The people seemed very gentle and calm. It was so quiet on trains and buses, compared to Hong Kong (and Spain!)
And the buses and trains were also really comfortable and always punctual. The country’s infrastructure is excellent. Great roads too, despite having to deal with occasional typhoons and earthquakes. All our journeys were really easy, except for the maps (see one of the photos.)
We did some cycling/hiking into the Yushan National Park (a finalist in the New Seven wonders of the world) and met a group hiking the other way – their 7th day hiking/camping from West to East through the mountains. Boy did they smell!
The bikes we hired had on the handlebars a sticker with an arrow pointing forwards and the words 'Riding Direction'. Er, thanks for that!
Outside of Taipei virtually no-one speaks English, so apart from Ni Hau (hello) and Xie Xie (thank you) our conversations didn’t go far. Remember, this isn’t Cantonese, which they speak in Hong Kong, but Mandarin (here called Putonghua).
When we hired the bikes, I asked the guy for a lock, and made some gestures. he said "Ah ok!", went away and came back with two helmets.
In one place, Amanda asked for "tea." The owner didn't seem to recognise the word, despite a big sign in English outside which said 'Tea House'. She got her daughter out to talk to us, and she could say a few words of English and seemed to understand. We waited 20 minutes for our drinks. Amanda's tea arrived... as orange juice.
In a hotel, the girl. "Hello! Welcome!" 'Good, she speaks English' we thought. "Do you have a room?" I asked. Blank face. No idea.
But it also worked in our favour. Amanda is a seriously good negotiator – she got 50% off scooter hire just by looking at the guy. And of course, no words involved - he wrote a number on a piece of paper, she frowned and he wrote a much smaller number, so she nodded her head.
The MRT (metro) in Taipei, the capital, makes the sound of an exotic bird’s mating call when the doors are open. It was really cool!
While waiting for a train, Amanda - the healthiest eater I know - shouted out "I wanna go buy cake!" It made me smile, and some of you will know why.
The rubbish trucks continuously play a tinkly tinkly tune like ice-cream vans in England, so if you take your children to Taiwan, warn them or they’ll be a little disappointed when they run out into the street expecting a cone with a 99 flake.
I saw monkeys on a bicycle!
I’ll rephrase that: I was cycling up a trail into the mountains and there were monkeys in the trees above me.
We went up the 2nd tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, at 508m. Fastest lifts too, 60km/hour!
In public toilets, there's a sign above the urinals: "Please move closer. Automatic flush when you approach." It made me want to take a step back.
Night markets sell some great food, especially dumplings. But there’s also a lot of unpalatable stuff – innards and the like. And stinky tofu – don’t get me started on stinky tofu. Seriously, if I was in charge, I’d criminalize it. The smell is that bad. How can anyone get it even near their face, let alone put it in their mouth?
Is it ok for me to smile at the name of the DongLong Temple?
We didn’t visit Shite Port.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong the temperature and humidity are rising. First swim in the sea this week, and all bed sheets have been discarded. It's not quite to the stage of needing the a/c, but it won't be long. And apparently there's 6 months of this weather.