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Travel with Techgage: Taiwan for Computex 2009
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by Rob Williams on June 16, 2009 in Computex

Our Computex 2009 coverage is long done with, but this article isn’t about what we saw on the show floor or learned during a meeting. Rather, this article takes a look at things from a different angle: the experience. We’ll talk both about what life is like during these trips, and in this particular case, what it’s like to spend time in Taiwan for just over a week.

Traveling Taiwan

If there’s one aspect of Taiwan I don’t really care for, it’s that most of the city streets look exactly the same. What I mean by this is that there is very little variation in between buildings and advertisements, and as is typical of much of Asia, many buildings have similar vertical signs hanging off the side, stating the store name or what’s sold there. This is very interesting at first, but it becomes a little frustrating after turning a corner and essentially seeing the same thing. I could be of the minority here, but I do know of others who’ve thought the same thing.

To really experience Taiwan, you need to leave the main stretch of town, and that’s something I really haven’t done in the past, but plan to in the future. Despite Taipei and all of Taiwan’s major cities being so large, there’s a remarkable amount of nature on the island, and even inside of the towns. In the photo above you can see trees right inside the city, and that’s pretty common. All of Asia is known for having horrible pollution, so the more trees, the merrier, I say.

In my limited travels though, I have stumbled on some fairly interesting things. Some just in the same general area, like this park (which I forget the name of) near a popular night market in Taichung:

Of course, one of the most unique features of Taiwan and Asia in general are “night markets”, streets lined with various vendors selling food, clothing, accessories and whatever else people might want to buy. A lot of the wares are hand-made or cooked fresh, which really adds to the appeal. In the picture below, you can see the market I referred to above, both in the day, and the evening (the second picture was taken last summer).

Again, the price of food here is rather surprising. For $60 NT ($2 US), I purchased a plate of chicken rice that filled me to the point of content, and I washed it down with a $25 NT ($0.82 US) banana milkshake. Not bad eats for just under three bucks.

Taichung isn’t a tourist town, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it. Despite this being Taiwan, there’s quite a few familiar restaurants and stores that almost make you feel like you’re home… you know, until you realize all of the employees are Asian’s who don’t speak perfect English! In the photo below, you can see me posing with a cute waitress inside of a TGI Fridays, which happens to be right across the street from the Chung Yo department store’s Starbucks location. In my travels around this city, I even saw a Ponderosa, although I’m not so sure those are too common.

You can’t visit Taiwan without trying out some traditional food though, and night markets are the best place for it. Personally, I’ve never tried anything truly “crazy”, but one snack that’s very popular in Taiwan and other parts of Asia is called… “Stinky Tofu”. Yes, that’s the real name. Created with the help of fermented vegetables, stinky tofu has an undeniable odor that can be pinpointed anywhere in a night market. Just how bad is it? Right before the first time I tried it, I literally thought I smelled sewage. That’s how bad.

Don’t let the looks deceive you… this is one smelly dish. It’s one of those things that tastes better than it smells though, although I certainly don’t recommend being a smart-ass and pushing your face as close as you can to it and then taking a massive whiff. I swear I almost fainted. Given it’s tofu, at least it’s healthy!