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> Taiwan - Starter Kit, Introduction to the little jewel of Asia
athena
post Jan 11 2010, 11:25 PM
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OVERVIEW:
Taiwan (Chinese: 台灣), also known as (Ilha) Formosa (from Portuguese): meaning "beautiful (island)", is the largest island of the Republic of China (ROC) in East Asia. Taiwan is located east of the Taiwan Strait, off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Taiwan was a Portuguese discovery and then a Dutch and Spanish colony. It was ruled by the Ming dynasty and then the Qing dynasty, who fought off French invaders. In 1895 Taiwan was handed over to Japan and a 50 year rule ensued. Since the end of World War II in 1945, the island group has been under the government of the Republic of China. Four years later the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China and retreated to Taiwan. Taiwan now composes most of ROC's territory and the ROC itself is commonly known as "Taiwan". The political status of Taiwan is complex because it is claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) which was established in 1949 on mainland China and considers itself the successor state to the ROC. Japan had originally annexed Taiwan from the Qing Empire in 1895. At the end of World War II, Japan agreed to give up sovereignty over Taiwan to the Republic of China.

POPULATION:
23,071,779 (July 2011 est.)

CAPITAL CITY:
Taipei City

LANGUAGES:
Standard Mandarin (officially recognized by the ROC as the National Language) and Taiwanese Hokkien (commonly known as 'Taiwanese'). The Hakka, about 15% of the population, have a distinct Hakka dialect. Aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, although most also speak Mandarin. English is a common second language, with some large private schools providing English instruction. English is compulsory in students' curriculum once they enter elementary school. English as a school subject is also featured on Taiwan's education exams.

CURRENCY:
New Taiwan Dollar (TWD or NT$)

RELIGION:
Over 93% of Taiwanese are believers of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are believers of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and other, non-denominational, Christian groups; and 2.5% are believers of other religions, such as Islam. It's not uncommon to see a Buddhist temple on the same street as a Christian church.

ELEVATION:
The island is characterized by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, consisting mostly of rugged mountains running in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan's population. Taiwan's highest point is Yu Shan (at 3,952 meters) and there are five other peaks over 3,500 meters. This makes it the world's fourth-highest island.

GEOLOGY:
The island of Taiwan lies in a complex tectonic area between the Yangtze Plate to the west and north, the Okinawa Plate on the north-east, and the Philippine Mobile Belt on the east and south. The major seismic faults in Taiwan correspond to the various suture zones between the various terrain. These have produced major quakes throughout the history of the island. On September 21, 1999, a 7.3 quake known as the "921 earthquake" occurred. The seismic hazard map for Taiwan by the USGS shows 9/10 of the island as the highest rating (most hazardous).

CLIMATE:
Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The northern part of the island has a rainy season that lasts from January through late March during the northeast monsoon, and experiences another rainy season in May. The entire island experiences hot, humid weather from June through September. The middle and southern parts of the island do not have an extended monsoon season during the winter months. Natural hazards such as typhoons and earthquakes are common in the region.

BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Taiwan enjoys warm weather all year round. The strongest fluctuations in weather conditions are during spring and winter, while during summer and autumn the weather is relatively stable. Taiwan is extremely suitable for traveling, as the annual average temperature is a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius with lowest temperatures ranging from 12 to 17 degrees Celsius (54-63 Fahrenheit).
There is constant drizzling rain in the spring months of March to May. It's typhoon season during the summer months of June to August. Always keep an eye on the weather reports during these months as you will not want to be caught near the coast during a typhoon. Things cool down a bit during the months of September and October and a short and relatively warm winter follows in the months of November to February.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2012:
January 1 New Years Day Republic Day
January 22 Chinese New Year Day before 1st day of 1st lunar month
February 6 Lantern Festival 15th Day of 1st lunar month
February 27 Public holiday Bridge day compensated from Sat Mar 3
February 28 Peace Memorial Day
April 4 Tomb Sweeping Day
April 4 Childrens Day
June 23 Dragon Festival
September 30 Mid-Autumn Festival TBC
October 10 National Day Celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911
October 23 Double Ninth Day Autumn Remembrance

MAJOR FESTIVALS:
January to March - Lantern Festival
April to June - Dragonboat Festival, Penghu Fireworks Festival
July to September - YingGe International Ceramics Festival, Keelung Ghost Festival, Taiwan Culinary Exhibition
October - December - Taipei International Travel Fair

FLYING INTO TAIWAN:
There are two international airports in Taiwan: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan (about 40 KM from Taipei City), and Kaohsiung Airport in Kaohsiung. Direct flights between Taiwan and other countries provide convenient services. Except for some flights to and from between Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as South East Asia land in Kaohsiung Airport, most international flights all land in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Taiwan is serviced by: China Airlines, Eva Airways, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Singapore Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

ENTRY:
Canadian, American, Australian and European citizens (with the exception of Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania) receive a 30 day tourist visa on arrival. A visa is required for longer stays. UK and Irish passport holders may stay up to 90 days. You MUST however, show proof of a return ticket or an on-going ticket with a departure date before the expiry date on your visa. Your passport must also have over 6 months validity in order to travel to Taiwan. All other countries require a visa prior to travel.

GETTING AROUND:
TRAINS:
Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) - The island-wide railway network including western line, eastern line, north line and south line, provides a lot of convenience to the passengers, and there are several classes to choose from. There are some small trains at slower speed for special routes, such as the Ali, Jiji, Pingxi, and Neiwan lines.
Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) - visitors can now easily take a day trip between Kaohsiung and Taipei (south and north of the island respectively). Currently eight stations are operational on the THSR line along Taiwan's western corridor: Taipei, Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Zuoying (Kaohsiung), and four more are in the planning stage.
Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) - system and its network includes 92.9 km of rail (90.5 km in revenue service) with 80 stations and includes both underground, at-grade, and elevated routes. NO FOOD OR DRINK IS ALLOWED ON THE MRT (this includes chewing gum and candy. STRICTLY ENFORCED)
Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit System (KMRT) - system is made up of 2 lines with 36 stations covering a distance of 40.4km. 27 of these stations will be underground, with 8 elevated and 1 at grade level. NO FOOD OR DRINK IS ALLOWED ON THE KMRT (this includes chewing gum and candy. STRICTLY ENFORCED)
BUS:
Taiwan's long distant highway transportation services are provided by private transportation companies: Kuo-Kuang Bus Corp., UBus, Free Go Bus Corp. and Aloha Bus. They are carrying passengers and shuttling on significant provincial highways and the freeways.
TAXI:
Major cities have an abundance of taxis. Charges are NT$70 for the first 1.25 km and NT$5 for each additional 250 meters. An additional NT$5 is charged for every two minutes of waiting, and a 20% surcharge is added to fares between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.. Charges may be raised during Chinese New Year holidays. Basically, taxi fares in all major cities are set by local city government itself and are in a minor discrepancy. Out-of-town or long-distance travels may not apply to meter charge; travelers are suggested to confirm charging method before getting on taxi. 50% additional to meter charge needed for cab travel to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Most drivers do not speak English, so it is a good idea to have hotel personnel write both your destination and your hotel's name and address in Chinese, along with the projected cost of each one-way trip. Some more modern taxis are now equipped with translation devices.

DRIVING IN TAIWAN:
CARS:
Visitors with international licenses may drive a car in Taiwan. However, for those who are not familiar with the road conditions, it is recommended to rent a car with driver. Cars can be rented at service counters in major airports, train stations and downtown locations. Some of international hotels also provide car rental service which is convenient to visitors who need just airport pick-up or a journey in a few hours.
SCOOTERS:
Visitors with international licenses may drive a scooter with a 90 CC engine and higher. A license is not required for 50 CC scooters. Driving in Taiwan is a very chaotic and stressful experience. The scooters outnumber the cars and traffic laws are not overly followed or enforced. If renting a scooter, proceed so with extreme caution. Do not attempt to drive a scooter in Taiwan if you do not have travel insurance! See video for an idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJyDDeLTBw4...feature=related

CONVENIENCE STORES:
Taiwan runs on convenience stores. There are 4 major convenience stores in Taiwan. They are: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK Mart and Hi-Life. Taiwan has more than 9,100 convenience stores in an area of 35,980 km and a population of 23 million. It also has the worlds highest density of 7-Elevens per person: one store per 4,930 people or .000203 stores per person. You will find multiple convenience stores on the same street...sometimes even across the street or around the corner from each other. They are open 24/7 and have a great selection or products. Convenience stores in Taiwan provide services on behalf of financial institutions and government agencies such as collection of city parking fees, utility bills, traffic violation fines, and credit card payments.
If you're new to Taiwan and not sure what to eat yet, these stores have a decent selection of frozen foods, breads, sandwiches and other assorted items. Whether you're feeling the urge to pay your electricity bill at 3 AM, need an emergency pair of underwear at 4 AM or seriously need some water coming home from the pub/bar...these places are just for you.

CELL PHONES AND PHONE CALLS:
Second hand cell phones can be easily purchased just about everywhere in Taiwan. The cheapest models can be found at any of Taiwan's many night markets and street vendors. SIM cards can also be easily acquired. If you're looking to buy from an authorized dealer 'Myfone' and 'Far East Tone' are two stores that can sell you a 'pay-as-you-go' type SIM card. Pay phones are few and far between in Taiwan.

IMPORTANT TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
Fire/Emergency: 119
Police: 110
International Phone Assistance: 100
Foreign Affairs Division, Taipei Police Headquarters: (02) 381-8341 or (02) 381-7475
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: (02) 311-9292
Tourism Bureau: (02) 349-1635/6
Tourist Information Hot Line: (02) 717-3737
Taiwan Visitors Association: (02) 594-3261

**It's also a good idea to look up your country's embassy/consulate/representative contact information in Taiwan prior to travel.**

FOODS/DRINKS TO TRY:
Fried chicken steak - zh jī pi (炸雞排)
Small bun wrapped in large bun - d bǐng bāo xiǎo bǐng (大餅包小餅)
Fried buns - shēng jiān bāo (生煎包)
Peanut candy - huā shēng tng (花生糖)
Oyster omelet - h zǐ jiān (蚵仔煎)
Tempura - tin b l (甜不辣)
Lemon aiyu jelly - nng mng i y (檸檬愛玉)
Pearl tea - qīng wā xi dn (青蛙下蛋)
Bubble tea - zhēn zhū nǎi ch (珍珠奶茶)
Stinky tofu - chu du fu (臭豆腐)
Hot pot - huǒ guō (火鍋)
Oyster vermicelli - h zǐ min xin (蚵仔麵線)
Beef Noodles - ni ru min (牛肉麵)
Ice desserts - bo bīng (刨冰)

INTERNET ACCESS:
You can find numerous internet cafes in Taiwan. The charge is usually NT$50 (there is a CD-rom and USB ports as well). If you choose to stay for longer, there is a discount. If you simply need internet access (No CD-rom or USB) you can easily find internet cafes with NT$15-20 hourly rates (3 hours for NT$50).

SMOKING:
Smoking indoors was banned in Taiwan back in January of 2009. Under the new rule, all offices and indoor facilities like department stores, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, airports and railway stations ban smoking.
Smoking is banned in indoor working environments where three or more people work together. It is also forbidden at bus stops and railway stations, including platforms and cross-overs at railway stations. People who violate the rule by lighting up in these places face a NT$2,000-10,000 (USD$60-$100) fine.

REGIONS:
Taiwan consists of sixteen counties and five provincial cities.
IPB Image

WHAT TO SEE:
NORTHERN TAIWAN
The northern part of Taiwan includes the cities of Taipei, Keelung, and Hsinchu and the three counties of Taipei, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu. If you arrive in Taiwan at Taoyuan-Taipei International Airport in Taoyuan County, it will take you only about one hour by bus to reach Taipei.
PLACES TO GO:
Taipei City - National Palace Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Museum of History, Taipei 101, Taipei Zoo, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, LungShan Temple, ShanDao Temple, Botanical Gardens, DanShui, Shilin Night Market and Snake Alley Night Market.
Keelung City - Keelung Harbour, Heping Island Park, Bisha Fishing Port, Lovers Lake Park, Temple Night Market, WangYou Valley
North - within a one-hour drive from central Taipei, you can go to the mountainous Yangmingshan National Park to see dormant volcanoes, have a hot spring bath, watch butterflies and birds, and view the many flowers in the area. Close to Yangmingshan is Beitou, known for its sulfur hot springs, which is one of the best places in Taiwan to enjoy a relaxing hot-spring bath.
Just beyond the mountains of Yangmingshan you will come to the northern coast where you can explore bizarre coastal rock formations created by wind and sea, like the famous Queens Head Rock of Yeliou and many other sculpted rocks that resemble candles, mushrooms, and beancurds. The coast is like an open-air classroom for geology and biology lessons.
CENTRAL TAIWAN
Central Taiwan includes the counties of Miaoli, Taichung , Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, and Nantou.
PLACES TO GO:
Miaoli County - Shei-Pa National Park, Lion's Head Mountain Scenic Area, and Longteng broken bridge (one of the best examples of railway architecture in Taiwan) and Shengsin train station (the highest spot of the western railway line).
Taichung City - located in the center of the Taichung basin, in the middle of Taiwan . Lishan, the most important stop on the spectacular Central Cross-Island Highway , is famous for producing temperate zone fruits such as peaches and apples. The famous Guguan scenic area has a fine hot spring, and the beautiful cherry and maple trees here are a blaze of color in spring and autumn.
Changhua County - has the only remaining fan-shaped railway garage in Taiwan , which is also Southeast Asia's only "locomotive hotel". Changhua has a well-developed floriculture industry and it hosts an annual flower fair. One of its famous tourist attractions is the Big Buddha of Mt. Bagua, which is illuminated at night to give it an especially solemn appearance.
Yunlin County - sits at the northernmost corner of the Jia-Nan plain. The natural landscape of Caoling Scenic Area is a wonderful place to enjoy Mother Nature. Chaotian Temple in Beigang attracts many believers year round. Gukeng Town , which became famous by hosting the Taiwan Coffee Festival, has recently become one of the hottest tourist attractions here.
Chiayi County - one of the two counties in Taiwan (the other is Hualien) bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. The newly-built Tropic of Cancer Monument has become a new landmark of Chiayi. The mountainous area of Alishan is famous for five wonders: "railway, forest, sea of clouds, sunrise, and sunset". The Alishan forest railway, together with Darjeeling railway in India and the "Train to the Clouds" in Chile and Argentina , is classified as one of the three most important mountain railways in the world. Starting at an altitude of 30 meters above sea level at Chiayi, the railway travels all the way up to Alishan, 2,216 meters above the sea. On the way, the train circles Mt. Duli three times and changes directions several times to climb up the steepest section. On the way, the train passes three climatic zones -- tropical, subtropical, and temperate -- allowing passengers to get an idea of the wide variety of natural habitats in Taiwan . One of the major stops along the line is Fencihu Station where visitors can sample the famous local railway lunch boxes.
Nantou - the only county in Taiwan that doesn't border the sea. It is Taiwan's most mountainous county and Yu Shan, the highest mountain in Northeast Asia , is located here. Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, embraced by mountains, is one of the island's must-see attractions. During the time of Japanese occupation, the lake was created by damming a river to generate hydroelectric power. The lake, with Lala Island in its center, roughly resembles a sun and a half moon when seen from above. The beautiful lake, when shrouded in mist, often appears as if taken from a Chinese water color painting. One of the best ways to appreciate its splendor is taking a boat ride across the lake.
SOUTHERN TAIWAN
Southern Taiwan includes two major cities, Tainan and Kaohsiung, and three counties, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung. It is home to especially friendly people. Since it is one of the earliest developed areas of Taiwan, there are many places of historical interest, such as Confucius Temple, Eternal Fortress, and Fort Provintia, to name just a few.
Tainan is known as a historical and cultural highlight of Taiwan. It has Taiwans oldest Confucius Temple and many Buddhist and Taoist temples. In total there are over 70 places of cultural importance, most of them in close distance to each other. Besides, Tainan is famous for its wide variety of snacks.
PLACES TO GO:
Tainan County - situated in the center of Taiwans largest plain, the Jia-Nan Plain. Tainan is home to the worlds largest butterfly orchid greenhouse. Each year butterfly orchid saplings are exported to the US, Europe, and Japan from here. At the end of each years Chinese New Year celebrations there is a fascinating event taking place in Tainan County -- the Yanshuei Beehive Rocket Festival -- which draws large crowds of revelers.
Kaohsiung City - Taiwans second largest city. Love River, situated in the city center, is one of the most scenic attractions in town. The river is lined with many fashionable open-air cafes that invite you to sip a cup of coffee and take in the river scenery, which is especially attractive in the evening. You can also go on a harbor cruise or take the ferry across to Cijin Island to see the many faces of Kaohsiung during day or night. Once on the island, you can ride a bicycle, enjoy the sea views at the Windmill Park and sample fresh seafood.
Pingtung - the southernmost county of Taiwan. Kenting National Park, the first national park to be established in Taiwan, is situated here, as well as other tourist attractions such as Siao Liouciou, Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, and Saijia Aviation Sports Park, one of the best locations for flying sports on the island. When you come to southern Taiwan, be also sure to visit South Beach of Kending, a hotspot for water sports such as surfing, sailing, and diving.
The three counties of Yilan, Hualien, and Taitung are located in the eastern part of Taiwan, which was developed later than other areas of the island.
EASTERN TAIWAN
PLACES TO GO:
Yilan - center of economy, politics, culture, and education in the long, narrow Lanyang Plain, and is also the hub between north and south. Enjoy a hot-spring bath at Jiaosi and experience one of only two carbonated cold springs in the world (the other is in Italy) at Suao. On the way from Suao further south to Hualien you will come across the most spectacular stretch of coast in eastern Taiwan. The Cingshuei Cliffs form sheer drops where the highway winds its way precariously between the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. This is one of the most breathtaking scenic spots in all Taiwan.
Hualien - largest city in Eastern Taiwan, while Taitung is the islands third biggest county. The East Coast National Scenic Area and East Rift Valley National Scenic Area are green corridors that span both Hualien and Taitung, and thus are the most popular tourist attractions for foreign visitors. Besides, here we have the highest concentration of aboriginal tribes (Amis, Puyuma, Atayal, Rukai, and Bunun) in Taiwan. Each July and August, ten aboriginal tribes organize an annual joint harvest festival. All are welcome; and dont forget to try the delicious aboriginal food here.
The Taroko National Park - located in Hualien County and is famous for its great marble-walled gorge. Some of the most important scenes include the Swallows Grottos and the Tunnel of Nine Turns, each of which offers some truly spectacular views. Visitors can experience the magnificence in peace by walking one of several trails built through the gorge.

Taiwan - Touch your heart : http://www.taiwan.net.tw/
Teaching English and Living in Taiwan (TEALIT) : http://www.tealit.com/
Taiwan Adventures: http://www.taiwan-adventures.com/
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xerius
post Jan 15 2010, 08:37 PM
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Excellent work! Thanks for that. I've been meaning to get down to Taiwan for years now (I live in Japan). Everyone I know who's been really enjoyed it.
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athena
post Jan 16 2010, 07:50 AM
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QUOTE(xerius @ Jan 15 2010, 08:37 PM) *

Excellent work! Thanks for that. I've been meaning to get down to Taiwan for years now (I live in Japan). Everyone I know who's been really enjoyed it.


Well you should definitely do it! Taiwan is great, I love it here! The people are so nice and friendly. You also won't break the bank here like you would in Japan! If you want to drop by, let me know. I can be a tour guide biggrin.gif
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aopaq
post Jan 16 2010, 09:48 AM
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Yes, this is a superb Starter Kit! I had the fortune to visit Taiwan (Jinmen, Taipei and Keelung) last summer and I do hope to see more soon.

I expect Louise will be adding you to the list of Local Experts so welcome aboard!
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athena
post Feb 7 2010, 06:23 AM
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QUOTE(aopaq @ Jan 16 2010, 09:48 AM) *

Yes, this is a superb Starter Kit! I had the fortune to visit Taiwan (Jinmen, Taipei and Keelung) last summer and I do hope to see more soon.

I expect Louise will be adding you to the list of Local Experts so welcome aboard!


Chinese New Year is coming up this weekend. I have plans to visit Taroko Gorge and Kenting witha friend. Will post about it when I return!
Ath.
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kjonline
post Feb 18 2010, 02:17 PM
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About them there trains. While I was in Japan I had a rail pass letting me get on and off as I pleased for a couple weeks. I'll be in Taiwan for just over a week. Do any of the lines have a similar pass that I might wander aimlessly without digging up more fare?


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Just pretend I wrote something clever and witty here.
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athena
post Feb 23 2010, 09:32 AM
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QUOTE(kjonline @ Feb 18 2010, 02:17 PM) *

About them there trains. While I was in Japan I had a rail pass letting me get on and off as I pleased for a couple weeks. I'll be in Taiwan for just over a week. Do any of the lines have a similar pass that I might wander aimlessly without digging up more fare?


Hi there! So sorry for the late reply. Last week was Chinese New Year vacation and I was traipsing (man, I LOVE that word) about the country. I didn't have internet access for the latter part of last week.

They don't have anything like the Japanese Shinkansen pass (I myself bought a 7 day one back when I visited Japan in 2006). In Taipei though the have the EASY CARD. You can pick one up at just about any train station and MRT station in Taipei. You have to put a NT$500 (USD$16) deposit down (which you get back when you return the card) and then juice it up with as much credit as you want. There are automated machines at the train/MRT stations that help you with this and you can also just go to any 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK Mart and Hi-Life to put money on them as well. These cards are fabulous. Instead of having to buy train tickets or MRT tokens you just scan your card at the reader when you step up and scan it again at an exit point. It will automatically deduct the fee. These cards can also be used on almost any bus in Taipei city and some inter-city buses. I am not sure if other big cities have a similar system. As far as I know the EASY CARD is only good in Taipei.

For long train trips you should book your ticket in advance. Seats fill up quickly and it sucks (trust me, I know this) to tough out a 3+ hour train ride sitting on the floor of the train (or standing).

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athena
post Feb 23 2010, 09:54 AM
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QUOTE(alifebeinglived @ Feb 23 2010, 07:08 AM) *

I just want to say that this is very well-written! I think Taiwan is just so beautiful and underappreciated.


Thanks a ton! I wish more people knew about Taiwan. I guess it has only really had its modern transformation and boom in the last 50 years or so. Great place to teach English, that's for sure. The economy here seems to be doing alright smile.gif
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