If you ever fancy sampling China but don’t want to go to China then have a look at Taiwan. I freeeking loved Taiwan and Taipeh. This is a place definitely not on your typical backpacker trail, but for me it was a must see on the trip. Many many years ago (August 2004 to be exact) I went and did my Erasmus year in Cologne and met a super friendly girl from Taipeh. We stayed in touch ever since and she even visited me multiple times in Berlin as she was visiting the film festival in the city. Now it was just about time to visit her.
I had been sort of on and off looking at flights from any of the cities on our trip to Taipeh and either the connection was crappy or the flights were too expensive, but strangely enough when we booked our return flights to Myanmar from Bangkok I kind of got into the spirit of looking a bit more intensely and kind of by chance landed on a cheap (€200 return) and feasible connection on the day we landed back in Bangkok from Yangon. So the flight from Yangon left at 5pm and got into Bangkok (to the cheap Air Asia airport) at 7 pm and my next flight left at 02:20 on the 17th from the classy Bangkok airport. With a stop off in Hong Kong for a few hours the final arrival time in Taipeh was about 11 am on the 17th. Yea sure all very interesting reading, but definitely not a flight cycle I’d like to repeat if it could be avoided. By the time I made it to Hong Kong I was in a sort of zombie mode and drifted off to sleep on a bench at the departure gate for about 30 min. Upon arrival in Taipeh it was a new day but I’d only slept for about 3 hrs in total. Thankfully the airport in Taipeh was easy to navigate and one short bus ride later my friend had picked me up and it was plain sailing from there. Next up a spot of lunch, a 4 hr nap, dinner then bedtime! That was my St. Patricks day 2015.
This was my first trip as a lone traveller and it was definitely a different experience without Steffi. It was kind of funny not to have to think about someone else or take into account what somebody else wanted to do, coupled with the fact that my Taiwanese family looked after me so well, I really had an easy time of it. When I wanted to go explore the city all I had to do was go to the train station round the corner. My “welcome to Taipeh” package included a travel card loaded with credit, a mobile phone and a tourist map of the must see places in Taipeh. My first stop was always going to be Taipeh 101, the second tallest building in the world. An amazing structure shaped like a bamboo tree, it rises above the city and offers amazing views from the 89 floor! It was so nice just to wander around the city and then to just come back home at my leisure. Fang Shu, my Taiwanese friend usually had something cool lined up in the evening once she finished work. On this particular evening we went to a teahouse in the mountains where you can get an amazing view of the city lit up at night and eat some yummy local food.
My daily routine was pretty relaxed and enjoyable. Get up, have a feed of breakfast (which was different every day), have a stroll around the city or relax at home and in the evening do something cool with my friend or her family. Playing darts became a favourite thing of ours to do in the evenings. Reminded me of growing up at home as we used to play a lot of darts in our garage. At the weekend I had more time to spend with Fang Shu as she didn’t have to work and we used this time to go a bit further outside the city an into the mountains which a basically part of the city of Taipeh. There was a special type of flower that you can pick and it seems to grow well at this altitude. That was especially nice to do because all the local people were swarming to this area to be able to pick these beautiful long white flowers. It was a little chilly and a fine drizzle meant that I had to invest in a rain poncho, very stylish! A yummy local lunch and then we were off back down to the city. Tonight’s evening activity was already sorted: six nations finale! The time difference meant that the Wales match kicked off at 8.30 pm, Ireland vs Scotland afterwards and the final match between England and France kicked off at 1 am! It ended with a bang a 3am and Ireland were champions, but my personal cost was a massive lack of sleep, which was going to come back to get me later as I had to get up at 7am.
Getting up at 7 after going to bed so excited at 3 left me definitely worse for wear. I looked like death warmed up and felt so wrecked it was unreal. I dragged my sorry self downstairs and luckily didn’t forget to bring my leopard print neck pillow. Myself and my friends brother occupied the back seats while the parents did the driving. Let’s just say that 1 minute after getting into the car I was out for the count. The 1 hour journey was put to good sleeping use. All in all I slept 3 times during the day, once in the car on the way there, once on the way back and in between on the sofa of my friends uncle. I’ll bet I left a good impression on them! The trip was so super as I got to see some proper Taiwanese countryside and also got to see the area where Fang Shu’s parents come from. There were mountains, lakes and rivers all intertwined and of course rice fields everywhere.
I hadn’t quite understood earlier but the trip was actually not just for my benefit, but I was going to be involved in a family reunion! I walked into a restaurant for lunch and was overwhelmed by aunts, uncles, cousins and their husbands and wives. There were about 40 people sitting at 3 or 4 different tables and the food seemed to be endless. Now I’m not a massive seafood fan, but guess what was for lunch; crab, prawns, fish, fish soup, rice soup with fish, fried bread with crabmeat, squid and even fish eyes – all washed down with a good beer. Let’s just say I ended up drunk and hungry after the meal. The fact that you are supposed to give a toast to everyone also meant that I needed a few bottles of beer to get round the entire family. Next up a nap on uncles couch!
My last full day turned out to be a washout as there was a sudden change of weather and we seemed to get some monsoon rainstorms. I only popped out briefly to do some last minute shopping and then it was an early night for me as I had to get up at 5 to go to the airport. I was extremely sad to be leaving as it was such an amazing week and I loved my new family like my own. Taipeh – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Krabi, 4 airports, 3 flights and 3 in-flight meals later I was reunited with Steffi in Krabi town and we were looking forward so some serious beach time.