December 2019 – Jan 2020
Jan 4, 2020 – $1000NT fixed price to take a taxi to the airport. A little steep, but that’s about $34 and I pay $44 to get to SFO so even expensive in Taiwan is cheaper than the Bay Area.
Jan 3, 2020 – Shi Lin Night Market near the Jiantan MRT line. This is the biggest night market that I’ve seen with food, shopping, and amusement games.It is absolutely massive as you can see below. There are perpendicular streets to this one below too.There are whole streets of carnival kid type games and amusements that I would just skip all together like this one below.The shopping too is a waste of time for me at least…
The good food, the way I determined this was who had the longest line. The fried chicken had the longest line and it lived up to my expectations delivering a freshly deep fried slab of chicken for only $2.67! They dip in it a spicy solution before frying so I asked them not too and it was perfect.There was other food I didn’t try like this beef. The sausages are all pretty good and a safe bet.Night Market Photography – Just use a phone. Yeah, honestly, just use your phone especially if it’s newer and has the night sight or low light feature and HDR since you can get some amazing results. I shot these images with a Canon M6 Mark II and a 22mm F/2.0 lens. I did post with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 Camera Raw and Photoshop CS6, but it’s really not worth all the trouble, just use a newer phone and it’ll look just as good.
Taroko – Shakadang Trail is a must do and make sure you have plenty of time to get there and back before dark. It borders along the indigenous people’s land and when I got to the dam area, somebody shot a slingshot rock towards me from the bushes so I assume it was one of the original people letting me know I was not wanted in the area. I was on the trail though so I dunno.
There is very little car parking here. Best to do this on an e-bike or scooter since you can park anywhere. The roads are really narrow only fitting 1.5 vehicles so look at the convex mirrors and way ahead to see if you have to pull over.
Day 10 – 12/24/19 Leave for Taroko and a trip around the island
Day 9 – 12/23/19 Stomach is pretty bad, went to doc. Slept all day. The doctors are different here. I went to a doctor near the Nangang station. It was only about $29 for the visit. There is not a closed door for privacy and the speed! OMG, I had 10 people ahead of me and only waited about 35 minutes. He sees people quickly. The pharmacy is right next door and the meds were ready a few minutes after I walked out of the doctors office. The Rx pills come wrapped individually for a daily dose. They do seem to over prescribe compared to American doctors though.
Day 8 – 12/22/19 Partly cloudy, a little sunny.
Day 7 – 12/21/19 Not feeling great, Raining.
Elephant Mountain and the Lin Jiang Night Market, both are close to the Xiangshan MRT stop, the last stop on the Red Line. Both are worth it to take some pix and to get some great food.
Day 6 – 12/20/19 Not feeling great, just hung out. Raining.
Day 5 – 12/19/19 Walking around the National Center for Traditional Arts it’s clear that the iPhone wins for a walk around camera while traveling. Even the M6II with a 22mm is no match for the pocket ability and convenience of the iPhone. Since I know these shots are not going to be enlarged and printed or even photoshopped there’s no real compelling reason to use a real camera for these types of shots. It’s been raining the last 3 days.
The 32mm f1.4 is amazingly sharp. Everything I’ve read about it is true regarding this. Here is my pre review. Shooting handheld look at the sharpness of this image in the pre review.
Jiaoxi is a fun place to visit to eat duck, do free hot springs, and get a great $20USD massage. There is no subway out here so you have to take a bus or drive from Taipei. They have a bakery that I recommend is pon.com.tw. Funny, I thought Sheng Kee Bakery was the most famous one in Taiwan but my friend hadn’t even heard of it! Pon is the place. Free samples!! Stop by just for the free samples if nothing else.
Day 3-4 12/17/19-12/18/19 – Had a bad stomach so haven’t eaten for 2 days. Didn’t do much shooting either.
Day 2 – 12/16/19 There are at least 10 breakfast places within walking distance. Ordered the usual, but did it in Mandarin so that was a challenge. Got my order in, ate and came back for Chong Yo Bing. I have to learn more food and vocabulary. Plan to try out the 32mm and 22mm at the night market tonight. Will most likely use a tripod, but may try some shots wide open with a high ISO.
Noticed a lot of rust on the scooters. Forgot that this is an island so the salt air makes its way inland and starts to corrode all the steel in its path. I think it rains a lot here too.
Day 1 – 12/15/19 I was here Taiwan in August 2011 and am back since the summers here are just brutal and stifling due to the heat and humidity. Winters are the best time, temps in the 60-70s F so perfect. Had the usual Yo Tao and Do Jang for breakfast. Single use plastic cups and straws. I saw this all throughout the US and it looks like it’s probably a problem worldwide 😦
Staying in the Namgang District near the main MRT and HSR station. It’s about 5 stops from Taipei 101. The subway stations are massive with connections to local trains, high speed rail, other subway lines, and busses. The infrastructure is just much more advanced, modernized, and efficient here in Asia compared to the States.
They are big on bike sharing here too. Since the largest bike manufacturer in the world is here, Giant Bicycles, it makes sense that they would have a good bike sharing program.
Scooters are super popular here. The roads are like South Korea, not one pothole. So amazingly well maintained. Compare to Detroit or NOLA and it’s night and day.
Some tips to make your trip here a little easier:
Phone: Get your phone unlocked before you leave home and then buy a SIM card at 7-11, a local phone store, or the airport so you can get your phone working here. Bring a SIM card ejector pin and don’t forget to switch it before you get back home so you can call an Uber from the airport. I think I paid about $30 USD for a month
Apps: Line is the most popular messaging app here. Install it and look at all the emojis! It’s pretty handy. Another app to install and download to your phone is the google translate app. This is indispensable. It will even help you translate signs. Make sure to download it so you can use it without Wifi or cell data.
Bikes: One reason I came to Taiwan was to visit Giant bicycles. They are the largest manufacturer of bikes in the world. I’ve owned 5 Giant bikes through the years and love their bikes. Giant mountain bikes are amazing as are the city bikes. I’m not a big road biker so I can’t comment on their road bikes. I was bummed they didn’t offer any factory tours, but I suppose it would have looked like:
Still, I was in Taichung so I went to the locally owned Giant bike shop there and it was
two floors. The guy working there said a museum will all their bike models will be opening up later in 2020 so I might come back for that. The first floor had a shop and several new bikes. The upstairs had fitting and road bikes. For about $100 USD Giant will paint any road bike over around $2000 any of the colors available. Pretty cool. They don’t allow you to take pictures inside the store… 😦
How did Giant get so big?
Cars: No electric cars or infrastructure visible, though I think Tesla has 14 supercharger stations but I’m just guessing since I can’t read the text of the website. Still, it’s not Mountain View where you see 10-20 Teslas a day driving around the city. I haven’t seen any other brand of electric car either. Since traffic and parking can be a major headache, most people drive scooters or take the subway. I saw 2 X’s, an S, and 3 model 3’s the whole time I was here. They are not very popular here. Not sure why. I did go to a Tesla dealer TESLA Taipei Store, No. 11, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, near Taipei 101 and it was packed like the Apple store nearby.
I rented a car for $623 for a week and drove it about 1000km. The charge on my cc says Ho Yun Taipei TW. They charge for mileage here so it came out to $488 for the rental and $136 for the mileage. They give you a gas card so if you fill up at the brands that they do business with then gas is free. They didn’t give it to me with a full tank, nor do they expect it full when you give it back, but I wonder if the $136 included gas since I can’t read? Anyways, they charge for mileage so in theory don’t care about how much gas is in the tank, but in the contract it says to bring it back with a full tank. This is a little confusing.
Regarding driving, the main things to know are 1) there IS NO RIGHT TURN ON A RED. I did this a few times but noticed no one else did so I looked it up online and sure enough, no right turn on a red light. 2) there are scooters everywhere! Be aware of them. There is a special scooter lane on the right which is a problem since when the light turns green and you want to make a right, not sure who has the right of way there? Need to ask. There is also a reserved space for them at intersections so don’t pull up too far since scooters have a reserved space for them.
Infrastructure and Transportation: The MRT subway along with the HSR High Speed Rail and bus system you can get to just about anywhere you would want to go on the island. Still, I ended up taking taxis several times due to convenience. You don’t have to tip the taxis!
Religion: So I was in Taiwan through Christmas and it’s no big deal here. Stores don’t close, Christmas decorations are really, really scarce and mainly at Christian churches. I did hear a group walking around from the church caroling but no one even mentions Christmas. I didn’t see any Christmas sales specials, Black Friday type of sales are non existent from what I could see.
Holidays: I usually head to Costco and take a pic of their hours since they list out the local holidays. I didn’t make the trip this time though. I found conflicting info online, but there appear to be 10 holidays. Still, you can see when growing up in the US how Christian holidays are embedded into the national imaginary despite the what the 1st Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” but isn’t two national holidays celebrated by a particular religion respecting a religion? But who is going to protest getting a paid day off from work or school?
Shopping: Carre Foure is where I bought most stuff. I think it’s french owned, not sure, but it has the groceries you need and I even got a backpack and yoga mat there. 7-11 has really good sandwiches. Unlike the 7-11’s in the states, the 7-11’s here in Taiwan have good food and are everywhere. If you need non food stuff, then Sogo is a good dept store.
Water: My airbnb host told me to not drink the tap water. You have to boil it or buy drinking water.
Food: Not sure what to say here. So there are many hole in the wall small places to eat that have great food. I also got a stomach infection from one of these places in Nangang and consequently didn’t eat any food for 4 days. I would definitely avoid a small place in a small city. I ate at the night markets in Taipei and had no problem. I definitely trust the bigger restaurants. I think I missed in and out burger more than any other food back home. They have a Mos Burger here and other burger joints. Food is also cheaper here. One sushi bar in Beitou near Yangmingshan was only $30 NT per plate so about $1.00 USD so really it’s all you can eat for $10!! Rent here is cheaper too.
Housing: – In general cheaper than the Bay Area. Some of the buildings are pretty old but the units inside can be totally updated or not. One thing salient is the doors. They often have two doors, the first one will have glass windows and multiple dead bolts like a safe. These are super solid and heavy security type doors
Pollution: So my guess is cars, scooters, and motorcycles have no smog controls at all. No catalytic converters. Consequently, street level pollution can be pretty bad. I also noticed sewer gas in my airbnb bathroom and on the street level pretty often like multiple times a day walking around.
Homeless: I didn’t see any homeless people in Taiwan. This says more about the US then Taiwan to me. It’s an utter failure of government, social services, and communities in general when so many homeless people line the streets in tents, underpasses, riverbanks, beaches all over the US but coming to another country like Taiwan and I don’t see any. Like zero… How could America let this happen with unemployment at historically low levels?