Posts for traveling

Taipei Travel Guide

China - Ross French - May 7, 2020

Taiwan is divided into several major provinces. For most of the tourists, you will want to pick one of the following two places as your first destination: Taipei and Xinbei, which is commonly known as the northern part of Taiwan; or Kaohsiung and Tainan, which is known as the Southern part.

While many other options exist, you would want to stay within Taipei for their first trip to Taiwan. This is, therefore, a detailed guide showing your way around Taipei.

Traveling and Accommodations

After getting off the plane at Taoyuan Airport, you would have four options: Take the Taoyuan High-Speed Railway, the Taoyuan MRT, Airport bus or Taxi. You will most likely arrive at the Taipei MRT Station if you intend to take any of the public mass transport.

The Taxi is fairly priced – assuming that you are dropping off at Taipei Station, the taxi fare would roughly be 600NT. If you would like to get to your hotel directly, taxis are usually the way to go.

The High-Speed Rail is the fastest (probably even faster than taxi) but also the costliest out of the rest three. MRT and the bus take the same time, so it would depend on your preference. One thing’s for sure: There are so many English signs in the airport to guide your way. You are very unlikely to get lost.

Once you are in the city, you should primarily use the MRT (the local Metro system) to travel around. Most of the city’s attractions are easily accessible using the MRT, but note that the metro system is complex and is considered quite confusing for many first-time visitors, so be prepared to get lost a few times. You can keep on using Taxi or calling Uber, or hop on a bus to experience the city. Also, Taipei is a very walkable city, and you should be able to walk from places to places if you know your way around. It’s your choice!

One last thing: The rate of hotel rooms caters to all markets and rooms are available every time of the year. If you don’t know where to look, hotels near Ximending and Taipei Station, possibly Wanhua and Zhongxiao Dunhua districts are your safest bets.

Attractions

Many of the biggest and most important landmarks in Taiwan, such as the Taipei 101, National Palace Museum and The National Taiwan University are within the city.

Taipei 101 is the tallest building of Taiwan. It is 101 floors high—hence the name—and the top floors comprise two observation decks. This is one of the sleekest buildings of the city, and the best place to have a bird’s-eye view of the city. After you’ve enjoyed the view from above, you should also have a look at the lower floors—it is a mall with a huge food stall serving international food.

The National Palace Museum is not the same as the one in Beijing. They share the same Chinese name (Gu-Gong—literally translated as ‘the old palace’) and have a similar focus: Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks dated back to the Ming and Ching dynasty. While the scale of collection in Taipei is much smaller than the one in Beijing, this is still one of the biggest collections of Chinese artwork out of the world. If you are into art and Chinese culture, check it out.

Lastly, there is the National Taiwan University, which is known as NTU. NTU is the Harvard of Taiwan. While you may not enter campus’ building (Unless you have been invited by someone from the campus), you may take photos on the outskirts of this historical campus. CD shops, book stores and eateries are scattered around here, so even if you are not going inside the campus, there’s no harm in walking around.

Shopping

When compared with other parts of Taiwan, Taipei is well known for being a shopper’s Heaven. SOGO, atre, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi are just some upscale big malls in The Shinyi commercial circle. In there, you should be able to find all the international big brands you know and love.

Taipei is also known for its underground shopping malls. The Taipei Underground Shopping Mall hosts shops that sell tourist goods and souvenirs. It is also famous for selling Japanese Comics, novels, video games and related goods.

One place you should definitely visit would be Ximending, which is a pedestrian walkway a-la ‘night market’. While the business here usually starts in the afternoon, in the evening, Ximending kicks into another gear. You will most likely find people queuing for bubble tea and restaurants, while the shops sell an array of souvenirs and clothing items. Wallets, bags, accessories, clothes, Taiwanese snacks, and many traditionally related goods that can furnish your rooms, can easily be found here.

As for your souvenir wish list, Food is usually your safest bet. Pineapple Cakes, Tea leafs, ‘pork papers’ (pork jerkies which are thin as a piece of paper—this is super crunchy) are some most sought after items that will satisfy even your pickiest friends.

One thing you might not have expected would be books—Taiwan has quite the literature scene. If you know a friend who can read Chinese, why not buy him a book of Yang Mu, one of the greatest modern poets in Taiwan?

With so much to buy and enjoy in Taipei, why not book your tickets now? Fly to Taipei now with Cathay Pacific.

Food

Even without mentioning, you should have heard about bubble tea by now, which is a variant of milk tea with tapioca balls added on, served cold. You will see people drinking this popular drink once you’ve touched down, as bubble tea shops can be found literally everywhere—including the Taoyuan airport.

Besides bubble tea, you would most likely want to taste some local snacks and food. Some of the stuffs you should definitely try include:

1. Xiaolongbao/Meat dumplings

The term literally translated as ‘small cage buns’. It is, however, not a bun, but meat dumplings with soups inside, wrapped in a very thin layer of skin that’s almost translucent. This item does not originate from Taiwan, but it is very popular there.

2. Beef Noodles

While the Beef served with the noodles is nice, what makes a bowl of beef noodles shines is the soup, which could have taken over 24 hours to prepare. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for 24 hours for your bowl, as Beef Noodles can be found in most of the places in Taiwan.

3. Oyster vermicelli

While the name might trick you into thinking this is a noodle dish, this is more like a soup or a snack. Small pebbles of oysters and vermicelli are the main ingredients. Pig intestines are often added. If you think this is some odd Asian flavor, wait until you taste the Umami flavor on the soup, which is usually based on fish stocks or bonito flakes. You will be pleasantly surprised.

4. Fried Chicken cutlet

We are not referring to the American style Wings or the Korean style chicken nuggets, or any of the stuff you have in KFC. Taiwanese like their chicken cutlet fried and sprinkled with spiced salt, sometimes with paprika. It is spicy, crispy and juicy. In short: It’s finger licking good.

You can find many of the food listed here in any of the ‘night markets’ in Taipei. Shilin night market, Shi-Da Night Market and Raohe Street Night Market are some places where you can start looking.

In Conclusion

There is really nothing stopping you from visiting Taiwan. So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets to Taipei now.

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Three Extra Ways to Improve Yourself While Doing a Year or More of Traveling

Travel Tips - Ross French - November 2, 2016

 

Travel broadens the mind, and can teach you a huge amount of things about people, the world, and yourself that will stay with you for the rest of your life. If you are planning to take a year or more away from home to go and live in another country or travel the world, then you are sure to come back with countless new skills and a wealth of useful experiences that will help you in your career and your social life. This is just a natural side effect of getting out of your comfort zone and interacting with new people and places. However, if you want to make your time traveling even more transformative, you could also set yourself some personal goals for self improvement to work on while you are away. Here are a few ideas:

Study for an Online Degree

A great way to use your time traveling, if you will be in places where you can access the internet, is to start studying for an online degree. You can do all kinds of courses online these days, so whether you want to start a vocational degree, study business, or get a postgrad degree like an MSN administration degree, you can study wherever you are and come back from your travels closer to an important qualification. Travel tends to involve some exciting and busy times, but also quite a lot of ‘dead time’ while you are traveling between locations, or where you don’t have your usual sources of entertainment and social interaction. Studying something like online RN to MSN programs can help you use all of that time productively.

Get Fit!

Some people get out of shape while traveling, thanks to all the interesting foreign foods and time spent in hotel rooms. You don’t have to be one of them, and by setting the goal to come back in better shape, you can actually make more of your trip. Walking, running, swimming or cycling are all good ways to see more of the places you visit, and of course, depending on where you go, there may be other opportunities to do active things like watersports. Many hotels have gyms or pools, and if you are staying in more long term accommodation, joining a local gym can be a good way to meet people, too.

Learn a Language

Whether you are traveling to places that speak English, like the UK, Australia or New Zealand, to a place where another language is spoken, or to a variety of places where all different languages are used, traveling can be a good time to start to learn another language even if you don’t need it for your trip. With online tools and mobile apps like Duolingo, you can study a language in your downtime for free, and if you happen to be somewhere where you can use it, watch TV in it, and really immerse yourself in it, you’ll get great results really quickly.

These are just three things you could commit to doing to make your traveling period an even more life changing experience.

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Why Not Learn to Fly when Traveling to Britain?

Europe, Travel Blog - Ross French - October 30, 2016

Flying lessons UK” is an increasingly common term that when entered into any search engine reveals a wealth of flying opportunities that exist throughout the whole of Britain. It’s not surprising given the country’s great history of taking to the skies, yet many people who love the idea of learning to fly never realise that there are so many opportunities available.

Many British based private flying companies based in airfields and small independent airports all over Britain offer a wide choice of flying experiences. These can range from a simple half hour ride in a small private plane where you get to take control of the plane in mid air under the watchful eye of a flying instructor to professional tuition over a lengthy period, leading to a pilot’s licence.

Flying an aeroplane isn’t the only opportunity you can take advantage of. You can also learn to fly a glider or a microlight aircraft. Alternatively, can also learn to parachute and skydive, too. Tandem skydiving is an especially popular activity. You dive out of the plane while securely strapped to a professional skydiver. All that you have to do is enjoy the ride, or fall to be more exact, and experience the exhilaration of freefall for a whole minute before the parachute opens and you descend gracefully and safely to earth.

There’s no shortage of airfields where you can find a range of recreational flying activities being offered to the public. While you can usually find an airfield hosting amateur flying lessons close to where you live, keep in mind that the scenery is an important part of the flying experience. That may involve a bit more travel, so why not consider a weekend trip where you can devote two or three days to learning your new aviation skills over interesting scenery?

For example, if you want to enjoy flying over the green rolling fields and farmland of Wiltshire, Old Sarum Airfield, a former military pilot training centre during the first world war, is a particularly popular location. It now proudly plays host to a wide range of recreational flying opportunities. Strathaven Airfield in west central Scotland is another popular location that hosting a range of recreational aviation activities that can involve flying over moorland, the west coast of Ayrshire or over towns dotted along the Firth of Clyde, while further north, there are recreational flying opportunities available at Inverness Airport, where a flight takes you over the magnificent scenery of Loch Ness and the tallest mountains in Britain.

Wherever you choose to take flying lessons, rest assured that safety is given the utmost importance and all recreational aviation activities are fully in compliance with the Civil Aviation Authority’s strict requirements.

Even if flying is not your thing, you almost certainly know several people who would love the idea of having a flying experience with professional guidance That’s why flying lesson gift vouchers have become so popular. You can pre-book a flying, parachuting or skydiving experience for someone else. It could be as simple as a short afternoon plane ride, or it could be a full course of lessons leading to a professional aviation qualification.

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Traveling by Home Exchange

Travel Tips - Ross French - March 20, 2011

family_home_exchange The Home Exchange Family

Milan from Travel By Home Exchange and her family of six have saved over $14,000 vacationing by home exchange over the last 5 years. I found this really interesting and asked her to guest post on what a home exchange was and how it works. You can follow Milan on twitter at @HomeExchangeMom for tips on how to find house swaps.

family_home_exchange

The Home Exchange Family

Traveling by Home Exchange

There are many ways to travel, hotel, cruise, safari, RV, and hostels to name a few. One method of travel you may not have heard of is house swapping.  A house swap is where you and your family stay at someone else’s home, while that family stays at your home. Exchanging homes is a great way to save money while traveling, or extend your travel experiences by using your travel budget on other things like airfare or activities.

Benefits of Traveling By Home Exchange

No Accommodation Expenses – Obviously this is the largest benefit. Trading homes means you have no hotel or hostel expenses, which can save you thousands a week.

Larger Accommodations – If you are used to staying in hotels or hostels, having an entire house or apartment can seem almost decadent. I can tell you from our experiences we almost hate to travel any other way now. Traveling with a family and having your own bedrooms for adults and children can really impact your vacation, in a good way.

Cooking Your Own Meals – When you are staying in someone’s home you have access to a full kitchen so you can shop for your own groceries and avoid eating out. While it’s nice to sample the local cuisine, it can get expensive so having the ability to buy local produce and prepare your own meals can extend your travel budget, and even help your digestion.

Disadvantages to House Swaps

Privacy – Always one of the biggest fears of exchanging homes, you do have to come to grips with the fact that virtual strangers are staying in your home and have access to your private areas. You can take measures to store your valuables, but they will be using your daily items like sleeping in your bed and using your shower. Frankly I don’t think this is any worse than staying in a hotel where thousands of strangers have slept in the bed. It’s just a mental block you need to get over in order to enjoy your vacation.

Taking Care of The Home You are Visiting – Almost as nerve wracking, is making sure you don’t harm the home you are staying in, especially if you have children. When you stay in a hotel you can disassociate the experience because the room doesn’t belong to a ‘real person,’ but when you are staying at someone’s home you are always on guard to make sure you are careful. While most of us are careful no matter where we are, spilling a drink on a hotel room rug is a different experience from spilling it on a family heirloom rug that means something to someone.

If you are open to the experience, weighing the pros and cons of exchanging homes can open up a whole new world of travel. One of the best parts of house swaps is being able to really live like locals by having a connection to the community through your exchange partners. You’ll be living right in the community with access and information about restaurants and activities that residents love.

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