First Impressions of Taiwan

Reached Taipei today for presenting my paper on Tactical Networks, in IEEE-VTC 2010 Spring.  After arriving Taoyuan International Airport about 3:30 pm (Local Time), I was took a TowardYou Airbus to reach the place where I would be staying for the next week. This time, inspired by other travelers, instead of checking into a hotel, I thought of staying at a hostel. The airbus took me to Far Eastern Plaza Hotel from where I reached the hostel on foot.

All through my journey in the bus and on foot, I was trying to observe and absorb as much as I can about Taipei. Being popular as a safe city (apparently safer than Seoul), I was looking forward to meet the local people and taste the local food. After quite a few traveling experiences, I have came to believe that, in order to taste authentic local food, street food is the way to go..  Though I spent today for rest and recharge before I go for the conference registration tomorrow, I plan to delve into the vastness of Taipei Night Markets after that.

I must admit that the hostel which I had checked in to, is much better that what I had thought.. Located next to Taipei 101 (The ex-tallest building in the world in terms of occupiable floors, a record recently broken by Burj Khalifa) this hostel is in fact located next to a night market. Though I admit that the facilities are fewer when compared to expensive hotels, I have already found three things which is unique to such places.

  1. Friendly host: If you do your research right, you can choose a hostel with a very helpful host. In my case, thanks to the reviews from hostels.com, I was not disappointed. Vanessa is a very friendly person, who waited for me for about 3 hours (Thanks to the delayed flight). She lives in the building and is incredibly friendly.. First thing what she did was to introduce me to the facilities and was more than willing to help me plan the rest of my trip. And most importantly of all, her English was flawless.
  2. Common room activity: The hostel has a common room where the people who stay here come for meeting others. Today, there were so many university students who had come for an overnight stay as a part of their club. I found that Taiwan stresses on English education and as a result, I found that 100% of them spoke English, something rare in the Asian countries. I also heard from Vanessa that another Indian is going to check in tomorrow. Eager to meet him.
  3. Cheap Washing ‘n Drying: For as low as $1.5, I can wash and dry all my clothes at one go.  This is something I have missed in all the hotels I have stayed, each time I traveled abroad. Most of them charged me $5 upwards for a shirt/trousers.

On my way from the airport, while turning around a corner, I found something like an outdoor fashion show with models wearing “strange” (I fail to appreciate the FTV-type hairdoes!!) hairt syles standing in front of a COACH showroom with lost of people photographing them.  While walking along the streets, I saw a woman (in her late 20s) pushing a buggy. Familiar with the sight in Korea, I looked for the cute baby sleeping comfortably inside. There was a baby alright, but it was a puppy. Resting comfortable on the cushions, there it was.. Small and cute..  Dog Walking.. Taiwan style??

With a growing interest in cars these days, I also observed the trends of car brands.. As expected, Toyota and Nissan were the majority with a speck of VW, Benz and Lexus here and there.. There was even a KIA but not a single Hyundai.. Quite Surprising for someone coming from Korea..  There was also a Samsung Anycall showroom (did not know that they used the anycall brand outside Korea)..  The most striking this about Taipei roads was the cleanliness and the thick lush of green trees separating the lines. Though the traffic density was quite high on the roads, the breeze smelled fresh, probably due to this green magic. There was a really large number of motorcycles on the road (A sight common to India, but quite rare in Korea).  The apartments  crowded the street sides, but were not very tall though. The people were quite kind when I was asking for directions.. On the whole.. The first impression is quite good and I cant wait for delving more deep  into this vibrant city in the coming days..

Tomorrow, I plan to board the Taipei Metro for the first time and go to the most popular attraction in the city: The National Palace Museum (with 677,687 artifacts, it is one of the largest museums in the world). Then I would go to the conference site for registration and welcome reception followed by a visit to the local night markets for a taste of Taipei night life.

Chao..

Kiran