I’m not sure how to talk about Taiwan as a vacation destination. On one hand, it features everything I dread, from stifling heat to pollution to crowds. On the other hand, it has many wonderful and fun things that dazzled me, a newbie to Asia. Make no mistake about it, the major cities in Taiwan are NOT cheap. I was fortunate to stay with friends, but let me just say that in Taipei a glass of orange juice was 100 NT (approx. $5 CDN). But I have many fond memories of Taiwan. The bulk of my time was spent in Kaohsiung, in the South part of the country. My trip (and culture-shock) were cushioned by my friends, who hosted me from the time I got off the plane until I boarded a bus to the airport, so I cannot address what the city is like for a solo traveler.
Kaohsiung is noisy and bright and full of 7-11s. Garbage trucks pass by about four times a day, loudly broadcasting music to let people know to bring down their garbage. Other trucks also blare out ads as they drive by, and things are brightly lit (sidewalk squares, bridges, etc.). I went for a daily walk along the river (translated as the Love River, I believe). The walk, though by far the most nature-based part of my day, was at times harrowing. The river trail was interrupted by busy streets, scooters, and stray dogs. Walking along the sidewalks was a bit of a challenge as well, as they are uneven and often filled with scooters. Highlights of the city include Monkey Mountain, a large hill in town that has a great hike to the summit and some fresh-smelling air. Along the way, you will see many macaques and birds, and much to my joy, on this mountain I had my first experience of hearing bamboo creak. It was very amusing to see the very young and very old pass us on the way up the hill. The Spice Shop has terrific Indian food (3500 NT), and I got bubble tea many times. I tried many new-to-me tropical fruits (dragon fruit is my favourite!) and watched movies at MTVs (little movie-rooms).