Woah, the moment the doors opened and we walked out into the arrival hall at the Taipei international airport, we both knew that we were somewhere special. Taiwan was going to be very different to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, that is for sure.
We were both a little hungry after our flight so we headed over to a sushi train restaurant “Sushi Express”. This restaurant is just to the left of the arrival hall. We check it out and realise that for one plate of sushi it will cost NT$30. We did a quick calculation and realise that NT$30 works out to be around one Australian dollar and then jumped with glee. If a restaurant at the airport is serving three pieces of tuna sashimi for $1, how cheap is the food away from the airport? Our tummys rumbled expectantly.
We were now fed and ready to deal with all things technical. We headed over to the cell phone / mobile phone sim card wall of shops. Again, just to the left of the arrival area. We asked a couple of the different telecom companies how much their unlimited 3G Data plans were for the month. We ended up choosing “Taiwan Mobile”. From memory, they were about NT$100 cheaper for the month than the other companies. That's only a difference of around 3 Australian dollars. They seem to be pretty much all the same.
I handed over my passport and my Australian drivers license to photocopy as they needed two forms of ID. The sales assistant briefly borrowed my iPhone and returned it equipped with a new sim and all ready to go. It costs us NT$1400 in total. NT$500 for a sim card and some phone credit plus NT$900 for 30 days of unlimited 3G data usage. NT$1400 = AUD$46. It's not bad but prepaid mobile and data isn't super cheap in Taiwan. Oh well. Everyone seemed to only be offering unlimited data plans. The only choice was whether we wanted it for one day, one week or one month.
While we were walking around the arrival lounge a few people came up to us and spoke to us in English. A couple were taxi drivers asking if we wanted a taxi, we said no thank you. They smiled and walked away. Another just wanted to check we were ok as we looked a bit lost. He didn't seem to have any ulterior motives which was a nice change. People were very friendly and helpful!
We headed into the city of Taipei on the comfortable shuttle buses that run from very early in the morning right up to midnight. Unfortunately, we didn't really take any notes on this expedition except that we can tell you that to get to the shuttle bus at the airport, turn right as you enter the arrival lounge of the airport. We asked the lady for two tickets to Taipei Main Station, we received them. A man outside told us where our bus would be pulling up. When it arrived, we got on. The ride was lovely. The outskirts of Taipei are really very pretty. Lots of mountains, hills, trees, greenery, buildings, signs, people, scooters, cars, buses. So much to look at!
Taipei Main Station was last stop on the shuttle bus. We hopped off and messaged our house sitting hosts, Kristin and Spencer. They met us in the city on their scooters. While we were waiting we checked out the area. A girl hopped off the back of a scooter in a nice shirt, very short shorts and thigh high stockings. Where were we again? So racy!
We headed into the train station to find a bathroom. It was surprisingly easy to find. The toilet was free to use, there was toilet paper in each stall, the floors were clean, the toilets didn't smell…. there was liquid hand soap and motion sensor taps. Taiwan, you rock!
Something else we noticed at the Taipei Main Train Station and then all over Taipei. Free charging stations. They are generally near the turnstiles at train stations. The charging stations have a bench for you to put your laptop or smart phone on plus power and usb points for you to plug your cables into. If you have signed up for the free wifi, you can even get free wifi at the train station! How cool is that!
Kristin and Spencer arrived and we jumped on the back of their scooters. It was quite a hairy ride through the main streets of Taipei. Not because of their driving but because there are a lot of scooters, bicycles, taxis, buses, private cars, and people that you have to watch out for at all times. Having a backpack on pulling you back doesn't help any either.
On this ride to our first house-sitting gig we noticed that the streets were very wide as were the side walks. The foot paths were actually being used for walking. People were walking. The paths were not pot holey, or falling apart. They were walkable. Heaven!
We have a lot more to come about Taiwan but there are the things that jumped out at us when we first arrived. Cheap sushi, reasonably priced data plans, decent free public toilets, free charging stations and well maintained streets. I love this city already. I Love Taiwan!