Taiwan makes it to #9 on the list of the Top 10 Countries to visit in 2012.
Taiwan has always had a jaw-dropping landscape – oversized sea cliffs and densely forested mountains barely start to describe its majesty. And then there’s the museums,which are simply bursting with treasures (including the best of imperial China, spirited across the strait after WWII), plus a thriving folk culture that includes some wild displays of Taoist and Buddhist worship. In terms of cuisine, Taiwan is a fusion and slow-food showcase. So why is 2012 the time to visit? Because Taiwan is best seen on two wheels and in recent years the authorities have embraced the biking market with surprising enthusiasm, vision and (most importantly) funding. This year sees the linking of thousands of kilometres of paths, including two round-the-island routes, and a host of other cycling friendly infrastructure projects.
Biking is truly really amazing here. I love the beautiful paths all up and down the riverside.
I know you keep telling yourself you’ll study Chinese but something always comes up. Well this is a great class for those busy people who have to work in Taiwan.
These classes are focused on a specific topic every week like ‘eating at a restaurant' or 'talking on the telephone’. Since there’s a new topic every week it never really gets boring and if you miss a class you won’t fall behind.
These classes are quite flexible too because of the way payment works. You buy a card that’s good for 8 classes for NT$4000 (NT$500 a class). This card is good for up to 6 months from the date you purchase it. That means if you have to miss a class or two due to work commitments you aren’t wasting your money. We all know it’s sometimes just not possible to be there every week so this flexibility is really awesome for us working people.
There is no textbook to buy either! Every week the teacher gives you a photocopy of the lesson. So really all you have to do is show up and be ready to learn. There isn’t an excuse NOT to learn Chinese now is there?
I’ve really been enjoying these classes. The teacher really forces us all to speak by making us individually say vocabulary words and to say sentences out loud. This is helpful for me because I get bored if I don’t get to do anything.
Where do you study Chinese? Let me know in the comments.
This is the best Taiwan MRT application on the iPhone by far. It can find the closest MRT station to you using GPS. It is the easiest to use because it has the cleanest interface and is bilingual. Did I mention it’s free too? If you wish to pay for an upgrade, you can get offline station maps and get rid of the in-app advertisements.
Let’s go over some of the key features of this application for you.
Closest MRT station (crosshair icon) The crosshair icon (top left) finds the closest MRT station to you by using GPS. You must have the Location Services turned on for this feature to work. It comes in really handy when you know the general area you are in but forget the name of the subway station nearby.
Search for a Station (magnifying glass icon) Clicking the magnifying glass icon (top right) will bring up the Search screen. From here you can type either English or Chinese MRT station names to select them for your trip.
Station information (marker icon) This feature isn’t too useful unless you can read Chinese but click the marker icon (bottom left) to see a map of the selected station. It will bring up a map of the subway station. It shows the exits and area surrounding the MRT station.
Favorite Station (star icon) You will often find yourself using the same MRT stations over and over again so there is a feature to save your favorite stations. Double click the star quickly and it will save the currently selected station to your Favorites. If you wish to select one of your Favorite Stations as a destination, click the star once and a selection menu will be brought up. To remove a subway station from your Favorites, simply double click the star icon making sure the favorite station you wish to remove is currently selected. I recommend making the stations near your home and workplace favorite stations.
Time & Fare screen (click the Go! button) Once you have selected your destination, click the Go! button. You are taken to the Time & Fare screen which shows you: estimated travel time, how many transfers you will need to make. My favorite part of this screen is the Show All Stations function. You can see which side of the subway the door will open. This seems like a small feature but we all know how crowded the subway gets during rush hour in Taipei. This information can save you the stress and embarrassment of trying to get to the other side of the subway car before the doors close at your destination.
Journey Planner (thumbs up icon) I don’t often find myself using this function but for some people the Journey Planner could be very useful to some. Clicking this icon brings up a selection screen where you can choose the route algorithm the app uses to create the routes. The options are: optimal route (default), minimum transfer, last departure, earliest arrival and in operation. I won’t go over the details of all the options as they are mostly self explanatory. Play around with it if you want to find a little bit different route.
What are you doing in Taiwan? One reason people come is to study Chinese.
The Republic of China(ROC) on Taiwan has for many years been home to numerous institutions devoted to the study of the Chinese Language. Perhaps this is one reason why the number of foreign students coming to the ROC for all levels of language study has been increasing for so long.
Studying Mandarin Chinese is a good option in Taiwan because the cost of living is cheap (apartments & food) and you can learn traditional Chinese.
Students find that in addition to being able to enjoy the benifits of language training facilities, there is a much to be learned from experiencing the blend of tradition and modernity found in Taiwan. Students can simultaneously observe traditional Chinese culture as well as enjoy the advantages of a modern, developed society. This, combined with ease of association with native speakers, is enough to make the ROC a fine Chinese language learning environment.
Check out the Chinese Language centers and try a few lessons. Your understanding of Taiwan will be on a whole different level once you learn some of the language. I currently study at one of these language centers.
Green Apple Guava 芭樂 - my favorite fruit in Taiwan
One of the great things about Taiwan is the huge variety of tropical fruit we have here. We have guava, mangoes, pineapple and dragon fruit. There are so many different kinds of fruit here I have never seen before in my life!
My favorite of all these amazing fruits is the green apple guava. The Taiwanese call it by it’s name in Taiwanese, ba1la4, but write it with its Mandarin name, 芭樂 (Bā lè). It’s very confusing I know.
It’s not a very sweet fruit but it is very fragrant. It is inexpensive to buy from the market and makes a great snack. I often eat them instead of potato chips while watching movies.
I saw the Taiwanese fruit vendors cutting it up and started copying them.
Cut out the top stem and bottom thing
Cut the guava in half
Use an ice cream scooper or spoon to scoop out the seeds (some Taiwanese say they are healthy for you but I prefer the taste without the seeds).
Put half the guava flat on the cutting board and cut it in thin slices (5 mm wide slices)
Where To Buy It
Look for a traditional market near your area. You can find them for about NT$50-100 for 5 guavas. If they are too expensive, try finding my 2nd favorite fruit, dragon fruit.
How about you, what is your favorite fruit in Taiwan? Let me know in the comments.
Non-Taiwanese can enter a photo in a contest. The photo must have at least one of the following elelements in it: Taiwan, hello or love. The winner gets up to NT$100,000 to visit Taiwan. That sounds like a sweet deal, eh?
I went to the Taipei Design Expo again today at Songshan Cultural & Creative Park. I sure seem to have bad luck though, every time I go it seems it is overrun with students.
I started by going through the Exhibition 1, 'In Bliss'. It was the second time going through it but still interesting. There are lots of interesting exhibits in here. They range from model houses to an electric bike system to even a futuristic flying rain blocking system to divert water to where it’s needed.
Exhibition 1: 'In Bliss' objective:
to present design approaches that are based on people and are with good intentions (safety, usability, green, humanity).
The second exhibit I saw was Exhibition 2, 'Trans-evolving'. This exhibition is the industrial design exhibition so it showed the evolution of the everyday objects we use everyday. I really liked this exhibition because it brought back a lot of memories from my childhood about the technology I used to use. They had iconic things like the Volkswagen bug, the iMac, the Gameboy and the Sony Walkmen. I actually felt really old walking around this exhibit. When I try to explain a Gameboy to my children they will think I am from outer space.
We skipped by the 4th Exhibition because I found it rather boring last time. It is just a bunch of photos of fancy architecture. I love architecture, don’t get me wrong, but I found this Exhibit hall was rather dull. It was amusing to see everybody crowd around the the pictures, to take pictures of it. How ‘meta’ is that, right?
Instead of the 4th Exhibition we went to the 5th Exhibition, ‘International Craft Design’. It had objects from Taiwan, USA, Japan, Korea, Denmark and France. It is beautiful inside this area but no pictures are allowed unfortunately.
We ate lunch near the lake. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables to enjoy your meal there. The cafeteria there is pretty good too.
After our meal we browsed through the 'Design Players Exhibition' (number 10 in your guide book). I found this area even more exciting than some of the real exhibits. This is where the 50 design studios and artists setup their own booths and showcased their designs. Most of the booths had many things for sale and allowed you to actually touch their wares. I find it more amazing to hold something in your hand and then buy it if you love it. This is the part of the Exhibition where you can buy something really neat and take it to your home to enjoy it.
I had a great time at the design expo. It was a 4 hours well spent. Hope you all have the chance to see it before it’s gone. It runs until October 30th.
Where do you go? It depends how much you want to spend really but the good news is that it’s probably better quality, built in Taiwan and cheaper than what you would buy back home.
You have 3 basic options when buying furniture: buy used, get from IKEA or a factory store.
1. Buying Used
The cheapest option but with the least selection of colours and materials. Picking up the furniture is going to be a problem unless you have your own vehicle or pay for shipping.
Where to buy?:
* Ask your friends and co-workers on Facebook.
* Check forums like TEALIT & Forumosa for people selling and more furniture store information.
* One used furniture area near Guting MRT 古亭站 (1) get off MRT at Guting Station from exit 8, turn right at the intersection Heping and Nanchang, shops all along Nanchang Road Section 2 until Fuzhou Street. (2) get off MRT at Guting Station from exit 8, walk West until Xiamen Street or Chongqing Road. They both have used furniture stores there.
You haven’t heard of IKEA? Well IKEA is the home of well designed products. The quality of some of their products is debatable though. I’m not a fan of the cheap wood they use. I bought a desk last year from them and it’s seriously sagging in the middle.
That being said, it is a great place to get ideas of the type of furniture you want. I don’t recommend buying your big furniture pieces here: sofa, clothes cabinets or bed frames as they will be built with the cheap particle board and you can probably get it cheaper from a Taiwanese ‘factory store’. The little pieces of furniture here are really awesom though: tables, shelving and other “knick knacks”.
Taipei City 敦北店 B1, No.100, Tun Hwa N. Road, Taipei (02) 2716-8900
Great selection: you can choose the color, the material, what buttons you want on your couch. It’s usually made right there or somewhere else in Taiwan so you’re supporting the local economy. It also seems to be mostly cheaper, in price not quality, than IKEA too! I bought all my furniture and even my kitchen here.
Where to buy?
Near Zhuwei MRT 竹圍站: exit the station, walk across the overpass and walk South towards the Guandu Bridge. The first one you will find is called Gold House 黃金屋 (1st picture below). A little farther down is a huge building with 5 floors and it’s called 廣達家具 (2nd picture below).
* Try to avoid buying furniture in Taipei it is usually more expensive than buying from somewhere in New Taipei City (Danshui, Banqiao, Bali). I assume this has to do with lower taxes and business overhead outside of expensive Taipei.
* Know exactly what you’re looking for with dimensions in centimeters. Sorry Americans, you have to finally learn metric like the rest of the world :P
* Look early to avoid the stress of rushing to buy furniture. Look BEFORE you actually need to buy.
* Check prices at 3 stores minimum before you actually buy to be sure you are getting the best value for your money.
Written by a teacher living and working in Taiwan who’s been around the block a few times. Valuable insight is shared on his blog from stories of horrible places worked, HESS, and awesome places he has worked, Time International.
It’s a very interesting blog especially for those who are teaching in Taiwan but the posts tend to run a bit long and there is little graphic relief :/
Pleco is my favorite iPhone app to study Chinese from the dozens I’ve tried. It stands out from the rest for three reasons:
It has a beautiful interface.
It’s modular and customizable.
It has a killer flashcard feature. (“Flashcard system”)
1. Beautiful interface
It has a very soothing blue color scheme. The Chinese characters in the dictionary are color coded by tone. For example, 1st tone is red, 2nd tone is green 3rd tone is blue and 4th tone is pink. This is great for visual learners. You can type either English or Chinese in the main search area and it will automatically detect and bring up the right word. You have to try it. The whole program feels very high quality. If Apple made a Chinese app it would look and feel like Pleco. The basic version is free so download it right now!
2. Modular & Customizable
The basic version of Pleco is free but there are many add-ons you can get to enhance your experience. There are 3 types of add-ons you can download: new dictionaries, audio pronunciations and new program features. At the moment there are 6 free dictionaries you can install right after you get Pleco. This will increase the “vocabulary” of Pleco. If you want, you can buy more paid components to Pleco to give you more capabilities too. You can buy audio pronunciations so you can hear the words you are studying. There is also an optical character recognizer module which uses your iPhone’s camera to see words then look them up for you. The best module in my opinion though is the “Flashcard system” which I’ll talk about next.
3. “Flashcard System” Feature
If you download Pleco, I highly recommend you buy the Flashcard feature right away. You can buy it in the Add-ons tab.
Flashcard module, letting you create (manually or by importing from a text file) lists of words and review yourself on them.
It sounds ho-hum but it is really amazing. You can create your own word lists using any words from any of the dictionaries you own with a single click (hence owning more dictionaries would give you more words).
You can practice your word lists using different test types like multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, stroke order or even tone practice.
The module is smart so it remembers how well you did on each word and can skip words once you’ve “learned” them. It has an internal database that tracks all your progress.
I hope I’ve convinced a few of you to at least give Pleco a try. The basic program is free so really you have no excuse! If you only buy one add-on make sure it’s the flashcard feature. That feature has really helped me study Chinese. I use it while I’m on the subway or even just bored waiting for someone. It’s neat because it turns learning Chinese into a game and that can motivate you.
Anyways, good luck learning Chinese! Hope you enjoy Pleco.
Coming to Taipei soon? Check out the Taipei World Design Expo. Only 1 of the 3 venues is open right now, Songshan Cultural & Creative Park, but it is still a blast! There are exhibits from all over the world on architecture, industrial design and graphic design as well. The lines to get in look daunting but they move really quickly. There isn’t much to eat or drink around there so you should bring something with you.
Songshan Cultural & Creative Park
Mon-Fri 10:00 am - 6:00 pm Sat-Sun 10:00am -8:00 pm
No. 133, GuangFu South Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Directions from the subway: Get off the Blue MRT line at Sun-Yat Sen Memoria station from exit 5 and follow the signs for 200 meters.
The other two venues, Nangang Exhibition Hall and TWTC Exhibition Hall 1, open on October 22nd. The whole Design Expo wraps up at the end of the month so don’t miss out. It’s free admission to get into all the venues so it’s worth a look. Try to get there on a weekday to maximize your enjoyment and skip the lines.
For more information please visit the website for the Expo. It’s really well laid out and even has a fully functioning English version. Check it out here!
I finally got my scooter licence! I’m so excited that I don’t have to drive so cautiously now for fear of the police. I now can drive with reckless abandon for traffic rules like the rest of the Taiwanese!
But seriously, I’m sure you want your scooter licence too right? Not the wimpy 50cc licence, I’m talking about the 50-250cc licence. Well once you have your 1 year ARC you can go try to get it.
Before you go
* Practice the written test online many, many times. You don’t have to study, you just have to memorize the questions. The questions are tricky because some are ridiculous and some are very poorly translated.
* Get your documents ready. You will need your passport, ARC, money and some photos.
Getting the licence
* Go early and practice the road course as much as you can. It looks easy but it’s actually a pretty tricky course. You have to drive in a straight line for 20 meters in over 7 seconds (sounds much harder than it is), then drive around the oval stopping at the correct lights. Check with your local DMV office there should be a free practice time at least once a day. I practiced the test 12 times but failed twice. I then felt confident enough to do the real test. I failed the first day I tried to do the driving test (with no practice).
* Take your pictures if you didn’t bring them with you.
* Do a quick health check. They check if you can see. They also check if you can squat and open and close your hands. It’s very easy so don’t worry.
* Do the written test on their machines. You need 85% to pass. I hope you practiced online!
* Go outside and do the driving test like this:
That’s basically how it works. Now go forth and get your licence!
… a list of typical career milestones for a TEFL* teacher. How many have you achieved? How many will you achieve? Just tick them off, and see if you can consider yourself a full-fledged master of the game, or just another also-ran.
My score is 20!
15 -25 milestones achieved — you’re a total pro, baby
There are thousands of schools in Taiwan. Good luck finding their website or unbiased information about them. When you do find their website, it’s probably going to be all in Chinese anyways.
Top 100 Cram Schools in Taiwan attempts to bring some order and accountability to the schools. It has a Teacher Satisfaction Survey which asks teachers questions about their experience at their schools. Your school is horrible? Write the survey. Your school is amazing? Please take a survey. Lack of information is the problem with the cram school (buxiban) industry in Taiwan.
Along with the survey the site has URLs to the top 100 schools all in one place. It’s better than Google for finding the websites for the schools. Take that Google! +1 for Top100.
They can be helpful in your search for a teaching job once you get sick of trolling TEALIT everyday. They should be the first people you contact when you start your job search as they will be sending you jobs to check out while you are manually searching for your own job. Also some schools only use recruiters to find their employees so you can’t ignore the recruiters.
Their website is garbage but not indicative of their quality of service to you as a job seeker. You only need to visit the website once to sign up and submit some documents and then a representative will contact you to continue the process.
The representatives are very polite. They don’t spam you with jobs that don’t fit your criteria either. It’s a free service so give it a try.
They seem to get paid by the schools looking for employees. I haven’t been asked to pay for their service unlike the other sneaky recruiting agency ACI!
Wow their name sounds impressive doesn’t it! Their website looks pretty spiffy too. Unfortunately they have a really long sign up page asking for ridiculous information such as: 3 emergency contacts, passport number, your typical weekend activities, prescription medications and for a list of other recruiters you have contacted. Once you get past this hurdle by giving them the least amount of information as possible, they will contact you.
Once they find a suitable job for you, before they apply they send you a sneaky email asking you to sign over 20% of your first paycheck to them. They never mention this on the phone or anywhere on their website. I’m unsure if this is a scam to get the desperate job seekers from abroad to use their service or they are double-dipping, getting paid by the job seeker and the school. I ignored that email and they haven’t contact me since.
Oh on top of the 20% of your paycheck, they also want you to sign an “ACI-Teacher Service Agreement”. Basically ACI agrees to give you 3 terms of service while you are expected to agree to 9 terms in return. It seems a bit lopsided to me but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Thumbs down to ACI!
Here is their email asking for 20% of your first paycheck:
Remember that recruiters only get paid when you accept a job. Usually this means they will try to “encourage” you to accept the job they offer you. Make sure you only accept the jobs you really want. You don’t want to be stuck in a less than ideal position because you didn’t have the patience to wait for a good job. Along with using the recruiters make sure you: use your friends and check the ESL job boards frequently. Good luck!
After unsuccessfully trying to win the lottery for a few weeks, you decide you need a steady source of income. Great, now what? As a foreigner in Taiwan you basically have 4 options: teaching, engineering, sales, and translating Chinglish into English. You can also find other sorts of jobs such as modeling and commercials but it’s not steady work.
Once you decide what sort of job you are looking for there are a few decent websites you can use to help you find a job.
:: TEALIT.com :: TEALIT, Teaching English and Living in Taiwan, is full of ads, hard to navigate and mostly fixated on teaching English but it does work. It has more ads than most other websites and is free. For better or worse, this is the best general website for foreigners in Taiwan whether you are trying to find a job, sell your couch or find a language exchange partner.
:: ESL99.com :: This site is completely dedicated to teaching jobs in Taiwan and China. Along with teaching you can also place an ad or find someone who’s looking for private tutoring services. The strength of this website is its clear focus and straight forward design. It seems to be a little bit less active than TEALIT though.
If you read a bit of Chinese try searching “teacher” or another job descriptions and you will get some hits at the following sites.
a Chinese island separated from the SE coast of China by the Taiwan Strait: a possession of Japan 1895-1945; restored to China 1945; seat of the Republic of China since 1949. Capital:Taipei
Quick history lesson: Taiwan’s history is very complicated. Since you live here now, you should take a few minutes to learn it. You should at least know the difference between the Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of China.
Welcome to Taiwan. Some of you are English teachers, others are business people and others are aliens (?!) Oh wait we are all aliens! Anyways, whoever you are, welcome! I hope you enjoy your time in Taiwan.
What’s this blog about?
I want to share my experiences with you about living in Taiwan. I know it can be very frustrating to find English information online about certain things. I hope I can pass on some tips and suggestions to you to make your stay in Taiwan a little nicer.
Who are you?
Good question! I might be just like you. I live in this amazing place we call Taiwan. I came here to marry the woman I love and teach English. I used to live in South Korea teaching English there too. I was born in Canada on the West coast. Who are you?!?!
My favorite 3 things to do in Taiwan
I love feedback, so I show you mine and you show me yours. Umm, that didn’t come out right. Well you can tell me your favorite 3 things to do in Taiwan in the comments.
Biking along the river
Eating random things at the night market
Watching the world fly by in Xinyi entertainment district