Random things to know if you’re visiting Taiwan for the first time:

1. Taiwan is a major industrialized country: I’m finding that a lot of people who are unfamiliar with Asia tend to be confused with a stereotyped image in their head. Actually, Taiwan is considered one of the Four Asian Tigers (the other three being Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea). Visitors can expect cell phone coverage, wifi, safe (and awesome!) high speed rails, and high end retail stores with Tiger Woods advertising something obscenely expensive can be expected. Additionally, I’ve noticed that English signs is prevalent enough in subways, train stations, airports, street signs, stores for English-speaking visitors.

2. There are a lot of fruits that are not easily accessible in the US. During the summer time, lychees, logan, starfruits, yellow watermelon, mango, and corn can be found in any markets and outdoor markets. This is something that should be taken advantage of since

3. English is OK: The younger generation learns English in school. Many may have difficulties speaking it, but sometimes writing notes down is an easier way to communicate.

4. Taiwan is not cheap: Taiwan, compared to other Asian countries, is not a cheap get away. Hotels, tickets events, and shopping are still expensive. Street food and smaller restaurants are still cheap, in comparison to what you’d get in the US. But overall, don’t expect to get a foot massage for $3 here.

5. Get your hair did: or at least get it washed. For about $5 USD, you can get your hair shampooed, blow-dried and your shoulders and scalp massaged. This is not a rush job either. Hide from the mid-day heat and duck into a salon to get beautified. It’s always nice to pamper yourself while on vacation. FYI: Standard hair dye job is $30.

6. Food: The best way to get to know Taiwanese cuisine is to eat at the local night markets. Oyster pancakes, beef noodle soup, boba, shaved ice, stinky tofu, pork chop and rice. A lot of authentic Taiwanese food is actually quick eats. If you don’t know the language, when it doubt, just point to what everyone else is eating. Taiwan is a pretty friendly place. They’ll understand.

7. Betelnuts and betelnut girls: Betel nuts are made from the Areca seed, which a paste is added and wrapped in Betel leaf. Don’t worry if you see someone’s mouth completely red. Like chewing tabacco, chewing betel nuts causes the saliva to turn red. Over the years, small betel nut stands with glass walls have been popping up on the side of the freeway where scantally-dressed women sell betel nuts. Oh, Taiwan, you’re so amusing. See photos of the betel nut making process.

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