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Lost in Translation: Taiwan Part 1

“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness, and fears.” – Glenn Clark

One of the joyful things I enjoy about being a curious traveller is going to places where I don’t understand the language. It fascinates me to see people’s reaction and it challenges me even more because I have to try my best to break the language barrier. It’s a frustrating process at times. I remember living in Porto where most of the people are not fluent in English resulted me to randomly choose my meal because each time I had them explaining what the meal means in the menu, I got even more confused. So I always settled for “Frango” which means chicken and packed on some weight thanks to that. Google translation does help but it’s not really reliable when you want to translate a whole phrase.

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My knowledge of Chinese culture is pretty basic though I am surrounded by many of them but they’re from the new generation, the urbanised ones. They eat with fork and spoon, they talk in English, so I don’t really get to experience being around a real Chinese person. To be honest, I had a pretty bad trip from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur before; both from flying experience to people I had to deal with. The idea of going to another Chinese country didn’t excite me at all but my travel partner somehow made a convincing plan to drag me to Taipei and I was really glad he did.

I agreed only because the package was ridiculously cheap – USD200 for return flight with Air Asia X + accommodation. I arrived in Taoyuan International Airport and let me be clear, this airport isn’t really in Taipei. Where is Taoyuan? I first thought it was a few walks away from Taipei but no, not even a bus stop away. I did read up on some tips from how-to-get-there articles but I might have miscalculated the journey. My idea of 40 minutes away was actually 5 minutes away + 35 minutes of crazy traffic but that only applies in my hometown, Kuala Lumpur.

Taoyuan (桃園縣)

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But what the hell, I was in Taiwan! Away from the concrete jungle (into another concrete jungle) and away from my not-so-mundane life. With my small notebook filled with scribbles of romanised Chinese words, I went to the bus counter and got myself a bus ticket to what I thought was my intended stop (Jhongli, which is the nearest train stop to my hotel) but the bus headed to Taoyuan HSR (High Speed Rail) main station and ended there, which is nowhere near my hotel. After 10 hours of waiting plus flying, I wasn’t looking forward to waste anymore time. I hailed a cab from the station and stopped exactly in front of the hotel lobby. Taxi ride in Taiwan starts from TWD95 (USD3) and the bus to Taoyuan HSR is cheap, only TWD30 per way.

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The what was supposed to be “adventurous trip” taking the bus had to stop when I got lost, with the scorching hot weather that didn’t help to lift my spirit not even a notch.

Clean taxis, smooth and comfortable ride – the kind of price I was glad to pay for. I stayed at Kuva Chateau in Taoyuan, 10-15 minutes from the airport. I was greeted by friendly hotel workers who made me feel so welcomed. I checked in to the Junior Suite room on the highest floor. Check out this room which costs TWD1,080 per night.

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The pictures didn’t do enough justice to the room as it is much nicer and bigger in real life.

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This city is a pleasant mix of old and new. The sleek surface contrasts with the old-school buildings which reminded me of some familiar cities.

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The exhilarating mix of both made me super curious about the city. I took a walk around the area, checking out shops and restaurants available. I kept in mind that my purpose of coming here was to enjoy a very much toned down environment, so I shouldn’t expect much from this trip. There is nothing much in Taoyan (or at least the area I was staying), stretched of shops selling fruits, mini markets, Teppayaki / Japanese restaurants and police station. Japanese food seems like a huge deal in Taiwan. If you’re looking for cheap Taiwanese food, their night market is the place for that!

From Taoyuan, I took the HSR to Taipei city. Taipei has one of the best train systems in the world; super efficient, clean, organised and reliable. The speed is almost 300km/h, connecting Taipei to the southern city of Kaohsiung. They have vending machines, toilet, phone booth in most carriages. Find out more about the HSR here.

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Read part 2 here.

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