How much does it cost to travel on Taiwan? Our budget and tips

Many say that if you can’t afford Japan, Taiwan is a good alternative. That made us think and expect this little island would be a lot like our beloved Japan. It’s definitely cleaner and more organized than other parts of Asia but that’s almost all the similarities it has with cherry- blossom- land. Still we completely fell in love with its nature, culture and beauty of its coast and mountains.

And I have to admit it’s more budget – friendly than Japan:)

Over 61 days we spend 3875 euro so around 63 euro per day for the two of us. A little above 30 euro each makes it a great alternative to Japan. But let’s break it down.


Where did we travel?

Taiwan is a pretty small island with a lot to offer. We visited their furthest southern part with its beachy national park (Kenting), we also emerged in their mountainous pearl of Taroko National Park. We couldn’t miss some of its most prominent cities like Taichung, Kaohsiung and obviously Taipei. When we got tired of the cities we relaxed by its magical Sun Moon Lake.

How did we travel?

Honestly I think renting a car on Taiwan is a great idea. We didn’t do that and regretted it afterwards. From what I read it’s not very expensive and some spots are difficult or even impossible to reach by public transport.

On transportation we  spent “just”398 euro. The prices of trains and buses were dirty cheap compared to Japan. A train from Taipei to Taichung was around 20 euros for both of us (750 TWD). Return bus from Zuoying to Kenting was 33 euro for both of us (1200 TWD). Actually we felt so sorry for ourselves that we didn’t try the high speed trains in Japan that we took one on Taiwan. It was “just” 2980 TWD (83 euros) so really cheap compared to the ones we saw in Japan.

The transport section includes some uber and taxi rides.

Curiosity! Buses in Taichung are FREE! Ok they can be pretty slow and a pain in the ass but who looks a gift horse in the mouth right?:)

Where did we stay?

Accommodation was the biggest part of our budget and it came up to 1876 euros. Out of this sum we spend 975 USD for a month of a private apartment in Taipei rented via airbnb (32.5 dollar a night). That one was a serious bargain considering that 99% of the studios I saw were for above 50 US dollars a night especially taking under consideration that we were in pure city center. The owner was going on vacation and wanted someone who could stay as long as possible so he offered 40% off for a stay above 28 nights.

For the rest we didn’t have that much luck anywhere else. The smaller and more beautiful the place was, the more pricey the hostel/ hotel was. At the Taroko National Park we had a private room at a local community home and that cost us 223 euros for 4 days.

We spent only 12 nights in dorms but those were not particularly cheap actually. For 7 nights in our hostel in Kenting we paid 234 euros for the two of us (around 20 euros per night). 

What did we eat?

Our food beginnings were difficult. Coming from lean, low fat, veggie Japan we had a hard time adjusting our bellies to more decadent, fatty Chinese cuisine. As usual we cooked ourselves most of the time but after some time we also enjoyed dinning at night markets, local restaurants and cafes. We didn’t deny ourselves many bubble teas either!

Food turned out to be 1369 euros out of which just 363 went on eating out on night markets, coffees and bubble teas. The rest was what we spent on ingredients to cook with. It might seem like quite a sum but we didn’t save, we treated ourselves buying fruit every single day and we tried out some weird ingredients. In this little fortune we also included quite a sum of tea, bought for gifts and for ourselves.

To give you an idea of eating out costs:

A very good bubble tea (good so not the cheapest) is around 70 TWD (around 2 euros)

Eating out at a night market we spent 200 - 400 TWD (5.5-11 euros) depending on what we bought. Barbecue was always the most expensive stand, together with fancy seafood. For cheaper meals we always turned to onion pancakes or dumplings.

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spend 139 euro. Many of the museums, temples and exhibitions were actually free. The most we spent on an entrance fee was when we went to see the Paul Smith exhibition in Taipei (560 TWD= around 16 euros for both of us). After all this free or dirt cheap cultural entertainment that one felt like a fortune. Although well spent.

In tourism we included mountain bikes rentals at the Sun Moon Lake (400 TWD = 11 euros) as well as renting an electric scooter in the Kenting National Park for two days (around 33 euros). A “huge” budget breaker was mountain bike rental with drop off in Taroko National Park. That was 1600 TWD (around 45 euros) well spent as it’s a super mountainous and dangerous area so we wanted to have the best equipment and calmly slide of a tremendous series of hills.

Where did the rest of our money go?

93 euro in the equipment and miscellaneous parts of our budget went to postcards, souvenirs, splurge in a private bath, a hat, some flowers and not much more:)

Money- saving tips and tricks

  1. Travel smart! Lots of spots on Taiwan are famous as weekend getaways and prices for accommodation get double or even triple during weekends and vacations. Try to avoid that. The three most popular of those are Sun Moon Lake, Kenting National Park and Taroko National Park.
  2. Hop on public transport! Buses, trains and metro are really cheap on Taiwan. In Taichung buses are actually free of charge. Just make sure you get yourself an Easy Card. You can buy it in many spots for example on metro stations and you put money on there to travel. It’s very easy, convenient and it makes everything even more affordable. The great thing is it works in buses and metro of Taipei as well as other big cities.
  3. Consider Airbnb! We managed to get a really great deal for an apartment in Taipei. It was central, pretty and it felt so homie. During the hottest summer months many people go away on vacation and some rent out their spots pretty cheap especially for longer stays.
  4. Enjoy free cultural events and exhibitions! Many of the art museums and cultural events are just free and really interesting.

Exchange rate used: 1 Euro = 34.48 TWD

Where and what to eat and drink in Taipei? Our favorite spots and dishes

  1. Tiny dumpling place

Unfortunately we have no idea how the place was called, if it even had a name but we know exactly where it was 🙂 we tasted so many dumplings everywhere on Taiwan but this little spot had the best ones by far. They were also pretty cheap, served in a very cozy place and the ladies working there were really sweet, although none of them spoke a word of English. After some time we also got fond of their water with floating jelly. I guess in a country where bubble tea is a religion, you just have to end up liking things like that. It helps that it was included in the service 🙂

  1. Mouthwatering gua-bao

This humble steamed bun with pork belly turned out to be our favorite dish. And after trying many around the island we unanimously decided one night market won. It had the best quality of meat, least amount of fat and most coriander and grounded peanuts. From our experience the quality of food on night markets was lower and lower the bigger the night market was. So in places where it was really crowded, the food was mediocre while smaller spots maintained high quality and often prepared the food fresh on the spot. The same night market had also the best barbecue with the most variety of veggies and meats and the most decadent sweet chilly sauce. Just next to that stand there was another one with spectacular roti with either eggs, bacon or just veggies. You will find it on our map below.

  1. Chinese food at its finest

Liu Pin Xiao Guan Chinese Restaurant was by far the most amazing restaurant we have visited on Taiwan. In this case looks are very deceiving, it seems like a so-so spot and the food doesn’t look very fancy but the taste is out of this world. They had a spectacular clam soup, noodle dishes, stir fries and fish. I honestly can’t believe they would have something disappointing.

  1. Get fruity everywhere

The whole island has an insane selection of all sorts of fruit. The availability changes with seasons but in general you can get passion fruits, dragon fruits both red and white ones, lychees, white pineapples and so much more. I have never made so many smoothies in my life. And I really miss those.

  1. The best fruit sorbet

With such a variety of fruit available, there are many spots offering juicy sorbet's. Nothing helps coping with the heat of the island better than a cool refreshment. After a very in-depth research we concluded that the ones sold at the Songshan Cultural Park were the best!

  1. Beef noodles worth queuing for

Taoyuan Street Authentic Shandong Beef Noodle might look humble from the outside but their beef noodle soup is worth standing in the queue. It’s delicious and full of flavor and their beef is soft and tender.

  1. Bubble tea EVERYWHERE!

Bubble tea is THE thing to drink on Taiwan. This tea based drink was invented on the island and rocked the whole world. There are so many varieties that the best way is to try them all and choose your favorite one. Give a chance to small businesses as well as big chains. I especially loved assam black tea with milk and tapioca balls. Jandirk was more a fan of a sweeter, fruitier type of teas with balls and fruit jellies 🙂

  1. More traditional tea

The island is famous for its teas especially for oolong and assam black tea. For more traditional tea tasting there is just one number one in Taipei- Wisteria Tea House. It’s a beautiful spot that looks like a Japanese tea house with our favorite tatami floors. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to visit them. We were unlucky to find it either closed or too busy to serve us. We were more than happy with lovely number two –C-tea-loft. This is a bit more modern tea house with an insane selections of teas and a very friendly staff that will eagerly tell you all about those.

  1. Coffee stop

Although tea is the national drink, coffee game is getting stronger and stronger especially in the capital. There are quite some popular and nice chains like Cama Cafe where they roast their own beans at the spot or Louisa Coffee with stylish interior and more delicate coffee. Our favorite one turned out to be the very artistic Artalley Cafe. Maybe the staff was a bit clueless but the coffee was good and the interior was stunning with super comfy chairs and a massive book selection.

8 must sees in Taipei

Like many other Asian cities, Taipei can be a bit chaotic and needs few days to fall in love with. For those who stay and explore, it offers tones of amazing tea houses, cafes, museums and art neighborhoods. We were heartbroken leaving it after a month and we know we will go back there someday. For now we want to show you our favorite spots in this vibrant city.

  1. Get creative at the Huashan 1914 Creativity Park

We discovered this pearl literally two days before we left Taiwan. I was almost heartbroken knowing I could have spent days there. Like many other places on the island, Huashan was a leftover of Japanese business, in this case an ex-sake winery taken over by art and given a new life. It’s a spectacular place with lots of cool, artsy cafes, museums, interesting exhibitions and the most original gifts and postcards ever. There are a lot of events happening there and plenty of green areas so it’s a perfect spot to picnic with a concert in the background. Heaven!

  1. Get even more artsy at Songshan Cultural & Creative Park

Similar idea to Huashan except Songshan is bigger and even more beautifully situated. Pond on one side, park on the other and a green courtyard in the middle made us forget we were still in the city. Obviously it has hyper interesting exhibitions and artsy souvenirs but what sets it apart is its charming, little bookshop/café. In a country where reading is essential and done by everyone, everywhere you really need places like that. Just crossing the doorstep I felt this lovely atmosphere of an old office with this specific smell of books and coffee.

After you're done reading we strongly recommend the best natural juice ice cream we have ever tasted! Location on our map below.

  1. See the army in action at the Martyrs’ Shrine

This pretty new shrine (built in 1969) is dedicated to Chinese soldiers who sacrificed themselves for their country. As many other important places it changes guards every hour. But honestly, this one is the most spectacular that we saw. Sheer precision, synchronization and shoes almost creating music. We stayed even after the "performance" to explore the beauty of the surrounding. Thankfully it misses some new, kitsch additions which leaves just perfect repetitions and a shrine that looks old and traditional.

  1. Feel the grand Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Built in memory of a former president of China, Chiang Kai-shek, the memorial hall is one of the main sites in Taipei. The hall itself is not extremely impressive for someone coming from Europe … but the change of guards is mesmerizing and the square on which it’s situated is massive and gives this feeling of a massive empire.

  1. Get cultural for “nothing” in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

I was shocked a country famous for producing electronics and cheesy goods would have so much art. I completely didn’t expect that they would do even more. Spread art for everyone. Fine Arts Museum is another example of that. Entrance is just 30 NTD so less than a euro and you can literally spend a whole day walking around and exploring different exhibitions. We were especially interested in the exhibition about victims of the “Made in Taiwan” phenomenon.

  1. Emerge in a “weekend” garden on Chien Kuo Weekend Flower Market

Da'an’s flower market is a perfect event for all the flower lovers. You can literally find all the flowers and herbs that I’ve ever seen and also some micro plants kept in lab-like flasks. There are also lots of other curiosities like little fish kept in separate plastic containers or fresh honey on honey comb. Just next to the Flower Market there is also a Gem market.

  1. Get the best views on the city from the Elephant Mountain

Some might argue that the best views on the capital are from Taipei 101. For us it’s simple, why pay a lot of money to go on a tower when you can sweat for 20 minutes and see the whole city, tower included, for free? For us it was an easy choice. And judging by the biggest tripod crowds ever, we weren’t the only ones with that opinion. The mountain offers plenty of viewing platforms, the further you go, the more options and different angles you get. We decided to go there in the late afternoon to get the sight of the city during the day as well as with the sunset and at night. We never regretted those few hours, it was magnificent although crowded.

  1. Shopping around Taipei 101 and Xiemending

Especially Xiemending reminded us of shopping districts in Osaka or Tokyo. Obviously on a smaller scale. There and around Taipei 101 you can get everything: fine tea, clothes, electronics, souvenirs, nice Taiwanese cosmetics. You name it!

Taroko National Park

Just when we thought Taiwan couldn’t get any more beautiful or green or mountainous… we went to Taroko National Park. Our jaws dropped once more.

The gorgeous Gorge

Taroko National Park is not too far from Hualien and a 2hr direct train from Taipei took us very close to the entrance of the park (Xincheng station). The biggest attraction of the park is a deep gorge carved by the Liwu River. It might sound not very accessible but it actually is. Serpentine roads carved in cliffs, tunnels digged in mountains and countless bridges, provide the most scenic route… and the most frightening at the same time.

By bike & on foot

Buses on Taiwan require a certain dosage of patience and those in the gorge even more. Renting a car was not really an option for us and in many spots it’s difficult to park it anyway. So we decided to explore a big part of the park by bike and the rest on foot.

For 800 Taiwanese dollars (around 23 euros) per person we got amazing mountain bikes with great breaks, helmets and sets of lights. Everything necessary to survive a day biking in the gorge. The price included also a drop off at the end of the route close by Wenshan spring, which meant we would be biking just one way and 90% down. It was a huge relief from a physical point of view because otherwise we would have to cycle up the whole time but also a challenge for our adrenaline. Going down on serpentine narrow roads, often looking over sheer drops from the cliff is not really an entertainment for everyone. With my vertigo I was both petrified and fascinated. As you can all imagine I forgot to take pictures on the most scenic/scary parts of the trip.

Having our own pair of wheels gave us the flexibility to stop wherever we wanted and enjoy few hikes on the way.

Falling rocks are not uncommon and sights and trails close because of them frequently. Sometimes it’s really difficult to check beforehand if something would be open or closed.

When we stopped at the Baiyang Trail and walked for 1.5 km to get to the water curtain in a tunnel, we were pretty disappointed it was closed because of the collapsing ceiling.

From there we went to the “main” village in the park- Tianxiang which is really just a few houses and not much more. It wouldn’t even be worth a stop if not for a convenient store… The only one in the park. We knew we wouldn’t see another one for at least half a day so it was a nice stop to buy some snacks and pour some caffeine into our bodies.

The village is also famous for an amazing hotel called Silks that has a very beautiful pool with views on the mountains. We heard it’s possible to have a drink by the pool there even if you’re not a guest.

Just leaving the village we spotted a beautiful temple with a pagoda (Xiangde temple) above us on a mountain. We were hoping to get some views over the surrounding mountains but it turned out to be pretty covered by trees. Still the temple itself with statues and the pagoda was quite a treat and we would definitely recommend stopping there.

Next stop was Lushui Trail, a very pleasant walk in a forest that turns into a scenic walk along the cliff with views on the gorge and the road stretching underneath.

Few bridges, tunnels and cliffs later we reached the most beautiful part of the park Swallow Grotto. It’s practically a road that has been overtaken by pedestrian tourists floating out from tour buses. It’s 1.5 km of tunnels, arches and gorgeous views of the valley. The name came from thousands of swallows’ nests that are literally in every tiny cave carved by the water.

Not far from the Swallow Grotto is the beginning of the Zhuilu Old Trail. Originally it was a part of a mountain pass built by the indigenous and used by the Japanese in later times. Now it’s one of the most famous trails in the park. Unfortunately it requires a permit and the number of people allowed to enter it is very limited. We were very disappointed to find out the permits were gone for our days. But also a bit relieved we had an excuse not to face our vertigo in there. We saw some pictures of the hike and we knew the main attraction was a walk along a cliff 800 m above the river with a sheer drop and not a single railing to keep us away from that edge… Not to mention  there were also some vine bridges involved and Jandirk had enough of those for a long time even without that trail 🙂

From Swallow Grotto we went to the main sight that brought us to the park in the first place… Eternal Spring Shrine. To our disappointment it was covered in scaffolding that made it impossible to see it in full glory. It was actually much smaller than I thought… And the whole trail to the temple was closed which left us with nothing more than an afar view…

That also meant that in order to see the Changguang Temple and the bell tower we had to go back a bit and cross another vine bridge. In saying that, the views from the bell tower were absolutely stunning and one of a kind. Unfortunately the bell is very much in operation and every tourist wants to bang on it at least once. Which spoils the peace every 5 minutes…

Other interesting sights

Just at the entrance to the park there is a scenic, 4km walk (Shakadang Trail) carved in the cliff that is very family friendly and very popular. We loved it because it gave us an idea of what the park was about without any fear as the paths are wide, easy and with a railing. The only danger that a western can face in there is to forget to bend… the trail was carved in stone for Asian size tourists. And giant spiders that are omnipresent on all the trails everywhere in the park. But that shouldn’t have surprised us, all the insects on the island are super-sized…

Except for cliffs, the trail offers amazing views of crystal water, lush forest and plenty of spots to chill out and enjoy the views. Even better, in the middle of the trail there is a shop with aboriginal sausages that are just delicious!!! Not to mention their cold, fruity mulberry juice… We literally had 4 cups of it.

From Shakadang Trail, it’s nice to enter a very short Xiaozhuilu trail that took us back to the entrance of the park. It obviously features another vine bridge. Since there are not many people walking there the density of spiders per meter is even higher than anywhere else.

Although most people associate the park with mountains and forest we had a lovely beach just next to our guesthouse. It was very clean, calm and peaceful. Every sunset we went there for an amazing spectacle of clouds and colors. And for some downtime with a book.

Talking about water entertainment we actually stumbled on a hidden gem a short walk from our guesthouse. Crystal clear water, rocks to sit on, trees for some shade and food stands, sounds like paradise right? Since it has no name and it would be hard to just google it, we put it on our map below 🙂

Where to stay?

Taroko has limited options when it comes to accommodation. But what there is, is very good. Silks hotel is obviously the top notch, splurge option. But there are plenty of guesthouses run by the indigenous community. We stayed in Taroko Railway Authentic B&B that was very close to a convenient store and the beach. It was beautiful and the rooms were charming and had an amazing view on the mountains. The family that runs the business didn’t speak English but was very enthusiastic and keen on using google translate.

Except for hotels and guesthouses there are also few campgrounds so a tent could also be an option.

How long does it take to explore the gorge?

I think two days give you a fair idea of the surrounding. But if we knew what we know now we would definitely come for longer and go further exploring some multi day hikes.

Hikes with permits

Honestly before coming to the park we were not fully aware of the number of hikes we could do. The information online was not very clear and only when we arrived it turned out that there were multiple amazing hikes that we could do… with a bit more organization beforehand.

Zhuilu Old Trail is really the first and most famous option but there are many others like Chilai mountain hike or Datong trail. All of those require permits and some are multi- day hikes. Depending on the route rules change. So for some you can apply for the permit in person for others you have to request it beforehand online or even go to the police office…

Pingxi mountain tops and dips in waterfalls- Perfect day trip from Taipei

Pingxi is a small village situated less than an hour from Taipei. It´s famous for producing massive paper lanterns that once a year, during the Sky Lantern Festival, get sent to the sky with wishes written on them. Unfortunately we missed that one by many months. And we arrived in Pingxi for a different reason… The nearby mountains. Three mountains to be exact. It might sound like a lot in a day but those are actually not that challenging and the views are more than rewarding.

How to get there?

The trails to all the 3 mountains meet at the same spot that you can see on our map below. To get there from Taipei there are quite few options. You can either take a train to the Rueifang train station and then switch to the Pingxi Rail line that will take you to Pingxi Station or take a direct bus from Muzha Zoo. Unfortunately both options won’t get you there before the sunrise and they both take at least 2hrs. So we decided to take an UBER, which was the best choice for us. It only cost 900 Taiwanese dollars (around 27 euro) and it took just 40 minutes.

Why so early?

We really wanted to be there very early to see the sunrise which was just epic, with clouds and fog. We also wanted to skip the heat of mid-day. Even when we started, before 5 am, it was very warm but at 6.30 the sun was already unbearable. As soon as we started walking I was really happy that we didn't have to share the spot with other people. It was not only soothingly peaceful but also safer. I can’t imagine how it could be crowded on those narrow stone stairs or worse… on the ladder.
Early start gave us an option of combining two trips in one and go to nearby waterfalls.

Xiaozi Mountain (Filial Son Mountain)

The lowest of them all and a perfect spot for a sunrise. Hiking from the beginning of the trail to the top took us around 20 minutes. The views were just insane with fog and clouds tight densely around the mountains. From there we could see the other two peaks in their full glory and also the stairs from hell that would take us to the second peak.

The only small detail about Xiaozi peak is that it requires cold blood. It’s a straight forward walk on the stairs that are pretty exposed and as a last part of the hike you need to climb a ladder that is even more exposed. Good news is that there are super steady ropes to hold on both sides. I’m really, really scared of heights and I managed to do it... Nearly got a heart attack though 🙂

The top of the mountain is pretty tiny and surrounded with a metal railing. I honestly can’t imagine that more than 5 people could fit there… Unless we are talking Asian size people, than maybe 10 would fit. I was extremely glad we were there just the 2 of us.

Cimu Mountain (Motherly Loving Mountain)

The trail begins just next to Xiaozi one and it’s hard to miss. It’s the beginning of millions of stairs and although they looked pretty bad from the first peak, they're really not difficult. It took us maybe around 30 minutes to get to the summit, not counting a big stop for pictures half way.

The staircase is not as exposed as the first one and it has very steady ropes to hold on both sides. I would even dare to say that here two people could even pass each other.

The views from The Mother Loving Mountain are spectacular, here we could see the Filial Son Mountain which from the distance looks completely out of this world. We also saw Putuo Mountain, the last one of the 3 peaks.

At the top of Cimu, it wasn’t clear which way down we should have taken. There were few paths, including old ones still with ropes in great condition… We decided to go down exactly on the other side of the mountain since it looked less steep and challenging. Big mistake. It turned out to be far from clear, challenging at times, and at some point the trail completely disappeared in vegetation leaving us without a clue of where to go. In final end we managed to go down through the bushes. But I would recommend just going down the same way…

After the view from the Motherly Loving Mountain we decided to skip the 3rd peak. It seemed pretty covered with trees and from what we could see we would only get a view on one side which would be similar to the one from the 2nd peak especially since they are so close by each other. Taking that into consideration and the fact that it’s the highest of the three we decided to end our adventure as it was.

Since it was just 7 am and we were full of energy and enthusiasm we decided to visit some waterfalls nearby 🙂

Shifen and the waterfalls’ hike

Shifen waterfall is the widest one on Taiwan and it's where a hike to 3 other ones starts/ends. Being so close to it we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Shifen is also famous for sky lanterns but in the morning there are barely any shops open.

We took a train from Pingxi to get to Shifen which takes just 20 min. The train itself was charming and well-kept in old style. It was also pretty frequent which surprised us.

From the station it’s still quite a walk but we managed to arrive at the entrance to the waterfall at precisely 9 am. The exact time when it opens… Unfortunately the waterfall is very much commercialized and there are restaurants, observation decks, toilets… So close to the nature and yet so far. It was clear they were prepared for hundreds of visitors. Thankfully those masses don’t wake up so early.

Behind the waterfall there are train tracks and that’s where the hike to other waterfalls begins. It’s illegal to walk on them and there is a fence with a sign to make sure it’s clear… But well, that’s the only way. The route along the trails is just about 15 minutes and most of the time there is enough space to step aside in case a train passes. Except for a short tunnel… Fortunately the trains are not frequent and when we were there, one just passed us before we head to the tunnel so we were pretty sure we would survive that part 🙂

To know where you should step down from the train tracks on a path you can download our map.

From there it’s pretty straight forward and super slippery. The rock stairs are covered in leaves and it’s wet all the time. Here there are no ropes to hold on to so it can be pretty dangerous. On the bright side it’s a really picturesque route in the forest.

Once we put that difficult 30 minutes behind us we were relieved to realize that was the most challenging part of the path. The rest was pretty much walking on well maintained trails or even paved roads.

Pipadong Waterfall

Walking from Shifen meant that we first saw the waterfall from up close and up high. Going down we could already hear that at the bottom of the stream was where all the fun was going on. There was a natural swimming pool with plenty of flat rocks for everyone to sit and relax between the swims in the chilled water. True mercy in such a hot, sunny country and an epic way to rest after the hike.

No wonder that it’s a pretty crowded spot, especially since the hike from Sandiaoling Waterfall has been adapted to be more family friendly.

After some down time, we started walking towards the Sandiaoling Waterfall with our two new friends. One of them literally walked in sandals… which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. But it does say a lot about the difficulty of the path from here on. On our way to civilization we passed Motian Waterfall that was as beautiful as the Pipadong one, although it missed the pool option. Busy talking we almost missed the Hegu Waterfall that turned out to be rather inaccessible and only visible from a platform from quite a distance.

From there it was just a short walk to the train that took us back to our cozy apartment in Taipei.

Open post

12 souvenirs from Japan that I just couldn’t resist

Usually I associate souvenirs with kitsch, plastic gifts made in China and faded postcards of doubtful beauty. Over those two years travelling I’ve rarely been tempted to enter a gift shop less even to buy a single thing. Japan has changed it all. The amount of effort and creativity put in so many little objects here makes them unique and really worth buying. Not to mention the tradition and the beauty that go with them. Below some of gifts that I couldn’t resist, even having in mind that I will have to carry them around. Others I will have to get next time.

  1. Multi-functional piece of cloth- Futoshiki

So simple and traditional and yet so functional. The technique of folding a square cloth around anything has been around for centuries. Previously it was used to carry things and to wrap gifts. The patterns and colors were a way of expressing the purpose of the gift and feelings of the generous person. After World War II part of this beautiful art got pushed out by cheaper and more common plastic and paper. But it hasn’t died just yet. The material can be folded in a really nice bag, actually many different types of bags, only imagination is the limit. That variety of a humble piece of material and the idea of supporting something so fragile pushed me to buy some for myself.

  1. Colorful and very unusual socks

Patterns of sushi, shrines, Mount Fuji, cats and soooo much more can be easily found in any shop selling socks. They are colorful, fun and many are divided in “two toes” or even “five toes”. That makes them perfect to wear with your flip flops, as weird as that sounds. We especially loved the collection available in some Don Quijote. Cheap and just brilliant.

  1. Arty, colorful postcards

Japan has numerous different techniques when it comes to postcards. They can be painted, made from recycled kimonos, washi paper. Options are countless and they all look stunning and one of a kind. I don’t think there is any other country I have seen with so many different patterns and so much art and love put into postcards. Honestly I felt sad I had to send them out… Obviously I kept a few for myself 🙂

  1. Fragrant bath salts

We never really appreciated the benefits of a bath. Not until we came to Japan. Here it has almost a ritual like importance and is supposed to relax you after a tough day. And it really does. But the addition of fragrant, Japanese bath salts is the cherry on the top. The smell is as divine as the package looks.

  1. Playful carnival-like facial masks

I know it sounds weird but in what other country can you become a panda or a cat for a few minutes? Only in Japan. The masks are not only playful and cute in a weird way but also very soothing and relaxing. Perfect little detail going in the bathtub. For more picky customers there are also ones that will make you look like a geisha or hello kitty.

  1. The most beautiful bathrobe - Yukata

Yukata is a kind of casual kimono. It literally means “bathing cloth” and at the beginning it was used just as such, since it’s so easy to just wrap it around you and it can dry the leftover moisture from your skin. Nowadays some wear it as a summer version of the kimono. We got them at one of our Airbnbs and I absolutely loved mine. They were colorful, playful and really comfortable to wear. Jandirk wasn’t overly impressed, yukatas for men lack patterns and are generally kept in darker tones.

  1. Fans for the hot summers ahead

Fans are something that have been in use for centuries and perfected over the time. Now only the imagination and budget is the limit. The can be foldable or rigid, bamboo or paper based. They come in unbelievable variety of forms and patterns. In museums we even saw some covered in gold… those I probably wouldn’t buy as a gift even for my best friends.

  1. Everyone’s necessity- chop sticks

They come in a variety of shapes and designs. We especially loved very simple wooden ones. There is a certain charm in the fact that no two chop sticks are exactly the same since no trees are identical.

  1. Something for the stomach- matcha and green tea

Before coming to Japan we have never tried matcha and we were not big green tea drinkers. Here we got thrown into deep water, we saw and tasted matcha not only as a powdered green tea just served as a drink but also in variety of deserts and snacks. We fell in love with its strong flavor and even stronger green color. It’s one of those ingredients that we will take with us and incorporate in our daily life. Same with the cold green tea that became indispensable to us over those months….

  1. Traditional or modern pottery

This one has totally stolen my heart. I hope one day we will return with an empty suitcase and full bank accounts to buy some of so many stunning pots, mugs and plates. We especially loved collections available in small, cozy ateliers in one of the old pottery towns- Tokoname.

  1. The famous "folded paper"- origami

This beautiful technique of folding paper into complicated but beautiful shapes is especially dear to my hearth. Many of the gifts that I got from Jandirk were origami folded animals and flowers. Here in Japan he could go even crazier with all the variety of paper available. Every Japanese person knows how to fold at least a few basic figures, they learn that at school. It has been a nice beginning of a conversation for us and sometimes a nice evening activity with a little origami battle.

In many shrines and museums we saw origami bookmarks and cranes that we could just take for free.

  1. Something for the soul- sake

Sake comes in such a variety of tastes that I just can’t imagine someone wouldn’t enjoy it. It can be sweet, it can be very dry, it can be clear or contain particles of rice, it can be served cold or hot. There is something for all taste buds out there. I don't think there is anyone that could resist the traditional sake serving. The liquid is supposed to overflow from a shot glass or wooden container onto anything that is under it. Being raised in Poland in a society that drinks vodka and likes to show its generosity, I'm shocked we never came up with it.

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