If there ever was a country which lured me with its food, it was Taiwan.
Living in Singapore, I had many friends from Taiwan. And every time we met over a beer or a kopi o peng, they kept describing how they missed Taipei, because it was the undisputed food capital of Asia. So, as it normally goes, I succumbed to the sins of gluttony that ruled my travel plans, and booked a flight to Taipei.
Visa for Indians to Taiwan
The Taiwan Taoyuan International airport, also called the Chiang Kai Shek airport, was modernistic and developed, but it was the visa process that was very interesting. Now, Indians need an advanced visa for Taiwan. But there is also a provision that individuals of certain countries (India, Indonesia etc.) who have a valid US visa, can apply for a visa on arrival through an online site. So, I applied through the website, and since there was contradicting information on different travel websites, I even wrote to the Taiwan embassy to confirm this provision. Which they did.
But at the immigration in the Taipei, they looked totally clueless. They proceeded to check the travel requirements for Indian citizens for a good 15 minutes to confirm this. A few phone-calls were made, and some fast-paced Chinese was exchanged between the immigration officers, and a lot of head-nodding was done. But after all that, I was finally let through.
I was in Taipei!
Airport to the city
When arriving in Taipei, note that the Airport is a freaking 30 km away from the city! There were 2 options for me to get to the city. First, I could take a high-speed train. But I had to get a bus from the airport to the Taoyuan High speed rain station, from where I took the HSR to Taipei main station, and change to the MRT (local train) system. This method involved carrying my heavy backpack and walking a lot, and changing transport 3 times. I Passed!
The other method, was taking an Express airport bus, which cost around NT130 (5 USD) and goes all the way to most of the major hotels and bus-stops. Refer the route-map for a bus which goes to your desired location. I paid the required fare, got on the air-conditioned and spacious bus, and dozed off in minutes.
A rainy night in Xinyi and the Taipei 101
Only to be woken up after about 45-50 minutes by the bus driver, whom I had informed of my stop previously. I had booked myself at a hostel in Xinyi district, which was just 10 minutes from the Taipei 101. I down from the bus, only to find myself drenched in rain in no time!
Taiwan was definitely not kind to me on this trip, as the rain almost never stopped during my 5 days there! The first night, I stayed in my hostel hoping the next night would be better. Not to be! So, on the second night, I opted to just brave it and finally stepped outside my hostel, for some rainy-day pictures of Taipei.
A short walk down Xinyi road, with my camera carefully tucked inside the umbrella, (I could get wet, but cant afford to get my camera wet!), I finally came face to face with Taipei 101, the second tallest skyscraper in the world. But I couldn’t get any closer. The rain was suddenly too strong for me to proceed, so I took one solitary picture of the giant building, and returned back to my hostel, determined to come back for more.
When I got up the next day, I could have gone back to see the tower, but instead, I walked to the MRT station, and caught a connecting train to the Taipei train station. Why? Because the Taipei 101 could wait. But I had to catch a train to Hualien first!
Well, that will be another story!
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