Travel to Asia – The Unmissable Taiwan

Today I propose you to go to the China Sea and more particularly to the island of Taiwan. The archipelago wants to be independent although this status is not recognized by the international community, which officially attributes it to China.
Not necessarily one of the flagship destinations of Asia, the island has many assets to attract tourists. So it’s bag on the back and in the company of my brother and my Taiwanese sister-in-law, who made me discover the island off the beaten track, I take you to discover the inevitable Taiwan!

1) Go fishing in an Urban Shrimps Fishing Place

Urban Shrimps Fishing Place

The Taiwanese spend whole days in these places where large basins have been built to be able to fish shrimp and lobsters. We pay here by the hour and if we are good fisherman it can quickly prove profitable. This was not our case since after an hour and a half, several locals had pity the kindness to come show us some techniques to get some crustaceans. In most of these places there is a kitchen available and for a few Taiwan dollars it is possible to eat what we have just caught!

– Here is the address of the one I went to: yuantong road lane 205, Taipei
– Count around 20-30 euros for fishing a few hours, the material (bait and canes) is provided

2) Go for a swim in hot springs

Taiwan being a volcanic island you will find plenty of hot springs for swimming. We tested one about 30 minutes from the center of Taipei, you can rent a vehicle to get there. This thermal spring includes several pools of different temperatures. It is possible to rent for a few hours private terraces with Jacuzzi and views of the China Sea!
– Here is the site of the place we visited: Warmspring.com
– About 10 euros entry per person (The price varies depending on the duration and the type of pool where you want to go)

3) See the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

True representation of Taiwanese art in all its splendor, the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial is simply a monumental size as you can see in the film I made on Taiwan ! The building contains in particular a status of Kai-shek first president of the Republic of China. The memorial is located in a park with fountain where you can stroll with pleasure.
Address: 10048, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District / Free Admission

4) Make a Night Market

Night market Taiwan

Night markets are an integral part of Taiwanese culture. There are many more or less large. They will be an excellent showcase of what can be the world of street food in Taiwan and it is in these places that you will discover the famous Stinky tofu ( https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu_puant ), a national dishes. If you wish to taste hang your stomach well, I wish you good luck! You will not be able to miss the stalls, you will smell the nauseating smell of dozens of meters around.

5) Climb to the top of Taipei 101

Highest skyscraper in the world from 2004 to 2010 Taipei 101 (commonly known as “one-o-one”) is the most touristic place on the island.
It is possible to access the summit for about 14 euros the entrance.
If you are interested in architecture, look at its construction which is really a technical feat when you know how much the island is affected by earthquakes and other typhoons.
– Address: No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Taipei

6) Go eat at Din Tai Fung

If you go to Taipei 101 you will find the first floor Din Tai Fung restaurant. Known worldwide for its Xiaolongbao ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiaolongbao ), it was named in 1993 by New York Time Magazine as one of the 10 best restaurants in the world and today it is one of the few chains to own a Michelin star. Just that !
As in most restaurants in Taiwan, you do not take a dish for yourself but several that we put in the middle of the table and that we share. Which is much more user-friendly in the end!
Of course I would not recommend a place that would cost you a second plane ticket, our bill for 3 people really having the belly well filled us back to fifty euros.

Going to Taiwan without eating Xiaolongbao is like going to Italy and not eating pizzas, so go to the best place!

– Address: Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, City Hall Rd, 45
– Price: From 10-15 euros per person.

7) Drink tea in Maokong

Maokong was once the main place where tea was grown in Taiwan. Perched on top of a hill with a bird’s eye view of central Taipei, it is now Taiwan’s must-see place for tea at dusk. A really nice place to rest at the end of the day away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are many Tea House in Maokong you will be spoiled for choice!

– Location: Maokong, Taipei. About 25 minutes drive from the city center.
– Count a little ten euros per person to drink tea in this place apart.

8) Visit the city of Jiufen

Jiufen in northeast Taiwan is a small town made famous by the film “A City of Sadness”, the first Taiwanese film to be awarded at the Venice Film Festival. The setting is typical and we walk with great pleasure in these narrow streets or side stalls of gastronomic specialties and other local crafts.
If you want to go to Jiufen I strongly advise you to go there during the week to avoid the tourist crowds of the weekend.

9) Go to Grand Hotel Taipei

The Grand Hotel Taipei is simply the largest building in the world with Chinese architecture. Count a little over a hundred euros if you want to stay overnight in a basic room. For having hosted from Richard Nixon to Margaret Thatcher through Nelson Mandela the place is really a “must-see” of Taiwan.

My opinion about Taiwan:

After more than 2 weeks discovering Taiwan, I really think the island deserves the trip. This is not necessarily the first destination to think about when you want to go to Asia, but the island has many assets including cultural and gastronomic are really worth it. In addition Taiwanese are really nice people always ready to discover their country and their culture.

Tips for going to Taiwan:

  • How to get there ? Count between 400 and 600 euros return trip more the national airline Eva Air offers direct flights from Paris.
  • When to go? : From October to March: Dry season / avoid from April to August: rainy season.
  • How long to stay in Taiwan? From 2 to 3 weeks will be a good time to have time to do an overview of the island.
  • How to move? If you plan to stay in the center of Taipei I would recommend using public transport which is extremely expandable. However renting a vehicle can be a great way to get around Taipei. You will find many rental agencies at the airport and in the city center.
  • Currency: the Taiwanese dollar: 1 euro equals approximately 36 Taiwanese dollars
  • Official language: Traditional Mandarin and unlike China many Taiwanese speak English.
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What to visit in Luang Prabang in Laos in 3 days?

On your itinerary in Northern Laos, your route will probably take you to Luang Prabang City. With 55,000 inhabitants, it is one of the three most important cities in the country behind Ventiane, the capital. The opportunity for us to take the temperature of this Asian country that slowly opens to tourism. Here are my tips to discover Luang Prabang and all its tourist activities in three days thanks   to a tested and approved program.

Luang Prabang, a peaceful town north of Laos

Former capital of the kingdom, Luang Prabang is today one of the most touristic and dynamic cities of the country. She is also known to be a strong symbol of Buddhism in Asia with many temples and religious traditions ardently defended. As soon as we arrived, we quickly noticed signs of French influence, allowing us to refreeze ourselves with bread and delicious sandwiches. We had heard a lot about this city and we could not wait to find out. Luang Prabang is a city that likes to take its time, so that’s what we did! After your two-day cruise on the Mekong, you will arrive in Luang Prabang after dark. It is only the next day that we really discover this city with many colonial buildings.

 

Day 1

Visit of the temples

The ideal way to soak up the atmosphere of the city is to start with a visit to the many temples. You can set a route to not miss any or do it to the feeling. Personally, I found the temples pretty, but nothing more. Small overdose maybe? The principal are paying, 20 000 kips (2 euros) per person. Once your morning visit finished, you will have well deserved a little break. The opportunity to taste the famous sandwiches. Rest assured, Laos have personalized them so that you can still feel like eating locally.

Stroll along the Mekong

Luang Prabang is located on the edge of one of the tributaries of the Mekong. The view is superb if you are lucky enough to have a clear sky. Ideal for a small digestive ride!

Shopping at the night market

As everywhere in Asia, night markets are the law. Another great way to discover the city and the specialties of the country. Here you will find, of course, the famous elephant pants but also tea and coffee Lao and other silver jewelry.

Day 2

Ceremony of the monks

For your visit to Luang Prabang to be complete, you will have to get up early. Finally, if you wish to attend this ritual during which the monks harvest the offerings. This ceremony takes place on the main street at 5am. No obligation to participate. It’s you who see

 

Visit of the Royal Palace

This is undoubtedly the essential visit of the city. However, we quickly go around. The main temple houses the Phra Bang, one of the most sacred Buddhas in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ascension of Mount Phousi

If like us, you like to take the height, the Mount Phousi offers a sight on all the city. The climb costs 200,000 kips. Know it, in Laos, all points of view are paid. It is better to choose its moment, the sunset for example.

 

Attempt the Lao massage

During our stay, we were able to taste the joys of Lao massage. Quite similar to Thai massage, which I mentioned here. We suffer during but we feel refreshed after. We opted for Hibiscus. Count 6 euros for an hour of massage.

Day 3

 

The good taste of the French croissant

Eh yes ! It’s possible. We believe it. Take the time to walk to the bakery Le Banneton and you will salivate with happiness. A real croissant as we like them!

A swim in the blue water of Kuang Si Falls

From a tourist point of view, Laos stands out thanks to an astonishing and wild nature. The Kuang Si Falls are sublime in beauty despite the many tourists who visit each day. Water of azure that invites swimming. To get there, you can take a tuk tuk but the mini-van services offered by hotels or guesthouses are much more advantageous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glass with Utopia

Ah Utopia! We had heard about it for the first time in Thailand. This bar, a true attraction of the region is the ideal place to land after a day of sightseeing. Relaxed atmosphere, delicious cocktails and a menu that perfectly mix Lao and European food. The prices are higher than elsewhere but the setting is great, with a breathtaking view of the Mekong. Of course, do not expect to come across premises. Go for a party but only until 11:30 pm curfew time.

 

 

Where to eat?

Eating in Luang Prabang is one of our favorite activities! We were able to reconnect with the bread but also with the cakes. The central square of the city is home to many booths where you are challenged with great support of Sabaidee ( Hello Lao). A little suspicious at first, it became our canteen so the choice is vast and reasonable prices. I still remember my rice with vegetables and pineapple, a delight  ! The first night we looked for the night market to discover Lao food. We were disappointed to discover a tiny streetand full of wood smoke because of grilling. We opted for a stand offering various dishes at will for the sum of 150 000 kips (= 1.50 euros). The food was good but cold and impossible to sit.

Or sleep?

Guest houses and hotels abound in Luang Prabang. Prices are however higher than in other cities of Laos. We opted for the ViengChalern Guesthouse where the welcome is excellent provided by students eager to improve their English. If you want to get up with the view of the Mekong it is a little more expensive but quite possible!

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Itinerary of a road trip in Thailand

Welcome to Thailand, the most touristic country in Southeast Asia. Traveling in Thailand is easy and cheap traveling. Famous for its very high purchasing power (for tourists), Thailand has seduced the world for over 30 years. Nicknamed the country of the smile for a good reason, people are simple, carefree and are satisfied with the necessary. (It takes little to be happy… no… ok, I stop). Thailand is a beautiful country full of riches, a destination not to miss for a trip to Asia. Especially since traveling to Thailand from France is still very easy and cheaper.

My Itinerary in Thailand:

I arrived in Thailand at the end of my road trip to Australia. I took a plane ticket with a Stop and Go so I was entitled to a stop in several cities in Asia when I returned to France. I chose Bangkok. After 6 months in Australia, Thailand was a little culture shock for me and that’s what I was looking for. I love the diversity of the world, and I enjoy seeing the differences between each society. Thai culture immediately seduced me by its simplicity and almost nonchalance. Southeast Asia is also sumptuous landscapes through the countless islands of the Indian Ocean. I stayed 4 weeks traveling in Thailand and here is my itinerary:

Bangkok:

Arrived late in Bangkok from Sydney, I had to join my co-pilot of Australian van left earlier for Phuket. Having booked no plane beforehand, I found myself sleeping at the airport waiting for the first flight early in the morning. It was not my first, I also spent 24 hours waiting for my plane in New Zealand. Sleeping in an airport is quite common for a backpacker but I admit that this is not my favorite place to stay overnight.

Phuket:

So I leave for Phuket aboard a Boeing 747, the luxury. I flew 6 hours from Sydney in a hurry and I flew 1 hour to Phuket and I have the biggest plane in the world. I finally stayed only one day in Phuket to follow my friends who were leaving for Phi Phi.

Kho Phi Phi:

I spent 4 days in Kho Phi Phi in a bungalow close to the beach and away from tourists. A small paradise on earth that hides an island devastated by tourism. Despite that, I have a very good memory. I was able to kayak on Monkey Beach, a wild beach filled with evil monkeys, or on secluded beaches where nature was still a bit unspoiled.

Kho Samui:

The trip between Kho Phi Phi and Kho Samui is perilous (yes I’m exaggerating, but I’m from the south, it’s normal). Indeed, it takes a whole day to cross from the Adaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. We had to take a ferry, a bus and another ferry across Krabi province to Surat Thani province. Knowing that our bus broke down midway (in the middle of nowhere), we took a lot of delay. A very long journey. Kho Samui is an island also very touristy but with a lot of riches. To party, it’s a place to go, it’s here that I drove a scooter for the first time in my life. Yes yes, I started in Thailand and I know it’s not the best country for that. Besides, I was not really clever on my scooter, in flip flops, shorts and tank top.

Kho Tao:

Kho Samui’s little cable fury: too many tourists for me. I decide to leave my friends and go to the least tourist island in the area with a friend met on the spot. My stay in Thailand really began at that moment. No more parties and tourists, I went to meet the Thai on this beautiful island. My best memory in the land of smiles.

Chiang Mai:  

After 4 days to discover Kho Tao, still in scooter, shorts and flip-flops, but this time not even a helmet, we decided to change scenery and have a look in the North. We found a small guesthouse super nice and cheap close to the city center. Chiang Mai is more than 300 magnificent temples and a hinterland full of natural resources. Leaving a bit of the city, it was the first time I found myself the only white in the middle of full of Thai. I think that made a lot of fun of me. I saw them laughing at me.

Bangkok:

I could finish in beauty with the capital of Thailand: Bangkok. After the beautiful scenery of the islands and the mountains of Chiang Mai, I did not like Bangkok at all on the first day. Mistake on my part since I absolutely loved this city on the second day. It is a mixture of modernity and old while retaining its small Thai charm (understand the brothel everywhere). I stayed in the city center at first but I preferred to go to Khao San Road where I went around the area.

Traveling in Thailand: When to go?

November December January February March
         

Going to Thailand between November and March is the best option. The rainy season is over, it is hot and the water is good. Disadvantage: everyone has understood that this was the best time, prices are flying and tourists are flocking in numbers.

April May June   September October
           

The climate in Thailand is quite mild in these times. It is milder and there are fewer tourists. In contrast, the rainy season is near and may spoil some days of your trip.

July August
   

Better to avoid July and August for a stay in Thailand. It rains for days, many places are closed and there is much less transport.

Traveling in Thailand:

Going on Road Trip in Thailand is very easy. On site, life does not cost much. Beyond that, I was really surprised by the organization of transport. Everyone will tell you, to go to Thailand is not to book anything in advance and see everything on the spot. First, it’s easier because you can negotiate prices. All you have to do is go to a tour ticket (the thing I never do in other countries) and ask.

When I was in Kho Tao and wanted to go to Chiang Mai, I went to the ticket tower in front of my bungalow. In ten minutes it was settled. I had a taxi to get to the ferry, the ferry, a bus to the airport and my plane, all for an unbeatable negotiated price and nothing more to do. I was really surprised.

Travel by plane :

The plane is probably the most expensive way to travel but also the fastest. There are two companies serving mainly Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Kho Samui (this airport is scary). There are also some blacklisted companies like Lion Air, an Indonesian company I stole from. I was given this information once on board. Like “Hey dude, you know it’s a blacklisted company? It does not scare you? “

Traveling by bus:

See my bus trip between Krabi and Surat Thani. The bus broke down, it was a bus dating at least from prehistoric times. Despite this, it is not expensive but like everywhere, it is very long.

To travel by train :

I did not travel by train but I heard very good echoes. It is a good alternative to the bus but even longer. Trains are more spacious but often late. There are 4 main lines: north, south, southeast and east. I think it’s a great experience and you can see the country.

Travel by boat :

The obligatory passage to go to the islands. In general, the ferries are overcrowded and there is very little space. For shorter trips, it is essential to test the long tail boats typical of Thailand.

To move in Taxi:

This is the first transport I took when I arrived. 45 minutes to reach the south of Phuket and I was ripped off. I paid twice the normal price because the taxi in question came from the airport. In Thailand, locals pay a ridiculous price compared to the tourist. There are 4 kinds of taxis in Thailand:

  • Scooter taxi: the most economical and he does not hesitate to take more than 2 people on it. For me traveling alone in Bangkok, it was perfect to avoid traffic jams and save money.
  • The Tuk Tuk: emblematic in Asia, the Tuk Tuk are the best solution to move several. They are cheap, but they are only a short distance away. Do not ask them to take you outside the city.
  • The Songthaew: The Songthaew are collective taxis that go from point A to point B and drop you on the way. These are often big pickups laid out. Still a very local experience that I loved.
  • Taxis: to be taken rarely and only for long distances. I took a taxi just to get to the airports.

To stay in Thailand:

There is everything in the country. Resorts with luxury rooms, swimming pool and lots of nice services like small bungalows lost on a deserted beach.

In Kho Tao, I even came across a crazy complex on a lost beach. I had rolled 1 hour through the forest with my old scooter. I do not believe it.

In general, I avoid going to big hotels, I prefer to rent an Airbnb. But in Thailand, it’s even simpler. When you arrive somewhere, there will always be a small kiosk where you can book your accommodation on site. I have never booked a room in advance, I always looked for arriving, which allowed me to negotiate prices and choose the best places. This method played me tricks in Kho Samui where I arrived in the evening and everything was already booked. I had to look for hours a free room.

In each case: always prefer a room with a fan or air conditioning. This is the minimum that I advise you. In the islands, prefer the bungalow. In cities, prefer the guesthouse much more fun.

Top unusual activities in Thailand:

  • Swimming with whale sharks
  • Go to the markets
  • Rent a scooter
  • Test the high-tech toilets
  • Eating insects
  • Diving in the most beautiful spots
  • Climb in the most beautiful spots
  • Rent a bungalow on the beach
  • Eat local
  • Take a court of Muy Thaï
  • Take a Thai cooking class
  • See animals: snakes, elephants, tiger…
  • Shoot
  • Make CableSki
  • Attend a full moon party

Budget road trip in Thailand:

No need to say more. Thailand is cheap and that’s why many travel to Asia. You should know however that you will pay much more in tourist places. I realized this when I arrived in Kho Tao and Chiang Mai. Prices were half the price.

1 € = About 40 Bath

  • Budget accommodation: between 6 € and 20 € / night. Everything depends on the desired comfort. I happened to sleep in a room with a small bed and only a fan. The shower was common and cold. In Bangkok, I had a big room with three beds while I was alone.
  • Transport budget: About 8 € / day but it depends on the days if you travel far or not.
  • Budget Eating: Tourist Places: 5 € / day. Non touristic places: 2.50 € / day.
  • Activity budget: An activity in Thailand costs between 5 and 15 €. Again, it depends if you prefer to swim with whale sharks in Kho Tao or visit a temple in Bangkok.

My budget in Thailand: 25 € / day.

A tip to save money: live local. Do not go to tourist restaurants and luxury hotels. Rent a bungalow in a secluded corner, eat a Thai pad in a shack at the corner and go directly negotiating with a sinner for a boat trip.

What to see in Thailand:

In addition to the destinations where I went higher, you can see:

  • Ko Pha-Ngan: famous for its full-moon party.
  • Surin and Similan Islands: world famous places for scuba diving.
  • Ko Lanta: an island a little less touristy than its neighbor Phi Phi. Wild decorations assured.
  • Ayuthaya: ancient capital of Thailand
  • Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle: a wild and friendly area for hiking.
  • Sukhothai: famous historical park.
  • Pattaya: Flagship destination to party.
  • Khao Yai: UNESCO- protected nature reserve near Bangkok
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