Life in Taipei: 5 Lessons Learned So Far

I have now been in Taipei for two months, and I feel like I’m finally settling into this beautiful and dynamic city, after going through some minor culture shock, as any person would as they move into a new country.

Many of you have asked me what life is like here and are interested in hearing about the everyday life of the locals and how I’m adjusting. I’m happy to share with you all as seen through my own personal lens.

To make it fun, I’ve made them into lessons I’ve learned about living in Taipei and my impression of it so far. 🙂

5 things I’ve learned so far…

Lesson #1: The umbrella is my best friend.

I am not kidding when I say this. The weather is unpredictable at times, and I’ve found out that it rains a lot especially during summer and autumn. After all, it is typhoon season. Thus it’s super handy to have an umbrella on me at all times because it might rain after a few hours of sun, or vice-versa.

I used to scoff at the idea of people especially ladies carrying umbrellas while it is sunny. The main purpose of carrying the umbrella is to protect their face from the sun. Guess who is doing that now? Me. The sun is extremely strong here and even with sunblock, it doesn’t protect my face from the sun properly. I get freckles easily from the sun so in the interest of having as little freckles as possible on my face, I have now resorted to using the umbrella like the locals. Frankly, I feel quite at home doing it. I guess this saying is true: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 😉 Well, in this case, do as the Taiwanese do!

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Locals use the umbrella for rain or shine too.

 

Lesson #2: Mosquitoes are my enemies!

Since day one of my arrival, I’ve been pestered by these little bugs. In my naivete, I thought there would be hardly any mosquitoes in Taipei since it’s a big city. Well, how wrong I was. It seems that they are everywhere and they love me a lot. Almost every day when I come home, I have a new mosquito bite mostly on my legs but sometimes in very interesting places that I’ve never had while in Canada.

One of my aunts shared her secret recipe of keeping mosquitoes away since I really didn’t want to apply any chemicals on my skin anymore. I’m looking into more natural or organic skin products these days. She told me all I had to do was dab a few drops of sesame oil onto a cotton pad and then apply it onto my wrists, ankles and neck. I personally vouch that this method works! 🙂

 

Lesson #3: Taiwanese people are really friendly and helpful.

I know I’m quite directionally challenged, but before leaving Canada I was determined that while living in Taipei, I’ll work on my own navigational skills and REALLY learn how to read a map. I mean, come on, everyone knows how to read a google map right? Well, apparently not. On my first day of using google map on my cell, I was extremely unsuccessful. Instead of arriving at said place which was about 5 minutes from my location, as indicated by google map, I was getting further and further away.

As a result, I decided to go back to my #1 method of finding a place which is by asking people. Since I tend to get lost a lot, even in my own city or when travelling, I’m not shy in asking people for directions. This is the first city where almost every time I ask someone how to get to a place, they would personally take me there! It has happened to me more than five times now. I’m really touched by the warmth and helpful spirit of the locals here. 🙂

 

Lesson #4: Taipei’s subway (MRT-Mass Rapid Transit) system is amazing!

My home is right next to a subway station and I have to tell you that I’m simply amazed by how the MRT runs. Like clockwork, I can rely on it consistently. There are screens located throughout the station telling passengers when the next train will arrive. It’s really high-tech, in comparison to the subway system in my home city. And you can go almost everywhere in Taipei using the subway system as many main attractions have their own station name, and each station has at least 4 exits where the places and streets you want to go to are clearly labelled, so you know which exit to take to reach your destination.

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A clearly detailed map showing commuters which exit to take to reach their destination

 

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There are 5 subway lines

 

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Love the screen indicating when the next train/subway will arrive and the clear white outline on the floor allowing commuters to line up in an orderly way!

I’m also amazed by the good manners of the commuters. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only seen everyone abiding by the rules of the MRT. For example, the priority seating on the subway are colour coded in blue; and no one occupies it unless they are elderly, pregnant, handicapped or with very young children. When you get off the subway, no one is rushing off; there’s almost a zen like atmosphere, where people follow one after the other to go on the right side of the escalator and wait patiently for their turn to board it to go up. Even people walking on the left side, are walking calmly, as if they have all the time in the world.

Here are some photos of rules that remind commuters how to behave on the MRT:

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Here are photos of the very well-behaved commuters:

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I take this extremely long escalator to go to university every day. It’s always calm and quiet.

 

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Each subway station is generally very large like this and really well organized and clean!!

 

Lesson #5: Taipei is extremely bike-friendly!

In almost every big intersection I walk to, there are bikes that I can use to go anywhere when I don’t feel like walking. I simply have to use my EasyCard to rent a bike and off I go. These bikes, known as YouBikes, are owned by the Taipei city government and it’s for public use. The government wants to encourage its citizens to use these bikes as a greener alternative to improve the quality and environments of its city.

The EasyCard works on the MRT, Bus, YouBike and even some convenience stores and coffee shops!! I love using it, it's really convenient.

The EasyCard works on the MRT, Bus, YouBike and even some convenience stores and coffee shops!! I love using it, it’s really convenient.

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Another form of transportation that I see a lot of locals use is the motorcycle or scooter. According to locals, a motorbike or scooter is fast, convenient and cheaper than owning a car. I have to admit I was shocked when I first saw this scene on my first day to university, as there are more cars on the road where I come from:

It seems like there are more motorcycles on the road than cars. Usually I see only motorcycles at the front behind the traffic lights; cars are behind.

It seems like there are more motorcycles and scooters on the road than cars. Usually I see only motorcycles/scooters at the front behind the traffic lights; cars are behind.

 

Most police officers ride a motorcycle on while on duty!

Most police officers ride a motorcycle on while on duty!

Now I’m so used to seeing many motorcycles and scooters on the road; it’s just a form of transportation and way of life here.

Some might think that Taipei might be a bit too bike-friendly as bikes and motorbikes/scooters are allowed on the sidewalk with pedestrians. At first I was scared of being run over by the bikes and/or motorcycles/scooters as I’m walking on the sidewalk but after a few weeks, I got used to it. Plus, the cyclists or motorcyclists are quite experienced in navigating on the sidewalk.

Today I managed to navigate myself around pedestrians, other cyclists and motorcyclists on the sidewalks on my way home with my youbike. I’ve finally gained a vital survival skill in Taipei. Not bad for someone who just came 2 months ago! 🙂

Flowers drop from trees here, instead of colourful leaves like my home in Canada. Happy Autumn! :)

Beautiful flowers drop from trees here during Autumn, instead of colourful leaves like my home in Canada. Happy Autumn, my dear readers and fellow bloggers! 🙂

Stay tuned for the next 5 lessons as I continue living in my new home city, Taipei! 🙂

Rice Cooker Recipe #1: Vegan Noodle Soup (Gluten-Free)

My globetrotting friend Karen once told me that the rice cooker was her best investment while living abroad in London, England. And you know what? She is absolutely right about the rice cooker!

It’s my third week in Taipei, and I’m quickly discovering that I love using the rice cooker! As mentioned numerous times previously in my blog, I’m not really a cook. However, when using the rice cooker, I can be a great creative cook. 😉 The rice cooker is quite versatile: I can make simple, quick AND healthy delicious meals with it.

I’m so excited to share the following vegan recipe with you. I’ve made it a few times this week and it’s definitely going to be one of my go-to recipes from now on.

I call it my comfort food recipe, as it was created when I was not feeling well a few days ago. I think it’s comparable to chicken noddle soup, except it’s a vegan gluten-free version with a Taiwanese influence as most of the ingredients were bought in a local vegetable market and organic grocery store in Taipei. 🙂

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They're so yummy! :)

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They’re so yummy! 🙂

 

Serves: 1

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: approximately 50 minutes

Total Time: approximately 60 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 cups filtered water

1 tomato, cubed

1 teaspoon ginger, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sesame oil

a pinch of sea salt

a pinch of ground black pepper

a handful of shiitake mushrooms (or more if you like)

a handful of snow peas (or more if you like)

1/2 cup tofu, cubed (or more if you like)

a handful of buckwheat noodles (or more if you like)

 

Instructions:

1. Put water, tomatoes, ginger, sesame oil, sea salt and black pepper  into rice cooker. Allow this soup base to cook and simmer for about 40 minutes.

2. After 40 minutes, put the remaining ingredients into soup base and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

3. Put vegan noodle soup into a big bowl. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you like.

4. Bon appetit! 🙂

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Feeling Inner Peace…

Taiwan Peace pic

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time.  It was introduced to me by my eternally cheerful, empathetic and optimistic yoga instructor Josie, who is known by all students to begin each class with a thoughtful and inspiring quote.  The quote really resonated with me during that particular yoga class, and when my daily life gets crazy hectic, I return to it.  It empowers and reminds me to stay calm, centered and joyful no matter what happens in my life.  I chose a photo that I took from my travel to Taiwan’s Alishan (Mount Ali) to match this quote.  A few years ago, I went to see the sunrise on Alishan and I have to say, it was one of the most breathtaking moments in my life, to be surrounded by such a gorgeous scenic view, tranquility and pure fresh air.  At that moment I felt so at peace with everything and myself.  Whenever I think of this quote, my mind immediately connects me back to this beautiful moment on Alishan.

I  hope you find inspiration and inner peace from this quote and scenic photo in your own daily life. Keep smiling!! 🙂

What do you do to find or keep inner peace?  Please share. 🙂

Thanks and Love, Violet