January 01, 2014
Winter has well and truly set in, and it is actually quite chilly. If you are planning a trip to Taiwan then you should pack a jacket. It can still be warm during the day, and in fact the weather has been about as perfect as we can ever hope for, but the nights are in the teens Celsius, so bring something warm. As ever, the excellent Central Weather Bureau website should be your first stop before planning a trip to/around Taiwan: http://www.cwb.gov.tw/eng/index.htm
Christmas is almost upon us yet again, and although it is not a national holiday here, decorations are up all over the place. If you happen to be in Taiwan during the Christmas period and have a hankering for a roast meal, the big hotels will have options. If you are a resident here, then you can order a Christmas hamper from most of the big hotels which includes a roast turkey and assorted goodies.
While Christmas in Taiwan is really no more than an excuse to go shopping, New Year’s Eve is a big concern (the December 31st version, not the lunar calendar one). Many restaurants and clubs will be ticket only, and there will be fireworks displays in many cities. In Taipei, the place to be is the Xinyi area, and in particular Taipei 101. There will be a countdown and there is usually a concert, and then fireworks will be launched from Taipei 101 itself (which you can watch on the TV in your hotel room of course). The only drawback is that it is usually packed, and the MRT (the subway system) will be the main public transport option.
Which leads me nicely on to the opening of the latest branch of the MRT in Taipei; the Xinyi line. The 6.5km long line includes seven stations: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Dongmen, Daan Park, Daan Station, Xinyi Anhe, Taipei 101-World Trade Center and Elephant Mountain. The MRT really is a great way to get around Taipei (and it’s also good in Kaohsiung) and is highly recommended. If you choose to watch the fireworks at Taipei 101, it will also be a good way to get in and out of the area.
The main holiday of the year in Taiwan is the lunar New Year break, which is in late January and early February in 2014, so more about that then. Suffice to say though that if you are in Taiwan in December then everything will be business as usual and there shouldn’t be any hike in prices.
With the relatively chilly weather, the Taiwanese favourites of hot springs and hot pots are the things to do. Ilan has a great selection of hot springs, and there are also some nice places in Wulai and Beitou. Hot pots are everywhere and range from the lethally hot (as in spicy) “mala” to the standard hot pot. Actually the main difference is the sauce in which you cook (you usually get a bowl containing the soup or stock which is heated) the meat and vegetables. Both should be high on the to-do list.
And finally, we are asked a lot (somewhat surprisingly now I think about it) about picking fruit. I’ve mentioned many times before about the brilliant selection of fruits grown in Taiwan, and I’ve written before about the strawberry fields in Dahu in Miaoli. However, there is an area of Taipei also called Dahu, where, you guessed it, they also grow strawberries. As winter is the season for strawberries in Taiwan, we will be heading up to investigate for the next article.
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