Hello from Taipei!
We’ve been here for about 4 days, exploring with my long-time high school friend, Keriann, who coincidentally happened to be in Asia the same time we arrived.
It is super easy to get around everywhere. The metro is accommodating to English speakers and a train comes every couple of minutes to each station. There’s never a rush to the train that just arrived. We just go meh and wait for the next one that will come in 2 minutes. People are really orderly too, and they will queue for the standing-only right side of the escalator. They will also form a line for the side to get on the train and LEAVE ROOM FOR PEOPLE TO GET OFF THE TRAIN (This is such a pet peeve of mine when using BART back home)! BART back home looks really terrible in comparison to the Taipei metro!
The people here are also really nice. They try their best when trying to speak with you. Even when we say “oh, it’s ok, we’ve figured it out”, they will insist on helping you. They are fashionable too and I’m jealous of their great hair and cute umbrellas. They also reallllllyyyyyyyyyyy like Japanese things, to the point where we’ve seen one of our waiters with a #かわいい tattoo on their arm.
We’ve been to Taipei 101, where the elevator will make your ears pop and the mango ice is overpriced. National Palace Museum had some really good artifacts. I saw the pork-shaped jade so my life is pretty complete. We’ve checked out the Ximen shopping area and Beitou hot spring district.
The food is tasty here and affordable ($5 – $20USD). So far, we’ve had xiao long bao (soup dumplings), Taiwanese pork chop, and sesame buns from Din Tai Fung, stinky tofu from the night market (eaten in shame in a corner), pearl milk tea, peking duck (so tender and less gamey here), various-plated dinner with Keriann’s coworker’s family, shabu shabu, pasta and curry served in toilets and korean food (is it more authentic here or in the US?).
I’ve really enjoyed Taipei. This place feels familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time.
Taipei is now, honestly, my favorite city in Asia. It has a surprising amount of wonderful green spaces and interesting subculture like Seattle, with the cleanliness, 歓楽街 (pedestrian filled streets with food, fashion, shops, theaters), and busyness of Tokyo, all while feeling still feeling like the best parts of China, with great temples, unique and affordable food, and so on.
The thing is though, the people here are astounding laid back and friendly. At first I thought I might just be seeing the “tourist” side of locals, in the sense that they would be polite to outsiders, but slowly I saw that even interactions between locals themselves seemed so much more genuine and afforded than most cities I visit. Sure, traffic is crazy, and people are sometimes pushy, but overall people gave their seats up for the old and young, they moved out of the way and apologized or thanked each other. I observed people stopping to help each other, joking and talking, and just being really genuine in a way that, say, New York and Tokyo sometimes misses.
There’s so much to say, but I think I’d rather leave it to the pictures. Great food from all over Asia, that is cheap. Easy and cheap access via MRT (faster and less expensive than Tokyo lines). Beautiful mountains and nature both within and just outside the city. Culture is oozing, and people are friendly.