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Published: April 2nd 2015
China gets a lot of heat in the news these days. If it's not blinding pollution levels in Beijing, it's the protesting in Hong Kong, or the website filtering throughout the mainland. And then there's of course the whole “these islands are ours, not yours” debacle. Whew! So, on that note, what is in fact part of China and NOT part of China? This short-lived conversation with my coworker will help us get started:
“Are you staying in China for the holiday?” My coworker asks. “Actually, I'm headed to Taiwan!” I reply. “Taiwan IS
China,” she squawks back. Not wanting to argue I say, “Right, then umm, I guess I'm staying in China!” The contestants:
• The ongoing debate of the autonomous region of Tibet
• The slightly confusing Hong Kong
debacle with the “one country, two systems” structure. HK's official name is actually Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. How about this for a Twitter update: Hey all! I'm flying to HKSARPRC today!
AKA The Republic of China (ROC), not to be confused with The People's Republic of China (PRC).
Got it yet?
Yeah, me neither.
Of course there's logic, law, and history behind the above mentioned, but coming from someone who has lived in mainland China and been to said other places, I'm here to tell you they are all VERY different and (at least to me) are each individual countries of their own.
Taiwan is everything you love about China minus the bad. That really is the best way to describe it. You have the Chinese historical presence, minus the suppressed ignorant behavior. There's the delectable Chinese bites, minus the concern of health code violations. You have exuberant landscapes, minus the high levels of air pollution. Again, good China minus bad China.
The city of Taipei boasts a clean bustling metropolitan area with spot-on public transport and lush hillsides framing this coastal city. People are courteous, polite, reserved, well-mannered, and just all-around pleasant to be around. Maybe I was used to the chaos of Mainland China, but Taipei was like a breath of fresh air to me (literally and figuratively).
Never in my existence did I think I would ever dethrone Bangkok from its "Best Street Food” title, but Taipei has wowed and wooed me.
Taipei has made me a lifelong fan of delectables such as: Coffin Bread
: Toast hollowed out and filled with porridge concoctions. Catch-your-own Barbecued Shrimp
: A game where customers fish their own live shrimp out of tanks and then have them BBQ'd fresh! Avocado Milkshakes
: Don't dog it 'til you try it! Weird Doughy Flaky Peanut Pastry Thingy
: My apologies for not knowing the actual name, but I may be on to something here...
Other bites included deep fried Oreos, loaded baked potatoes, all kinds of seafood, Chinese donuts, and even penis-shaped cakes?
Speaking of phallic objects, Taipei 101 is located in the business district and stacks (you guessed it) 101 floors with a viewing deck up top. The 360-degree view boasts an eclectic landscape of city, mountains, and sea which makes the 100 flights of stairs well worth the trek... Or you could just grab the elevator (you should see your face right now). So, it also happened to be New Year's Eve while I was there and I joined the herds flooding the streets surrounding the tower to see the spectacle of fireworks they shot out the sides of the building
at midnight. Brilliant! My favorite moment in Taipei:
I hopped the subway for a day trip out to the famous Beitou
Hot Springs which sits on the outskirts of the city at the base of the mountains. There's a viewing platform overlooking a large natural pool that is (at times) barely visible through the thick steam clouds emanating off the water. Lush foliage encased the area. An elderly woman was leaning on the guardrail and gazing solemnly at the springs; her hair dense and grey like the billowing steam around her. Her stillness was so peaceful and created this scene of hypnotizing gloom...
In conclusion: Who cares if Taiwan is China or not? You won't have time to care while you're stuffing you face with all the street FOOD! You'll eat one of everything at the night markets, get your fix of Chinese
dumplings, have some Japanese sake... and maybe eat a pecker pastry? And then on your last day, you'll tackle Taipei 101's monstrous stairs to keep that physique in tip-top shape! Side bar: For those fitness nuts and crazy people out there reading; you can't actually take the
stairs to the top of Taipei 101. Sorry, you'll have to take the lift with the rest of us lazy sane folks. Side bar 2: US passport holders can enter Taiwan without a prearranged visa, but if going to mainland China you will need to apply for a visa before traveling. For more tips on China check out: Moving to China? Cool, let me share a couple things with you.
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