Asia for 5 months
I packed up my bags at the beginning of June 2017 in San Francisco and bought a one way ticket to go to Taipei, Taiwan. Well, first I made a pit stop to NYC and hung out with family and friends for a bit. I was in Asia for about 5 months, and I visited Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and China.
Honestly, this was the trip of a lifetime, but I didn't really quite appreciate how insane and completely "living in the moment" it was until I got back to NYC. My flights to Hong Kong and Japan were purchased the day before I flew out. I went to Japan with a one-way ticket, and I didn't even know when I was going to fly back to Taiwan.
I've always been the type of person that likes to have a plan and goal in mind, but for this trip... my goal was to just relax, explore a different part of the world, and do a lot of self-reflection on what kind of life I want. I think I owe myself that much.
In January of 2018, I'll be moving back to Taipei for at least one year to open a music studio with my good friend Andy.
I wanted to write about all of my experiences in Asia while I was there, but that obviously did not happen. There was just too much going on. I figure now is as good of a time as ever to start reflecting on my adventures.
This will be a long series of posts, since I did so much and visited so many places in Asia.
Taipei is Home Base
I subleased an apartment in Taipei for 4 months. It was in the same building as my friend, Andy, and the unit is actually owned by his landlord's sister (or some other family connection). Much thanks to Andy and Maggie for connecting me with the landlord.
This is what the apartment looked like:
Comfortable and convenient. Many lazy weekdays and weekends were spent here.
I spent the first month or so getting used to the city, and I spent a lot of time traveling to different neighborhoods just to soak everything up.
Neighborhood map of Taipei
I spent most of my time in Xinyi, Da'an, and also a good amount of time in Zhongshan and Songshan.
Xinyi is a pretty commercial area, and it's where a lot of newer constructions and high-rise apartment buildings are located.
Da'an is more residential, and it has a more local Taiwan feel. The streets are teeming with hipster coffee shops, cool speakeasys, and great food. After a few months in Taiwan, Da'an is my favorite neighborhood by far.
This is what a typical street in a residential neighborhood in Taipei looks like:
Some random stands from a day time market
Some Taiwanese breakfast food :)
The Citi Bike of Taipei - UBike
Beitou Public Library
Just some more food
Cool seating area at an outdoor theater in Da'an Forest Park
Famous touristy mango shaved ice spot on Yong Kang Street
Hanging with Andy at the studio
Chilling with my parents at Commune A7
Less than a week after this last picture was taken, my parents flew back to Shanghai (they were only visiting Taipei for a few days), and I hopped on a flight to go visit some of my college buddies who were in Seoul for the summer.
Thoughts on Taipei and Taiwan
I felt at home pretty quickly in Taipei. The culture is familiar to me, since my parents are both Taiwanese, and I also went to first grade in Taiwan. At the same time, everything was so foreign still, since I was raised in the US and cannot really read Chinese that well. It's a strange feeling, but it was exciting and interesting. Lots of conflicting emotions.
I'll admit, for the first half of my trip, I would simply be walking around a subway station or just on any street and wonder - "Where the F am I right now?" Everyone is Asian. I can't read any signs. Nobody is speaking English. This never bothered me - it was more shocking and hilarious. Especially when I first landed in Taipei - I was literally sitting in front of a computer writing code a week ago in San Francisco. Now I'm exploring the city that my parents grew up in on the other side of the globe.
Taiwan is a lovely place - the people are so incredibly friendly, welcoming, and generous. I've met so many new people in Taiwan that I will be friends with for the rest of my life.
I will say, though, that the weather in Taiwan (and Asia in general) sucks major donkey balls. Typhoons, unbearable humidity, and scorching heat waves. Other than the weather, Taipei is a really comfortable place to live.
Is it my top choice to live in Asia? Probably not for long-term, actually. I think I would prefer Shanghai, but more on that in a later post.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I'm glad I finally got myself to start posting a bit about my epic, EPIC, INSANE Asia adventures.