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[personal profile] dangermousie
Mr Mousie and I are going on vacation the last week of August (his amazing parents will be caring for Baby Mousie).

One of our two finalists for the place we are likely to go to is Taiwan (the other is Scotland, but as I've been there before, I don't have questions on that one).

First - weather. Guidebooks tell me it's fine but I want to confirm (we plan to go to Taipei and do some side trips but we are not planning to go to outer islands). Also, are typhoons are big risk at that time of year?

Also, how easy is it to get around when you have no Chinese (both of us are very self-sufficient and good with maps - Mr Mousie is a map genius - so we won't need to ask things on a regular basis but occasionally it might be good).

Oh, and finally - what are the cool things to do and see? And stay at?

So excited. We considered Korea but the books said the weather is awful.

Date: 2012-06-22 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sanaenam.livejournal.com
Weather in Korea in late August is god awful. Humid as f***. But wouldn't Taiwan be the same?

Date: 2012-06-22 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fivil.livejournal.com
I'd assume so - when I left Korea last year in late June to visit Taiwan, Taiwan was more of the same, only hotter because obviously it's more to the south. Tropic for sure, but maybe Mousie's cool with that? I think most travel guides recommend visiting Taiwan in spring/autumn... A local who worked at the hostel I stayed at said her favourite time was November. when you could go to the hotsprings. /shrugs

Date: 2012-06-22 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
I checked and it says average high is 90 which I can deal with (I live somewhere where this is daily weather in the summer). I just don't want constant rain and it seemed like in Korea in August you might as well build an Ark.

Date: 2012-06-24 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sanaenam.livejournal.com
Ah, the monsoon season. Just make sure that the monsoon doesn't affect Taiwan.

Date: 2012-06-22 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ockoala.livejournal.com
Hahaha, you're going to Taiwan in August? Because you've been told the weather in Korea is dreadful? Oh Mousie, Taiwan is even WORSE. I'm going back in August and everyone from my parents to my friends are LOLing at me. But I have no choice, work is less crazy that month plus the kids have vacay. The best months to visit Taiwan are late Fall and early Spring. Otherwise be prepared for humidity to melt your insides. Oh you were visiting the middle 2 weeks of August, I'd be happy to show you around myself.

For a week, spend 4 days in Taipei, and 3 days on various side trips to places a hour away. Maybe a nice outdoor natural hot springs or the mountains. There are no outer islands in Taiwan, I'm assuming you're not planning to head anywhere South of Taipei (like Kiaoshung or Taichung?). There are lots to do, and all the guidebooks are great. For me its going on, so I don't do jack except eat and eat some more and visit relatives and go to one ancestor tomb to another. Fun. Do get your hair washed and styled though. So cheap and OMG the head wash/massage technique is amazing. People have been known to purr in contentment. Since its adults, be prepared to walk around and take the MRT (mass transit). Cab drivers almost never ever speak English, so have where you want to go written in Chinese for you by the hotel, and you can hand it to the taxi driver when you get on.

Email me if you want some more info. It's a beautiful island, and hot or not, I recommend it over Scotland. Scotland is fun and great, but I've been there twice and kinda feel like been there/done that. Though maybe consider Ireland?

Date: 2012-06-22 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Thank you, that was beyond helpful!

I spemy a decent chunk of time in Scotland but Mr has only been there a day, plus I was there on December, but yes, Taiwan sounds infinitely more exciting (we went to Ireland a couple of years ago, so that's out).

I live in a hot and humid place myself so I need to research the temperatures in more detail - if it's under 90, no matter the humidity, I will be OK (Mr Mousie can cope with 120 or similar but I am too weak). I would normally prefer to travel in the fall, but last week of Auguat is when Munchkin's school is closed and we feel bad asking our folks to mind her an extra time.

We are more mass transit than taxi anyway ;)

Your proposed itinerary sounds heavenly. If we do go to Taiwan, this is what we will do!

(I kept lobbying for Japan, actually, but Mr Mousie said that if he is going to suffer massive jet lag and pay insane ticket prices, he'd rather we went somewhere we haven't been to before, and he is very interested in Taiwan).

I will totally PM you for tips if we decide to go!
Edited Date: 2012-06-22 05:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-22 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fivil.livejournal.com
I do recommend researching the cuisine a bit. I didn't know what I was eating 80% of the time .. not that it was anything sketchy, just things I didn't really know, like I didn't know whether the noodles and soup I was having were very local or just something generally had for lunch. I regret that because when I'm going to a place I would like to eat something that's local, something you wouldn't be able to eat elsewhere. I'd also learn basic Chinese phrases .. I only knew "I love you" (not very useful....) and "thank you", and I probably mispronounced the latter, haha.

I think even young people struggled with English at times, but what they lack in English skills they make up in helpfulness, for sure. I was trying to find a CD shop, asked a couple around my age (25-29) and they were a bit like "uhh we don't know.." but then after I thanked them and walked off, they ran after me and directed me to another CD shop that also sold DVD's.

Transport is fine, metro is easy to navigate. As for sights, I recommend the temples and the markets - so standard but also just really cool. And milk tea! I really miss Taiwanese milk tea, it was so tasty. Fruit is also great there, because obviously it's local and super-sweet, I died a pleasant death eating Taiwanese pineapple. Yummy.

I also recommend Ximending for shopping: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ximending
Edited Date: 2012-06-22 04:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-22 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Thanks, this is super-helpful!

And it's a great advice about food - I love local endemic stuff.

Date: 2012-06-22 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clairiere.livejournal.com
As an FYI (not exactly on the mark but I'm closer to Taipei than you are at the moment), the weather in Seoul was 30-32C (90F) this week. And looks like Taipei was more of the same, though humidity would make a difference. (It's 80% here, probably worse in Taipei.) Granted, it's hotter than usual this year (June isn't this bad, plus mornings are quite bearable, averaging 22C), but it's certainly a preview of August. My summer wardrobe from London not equipped to deal with this (wearing jeans right now and feeling very weighed down).

Date: 2012-06-22 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Meeeeeep that sounds horrid. Perhaps it's going to be Scotland, after all.

Date: 2012-06-23 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] christysg.livejournal.com
Oh, I LOVE Taiwan.

My first trip was in summer too beginning of August, when I got out of the airport it was 40ºC, but I had the best time of my life there! (I'm from Singapore so 40ºC is CRAZY even for me, we are usually 32º throughout)

The street food is excellent at the night markets. The largest one that is super touristy is Shi Lin night market, but I love the Shi Da night market where it's near a university and smaller. Just start and nibble through. And also do check out Jiu Fen, the skies are perfect and beautiful in the summer. At Yong Kang Street there is this Taiwanese dim dum place called Ding Tai Feng which is swamped with Japanese tourists because it was the first shop, but I'm sure you can find it elsewhere in Taipei, like at the 101 tower. It's great for Xiao Long Bao if you haven't tried it. And if you walk into Yong Kang St (which is actually a small housing estate), you can find this ice stall that sells crazy tall ice shaving bowls. Walk even further in and there is an awesome beef noodle place.

The Taiwanese are sweet and friendly people, and there's no crime problem so please don't walk around with a stupid ugly fanny pouch :P Wear shorts and tank tops and just bask in the suana-ish heat, hahaha. You'll love Taiwan :D

Date: 2012-06-25 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
I think we might go in the spring instead (we always go somewhere in the beginning of April) - everyone is scaring us about the weather.

Thank you for the tips!

(Btw, I went to Singapore a few years ago and adored it. I'd love to go back!)

LOL, I don't even own fanny pouches - interferes with style :)

Date: 2012-06-23 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fishncake.livejournal.com
I actually suggested going to Taipei this August and my mum was like big NO because it was super duper hot and humid (my uncle is living in Taiwan).

Date: 2012-06-25 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Yeah, that is the consensus I am getting - I think we will go in the spring.

Date: 2012-06-23 02:21 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Summer is typhoon season in Taiwan, one just hit the south of Taiwan on Wednesday and another earlier missed Taiwan and went to Japan. ( I'm American but my parents are originally from Taiwan so I do speak mandarin though, and I'm currently living here for the next three months for mandarin studies). Generally, the younger generation will at least know some english because english studies are mandatory in school though...

Getting around:
all of the Taipei MRT rattles off locations in english, mandarin, Taiyu and Hakka. Kaiosheung has two lines on the MRT and everywhere else has none. The further into the country areas you get, the less you'll probably encounter someone who speaks english, but in the cities, usually there's at least someone who does.
City buses, location placards are in mandarin usually, but the main locations, MRT stations and schools and stuff may be in english and a lot of the big city buses will usually state the location in both english and mandarin on the bus. Note: you'll have to wave down the busses, as they'll usually miss if you don't wave them down.

As for weather wise:
I think they actually cancelled a handful of flights because of typhoons hitting recently.
weather wise in Taipei it's usually either very hot and humid or rainy. I'm not familiar with typhoons as I'm from CA, but Taiwan usually gets around 4-6 that hit every summer, though not all will actually necessarily affect Taiwan.
So far, other than heavy rain( parts of the south recently flooded actually because of torrential rains brought on from tropical storms and typhoons passing bye.) Two have hit so far.. one bypassed and went to Japan and another recently hit Wednesday and mostly affected the south.

taipei 101- it's actually basically a giant mall with the ball at the top. You pay separate to view the ball. There's also a 24 hour eslite bookstore which may be good for getting guides and stuff like that in the city if you need it.. It's also just an amazing bookstore in general to visit... ( how to get there: Easiest way is of course the MRT. Take the blue line to the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. Take either exit 5 or 6, and head south along Dunhua South Road towards the big roundabout.)
Miramar- also a mall in da zhi on the wenhu line
taipei zoo
taipei main station is kind of just cool to get lost in. It's the main station for the high speed rail, trains, and also a subway station.. and since it's the main hub there's a huge network of underground malls surrounding it that go on for miles. I know I've gotten lost in taipei main a couple times.
Kenting.. not in taipei and may be a bit out of the way, but in order to get there.. take the high speed rail from Taipei main to Kaiosheung zuoying station and transfer by bus to Kenting. It's about 4-6 hours if I remember correctly( it takes 2 hours to get from Taipei to Kaiosheung on the high speed rail) and the bus is another 2-3 hours or so. don't quote me on that.. I'm relying on what my relatives in Kaiosheung told me as I haven't actually been there yet.
You may also want to see if you can rent a scooter, as the only places that have MRT access are Kaiosheung and Taipei. Most of Taipei is connected through bus or rail.
Gu gong( Taiwan National Palace Museum)
There's also a number of night markets pretty much everywhere. The most famous probably being Shilin, and shida. There's also a tourist market but I've never actually been to that one...
danshui- harbor, fisherman's wharf type deal....
There's also snake alley(never been but it's in the Huaxi night market) and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like... cooked snakes, snake vemon, snake blood... which are believed to have health properties. It's not frequented by most Taiwanese, but occasionally people from outside visit because of the shock value.
there's a bike trail that runs through all of taipei and bikes are fairly cheap to rent. I rented one once in danshui for 105 taiwan dollars/3-4 dollars american.. and that was for close to 6 hours. If you do rent a bike, not all subway stations allow bike access.. it'll state on the subway maps which one do and will also state so in the subway announcements when you're on the subway.

Date: 2012-06-25 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Thank you, that was super super super helpful!!!!

Date: 2012-06-23 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] uisceros.livejournal.com
Speaking from my experience of being in Taiwan during August, OMG IT'S AWFUL. That is typhoon season, so it will be raining quite a bit (not that it doesn't rain quite a bit most of the time). Taipei is pretty easy for typhoons though - the places usually hit the worst are the mountains in the central part of the island. The temperature is in the high 80's / low 90's, but the humidity is the killer. It's like walking underwater. Since Taipei is the furthest north, it's the coolest - Kaohsiung is much warmer.

As for getting around, Taipei is okay if you don't know Chinese. Anywhere else is a ton more difficult. Like, a ton. As for places to stay, Taiwan is ridiculously cheap. Even really nice hotel rooms are much less money than you'd pay anywhere else. There's always the amazing Grand Hotel!

Date: 2012-06-25 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Eeek, heat is not a dealbreaker but rain is. I think we'll go in the spring instead. *meep* Scotland it is, I think.


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