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Old 02-02-2011, 07:45 PM
 
Location: Bay View, Milwaukee
2,483 posts, read 4,596,307 times
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Hi All,

In November, over Thanksgiving break, I have an opportunity to go to Taiwan for a conference in Taipei, and I'm not sure I should do it. Not including time spent on airplanes (up to two full days each way), I would have just about 7 days of time on the island. I've never been to Asia and really would like to go, but there are some things in the way:

* I would prefer to stay in Asia longer (two weeks or more) and see another place in addition to Taiwan. This means trying to take a trip in January 2012 or some other time when I have such a stretch of time.

* I don't know, then, if I should just save my money ($1200+ for flight alone) for a longer trip (when I can combine more stops), or take this opportunity. If I'm lucky, my workplace will reimburse me for $400 of expenses, but I'll have to foot the rest of the bill myself.

* I'm not sure if jet lag will be so severe as to knock me out into sleep mode, thus turning my 7-day stay into a 5- or 6-day stay.

Would you pursue this opportunity? Or would you wait and try to use the money for a longer trip some other time?
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:11 AM
 
8,265 posts, read 11,216,864 times
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GO FOR IT!

- Prefer to stay longer. But this is a sure thing! How many people have had plans to do some trip that just keeps getting put off for whatever reason, a 7 day bird in the hand is better than two 14 day birds in the wok.

- Money. Since this is a work function do you get to go without taking time off? If so and you calculate how much you get paid per day (for vacation that you aren't using) you might feel a lot better about the cost versus having to burn time off.

- Jet lag. Depends on the person, but most people recover pretty quickly. One key is your flight, many cross ocean flights take that leg at night (as in leaving LA around 11:00 pm) so if you can self-medicate your way into sleeping you might be okay. Just fight thru the adrenaline dump that will try to put you to sleep the first day.

To me the deciding factor is #1, never pass up an opportunity since you never know when the next will come, despite best laid plans. Taiwan is a nice intro to Asia, good combination of another culture and relatively Western friendly/easy. Try the stinky tofu!

Good luck.
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Houston, Tx
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I would definately go if the company was paying for it. Otherwise, you are correct to wait until you have more time to stay there. I like to stay at least 3 weeks when I go. One will will be all air travel and jet lag. You'll barely remember the time you spend on the ground and not sleepy.
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:40 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Definitely go! Taiwan is a great country to visit. It's as modern and technological as Japan but as fun and inexpensive as Thailand. Coincidentally, it's halfway between the two!

Quote:
Originally Posted by quijote View Post
Hi All,
In November, over Thanksgiving break, I have an opportunity to go to Taiwan for a conference in Taipei, and I'm not sure I should do it. Not including time spent on airplanes (up to two full days each way), I would have just about 7 days of time on the island. I've never been to Asia and really would like to go, but there are some things in the way:

* I would prefer to stay in Asia longer (two weeks or more) and see another place in addition to Taiwan. This means trying to take a trip in January 2012 or some other time when I have such a stretch of time.
7 Days should be plenty of time to see Taipei and even make a day trip to Khaosung (via the high-speed rail) or an overnight trip to Kenting (highly recommended, but you'll need to hop a bus to get all the way down south).

Another overnight option is Hua-Lien which is 4-5 hours by train from Taipei. The climate in Hua-Lien is much like that of Hawaii.

Quote:
* I don't know, then, if I should just save my money ($1200+ for flight alone) for a longer trip (when I can combine more stops), or take this opportunity. If I'm lucky, my workplace will reimburse me for $400 of expenses, but I'll have to foot the rest of the bill myself.
Not going this time might turn into not going ever.

Quote:
* I'm not sure if jet lag will be so severe as to knock me out into sleep mode, thus turning my 7-day stay into a 5- or 6-day stay.
Can you sleep on the plane? Taipei is a true 24-hour city, so if you're up at night, just head to the night markets. If they close (around 2 AM), find a coffee shop or bar. Then hit the morning markets before you sack out at dawn.
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Old 02-03-2011, 03:00 PM
 
3,217 posts, read 8,464,342 times
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Just do it! Most people who wait until they have the money and time never end up pulling the trigger. You have an opportunity - take it!
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Old 02-03-2011, 03:54 PM
 
Location: Eureka CA
9,509 posts, read 12,561,577 times
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Go for it! And have a wonderful time.
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:45 PM
 
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
41,379 posts, read 52,714,570 times
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Spent a week in Taipei, several years ago. Interesting Asian area, but very very smoggy and notorious for frequent eathquakes. Our hotel insisted we carry an umbrella everytime we went out doors due to the heavy acid rain. We encountered a lot of begging poor people too.
The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and surrounding area of temples was quite interesting and worth a visit. Many antiquities to be seen, many thousands of years old.
Oh yes, watch out for the jillions of motorbikes around the city. They even drive on the sidewalks.
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:53 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nitram View Post
Spent a week in Taipei, several years ago. Interesting Asian area, but very very smoggy and notorious for frequent eathquakes. Our hotel insisted we carry an umbrella everytime we went out doors due to the heavy acid rain. We encountered a lot of begging poor people too.
Sounds like modern-day Beijing.

I've spent about a year in total in Taiwan since 2008 and I've never seen a beggar. Occasionally you'll see old, disabled, or destitute people selling gum outside subway stations and of course there are the little old ladies selling offerings and incense outside the temples.

It does rain a LOT in Taipei, and Thanksgiving is during the rainy season, but it's not acidic. Waterproof shoes wouldn't be the worst idea. You can buy a big collapsible umbrella when you get there. Keep it with you.

Most of the heavy industry has either been cleaned up or moved to China and Taiwan now mostly has high-tech industry; microchip manufacturing is very big. Over the past decade there has been a MAJOR push toward green technology and cleaning up in general. For instance, plastic bags cost 1 NTD so nobody uses them partly because of being frugal and partly for the benefit of the environment. The city government issues "bounties" for catching litterbugs on camera or on tape, so the streets are pretty spotless. Trash is incinerated and residents of Taipei pay by the bag, so EVERYONE recycles and composts. The family of four whom I stayed with threw away one plastic shopping bag's worth of garbage once every two weeks.

Quote:
The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and surrounding area of temples was quite interesting and worth a visit. Many antiquities to be seen, many thousands of years old.
Also be sure to visit Sun Yat-Sen Memorial hall. Go shopping at the huge SOGO complex. Eat street vendor food at Shilin Night Market (maybe not on a rainy day, though) near The Grand hotel (stay there if you can afford it, amazing views of the city from a regal Taiwanese hotel). Eat milk shaved ice with red bean and condensed milk. Mango or strawberry is great if it's in season. Amazing sea food, boba milk tea, sushi, duck, pork...

Go up to the observation deck of the world's 2nd tallest skyscraper (Taipei 101, you can't miss it. It looks like a stack of Chinese take-out boxes.) on a clear day. Try to figure out the city bus routes and ride one if you dare. Bus routes are in Mandarin but popular attractions are sometimes in English. Busses have automated systems which announce stops in English as well as Chinese. Ride the ultra-clean metro everywhere. Take the Maokong Gondola (it's part of the metro system no extra charge) up to the tea farms in the hills above Taipei and have dinner up there. Drink tea. Buy tea.

Taxis are clean, nice, and cheap if you get lost, and drivers are pretty savvy about figuring out where you want to go even if they don't speak English. Service is excellent (on par with Japan) and very professional, from 7-11 attendants to fancy dining waitstaff.

The High-Speed Rail Line is a great way to get around. The regular rail system is nice but slow. The roads are for advanced drivers only. If you don't have experience driving skillfully and aggressively in foreign countries, skip the car, bicycle, and especially moped! The countryside isn't too bad, but the cities are nightmarish. Even I don't like driving a car in Taipei, I'm nervous on a bike, and I won't drive a moped and don't like riding as the passenger except in the smaller cities. Long range busses are comfortable but a bit slow.

Quote:
Oh yes, watch out for the jillions of motorbikes around the city. They even drive on the sidewalks.
Look behind you before you open the cab door (even if it's toward the curb) so you don't wipe out a moped. They do ride everywhere.

English is taught to every high-schooler but most don't retain much. The Taiwanese are very polite and most are shy of foreigners. If you ask around enough, eventually you'll find someone to help you communicate if you're stuck. You may have some trouble communicating. Try to learn a few mandarin phrases. Xie Xie (pronounced shea shea) is "thank you". Say it a lot. (Dway Bu Chee-don't know how it's spelled) is "excuse me", and you may need this one if you're on the metro at rush hour and feel like being polite.

There is very much a mindset of doing things socially. Confucianism is at the root of the social order and it teaches subservience of self to the common good. Therefore you won't find much individualism. Even activities you would think of as traditionally individualistic (mountain climbing, cycling, surfing) are done as a group in designated areas. It's fine when you're a beginner, but it can take some of the fun out of, say, hiking, if you're advanced but you can't go anywhere but a carefully regulated and maintained trail full of other hikers. You probably won't run into problems with this, since you're there for just a few days.

You'll be there during Typhoon season, but Taipei is sheltered from the winds and drainage is good. Everything closes during a typhoon, though. Landslides are only a problem up in the mountains.

Major earthquakes are rare. Most minor ones happen near the center of the island and aren't felt in Taipei.
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Old 12-07-2011, 11:53 PM
 
Location: Metro Chicago
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Taiwan has been quoted as the 'best hidden gem in Asian travel', because of Modern day Taiwan's:
1. natual beauty - (every one must visit eastern Taiwan (Hua-lien and the amazing national park the Taroko Gorge. Taroko Gorge - Hualien - Reviews of Taroko Gorge - TripAdvisor
2. Easy travel - great MRT rapid transit takes you in minutes around the city of Taipei. High speed rail, around the island rail road and high ways, from Taipei to Hualien via train is maybe around 2-3 hours?
3. Taxi drivers are polite, well equipped with GPS and some top cab companies are listed in the city's Seven-Eleven in store kiosk systems, you can enter your location, request for a cab, in a few minutes a cab will appear in front of the store.
4. Taiwan has transformed into a high tech manufacturing country. The latest IMF statistics on GDP List of countries by past and future GDP (PPP) per capita - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia showed in 2011 Taiwan has a USD$37,932 vs. the USD$35,974 of United Kindom, USD$34,362 of Japan, and, USD$31,005 of Isreal.

Taipei has no garbage litterred on the street - due to the city under ground sewer system and the 'no garbage touch the ground' policy - the nightly garbage truck collects in set street corners and citizens carry their garbage and recycles to hand to the garbage crew. Not easy to find a garbage can (people keep their candy wrappers and banana peels in a bag and hold in the pockets/purses)

In terms of beggers - In my 6 trips to Taiwan of the past 2 years, I have seen none. Perhaps it was in some parts of China? There were many when my family and I visited China in 2006.
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Old 12-07-2011, 11:58 PM
 
Location: Metro Chicago
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Taipei and other major cities in Taiwan promote city-wide wifi. Airports, some MRT rapid transit stations provide internet and computer plug in desks.

Starbucks, Mr Brown's Coffee and other cafes also provide free Wifi. Majority of the citizens reads and writes English although shy to speak. Children start learning English in Kindergarten. Taiwan is on par with Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea as well developed economies in Asia.

Also, if you are interested in learning Mandarin and traditional Chinese, Taiwan is the place. People are friendly, educated, well travelled and pro-American in general.
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