Our timing in Taiwan was perfect, as we overlapped with my sister-in-law, Patty’s, parents! They so generously fetched us from the airport, hosted us for two nights, and took us on a whirlwind tour of Taipei including Taipei 101, a Gondola Ride, Memorial Hall Square, and a night market, before shuttling us to our train to get to Tainan for the wedding. They were so helpful translating for us and ordering meals; delicious food magically appeared before our eyes.
Our arrival in Tainan was a huge highlight of our trip, mostly due to our amazing airbnb host, Shirley. She met us at the train station and walked us to the apartment (which is so helpful – we spend lots of time trying to figure out where our hotel is due to faulty GPS on my phone, and no physical maps to reference). She then took us out to an amazing lunch and again hosted dinner and drinks on the rooftop that night! She helped us throughout our trip, making sightseeing recommendations and helping us buy a bus ticket to our next destination. It’s hard to explain how amazing these kind acts make us feel. In a place where we cannot read a single street sign and have to walk down the street to understand that a shop is not actually a lunch spot, it’s actually a car mechanic. And it’s rare that someone speaks English. People like Shirley have really made this trip for us.
We stopped next in Taichung to meet up with a new friend, Alex, who we had randomly met at the hostel in Istanbul (he entered the common room and said “I heard someone is going to Taiwan! Let me give you suggestions!”). We met Alex and his sister at the Taichung night market and they took us to their favorite food stands. So tasty.
Our last stop was in Hualien, on the East side of Taiwan. We rented a scooter to check out Taroko Gorge and spent another day exploring Hualien by bike.
What was a last minute decision to see a country that wasn’t necessarily in our plan turned into one of our favorites. The people in Taiwan were so friendly and helpful. To give an example, I keep telling this story: we were lost in Taichung looking for our hostel. I was looking at my phone on the sidewalk, and Cale and I had our backpacks on. A guy in a scooter pulled up to say “do you need help? I speak English, I can help you.” I handed him my phone so he could see on the map where we were trying to go…. without a care in the world. Seriously it wasn’t until later that I thought ‘wow, most other places I would have never even considered handing my phone to someone.’ He didn’t drive off with it or anything! He pointed us in the right direction, then scooted off into the sunset. He had pulled over solely to help us- he hadn’t needed to stop for any other reason.
We have been in Thailand now since December 3rd! Off to meet an old friend from college that we haven’t seen in 2004… that happens to live in Bangkok. It’s such a small world!