japanese meal. They're not front and center in any of my photos but they were always just the right amount of sweet.
It's pretty humid in Taipei. We happened to be there for two weeks where it didn't rain, but it seems pretty stormy other times. One really interesting thing was all the open-air areas. Restaurants would be doorless and have seating right outside which made it feel all the more welcoming. It's probably a result of the lack of really cold winters. Bathrooms would always have their sinks outdoors and schools would have hallways that opened outdoors.
Not a lot of foreigners
Maybe I'm biased living in New York but Taipei didn't feel like a very "international" city. There's definitely a lot diversity within the population in terms of age, dress, etc, but it never felt like the melting pot that is New York.
The subways are so modern
The subway system in Taipei is extremely orderly. People would queue in lines before entering the trains and oftentimes wait for the next train even though the cars could definitely fit more people. There were gates that would have a flashing light to indicate that a train was approaching the station. Trains were never more than 3 minutes away, and the stations all were labeled with both Chinese and English, which was super useful for me.
Air pollution is pretty bad
I would always notice a decline in air quality during rush hour. It's not something I think about while walking around in New York, but I definitely was aware of it in Taipei. My theory is that because of popularity of scooters, a lot of vehicles with poor emissions are on the road. It was pretty interesting that the evening news would always talk about parking problems. A lot of the residential areas simply wouldn't have sidewalks to people, cars, scooters would all have to share the road.
Family is the best tour guide
My relatives showed me around all the best places to eat and sights to see. It was really an amazing experience for someone like me who can't read/write a lot of Chinese. Chinese is definitely something I want to get better at reading. We also went to the spa one day, which was something I had never experienced before, but really enjoyed.