One Week In Taiwan

December 27, 2011 at 8:26 am (Taipei)

The past week has truly been a whirlwind. My mom and I landed in Taipei Tuesday night at 10:45 after traveling for almost 20 hours. Ling Jen and Jin Long, the sister and brother-in-law of a friend of mine who lives in Philly, met my mother and I at the airport to take us to our hotel. The hotel room was rather small but nice and had free wifi and a buffet breakfast, all for a decent price. Despite our exhaustion both of us were up around another two hours, sending emails, talking to people, and in her case trying to finish something for work. Maybe it was jet lag that wouldn’t let me sleep? Or maybe the fact that I slept through both flights?

The next day was a busy one. My mom and I spent part of the morning trying to find a cell phone, with no luck. At 1:30 I had my placement exam for ICLP, my study abroad program. It was BRUTAL. It was 2 hours long, but I actually didn’t finish the test. The test had gotten impossibly hard, to the point where I couldn’t understand any of the sentences and I was randomly filling in bubbles. I figured there was no point in prolonging the test (and my headache) so I just left the last two sections blank. After the test my mom and I successfully found our way on the MRT to not only buy a phone, but to visit two apartments as well. Without a doubt, the most important task of the week was finding an apartment. With only a few days until my mom left (her flight back to the U.S. was Saturday morning) we had no time to lose. We actually only visited four apartments before I made my choice. It’s a cute room that’s only one metro stop and a little walk away from the school (I’m studying at National Taiwan University). I’m still in the midst of moving in, but I like it. The only problem is trying to find space for everything, since the room is small and I’m not a light packer.

The past few days after my mom left have been kind of hard, as I lack many things to do until school starts on January 2 (unless you count the paper based off my summer research due in May, which I do not feel like working on). If I had friends here it wouldn’t be a problem, but as I know so few people I’ve found myself bored a lot. It was also weird not being at home for Christmas. Christmas in Taiwan is pretty much like any other day, it’s just business as usual for most people here. I have a “do-it-yourself” Christmas tree that you assemble and add water to and it “grows”. It was supposed to take 6 hours to grow, but actually it ended up taking closer to a day. Other than the 10 minutes it took to set that up I really didn’t do much else Christmas related, that is until the evening. An international church about 5 minutes from where I live was having a service and Christmas party from 5:30-10:30 that night, which was perfect for me. I felt right at home during the service, as it was reminiscent of church services I’ve attended since coming to college. People were really friendly, I got a lot of free food, and overall had a great night. We ended the night watching Elf with Chinese subtitles (the translations for some things were hilarious, Buddy became 巴第).

My Christmas tree!

Thoughts about Taipei:

I’m actually very surprised by the city. As odd as it sounds, I’ve never taken the time to look at pictures of Taipei, except for Taipei 101. I was expecting it to be a city similar to the likes of Tokyo or Shanghai, but it most certainly is not. As far as I can tell, there are only two real skyscrapers, Taipei 101 and XinGuang SanYue Building. The buildings in general are much older than I expected. It’s strange, how much Taiwan is and isn’t like China. I suppose it’s like a “milder” version of China, culturally speaking. People are culturally Chinese, but they are definitely more westernized than those from the mainland.

Something else that sticks out in my mind is the amount of construction in Taipei, like many other major Chinese cities. But it seems that unlike major Chinese cities less construction is focused on shiny new skyscrapers. A lot of the construction is going towards underground tunnels and things of that nature. In fact, in many ways Taipei city is very unassuming. With the exception of Taipei 101 the city itself does not stand out in my mind the same way Washington D.C., or New York, or Shanghai does.  As my mother said, with a few minor details this city could be anywhere. What does stand out to me is the level of friendliness here. I’ve heard much about Taiwanese people’s kindness in the U.S. and I have to admit it has proven true. People I barely know have gone out of their way to help me or give me things, for which I can’t be grateful enough.

Earlier today, I spent a few hours at and around Taipei 101. The area around Taipei 101 is dominated by business and government buildings, as well as upscale malls. It sort of reminds me of the Wall Street area of New York, there’s even an Occupy Taipei on the bridge connecting the Taipei 101 mall with a mall across the street. Pictures of this tower are deceptive, it is absolutely massive when you are standing in front of it. I’m not sure what was more amazing, looking at the building or looking down from it. The only part of the experience I did not like was the elevator. Yes, it’s impressive, it rises almost 90 floors in 30 seconds, but it almost gave me a headache. Going down was actually worse than going up, the pressure build up in my head was uncomfortable to the point of almost being painful. I don’t know how the woman who’s job it is to operate the elevator can handle being there all day, 30 seconds was more than enough for me.

Occupy Taipei

Occupy Taipei

At any rate, I can definitely say that I’ve enjoyed the past week. It feels weird to think that I have only been here a week; in many ways it feels like I have been here for much longer. I suppose that means I’ve settled in and adjusted already.

I’ll try to update this blog again at the end of this weekend, before school starts next week!



  1. Andrew said,

    I’m so glad that you’ve settled in well; I hope that in the next few weeks you’ll find that you have plenty to do and see (and eat)! I’m really looking forward to all the stories and photos you’ll post in this blog. (Nice blog layout, by the way- very pretty.)

    Occupy Taipei- hah! Excellent. You make me miss it already…

  2. Taylor said,

    TIme for another update =] hope all is well

  3. Tiffany B said,

    Thanks Andrew!
    And Taylor – Friday 🙂

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