Three Amazing Reasons To Love Taipei
Last May, I spent three whole weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. That trip was a part of a class offered by my college, and teachers taught us about Taiwanese culture and society through hands-on experiences. I loved everything I experienced and now I am a serious Taipei lover. In this post, I’ll describe what I found amazing about Taipei and, hopefully, this will make you interested enough to visit the ineffably beautiful country!
It has a great metro!
If you have been to any big city, you know how convenient public transportation is. Taipei’s transportation, called MRT, was great — so cheap, so clean and super safe to use. Train fees varied depending on how far people traveled, but if you took about five stops from the stop nearest to your hotel, one round trip would cost about 60NTD, which was roughly equivalent to US$2.
Not only did I find how economical Taipei was amazing, I was also mind-blowing to see how clean every train station looked. Once people got inside the MRT stations, drinking and eating were prohibited. Even water and gum were not allowed! That was the hardest social norm to get used to while I was in Taipei. Although, it seemed very effective for keeping the stations clean.
The greatest thing about MRT was the safety. Once you take a cab in Taipei, you will be surprised how crazy the traffic is. It can even get horrifying when cars drive between lanes or a cloud of hundreds of scooters crosses the street at once. On the other hand, you will feel safer using MRT rather than driving by yourself. Even though trains did get crowded in the evenings, you do not have to watch your purse all the time — during our stay, I saw nobody got his or her belongings stolen! I also saw many younger people offer their seat to the elderly. It exemplifies how safe it is to use the public transportation in Taipei, and how considerate people are to others. There is no reason not using MRT while you are in Taipei.
Taipei boast some great food!
Isn’t food the most decisive factor for many world travelers? Taiwan is known for great food and I can promise you that is true. When I was in Taipei, food stands were everywhere and everything I got was super cheap—the lowest I manage to buy was just 25NTD, which is around only US$1. Those meals from stands, called xiao chi (小吃), were surprisingly filling regardless to their small portions!
Even though I ate more than I usually did in the US, I definitely felt that I was eating much healthier in Taipei. Compared to what you can eat in the US, dishes are overall a lot less greasy and salty. Stir-fry is the most popular form of cooking in Taipei and you can enjoy many vegetables that are included to those meals besides rice and proteins.
Speaking of vegetables, many restaurants and food stands had vegetarian options, which often looked better than other meals. I remember there was a day I did not realize that the dumplings I got did not contain any meat until I finished the half of the box. Those dumplings contained tofu and cabbage, but no pork, which I ordered originally. It was the first time I had tofu-dumplings, and they tasted so great that I did not even care it had meat or not. Many people around me do not believe in having meatless meals, but such mindset will dramatically change once they visit here, just like mine did.
It has a super unique culture!
I know “culture” is fairly a big topic and there is no way I can describe all aspects of Taiwanese culture, but I will pick up two points which I think exemplify its beauty. One is the respect for heritages and the other is the valuing of harmonious relationships.
In Royal Palace Museum and Museum at Academia Sinica, my class and I looked at many great artifacts from mainland China. Some of them were precious art pieces, like ceramics from the 13th century, and others were bronze pieces from millennia ago, which holds tremendous importance in archeological studies. Knowing a bit of modern history of mainland China, more specifically Cultural Revolution, and seeing that descendants of Han Chinese immigrants were preserving and studying their cultural heritages was encouraging for me as an Art History major.
The environment is also something people are passionate about. Taiwan is one of the world’s leaders in recycling and, because of this, you can see lots of beautiful natural sceneries. At Fulong Beach, I did not see any locals leaving garbage on the shore. At the end of the day, workers at the beach collected the litter cans and I saw an old lady carried all of the cans to somewhere else, I presume for recycling. It was no wonder that all the mountains and seas I saw were so well preserved. The view from the top of Elephant Mountain, which overlooks skyscrapers shining in the setting sun between green mountains, was something unforgettable.
Just like buildings and nature co-exist in balance, keeping a balanced relationship is heavily valued in Taiwanese culture. Many aboriginal museums around Taipei tell visitors that 16 different indigenous tribes have been co-existing in the island for several millennia. The division between religious beliefs is also something you will hardly see in Taiwan. Confucius temples, Buddhism temples and shrines that worship local gods are popular for people to go for their prayers. On top of that, people in Taiwan worship their ancestors in households, and some descendants of the indigenous tribes also believe in Christianity. Taiwanese society is accepting of different racial heritages and religious beliefs, which makes the island such a peaceful and loving place.
If you have any comments or questions about my Taipei trip, please leave a comment below. I would love to answer them. I hope you will get a chance to visit this amazing city someday!