Man, Taipei will always be a place of learning for me.
10 years ago (2009), I came here to study abroad and learned so much about myself, academic stuff (I guess) and interacting with different people in general.
Super nostalgic, I always want to come back to Taipei to visit. This is my third time back and I got to say that she didn’t welcome me back with open arms 🙁
I always forget that Taiwan is in an earthquake zone.
2 weeks after I arrived a 6.1 on the richter scale hit Hua Lian and even Taipei felt it for a few seconds. Good thing, no real damage or any casualties to any of the affected places.
Anywho, here is what I learned in my short month in town. Hopefully, after reading this, you won’t make these mistakes either!
If you only bought a one-way ticket into Taiwan, and the airline CSR asks you when you are leaving the country, never say “I don’t know, a few months??”
Just say “2 weeks or a few days”…with conviction.
I was too honest and told the rep that I didn’t buy an out-of-country flight.
In all honesty, a) no one told me I had to, and b) my passport allows me to stay in Taiwan visa-free for 90 days, so I didn’t think I needed to plan everything ahead of time.
I only learned after the fact that immigration is fine with you not buying a return flight, but the airline isn’t.
Because if, for whatever reason, you are denied entry into the country, the airline is responsible to fly you back to where you came from on their dime.
So I thought to buy a rent-a-ticket but then I had planned to come back in Mid-June anyway, so I just bought one on the spot for more money that I should have spent =.=”
Sometimes a white lie is OK.
Know Where TF You're Staying
When you’re filling out the arrival card on the plane ride, and aren’t sure what your destination is don’t just put down “hotel.”
Instead, make up a place.
Holiday Inn Hotel or Best Western or something…not like they’re going to ask you to see the receipt, or call up the hotel.
Ah, another opportunity to practice my white lie telling skills that I missed.
My aunties organized the trip so they didn’t think to tell me the itinerary because I’d be with them the whole time anyway.
That’s true, except they forgot one detail.
My family flew from HK while I flew from Macau…at different times. We agreed to meet at the baggage claim area, but I didn’t make it that far.
Got denied access to enter the country because I had no idea where we were staying, and (again) was being honest and told them my situation.
They, of course, didn’t understand English, so it made the situation even more difficult.
In the end, it was alright. I waited where I got stuck for an hour for my family and away we went!
Banking Withdrawal Limits
Make sure that you know your daily limit for withdrawal is for your debit card.
I used HSBC because it’s available in most Chinese-speaking places in Asia and also in North America.
It’ll be in your native currency, so you’ll have to do the conversion.
Just because an ATM has a 10,000 NTD option, doesn’t mean that you can withdraw that amount…
Just so I remember, mine’s only $400 CAD each day (That’s so tiny!).
Apparently, I can only increase the limit if I call my bank in my own country. It doesn’t work if I go into a local branch in another country to get it done, because they don’t have the right authority. (OK, that makes sense.)
My credit card was also not working (but that’s a different story for another time)
To avoid this stress again, I will make sure I double check all-things-money related before I head to another country!
No-Fee Currency Exchange
Lucky me that Taiwanese people are generally kind and helpful.
(And I mean generally. I did come across a few assholes out there!)
After the whole HSBC fiasco, the rep was kind enough to let me know that they charge up the ying-yang for currency exchange (500 NTD?), so referred me to use any of the local banks.
I went to one that was a few blocks again, and the security guard told me that another bank was better. They charged (200 NTD?), while Bank SinoPac didn’t charge a thing!
This bank is actually quite big and has branches all over Taipei.
You’ll need your passport with you, as with any exchanges. They’ll also ask you where you are staying (exact name of the hotel!).
They accept all major currencies, as well as HKD.
Don't Fly with Tiger Air
Another important lesson learned here.
I know what you’re thinking.
But this airline is so cheap – if I shave off $100 on this expense, then it can go towards something else.
Yeah, it’s not worth it. It almost never is. Especially for long flights or if you know you have a lot of luggage with you.
If you must, READ THE FINE PRINT before you buy.
Tiger Airline is known for their cheap rates.
That means don’t expect them to do too much, this includes:
- Not being able to change the location of the original flight (WTF?!)
- Charging you a hefty fee for switching flights
- Charging you the difference between the flights (OK, this one standard procedure, but still!)
- Not being lenient on the weight limit. Did you know that they only allow you a weight limit of 10 kg for BOTH your personal bag and carry-on luggage?!
Normally, it’s 10kg for just your luggage and they don’t care about the weight of your purse…
I ended up buying a brand new ticket instead of changing my original flight. I did the math and the cost was basically the same.
While getting surprised at the airport with the tiny weight limit, I threw away a lot of my old clothes to avoid the 1500 NTD checked baggage fee.
It was a weird feeling.
Half frustrated, half wanting to cry. I don’t think it was because I was so attached to my clothes. It’s more like…it was such a nasty surprise and my carry-on luggage wasn’t even FULL.
As a minimalist, I didn’t have a lot of unessential things that I could throw away…
I tried to reframe on the plane…this is an opportunity for me to buy new clothes because I actually NEED it 🙂
Stay in One Place
Don’t move around every other week.
It’s bad for your psyche.
Just pick a place and just stay.
This way you can set up and stick to a routine, this includes your gym, knowing where your bank is, your new-found favourite coffee shop or dumpling place…etc.
I didn’t know until this trip that a routine or just familiarity, in general, is OH-SO-IMPORTANT to me. That’s probably half the reason why I felt so stressed out while in Taipei.
And, I don’t know why I was moving around so much – I mean, I didn’t do that in Chiang Mai…
Because of this experience, I am staying put for the summer in a more familiar place. Need to put down some baby roots.
Expensive Gyms (in Asia in general)
You can cheap it out and just use trial passes at each gym.
You can opt for a free 7-day trial pass at any world gym.
They will ask you how long you’re in town for and definitely try to sell you a year-long membership package.
Just apply for the pass online and show them the email you receive.
Opt for a cheap pass at one of the public gyms. In every large neighbourhood, there’s one of these government-funded, municipal sports centers.
Some of quite gorgeous with a swimming pool, indoor rock climbing space, newly renovated fitness center and more!
It’s 50 NTD per hour or an unlimited month pass for 2000 NTD.
They all open at 6am and close at 10pm everyday.
I bought a one month pass, but I should have just paid the drop-in rate each time. To my defense, I didn’t think I’d be moving around that much when I bought the pass…
The unfortunate thing is that you cannot use the pass between branches 🙁 I went to the one in DaTong.
Taipei isn’t Chiang Mai.
Forgot about working out of a coffee shop. They are NOT quiet.
People go here to socialize.
Instead, go to one of the public libraries instead.
The 4th floor usually is the quiet floor with lots of electric plugs and free wifi (or just tether to your mobile’s unlimited data plan).
Many people will come here (especially during weekends) to just hang out in AC and sleep (why don’t they just sleep at home?!). So come early and stake your claim.
The Beitou Library is apparently the most beautiful one, but I’ve never been –
There are quite a few actual coworking spaces in town, but they’re quite expensive.
I’ve worked out of Kafnu and only toured StarRocket.
The Hive is here too and they have trial Tuesdays, but you can only work out of their lobby area, which is loud when cars pass by – not suitable for phone calls and meetings.
All depends on your preference!
Reach Out to Nomad Community
This one is a must.
There are a lot of foreigners in Taipei and other cities in Taiwan too.
They’re just doing their own thing, but you need to join the community and go to the events in order to meet them.
Uncomparable to Chiang Mai’s community, Taipei is more of a hardware, tech start-up environment. Which is awesome, but not quite what I’m looking for at this time.
I find that most nomads are quite introverted. Myself included – I can stay home for days on end and be completely OK!
I’m beginning to realize that introverted doesn’t mean shy or having no friends. It’s really a spectrum. In certain situations, I like to be alone, I’m quiet and more passive, but in other circumstances, I’m loud, outspoken and opinionated.
Just depends what that certain situation demands of me.
But there is a handful of DC-ers that are quite active in town 🙂
Read here for my review on DCx Taipei conference.
Do the Tourist Things
Come on now. You’re in a new city (or one that you haven’t been to in a long time), it’s time to do some fun things.
Here are some fun Taiwanese touristy things to do:
- Eat your way through Taipei
- Go to Din Tai Fung for Xiao Long Bao (the original branch, of course!)
- Chia Te bakery for freshly baked pineapple cakes (there’s only one in town!)
- Hit up them night markets – RaoHe for Black Pepper Bun, ShiLin for everything, NingXia for more of a local flavour, XiMenDing for more hipster-style, so many little ones that you can stumble upon
- Not sure where to start? Try these: Bubble Tea, Beef Noodle (Yong Kang!), street food (deep fried chicken and everything else), breakfast food: zhua bing or dan bing
- Walk around YiXin District and go up Taipei 101 (Try to go to the starbucks on the 35th floor!)
- BeiTou for day time (or overnight) hot springs
- MaoKong for gondola ride, good tea and food made with tea leafs and night views
- Up Yangmingshan for night views + food
I don’t want the negatives to overshadow all the amazing things that I experienced in Taiwan, but I can’t help describe this trip like the current weather.
Lots of grey clouds with sparse sunlight peaking through.
Honestly, I wasn’t prepared enough and just a bit unlucky this time around.
I’ll definitely come back for a visit, but Taipei is not a live-able place with a thriving-enough nomad community for me just yet.