Taiwan First Impression

After a long absence from blogosphere, I am finally back!

It has been three months that I have moved to Taiwan, let me share some of my first impressions of this country. Moving to a new place is overwhelming, I am still going through my adjustment cycle. Being the first-timer in Taiwan, a lot of little things from daily life are interesting to me, though residents might find it mundane. 

Photo of Taipei 101 building taken from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

The language barrier
I shouldn't really be calling it a barrier, I knew enough Chinese to survive. But switching the language abruptly still stressed me out somehow. The biggest challenge for me is browsing websites and reading emails in Chinese (Taiwan use traditional Chinese). I tend to find "English" option in the websites whenever possible, only later I realized that the English versions of any website has very limited and outdated information. No choice, I have to get used to looking at Chinese characters daily. It still freaks me out whenever people called me and talked super long sentences over the phone. I am still trying to adapt the language.

Public Transport
Taipei has a much better public transport system compare to Kuala Lumpur. The MRT is so convenient and buses are quite frequent. Google Maps is my true savior commuting around Taipei, just search for any place you want to go, locate the nearest bus stop and click on it for the bus stop's name; Google Maps will give you the bus numbers that service for that particular bus stop. The trick is to alternatively check for a bus stops a few blocks away too. Finding directions and bus routes has never been easier, you are good to roam around the city with google maps. All the MRT and buses got LED display with English names for the upcoming bus/MRT stop. Buses here move at a very fast speed, you better stay alert and be careful while waiting for the bus, boarding or alighting.

Some useful links:
- Taipei MRT Map
- 台灣公車通:Bus Schedule app for Android (in Chinese)
- 55688: Taxi-booking app for Android (in Chinese)

Money Exchange
Back in KL and Bangkok, we can find money changers at almost every major shopping malls. But in Taipei, if you want to exchange money, you are supposed to head to a bank. Many people suggested me to exchange at airport. I thought I would get a better rate in town (which was always the case in Malaysia!) However, some banks didn't allow you to exchange more than $3000, and some banks will charge you NT$300 processing fees despite having to fill in the source of the money and waiting at the usual long queue of the banks. 

beef noodle from Chang family halal noodle shop
Taiwanese people eat less salt and sugar, which makes you feel less guilty about eating lots of desserts, haha. Fruits and vegetables are reasonably cheap thanks to Taiwan's agricultural developments, with the exception in Typhoon seasons.  Being someone who lives to eat, the saddest part of having to leave KL was the luxury of halal food which can be found everywhere :P . Fortunately, vegetarian restuarants and cafes start becoming popular in Taiwan due to religious and health purposes. I have compiled a list of halal and vegetarian restaurants in Taipei, will share in the next post.

Some Popular Websites in Taiwan

Instant Messaging
The Japanese/Korean-based IM app called LINE is widely popular here, you are expected to have a LINE account. Short Messaging culture seems almost extinct and when a Taiwanese say they sent a message to your number, it means they sent it through LINE app.

Importance of secondary ID
In Taiwan, when buying a prepaid sim card or opening a bank account, you will be asked for a secondary ID. It'll be useful to bring something like driving license/student card/NRIC/resident card,etc apart from passport when you visit taiwan.

Crowds and Queues everywhere
The crowd at XiMenDing shopping District entrance on a Friday night
Taipei is a considerably small city with around 2.5 million people, we have to get used to the crowds and queues wherever we go, especially on weekends. 

The crowd at Taipei TianYuan Temple during Cherry Blossom season
The most popular recreational activity here in Taiwan is viewing seasonal flowers. There are different parks/temples/forest/mountain area to view different seasonal flowers. The local bus companies always arranges frequent special buses to the designated tourist spots for a short period of time. As usual, expect the crowds. 

Other notable little facts
- Taxis meter starts from NT$70
- A lot of cafes impose a rule of minimum spending(抵銷) which is normally NT$150 per person
- The metric weight unit they used here is catty (台斤) equals to 600g
- The voltage system here is 110v and most sockets are 2 pin flat

Overall, I am still exploring and enjoying here, will add in if i remember more things later..