50 Shades of Taipei

Nearly 5 months ago, I arrived to Taoyuan airport with my husband, a back-bag, Pleco downloaded to my phone and very high hopes in heart.

Caffeine ❤

And OMG (a serious OMG, sorry guys, I’m rather excited about everything that has happened here), we have been having fun. As a matter of a fact, I want to list 50 things I and the enginerd and a friend or two have shared while in Taipei.

A typical street in Da’an.
  1. Jiaozi, shuijiao, and baozi. All your Chinese delicacies with a Taiwanese twist.
  2. Vegetarian buffets. All your Taiwanese delicacies with an environment (I assume) and a student budget friendly twist.
  3. EasyCard/ Youyouka. The most people friendly travel card ever (probably also the government or Satan trying to take your soul). My first one was Pokeball shaped keychain, which then got replaced by my student card. You can rent city bikes (U-bike), pay your groceries, pay on buses and on some taxis, combine it with your bank or credit card, use it as a key at some places (like at the enginerd’s coworking space), scratch your legs after you’ve been bitten by bugs which your body has not met before, really you name it. You can add value onto it at the MRT stations or any convenience store.
  4. Talking to strangers. Yeah, I know, it’s usually not recommended when traveling, but I did what I had to and even the enginerd had to admit that it may be worth it every now and then.
  5. Ikea. Bought all our new stuff from there. Also on one occasion, Swedish food to ease the need for Western food. Seriously, if you wanna buy anything that’s not total crap but also affordable, just do Ikea.
  6. Pizza Rock. Say no more. Worth trying, easily the best pizza in town.
  7. Budgeting. As we so diligently saved a couple of years for this trip, we’re not exactly thin in money, but naturally, the more the better. So, we’ve been trying to be a bit cheap. We’ve recently noticed eating your lunch out is way cheaper than buying groceries, and I’ve made less trips to H&M and Uniqlo.
  8. 7/11 salads. I’m 100% hooked. They cost less than 2€, and you get a free dressing. I eat them for breakfast and lunch.
  9. Printing at 7/11. It’s simple, you just bring your own USB or memory card, and follow the instructions (in Chinese, sure, but the staff will help). It’s NT2 per a black and white sheet, and you can print out photos, as well.
  10. Buying late night snacks at 7/11. Oh all the chips, chocolate and ice cream, topped with cold beer we’ve been buying at very random times.
  11. Becoming Asian. I’m always late from school nowadays, plus my outfits match all the pretty Korean and Taiwanese girls’ outfits almost every day. I don’t remember the Chinese word for a knife, never need it, nor feel it’d be convenient, chopsticks work nearly every time.
  12. Studying. Yeah, the MTC intensive class requires a lot. They teach you the Chinese word for staying up until midnight to study. Yeah, for a reason.
  13. Differences between Chinese Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese. Pronunciation, expressions, and of course…
  14. Traditional characters. Yeah, had some trouble teaching my laptop how to write traditional characters, but figured it out (or the enginerd did and he’s the best!). Although I can still read the simplified characters a bit better, I no longer struggle with the traditional ones, and can learn them faster and for less effort than three months ago.
  15. MTC. Mandarin Training Center has turned out to be a really, really good school. I totally recommend, although if you feel a bit lazy and wanna spend more time partying in one of Taipei’s many nightclubs, opt for the regular course instead of the intense one.
  16. Friends. Just awesome, new people in our life.
  17. German. How on Earth do we keep on running into these insanely awesome people who most times turn out to be German (to a certain degree, at least).
  18. Taiwanese. Insanely good and helpful people.
  19. Chocolate. Been basically living on Meiji dark chocolate, also available in 7/11.
  20. Nature. Taipei is surrounded by New Taipei City which in turn is surrounded by mountains. Elephant Mountain, Yang Ming Shan and Teapot Mountain are the ones we’ve explored so far. They are all very easy to access, have insane nature and offer a break from a big city life. And the photos you can take there…
  21. Cappuccino. Our school is surrounded by cafes, mainly Dante Coffee. Seriously, can’t remember a day my studies weren’t powered by a cappuccino from there or from “Peggy’s”. Actually the cafe near our school is not called that, but the cashier who is always so happy to see me and my (German!!!!) friend, is.
  22. Work. Will soon, in less than two weeks, return back to my old job at the ER.
  23. Longing. I will be leaving my husband behind for a couple of months, friends even longer 😦
  24. ShiDa Night Market. The city has a number of night markets, where the small boutique shops and cafes, snack stands and stores selling very, very random items, only open their doors around 5 pm. Very popular, very annoying to live in the middle of one, trying to get home through the pedestrian traffic, which moves so slow!!!
  25. Slow walkers. For the love of God, speed up! Taiwanese are infamously slow walkers, and on countless occasions I have been very tempted to physically remove (lifting, gently setting aside) a tiny Taiwanese girl or two, just so that I could pass them. Regardless of their age or gender, these people, lovely as they are, are painfully slow walkers.
  26. Co-working space. The enginerd rented a co-working space where he can have a high-speed internet, his own, personal desk and free beverages 24/7. It costs NT 6000 a month, and he’s very happy with it.
  27. MRT. Nothing works as well as the metro in Taiwan. Cheap, fast and although crowded, probably the best way to get around. And if you feel like walking, or simply got lost, use Google Maps. Recommended.
  28. Bus. As I am very prone to getting lost, have yet to take a bus alone here. But the system is very clear, it’s cheap, and as long as you pay attention if you’re supposed to pay at getting on or off the bus, it’s very doable.
  29. Ximending. Shops, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, malls, you name it, Ximending has it. You can get there at the Ximen MRT station, exit 1.
  30. Red House. Speaking of Ximending, right next to all the shopping is Red House, behind which is a long ass pedestrian street, which has a very large number of gay bars. The best party is right there!
  31. Mixed feelings.
  32. Comebell. Only the best place to get beer in weird clay pots and eat fries and tofu and various meet dishes and get slowly drunk with the owner and local customers. We tend to bring our friends there.
  33. Guang Hua Digital Plaza. From my brand new Fitbit, to Nintendo Classic Mini and universal adapters, from computer parts to Finger Spinners, you can buy it all here. So far we haven’t ran into the same fake electronics overload as in China.
  34.  The running track at NTNU. MTC is a part of National Taiwan Normal University, which has a full size running track next to its sports school.  I have spent countless mornings running there, watching the amazingly fit local seniors running, doing Taiqi or stretching. Around 6 to 7 am the temperature is still tolerable, too, between 28 and 30 degrees. Yeah, the highest I’ve seen he track’s billboard clock showing was 42,1 degrees. That morning the run wasn’t very long.
  35. Rain. It. Never. Stops. And when it does, it gets unbearably hot and humid. I gave up straightening my hair months ago, no use.
  36. Parks. Da’an park, the river side park and all the small ones, they are just beautiful.
  37.  Small dogs treated like babies. Seriously, we’ve seen more tiny ass dogs being pushed in strollers than actual babies. EWWW!!!
  38. Wild dogs. They live by the Tamsui River, are very friendly and couldn’t care less about people. And some of them have puppies ❤
  39. Cats. Our street has so many cats, it’s impossible to say if they all have humans or not. However, all of them look very well fed, and like dogs, couldn’t care less about people.
  40. NTU Hospital. We’ve been there for various reasons, and always received very good service.
  41. Instant coffee. We couldn’t afford getting me a coffee machine, so I’ve been relying on Nestle. Not fun 😦
  42. Brita water filter. A must. Made in Germany, of course. You can buy them in Carrefour.
  43. U-Bike. As mentioned earlier, you can use the local city bikes with your EasyCard. You can find the bikes’ locations here. Just remember to go online and register your EasyCard first.
  44. Speaking Mandarin. Slowly, slowly, it’s coming to me. Very slowly.
  45. Making decisions. I am yet to decide if I’ll start my Master’s studies in the beginning of this fall semester, or if I’ll continue at MTC for one more semester. Money, as always, will play a huge role in it. However, I’m very happy my very random and sudden decision to apply to a Master’s degree program here was successful 🙂
  46. Mysterious alleys. No matter where you go, you can be sure you’ll find alleys so narrow no one could live there, but somehow if you actually enter said alley, there’s nice looking front doors, plants and actual people and families living there.
  47. IELTS. Prepared for 3 days. Interviewed hungover. Scored 8.5. Quite happy 🙂
  48. Work. Still no working permit, will still take some time. The enginerd has his own thing he’s working on and it looks promising. I’ll be once again working at the ER, only for 3 months this time, to get some money and keep my nursing skills up to date.
  49. Love
  50. Home. Taipei has stopped feeling like we were living abroad, but more and more things seems so very natural and easy here.
  51. (An extra one). This blog. I’ve been writing here more or less every Friday since last summer to give advice and tell how we’re doing our great escape. The pace will be a bit slower for this summer, as I will mostly be working, recovering from the cheap alcohol and running (and lifting weights with Tuomas.) Nothing too exciting will likely happen when it comes to traveling, until I pack my bags and head back here to my husband to continue learning Chinese. More stories, photos and updates will show up every now and then, and you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Love, the nurse and the enginerd

Yeah, we also have palm trees growing in our balcony… not!
Vegetarian buffet delicacies.
More from a vegetarian buffet.
What do you mean it rains often?
My typical lunch, lately: A roll, 7/11 salad and homework. Will miss it this summer…
Fresh your day 🙂