After getting home from my tour of Laos I essentially did nothing but sleep for days, eventually went back to work to finish up the school year and moved back into my apartment. (remodeling sucks) After the school year finished I took a long weekend and met with my friend from Daegu and together we went to Taiwan to visit her friend. We didn’t quite communicate properly on where we were going exactly. I armed myself with information on Taipei but instead found myself in Taichung.
We arrived a bit later than we had hoped due to a minor delay at Incheon which expanded into a major delay as we booked our bus and had to make our way through holiday traffic to Taichung. Instead of arriving around lunch time we arrived starving and a bit early for dinner. (Our new friends met us at the bus stop with rice balls that were heavenly and made by their mother)
While in Taichung we spent the majority of our time getting around via the bus. We had bus passes that we used to tap onto the bus and then tap off when we exited. It’s similar to how it is in Korea, only in Taichung we could enter from either the back doors or the front doors and leave from either as well. Some of the bus stops are on the side of the road, others are in the middle of the road under big awnings. They have turnstiles and maps, but just ignore swiping the turnstiles and go through, it seems those machines are no longer running. Passes can be purchased and refilled at convenience stores, and also used to buy things at the convenience stores. While in Taichung our hosts provided us with bus passes to borrow that we filled up later. They do have a minimum amount to add, so you may get stuck with leftover money on the cards. (We used that to buy snacks for our bus ride to Taipei)
The buses in Taichung however stop running a little early which put us at a disadvantage when there was something else we wanted to do. Locals get around via motorcycle since cars can be expensive, though there are plenty of those too. On a couple of occasions, when we were in a hurry, too early or too late we hopped onto the back of our friends’ bikes. This was the first time I had ever ridden on a bike and I spent the entire time leading up to it in slight panic, followed by a mantra of “don’t squeeze her to death” and for the most part enjoyed seeing the city from a different view. Though having a proper helmet alleviates a lot of fear, the first time I was a passenger I had a nice purple helmet with a visor that fit snugly. The second time however we were going further so the driver needed that helmet and I instead used a white one that didn’t fit snuggly and was without a visor. I ended up holding the chin strap to keep it from knocking around on my head and blinking away tears caused by the wind. (I’m glad my friend had the one with the visor because otherwise I have no clue how she would have seen as easily)
Towards the end of our trip we went to Taipei and used public transportation there. A pass purchased at a convenience store is the best way to get around, via bus or the main train lines, the other train lines work a bit like they do in Tokyo. Where you follow instructions and insert the fare for the amount it would cost to get there and use it in the machines until it’s eaten when you leave.
These bus passes can also be used to get to the airport, though finding the airport bus is a bit of a mess due to them having moved it. It’s currently outside of Taipei Main Station 台北車站) (train station) East Exit 3 (東3). This was insanely confusing for us since we kept following signs inside the bus station and in the train station rather than going across the street and above ground. It’s on the other side of an old trolley car and that’s where you can find signs. The entire area of Taipei Main station was super confusing for us to navigate, so if you want to take the bus to the airport I suggest finding it ahead of time rather than when you’re running with your luggage and have a plane to catch.