The Road Less Traveled: Visiting Taiwan
I will start this post by saying that visiting Taiwan is an absolutely amazing experience and everyone should do it! When I left on my backpacking trip to Asia it never even crossed my mind to add Taiwan on my itinerary. However, as I began traveling I met traveler after traveler who insisted that it should be the next stop of my trip. Easily convinced by a couple of beautiful photos, I decided that visiting Taiwan was next on the list… and 6 hours later I was heading to the airport!
Taiwan has truly got it all! Busy city life (with a vibrant nightlife), amazing street food, an easy and expansive metro system, beautiful landscape, and budget friendly prices. What is there not to love? The one thing that I didn’t find visiting Taiwan was tourists! As a solo traveler this has both it’s pros and cons. While there are less travelers around to befriend (other than those studying or teaching abroad), it also means that you aren’t being hassled on every corner. Gone was the crazy bargaining for tuks-tuks and elephant pants that I was so accustomed to. Instead I could walk the streets and vibrant markets in peace.
Although I only spent 6 nights visiting Taiwan (which was not nearly enough time and I plan to return soon), I managed to visit three cities: Taipei, Hualien, and Hsinchu.
While in Taipei I stayed at Fun Taipei @ Shilin Night Market and was extremely pleased! With dorm beds starting at $16/night you will enjoy a cozy atmosphere in a prime location. The hostel provides free breakfast (toast, fruit, etc), free coffee/tea, and the comfiest of beds in A/C rooms. The hostel is located right above one of Taipei’s most famous night markets, offering plenty of delicious street food! Lastly, the Fun Taipei is conveniently located only 2 mins walking from the Jingjin metro station.
Hualien is the perfect jumping off point for anyone interested in visiting Taroko National Park. It is easily accessible by train and an easy city to navigate. I stayed at Journey Hostel and couldn’t have been happier. The hostel was clean, quiet, and extremely beautiful – there was even a koi pond in the common area! The train station is only a 10 minute walk, however if you are looking to go a bit further then the hostel can lend you a bicycle. They helped me to a fun ride to a beautiful pebble beach, stopping for the most amazing dumplings along the way!
Best Dumplings: Zhoujia Steamed Dumplings (No. 4-20 Gongzheng Street)
If you walk one street out of the hostel to the left you will also find a delicious vegetarian restaurant. The owners don’t speak any English and the signs are all in Mandarin, but it’s good fun!
From Hualien it will take approximately one hour by bus to get to the entrance of Taroko National Park. From here you can take the shuttle bus throughout, but make sure to watch the time as they don’t always run regularly!
Located just 1.5 hours south of Taipei by train, I came to Hsinchu to visit some friends that I had met traveling who were working as English teachers. The cool part about Hsinchu is that there are no tourists, and I mean less than Taipei! What you will find is a ton of amazing local food and culture! The mountainous area is beautiful – filled with temples, religious statues (i.e. massive Buddha sculptures), and beautiful spots for swimming and cliff jumping!