This guide features a list of cheap, direct flights from Taiwan for planning visa runs and inexpensive vacations. Most non-Taiwanese simply fly across the Strait to Hong Kong to file paperwork but I prefer spending a few days wherever I go to make up for the needless hassle and bureaucracy of international air travel. I have put a lot of work into compiling and updating various lists of potentially low-cost routes to destinations in East and Southeast Asia so I figure I may as well share my findings here.
In addition to their reputation for novelty foods night markets in Taiwan also offer an almost endless variety of cheap goods, particularly clothing and accessories. Much of Taiwanese night market fashion is amusing, quirky, provocative, bizarre, or even incoherent, though some of it is also quite clever. My understanding is that a lot of the weirder stuff originates in China, where massive factories churn out garments emblazoned with English text and pop culture references without regard for semantic meaning. This is almost certainly the result of copying passages from print or online media, using machine translation, or sheer laziness, but it might also be for aesthetic effect. Transcription errors are common, particularly when popular designs are copied by competing factories. Observed on the scale of years there is something almost evolutionary at work in night market fashion—styles mutate and are subject to a kind of natural selection. To celebrate the absurdity of this curious cultural phenomena I have assembled about 40 photos from my many visits to the night markets of Taiwan, almost all of which I have previously been shared on my Instagram account, the perfect vehicle for such inanity. Enjoy!
Curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, the Taipei Biennial 2014 was held at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (臺北市立美術館) in Zhongshan from September into the early part of the new year. The theme is “art in the age of the anthropocene”, the current geophysical epoch defined by humankind’s enormous impact on the natural world. From the curator’s notes:
this exhibition is organized around the cohabitation of human consciousness with swarming animals, data processing, the rapid growth of plants and the slow movements of matter. I am no serious critic but I certainly appreciate thought-provoking art when I see it. Since I haven’t any expertise in this area I’m mostly going to let the photos speak for themselves, however incomprehensible that might be. Much like the Xu Bing retrospective it was an inspiring experience so I’d like to have a record of it here on my blog.
Last winter I stayed in an apartment near the train station in Changhua City for about six months. This post is all about that apartment: why I decided to move there, how I found the place, what it cost, what the amenities were like, and so on. I am sharing this information mainly for other non-Taiwanese and nomadic types interested in exiting the Taipei bubble without necessarily speaking a lot of (or any) Chinese or even knowing much about Taiwan. This isn’t meant to be an endorsement of living in such a place, it’s simply a straight-forward account of what it was like. But first of all, why move south? And why Changhua of all places?
Taiwan is absolutely mad for scooters, a consequence of high population density, tightly cramped streets, and the expense and inconvenience of driving a car. Everywhere you go you’ll find streets lined with parked scooters and filled with scooterists going about their business. In can all seem like absolute chaos to outsiders—but there is a method to the madness, and the convenience factor regularly seduces skeptics, particularly when living outside of Taipei or beyond the reach of public transportation.
Tainan is known throughout Taiwan for its food—but deciding where to eat can be somewhat daunting, especially for anyone who doesn’t very much Chinese. There are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from—in addition to the many night markets scattered around the city. Taiwan, like any highly digital and developed nation, has a vast number of restaurant reviews online, but it isn’t practical to sift through all those reviews without some degree of fluency (or a lot of patience with the shoddy state of machine translation). And, to be honest, I would much rather know how to find good food than read specific restaurant reviews. I didn’t know much about Tainan’s cuisine when I moved there for three months last spring—so with this post I mean to give you the benefit of my experience as a mostly illiterate foreigner attempting to hack the system and eat well in Taiwan’s historic old capital.
Note: this post still receives a fair amount of traffic but it is very out of date. It was only current back in 2014, when it was published. Keep that in mind when reading these recommendations!
What follows is a short list of serviceable working cafes in and around downtown Tainan. What do I mean by a “working cafe”? I mean a cafe where students, freelancers, and remote workers will find the things they need to dig in for an extended period of time and get some work done. My criteria for a good working cafe: decent coffee, the availability of snacks or light meals, comfortable seating, wireless connectivity, unobtrusive music, reasonable prices, long opening hours, welcoming staff, and an ambiance conducive to creative work, especially programming. Of course, it helps if a cafe looks nice too!
In March of 2014 I went to see the Xú Bīng (徐冰) retrospective at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (台北市立美術館), easily my favourite gallery space in Taiwan. Xu Bing is a Chinese artist working mainly with representations of language, particularly in the context of interactions between East and West. I first discovered him through an article about character amnesia that discussed A Book From The Sky (天書), a work that continues to capture my imagination.
I should warn you: I’m not an art critic and these photos were shot on a cruddy smartphone. If you’d like to peruse something much more informed and professional about this exhibition I recommend perusing the curator’s statement, English language reviews here, here, and here, or this virtual tour. What follows are a few fleeting impressions of my own from a few hours in Xu Bing’s world.