Sorry, I promise this will be the last reference to the number of countries I have visited but it makes for a catchy title so I thought I would use it. Plus I am on a bit of a mission to get a few more countries under my belt and catch up with some certain friends of mine (you know who you are; Andrew, nice try!) who are in the 80’s and 90’s and need to be reminded of who the number one travel guru is around here!!
After just under two weeks in Taiwan we leave on Wednesday for our flight to Tokyo. So have we enjoyed Taiwan? I think the answer for both of us at the moment is ‘not sure but probably’. We are certainly glad that we have been (you may recall me mentioning it gave me my seventh country for one thing!) and cost wise it has been a good introduction to Japan where already (and we haven’t even got their yet) we have forked out over £200 for a few nights in a Tokyo hostel, where no doubt the room will be the size of a matchbox and the bed as hard as a concrete floor. Here a room has averaged about £17-20 a night which is much more than we would pay in SE Asia but on the flip side the quality you get for your money has been excellent. The same, I am afraid cannot be said for the food. For the best part this has been shocking and pricey and if it wasn’t for the Golden Arches (McDonald’s to those lucky buggers that have never had the desire or need to use them; don’t you judge me!) and Seven Eleven I reckon we would have starved to death. OK, OK, a bit of a tall story but you get the picture (in fact I have put on weight because of all the junk food we are having to eat). The Chinese saying that they will ‘eat anything that flies except for an aeroplane and anything with legs except for a table’ has certainly been adopted by the Taiwanese and you see all sorts of weird crap on offer, stuff we would not touch with a barge pole. It made me laugh the other day in Taipei when Kirsty actually gagged as we walked past a street vendor who was cooking up god knows what and what worries me is that the culinary delights in Japan are not going to be any better. Take the common chicken for example; you never see all the nice bits such as the breast and the wing on display but instead you see the feet and god knows what else which the Taiwanese tuck into like there is no tomorrow. We have a pot noodle from Seven Eleven.
For a small island, Taiwan is very diverse and offers ancient cities, jungle, mountains and as you would imagine, being an island, plenty of coastline. Unfortunately for us (and even more unfortunate for the people) Taiwan gets typhoons and earthquakes on a reasonably regular basis and with the last earthquake being as recent as May of this year it meant that getting from A to B was not as straight forward as we would have hoped. For example we wanted to travel 100km between Alishan National Park and Sun Moon Lake but as the road was impassable we had to make a detour that meant the whole journey took eight hours rather than the two that we had banked on.
So what has been the highlight; I would say that we are both in agreement that it has to be the lack of tourists and the warmth and friendliness of the Taiwanese people. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, nobody had hassled us or tried to rip us off and that statement is still true now. Taiwan is very well-organized with visitor information centres everywhere. The staff that man them speak good English and for the best part their information is bang on and if you are still lost or confused thereafter you can be sure there will be a friendly local on hand to further assist. In our short period in Taiwan we have hitched a lift out of a canyon (and saved a 10km walk through a series of very dark tunnels), had a guy on a scooter follow us to ensure we reached a temple we were looking for with no problems and had a bus driver take us past their designated stop to ensure we were in the right place to catch an onward bus. In the words of Father Ted; the Taiwanese, a great bunch of lads.
Tip of the day; if you ever visit Taiwan, visit when it is sunny – it looks so much nicer …
And finally, some great words we have seen on signs that we like: