Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quick stop by Taipei, Taiwan for the long weekend...

This past weekend was a holiday weekend in Korea. This holiday is Chuseok, basically the Korean thanksgiving. The most important part of the holiday, it seems, is the tradition of bowing to your ancestors. Then of course they is partying and eating and all the rest.

Since I am not Korean, and have no family, I saw no reason not to take the four-day weekend to get out of the country and do some traveling... Me and two friends hopped over to Taipei for the weekend. I'll have to admit, Taiwan was never on my life's must-see list, but it was perfect for a long weekend.

... Or at least would have been... had mother nature not had her say in the matter...

I had jokingly suggested that we might arrive just in time for a nice typhoon, when we booked our tickets right during typhoon season. (Remember... a typhoon is the same as a hurricane, just in the Pacific ocean, instead of the Atlantic). But... I didn't really think it would happen. I figured that if there were a typhoon, all flights would be canceled... but... well... airplanes are surprisingly tough...

Taipei welcomed us with the driving winds and torrential rains of typhoon Sinlaku. It was pretty intimidating, but we did manage to venture out for a little while our first day there. We found the best dumpling place in the city (in my humble opinion) and wondered over to a night market, though not much was open because of the typhoon.

We stayed at the Eight Elephant's Hostel, near Guting Station. This hostel was easily one of the best I've ever stayed in. It was extremely clean, had three individual showers, and two individual bathrooms, and the sinks were outside all the bathrooms (so there's no one waiting in line to use the bathroom while someone is in the shower... if you've ever done hostaling... you know how that works..). The hostel was in a great area, it was a very quiet neighborhood, but we were able to get anywhere on the metro (MRT) in less than half an hour. The only problem was finding the hostal. It's very non-descript, and the only sign someone who wrote the name of the hostal in small letters with a sharpie on the front door. Not really what you keep your eyes out looking for. Especially when you're in torrential rains trying to find your hostel as quickly as possible.

Taipei's metro, which is called the MRT, is quick, efficient, easy to use, and cheap. While they base the fares on distance (like Seoul), it's easy to purchace individual tokens that have the correctt fare programed into them (they are small plastic tokens that must have a computer chip inside). Each token machine has a map of the subway with the price to get to each station from the station you are in. Just throw in your money, it will spit out a token, and you're good to go.

The money was a little difficult to use at first, because it's not easy to caculate the value in USD, which is how I'm used to thinking of prices, of course. $1.00 USD= 32 TWD. So we figured that $100 TWD was about $3 USD. What a headache. But you get used to it fast enough.

Taiwan was very affordable. We ate out three meals a day, bought a few souvenirs, and paid for our entire hostal stay (three nights), for under $200 USD. Our hostal was about $16.00 USD a night (well worth it), and I don't think we ever paid more than $4 USD per person/ per meal. A plate of fried rice was about 90-100 TWD, a plate of 10 pot stickers was about 30 TWD, beef soup was about 120 TWD. Not bad at all.

Anyway, Soon I'll be posting pictures and information about some of the things I did while in Taipei! See you soon!

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