13 months
Jan 6:
sweet home, taipei
Jan 7:
culinary crash course
Jan 7:
kao hsiung reunion
Jan 10:
kenting yee haw!
taiwan gallery
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Indra statue in National Palace Museum
Taipei, Taiwan; Jan 12, 2005

the low down

What we did: We were in Taiwan for the all-too-brief period of 9 days. We stayed with Susan's parents in their apartment while we were in Taipei, with Susan's Sekim (aunt) while in Kao Hsiung, and at a funky little resort hotel (still with family) while in Kenting. As we mentioned in our first Taiwan entry (taiwan: sweet home, taipei), our stay in Taiwan was not typical since we have lots of family here.

Overall: Taiwan is a very comfortable place to be, full of modern conveniences (though not quite as techno-modern as Tokyo, Hong Kong, or the US). We could definitely live here, and maybe someday we will. In our case, having about a billion family members here doesn't hurt either.

Essentials: Finding things you need in Taiwan is pretty easy. They have small local stores and huge malls where you can get most everything you need.

another amazing lunch in Taiwan

Food: The general quality of food in Taiwan is quite high, and it is very delicious (in our opinion) and cheap. Walking in to any old clean local looking restaurant is pretty safe. Still, don’t drink the tap water. For more details, check out taiwan: culinary crash course.

People: The Taiwanese are a friendly people, but the language barrier is quite high for people who can’t speak Mandarin or Taiwanese.

Exchange rate: US $1 = $31 NT (New Taiwan Dollar)

Standard of living: The standard of living in Taiwan is high, somewhat below the US, but much higher than most Asian countries.

Daily budget: Since we were staying with family, our expenditures were very low. If you were here on your own, it would be easy to get by on less than US $75/day for two people, including food, modest lodging, and some entertainment.

Random translations:
  - Wa beh jia bowling que. This is the always-useful phrase: “I want to eat a bowling ball.
  - Eh, lao ban yang, li eh ben soh dee dway? – This is how a local might ask a shop owner where the bathroom is, but it would be kinda’ strange for a foreigner to use this vocabulary. The closest translation would be something like: “Hey big boss, where is your bathroom?” In this case, “big boss” is a friendly and respectful term for the owner of the establishment. This sort of lingo is a very important part of Taiwanese. (Before you use this, see reader comment below!)
  [Note: also remember that Taiwanese, like Mandarin, is tonal, so the English phonetic translation is extremely lacking; many different Taiwanese words would be written the same way in English even though their meanings and pronunciations are different. There are 8 tones in Taiwanese, and it can be very difficult for someone with a Western ear to hear the difference between them.]

Major difficulties: Ordering food in local restaurants can be difficult if you don’t speak the language, since English menus are rare except in the tourist-oriented restaurants and hotels. Thankfully there are a lot of places with pictures or display versions of food where you can go and do a lot of pointing. A method we also use is to order by pointing at something that looks good at the other tables.

Random fact: A lot of kids go to school until 9pm at night. They can attend up to two additional “schools” after their regular school where they practice or receive specialized schooling in subjects like Math or a foreign language.

Specific places we visited/things we did:
in front of the National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum: this is
a must-see, as museums go. The collections are interesting, well-documented, and displayed attractively. Explanations are in Chinese and English.

- Core Pacific City Living Mall (Ball Mall): an amazing ball-shaped mall. This building is quite a sight to behold, and worth visiting just to see both the outside and the inside. And if you like to shop, there’s plenty to do while you’re there. There’s actually another ball inside the main ball with another layer of shops.

- Taipei 101 Tower: another huge and impressive mall worth seeing. Apparently the Taiwanese really like their malls.

- Sun Yet-Sun Memorial: Dr. Sun Yet-Sen is often referred to as the father of the Republic of China, or the father of the Chinese Revolution. His contribution to both Taiwanese and Chinese history is, to say the least, extreme. So we stopped by to pay our respects.
  - Guong Hua (electronics market): We were shopping to get Susan a small handheld computer, so we spent a couple afternoons in this sprawling electronics district. It was entertaining and fun to look at all the gadgets.
  - Tong Hua Night Market: We decided (wisely, as it turns out) to buy some cheap jackets in Taipei to prepare for winter in Japan. Susan’s mom and dad took us to this crowded street market where we bargained our way to jackets, gloves, hats, and scarves for both of us ($40 total for all our stuff).
Heng Chuen (on the drive from Kao Hsiung down to Kenting):
  - Heng Chuen (translates to The Windy Place): This is a very… um… windy place.
  - Land Protecting Master Temple: People come to this temple to pray for good luck in every aspect of their lives, and for protection of their land and homestead. It is a common type of temple – sometimes called a “Homestead Temple.” This one is unique because it is the largest of its kind. Usually, homestead temples are only 3’ x 4’ x 5’ large, and are built on the street side of a farm. In contrast, the one we visited is a large complex and serves a whole city, and many traveling visitors.
Kenting and Kenting National Park:
  - Mao Bi To: The southern tip of Taiwan, with an amazing view of the coast and ocean.
  - Throw Sand in Your Face Place: Sekim stopped the car here and told us to go out and check out the view. We did, and were promptly whipped by a barrage of sand particles. We didn’t find out the name of the place until we got back in the car. Sekim was comfortably nestled in the car, laughing her head off.
  - Xiao Kenting Vacation Resort: A strange (but very enjoyable) cowboy-themed resort (see taiwan: kenting yee haw!)

- Eternal Flame: A place where natural gas oozes out of the ground, keeping an eternal fire going. Kids love to come and make popcorn over the flames, and you can buy various other “eternally roasted” food.

We also visited Kao Hsiung (one of the biggest cities in the South) and Tainan (another fairly major city), but we were just seeing family so we didn’t have any time to explore.

As always, make sure to check out the taiwan gallery to see pictures of all of the above!

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


"lao ban yang," is for a female shop keeper. You really , really do not want to go around saying that to guys. Just use 'lao ban' for men.

--Wenzi (Taipai, Taiwan & Chicago, Illinois, USA); Jun 21, 2006

Thanks for writing in. We like to post accurate information whenever we can so we appreciate your clarification.

--Grace & Susan; Jul 8, 2006


I actually used your site as a reference for a friend who is going to Taipei. I was there for two weeks, but couldn't remember the details. I am now reading some of your other stops. I am glad you put so much time into this website.

--Adam B. (Portland, Oregon, USA); Dec 28, 2005