Taipei, Taiwan: Wait, are we back in China?

As I continue catching up on our trip back in February (yikes!), it’s time to talk about Taiwan.  There’s really no reason this post got so far behind as it was actually the shortest part of our trip – we were only in Taipei for about 36 hours!  We had decided to stop here because to get from Tokyo to Vietnam you could either take an expensive flight with a long layover, or a cheap short flight to Taipei and a second cheap short flight onward to Hanoi.  We decided on the latter and got a tiny taste of Taiwan.

…which, as it turns out, is a lot like China!  (See the dumplings! ^^) This is, of course, because it’s one of those weird places that China likes to pretend is theirs but the people that live there are like, “Um, no.”  And most of the world pretty much agrees that Taiwan is a separate, independent country.  Tricky.

Regardless of the problems this relationship with the mainland presents, it felt kind of refreshing to be back in such a familiar culture!  We knew the language basics (Mandarin), we could use the currency with ease, and we recognized a lot of the food.  It made us realize that even though in China we don’t always feel super integrated (the language barrier is real, y’all!), we have become pretty comfortable with the culture.  Of course, Taiwan does have distinct traditions separate from Chinese, and we did notice that certain things we see all the time in China (spitting on the ground, squat toilets) are rare in Taipei.  I’m sure if we had stayed longer or traveled outside the city that we would have found a lot more differences, and been able to define their culture beyond “a lot like China”.

Anyways, on to what we did!  There were really only two things:

Elephant Mountain

“Mountain” is a bit of  a loose term, at least for the section we did.  Elephant Mountain has a short, easy hiking trail near downtown Taipei.  It was a little rainy when we went, so we got to watch dramatic rolling clouds obscure and then reveal the skyscrapers.  I also loved the huge plants, tropical flowers, and lush green foliage.  It felt a little like Hawaii!  I think the trail is fairly extensive if you keep going, but we did the main route and called it good.

NingXia Night Market

This was a big of a miss for us.  We tried a bunch of traditional Taiwanese food which was all okay, but nothing really spectacular.  Maybe we just weren’t ordering the right things! After being disappointed by a steamed spring roll and some roasted mushrooms, I was pretty pleased to find a cheesy potato stand.  Probably the least authentic market food, but it was my favorite!

We were there for another half a day, but we spent most of that time sipping coffee and getting everything in order for our Vietnam visa.  It was a nice stopover and I wouldn’t mind exploring Taiwan more in the future.  Up next on the blog will be highlights from Hanoi!

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