The intrepid Aimee Groom (aka DFH) is on holiday in the UK and France, but in her absence we'll MEET THE GROOMS! Think of it a China Travel Reality TV holiday special (without the TV).So, without further ado, please Meet John and Lesley Groom, the backpackers with a bus pass. In December 2008, this intrepid pair of Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui, Taiwan, Fujian, Guizhou and Jiangsu. >>>
Sent: Sat, January 10, 2009 1:36:54 PM
Subject: Travels in Taiwan
So here we are in Taiwan.
First you must understand the Great Chinese Panda trick. You will know that since Chiang Kai-Shek declared Taiwan independent, Taiwan and China have been threatening each other. Two years ago when we were in China there were signs of reconciliation and China was giving Taiwan a pair of pandas to cement the deal. Taiwan had spent a million dollars building a panda cage and there had been competition on the television for children to name the pandas. However it all went "tits up".
The problem was that whilst you can move pandas around inside China, if you want to take a panda out of China you need a PEL (Panda Export License). If Taiwan had accepted the pandas without a PEL being granted then they would be seen as accepting that Taiwan was part of China! They therefore refused the pandas. Now after two years of haggling they have somehow resolved the situation and two weeks ago the pandas arrived here… and more importantly we can now fly here direct (1hr 15 mins ) instead of flying via Hong Kong (all day).
The good thing about Taiwan is that it's hot or at least it is compared with Mainland China. It's in the 60s all the time and I can walk about in just a short-sleeved shirt.
The first thing we did at Taipei airport was to book our flight out. The charming Taiwanese girl asked me how old I was and when I said 65 she explained that entitled me to half-price fares on all domestic flights!
DFH had kindly booked us into the Hello Family Travellers' Hostel in the centre of Taipei and had it printed off in characters and English. We showed it to the taxi driver who did not have a clue. We explained using the speaking machine that it was near the railway station. The address turned out to be a huge 30-story block with a department store at the bottom, with the hostel reception on the 22nd floor and our room on the 24th. No wonder the taxi driver didn't know it.
We learned straight away that we must not wear outdoor shoes inside the home in Taiwan.
We then set out to buy a Taiwanese SIM card for our phone. Sounds like a simple enough task, but no, like China you need your passport, but unlike china you need a second photo ID. Your passport is not good enough. Never did I in my wildest dreams imagine I would use my Tendring District Council Bus Pass to by a SIM card in Taiwan!
We worked out how to use the metro and did the CKS Memorial and then went to the Taipei 101 building. This is currently the world's tallest building at over 500-metres but is about to be superseded by one in Dubai. It's a better-looking building than the World Financial Center in Shanghai, but is really only taller because of the aerial at the top. The nice girl in reception would not give an age concession but did advise us that it was so cloudy out the top it was not worth going up. We took her advice.
We then went out to the night food market.
The next morning there was a serious problem. We did not have a kettle in the room to make our early morning drink. There was however hot water available at the hostel reception two floors below. There was no choice but to go out in my pyjamas for 50-yards along the corridor, past the offices of the Blue Dragon Art Company and the New Field Management Consulting Co., where they had already started work, get to the lift, go down two floors and round to the hostel reception. All in my pyjamas! It went wrong after 20-yards. I realized I still had my 'indoor' slippers on and had to dash back and change them.
You will understand the problem in Shanghai where the police are clamping down on the all-day pyjamas. We'd no idea what the law is in Taiwan about pyjamas. Do they have Pyjama Police? Anyway I made it there and back but my heart still misses a beat if there is a knock on the door in case they have come to get me.
Taipei is a strange place. A lot less developed than Shanghai. Everything is High Rise but not Mega High Rise. The traffic system is better though and you have got a sporting chance of getting to the other side of the road alive when the little green man flashes. Mind you he is depicted as running not walking.
There is also a whole world underground. Not just trains and subways but shopping malls and eating places. You see them doing exercise, dancing and playing games… it goes on for miles.
Just a word about ladies fashion: Most girls wear cute little tailored shorts or micro skirts with thick tights and boots. We were a bit shocked at the temple of all places to see two girls in hold up stockings and even more shocked to see a girl with suspenders and stocking under a micro skirt in the street. (Mind you John's not complaining--Lesley)
There is plenty of respect for the elderly. People have ushered us into the old people and pregnant women's seats on the metro and I got into the Fort which is their most famous attraction free for being over 65.
Been to a few temple including one where they virtually hypnotise themselves with their chanting which was really interesting.
We have bought a train ticket to go to Hualien to visit Taroko Gorge, that will be an adventure.
More about it in due course.