On Wednesday we left the Philippines for our 19th country, Taiwan.
We were happy to spend 3 weeks island hopping the Philippines after hearing multiple accounts of how incredible the landscape, food, and people are. We had an amazing time, too, but, to be honest, we were happy to leave. We only got to 8 of the 7,000+ islands, but we still feel like we left with a good sense of the country.
We stayed in big cities and small villages, took every form of transportation, tried as many local meals as we could, ate, talked, and played with incredible locals, drove our own motorbike and car in different terrains, went snorkeling, diving, ATVing, and hiking, joined large tours and hired private guides, stayed in cheap hotels and family resorts, and got out and saw just as much as possible.
It really is a beautiful country, and the people are possibly the nicest we’ve met so far (and that is really saying something.)
But it wasn’t a great fit for us.
We got frustrated at how foreigners are automatically upcharged on everything, getting anywhere is an inconvenient hassle on the narrow, windy roads, trash piles up on streets and beaches, city traffic is unbearable, and the infrastructure has had to support such growing tourism numbers that many buildings are only half engineered.
Are we glad we went? You bet we are. Did we have fun? Oh gosh, yes. Will we be back? Honestly, probably not.
Needless to say, we were thrilled to be heading for a new experience on Wednesday.
Taiwan is only a quick 2-hour flight away from Cebu, but the country could not be more different (so far, at least.) We have had such an incredible impression of Taipei! The city feels like the best of all things Asia- it has the modern, clean infrastructure of Korea or Japan but with the history and monetary value of Southeast Asia. We love it.
Our AirBnB is tucked away in a narrow jumble of residential streets away from the main city roads. We pass rows of brand new motorbikes as we make our way to a road large enough to meet our Uber, passing charming neighborhood shops and garage restaurants along the way. Once on the main road we are dazzled by beautiful buildings, colorful storefronts, and neon signs. The traffic flows smoothly, and even the unexpected hoards of motorbikes obey traffic signals and laws of decency.
We pass a block of mom and pop noodle shops all serving the same $1 dish to patrons sitting on plastic chairs on our way to fancy modern fusion restaurants, all across the street from a park with historical relics, modern art, and a playground.
It’s vibrant, polite, clean, historical, and fun.
We love it.
My favorite part has got to be hearing Ben brush up on his rusty Chinese. He learned basic Chinese on extensive internship in China during college, but hasn’t spoken much in years. Taiwan speaks less English than any other country we’ve visited so far, though, (perhaps tied with Korea) and rusty Chinese is better than no Chinese. He swears the person he’s talking with can hardly understand him, but I can’t help but be impressed at how far his “limited vocabulary” has gotten us.
I give thanks daily for that man!
The downside of being in a new city is always the same: we are so eager to get out and explore things right away that we exhaust ourselves and aren’t left with much downtime to recover or work. We’ve accomplished a lot in our few days in Taipei, and Whit’s behavior and our businesses are bearing the burden of our busy schedules. Whit has been making poor decisions and acting whiny, we are less patient and more frustrated, and we are staying up late to finish basic work tasks.
Note to self: schedule down time!
I’ve been driving myself crazy to produce two 10-15 minute vlogs/ week from our current adventures while maintaining our travel website, and Ben is trying to improve the Amazon sales of three different brands. Those things take time, or something suffers. But that’s nothing new. Rushing around, making the most of the extra 5 minutes here and there has become our new, exhausting normal.
In two weeks we’ll be in the United States for two family reunions and I’m afraid we’ll be in such deep mental and physical recovery mode that those beloved family members will have to kick us out of bed each morning!