Shanti: Food, food, food! And my homestay experience.

It is Monday of our third week of classes and it feels like time is flying by so quickly, only two weeks to go before I head off home. It feels too soon. More and more, I am feeling at home here in Tainan, I wish I could stay a little longer. I’m still unsure if I’ve gotten used to doing oral reports twice a week, the amount of homework, or waking up at 6:05 AM to go to my 8 AM class every day. But overall, I feel like I am no longer treading my way through the day, after the next week I might just be able to swim.

Many things have happened since my last blog, but this one will be focused mainly on food and my (un-met) goal of trying a different kind of food every day. As mentioned earlier, I’m beginning to feel at home here, which means that I’ve got my own little routine going. This also means that I’ve been lazy and stuck mostly to what I know or tried initially. Thankfully, my homestay parents helped me in my mission and took me to eat as much 傳統 (traditional) Tainan foods as we could in my short time with them. 

My host family and I at Jingzijiao Wapan Salt Fields

I guess I will start with boring you with an in-depth look into my not-so-exciting routine: 

Breakfast: 豬排吐司加蛋 (Pork on toast with egg).
Inside they put grated cucumber, corn and barbeque (?) sauce. The bread is lightly toasted with the crust taken off. It takes about ten minutes to make (if I get there before all the kids from the neighbouring school take their orders). I also get an iced coffee which is ready-made and surprisingly good. All in all, it is $85NT ($4.25 NZD).
If I decide to skip breakfast or feel especially tired I will buy a mochaccino from a coffee chain called Louisa (similar to Starbucks or Gloria Jeans). Though they remind me of coffee in Auckland, espresso coffee here is an expensive treat as a large cup is $90NT ($4.5) which is more than the price of my usual breakfast. 
Lunch & Dinner: It really depends…
Recently I’ve been going to a small canteen where you can choose one type of meat and four (or more) vegetable dishes. This meal goes from $65NT ($3.25) and goes higher for additional meat or veggies.
But there are lots of different food places close to uni, even a vegan place, so I can always try something new. Another go-to is 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup) which I mentioned in the last blog, which is around $100NT ($5). There are two places I go to, one by uni and one close to our dorm. Near to our dorm is also a Japanese curry place that has really good chips and tonkatsu.

What I have noticed here is that most food vendors have rotating shifts. One row of shops will have many different stalls operating at different times. First are the breakfast vendors which are usually small stalls along the roadside. There was one breakfast store near our dormitory that opened at 4.30AM! Next are the lunch stores, that are usually indoor and have some seating. Then in the evening, the dinner places will open, which can be a mix of roadside stalls and seated eateries. Obviously, times will cross over, and places will serve both dinner and lunch, but it is not unusual to see many shops with closed doors for most of the day, only to open for a few hours.

Tainan is known as the food capital of Taiwan, with most of the famous dishes originating from its ancient capital. And most of them are Street food. While in Tainan I have been able to try quite a few things. Our dorm was quite close to the Da Dong Night Market (大东夜市) which is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Arriving at any night market can be very overwhelming with all the smells, sights, sounds and PEOPLE. Luckily, the first time I went there weren’t that many people so it wasn’t unbearably overwhelming. It was also closed. But, there still were few stalls opened in the usual area and I was able to get my hands on my first traditional Taiwanese snack – Stinky Tofu! I must say, after this first try I wasn’t that convinced but I have since tried it again and I must say, it is kind of growing on me…

Dumplings, egg pancakes and turnip cakes near Cheng Kung University

This week we had an optional homestay experience. This experience was set up with by the NCKU Chinese Language Center, who also helped us UoA students to receive a group scholarship from the Taiwan Ministry of Education to help pay for our tuition fees. I am super glad I went on the homestay experience. My homestay family live in Tainan, and they have two young sons, both under 10, who had their favourite thing to say “不行!No, no, no!” Which they always said cheekily whenever they were asked to do something. My host family could speak English but only used it when really needed. This definitely helped improve my Chinese listening skills as well as my vocab. Since the stay was over the weekend, we had two days together and my host family took me to see some of the historical sights in Tainan, as well as try some local food. The first place we went to was 安平 (Anping) and Fort Zeelandia. This area was once occupied by the Dutch who built a fort on top of a hill by the coast. Eventually the Dutch were driven out by a man named Kongxia who claimed the fort for himself. Presently, Fort Zeelandia is now surrounded by reclaimed land, so the sea that it once looked out on is nowhere in sight.

At Fort Zeelandia with my homestay younger brothers.

During the day the area around Fort Zeelandia has a day market that sells food, products, and also has some games you can play. Here I tried a fried fish cake as well as a very traditional oyster fritter. I am not the biggest fan of oysters but found the fritters really nice. I later tried a pork and vegetable bun and 豆花 (sweet tofu). The tofu was not as sweet as I expected and it came with some red beans and small tapioca balls.

Later we went to Jingzaijiao Tile-paved Salt Fields. Salt is produced here by pouring saltwater over the tiled ground. The sun eventually evaporates all the water and salt is left behind. Here, I tried a salt ice cream, a very delicious tea egg and some skewered fish balls.

One of the highlights of my homestay was going to the Ten Drum Rende Creative Park. This is place is an old sugar factory that was initially bought by a drumming group as a place to practice. But now, it is a cultural park with all sorts of cool installations and activities. There are multiple cafes, a small train, climbing wall, flying fox and a swing that looks over the whole park. The drumming group still practices and performs at the park. They have a special stage built within the factory, on top of the old production line. The drum performance was amazing, I didn’t know that drums could make such a wide the range of sounds. As the musicians played, the still working machinery also began to turn and move.

Before the drum performance.
Within the old factory that has art installations, cafes and even an area where you can play laser tag.

Lastly we went to a restaurant to have some hotpot. This hotpot broth was one I’ve never tried before, usually eaten during winter, the broth was made from ginger, duck meat and alcohol. Both the ginger and alcohol are meant to warm up your body during the winter. Additional ingredients include cabbage, mushrooms, fishballs and jelly made from pigs blood. The overall flavour of the broth was quite strong and bitter.

A hot pot for a Winter night.

Overall, I really had a great time with my homestay family. I was nervous at first as to how it would be, but they were very welcoming and nice. It was good to be in a family situation after spending most of time by myself or with friends. My two homestay younger brothers reminded me of my cousins back at home, especially how they also watched Youtube videos of games and toys, something I found really interesting. I also really enjoyed seeing some sights around Tainan, which I hadn’t really been able to do without a car, and I am really thankful to my homestay family for taking me to such cool places. I definitely improved my Chinese skills and also learnt a lot more about Taiwanese culture.

That is all for this blog post, thank you for reading!

– Shanti Truong-George, 張湘婷。

Shanti: First Impressions of Taiwan and National Cheng Kung University

大家好!My name is Shanti and I am currently on a study abroad in Tainan, Taiwan, all thanks to the Prime Ministers Scholarship for Asia and the University of Auckland! I am currently in my second year of learning Mandarin Chinese and I am super excited to be here to practice my Chinese, not only in the classroom but in daily life.

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The morning sun on the pond outside the National Cheng Kung University Chinese Language Centre.

 

A week has passed since I landed in Taipei, and so far I have already seen some sites, learnt about Taiwanese culture, ate lots of food, and had my first week of Chinese classes. It has been quite difficult with the lack of English spoken by the locals, but everyone is super friendly and have all been patient with me while I struggle to figure out what I want to say. Coming to the end of the first week I’ve memorised a few set phrases to use when buying food and already my vocabulary has grown; not only with Mandarin but a couple of Taiwanese words as well.

Unfortunately, the first two days in Taipei and two days in Tainan were all raining. The temperature was a cool 17℃, coming from a warmer 20℃ in New Zealand and a hot 30℃ (!!!) stopover in Singapore. I was not prepared for the cold so I had to pile on all of the thin jumpers I had brought along with me. Luckily now, the rain has stopped and the temperature is a nice 25℃. 李老師, my Chinese teacher says the temperature “還是很冷” – It’s still cold.

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Rain outside the Taiwan National Museum in Taipei

 

Taipei: Landing in Taiwan by myself was a little daunting, but luckily the express train from Taoyuan airport was super easy to get on and ride to Taipei. While walking from the train station to my accommodation I fell in love with all the alleyways and small streets that sprouted off the main roads.  In my one and a half days in Taipei, I managed to eat some 牛肉麵 (Beef noodles), a Taiwanese specialty. I also tried some 小籠包 (Soup Dumplings) at Din Tai Fung and visited the Taiwan National Museum that is situated in the 2/28 Peace Park. Some of the exhibits were closed but I was able to see a range of Taiwanese flora and fauna that had been collected by Japanese naturalists. 

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One of the many small lanes in Taipei

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牛肉麵 – Beef noodles, in Taipei on my first day.

 

Tainan: After travelling on the highspeed rail for 3 hours to Tainan  (very smooth), other UoA students and I were met by our language buddies, who took us on a bus to our dormitory. Tainan is known as the food capital of Taiwan, so I’ve been trying lots of new food and I aim to try at least one new food every day for the rest of the month. So far in Tainan, I’ve tried stinky tofu, soup dumpings, 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup),  鱔魚意麵 (fried eel with noodles) and 地瓜球 (fried sweet potato balls). In the future, I will have a post dedicated to all my food adventures so stay tuned!

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大东夜市 – Da Dong Night Market, the place to try stinky tofu and other Taiwanese streetfood.

 

Classes: Cheng Kung University is made up of nine different campuses, separated by several roads. In the morning along these roads, you can see small makeshift breakfast stands out of trucks, which sell egg pancakes, toast and of course milk tea. For the first week, we were split into three classes of only University of Auckland students. These classes allowed us to familiarise ourselves with traditional characters which we don’t learn at UoA. In addition to this, we had individual tutoring and hangouts with our language buddies that allowed us to further revise the class content and practice speaking.  Next week we will be joining the 10-week winter language program and will be in the same classes as other international students. As part of our program, we have cultural classes and excursions which I will dedicate a whole blog post to. 

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National Cheng Kung University’s Chinese Language Center

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Doing homework at our dorm with classmates Elise and Molly.

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My University of Auckland classmates and I with our teacher 李老師 after our first week.

 

Thank you for reading all this way, I am excited to share more with you!

– Shanti Truong-George, 張湘婷。

 

Elise – PMSA Taiwan

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If you’d asked me where I thought I’d be spending summer at the start of this year, I can guarantee you that “Taiwan” would not have been the answer. So how on earth did this come to fruition? Well, with any good story I think it’s best to start at the beginning; which in this case is 18 year old Elise.

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18 year old me at graduation – ready to take on the world but with absolutely no clue how

 

The year is 2014, permanently straightened hair is in, Calvin Harris’ “Summer” is being blasted from every available sound system, and I’m just about to finish my high school career and launch myself onto society as a real life WOMAN!!! Life is pretty great, oh, except for the fact that I have no idea what I want to do, I’m torn between studying law or attending broadcasting school, and almost every influence in my life is pushing me towards immediate tertiary study. As an NCEA overachiever, this would have been the obvious choice, however it just didn’t feel right. All I knew I was really passionate about was learning languages, and had thoroughly enjoyed a two month exchange to Germany the previous year; an experience which felt more “right” than all my 13 years of schooling. As a result, I threw caution to the wind and decided to forgo tertiary education right away, worked a multitude of part time jobs for 5 months before embarking on a flight to Germany for 9 months of work and travel.

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Me in Germany circa age 17, feeling very sophisticated in my “big girl” coat

Fast-forward to 2017 and the giant of tertiary education was calling for me once again. I wasn’t particularly willing, however two years of working low paid jobs across two different countries (including a stint of four months where I didn’t have a single day off and worked 60-80 hour weeks), had shown me that a qualification truly did open doors for progressing more rapidly in the career direction I was interested in. That being said, I had no idea of my ideal job title, but just knew that I wanted to have a job where I could utilise my German fluency, potentially learn other foreign languages, have travel opportunities and do something media related. I also realised that I was only going to be doing a law degree because I thought it would make other people think I was smart (which for me just wasn’t a good enough reason), and that broadcasting school was a little too specialised for my somewhat non-specific interests. Driven to leave Christchurch by a desire for greater opportunities, warmer weather and a fresh start, I chose to study a double major of Communications and Politics & International Relations at the University of Auckland.

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Pictured here at just one of my many pre-uni jobs. Sadly the face paint was just a one-off

Despite all of this, I’m incredibly embarrassed to admit that my attitude entering university could at best be described as “reluctant” and at worst be described as “arrogant and ungrateful”. After two years of living in the “real world”, entering university felt like I was putting my life on hold. I thought that my degree was essentially going to be three years spent swanning around just to get a piece of paper to prove to “the Man” that I was capable of doing jobs I was semi-already doing anyway. (Slight tangent: attending university has not only provided me with opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, but has also greatly improved my writing and analytical skills and completely changed my understanding and view of the world #noregrets). Therefore, I decided that student life needed to be over as quickly as possible, so I undertook summer school, multiple 5 paper semesters as well as many internships and media-related jobs throughout my degree.

 

By the start of 2019, I had a lengthy CV of career-relevant experience (apologies for the humble brag, but girl’s got a story to tell), and was just one 5 paper semester away from finishing my Bachelor’s degree in two and a half years instead of three. I couldn’t believe it – I’d done it! So, of course, what better time for the irritating-but-usually-right voice from within to pop up? Throughout my rush to finish university, aside from one Spanish paper in first year, language courses hadn’t fitted within my timetable. I realised that I was only going to get more time-poor as time went on, and if I was serious of fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming quadrilingual (for no other reason than the fact I thought the word had a ring to it), I needed to start my next foreign language as soon as possible. As much as I’d loved learning Spanish, a quick scour of many local international roles on job sites were increasingly calling for Chinese fluency. Additionally, between my knowledge of German and English, I knew I could pick up Spanish relatively quickly, however it was going to be now or never for learning an Asian language.

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One week’s worth of new vocab

So how has it been learning Chinese? Well, I can honestly say it is the most challenging thing I have ever done. Although the grammar (so far at least) is relatively simple compared to German, the sheer amount of learning and study required is incredibly difficult, especially when trying to balance it with other uni work, seven jobs, the gym, maintaining a social life and of course the general life admin involved in adulthood when you don’t live at home. When learning European languages, you can read the word and have a vague idea of how to say it, or hear the word and have a vague idea of how to write it, and you just have to remember what it means. With Chinese, you read a character, and not only have to remember what it means, but also have to remember what sound it makes and how to write the character itself and its phonetic equivalent in pinyin (English alphabet) with the tone marks in the correct places. The first semester my A-grade accustomed ego took a heavy (but probably much needed) humbling blow. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into and spent many sleepless nights stressing that this might actually be the first paper I fail in my life. I was too stressed with all my other commitments to dedicate the time to revising vocabulary that I had the luxury of doing so with German, and as a result consistently felt like the bottom of the class. About half way through the semester I decided to pull it together and establish a bit of a routine. This was successful some weeks, other weeks less so, but I managed to restore some of my shattered confidence and drag my grade up to being slightly more satisfactory.

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At my internship in India with the PMSA group scholarship at the beginning of 2019

As tempting as it was to say goodbye to my Chinese career, my parents didn’t raise a quitter, they raised a masochist, so naturally I decided to throw myself into a second semester of learning this impossible language. Whilst still incredibly stressful, frustrating and littered with many occasions of imposter syndrome, my brain appeared to have gotten into the swing of things, and was slowly wrapping itself around the concept of characters. It was during this semester that the opportunity arose for a language course in Taiwan over summer, which seemed an excellent opportunity to more rapidly progress my Chinese. The total course fee, which was the same price as a usual course fee, included cultural outings, a local student language buddy, course books, two one on one tutorials per week plus five small group courses, a specific language based elective and unlimited cultural classes in things as as Chinese painting, calligraphy and Tai Chi. In addition, I realised that this course was eligible to be funded by the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia. I had been fortunate enough to have an incredible experience in Mumbai at the start of the year with the PMSA group scholarship, interning at an NGO, so decided it was definitely worthwhile applying for the PMSA individual scholarship for this trip, which I was fortunate enough to receive.

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classic candid shot at one of Taipei’s many free (!!!!!) tourist attractions

It’s only taken me 1,338 words to get here (but who’s counting?) but that’s essentially how I came to be in Taiwan. Which, by the way, is one of the most underrated places I’ve ever visited. It’s incredibly clean, safe and efficient, pretty much all of the tourist attractions are completely free and the people are unbelievably helpful and friendly. Everything is really cheap,  the food is delicious, and people don’t hassle you on the streets or at the markets. In Taipei, the metro (MRT) is wildly efficient and the intercity high speed rail (HSR) is incredible. Admittedly the city where I’m taking the language course, Tainan, has less efficient local public transport, but a lot of stuff is within walking distance and every Taiwanese city has rental bike stations where the first 30 minutes are usually free. As far as language goes, it’s definitely been a challenge. When I first went to Germany on exchange, I had been learning the language for around three years, so had a pretty solid proficiency under my belt. As I’ve only been learning Chinese for less than a year, I’m finding I’m lacking a frustrating amount of vocabulary and struggle to understand when people talk really fast, which is always. In addition to this, everything in Taiwan (including our course material) is written in traditional characters which are worlds apart from the simplified characters used in mainland China, that we learn in NZ. That being said, I’ve made a real effort to refrain from speaking English whilst being here, and although I certainly have made plenty of mistakes, I definitely feel myself slowly improving. In fact, starting next week, I’ve been moved up a class at the intensive course. To be completely honest, I think it might be a bit advanced for me, but I’m going to give it my best shot and if I get moved back down, it’s no big deal. I’m just happy to be here.

TLDR? (too long, didn’t read)

  1. You don’t have to go to university straight out of high school
  2. Study something because it feels right and because you want to, not because society tells you you should
  3. University/other tertiary education is not everyone but it does open doors
  4. Take up as many opportunities to travel whilst studying as you can – you’re killing two birds with one stone, and apply for the PMSA to fund it – it’s such a rare and generous opportunity
  5. The best way to improve at a language is to be confident and not overthink. People are not judging your mistakes, they are generally just thrilled to hear you trying to speak their language!
  6. Don’t get sucked into speaking English – many people across the world speak some English and naturally want to practice it, but you will only improve if you commit to speaking the language itself, plus you will be able to immerse and understand the culture far far better
  7. Chinese is really really hard, but also immensely rewarding

 

Jane: Summer Internship in Taiwan – #3

Regretfully, this will be my last post on my internship in Taiwan. It’s been a eye-opening experience for the past two months and I’ll definitely miss it. It would me hard to summarise a two month experience in a blog post but I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt and discovered so read on, friends.

Through this programme, I was able to complete part of my practical work requirements overseas. Having to settle down in a new environment was a challenge but I was very grateful for the help of my student host and fellow interns. It feels so cliché, but I honestly do think this experience changed me. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me out of my shell – there’s no one there to do things for you so if you want something you get it yourself or ask for help. I had to interact with people in a unfamiliar language but in the end I am more confident in conversing in chinese. I learnt that it’s okay if you don’t really know what you’re doing, all you need is a little initiative to get the information you need.

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Was it worth the hassle of getting hold of documents and stress of travelling? Very much so. Would I do it again? Most definitely. Travelling around Taiwan and exploring new places during the weekends was something I really looked forward to during the dull week. Don’t tell my supervisor but I was actually planning for weekend trips in the lab when I was supposed to be working (in my defense though, I was waiting for the machine to do its thing). I’ve made friends out of necessity with my fellow interns but sometime in the evenings we spent playing whatever sport that was available or random card games to fill our time, that friendship changed into something I will cherish.

Should you go for it? HELL YES. And you definitely will not regret it.

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As always, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a message at jpan643@aucklanduni.ac.nz. If you want to see more of what I got up to in Taiwan, check out my Instagram @totorojane ☺️ All the best for the upcoming year!

Jane

Jane: Summer Internship in Taiwan – #2

Hello everyone! Hope that summer is going well for you guys. Time has certainly flown as it is now nearly the end of my internship period. Soon enough I’ll be heading back home! In this post, I thought I’d talk about what my typical weekday looks like and what we get up to during the weekend.

The research project that I am part of involves fuel cells and takes place in one of the labs on campus. I don’t actually have a fixed working time but I usually get to the lab around 9.30 am and leave at 6pm. I would drop by the little stand near the dorms for breakfast and drink my coffee while walking to the lab, a nice 15 minute walk to start my day. For lunch and dinner I would head out with my lab mates or fellow interns to one of the restaurants on the street in front of the university. On Mondays and Thursdays, there is a night market on in a neighbouring town, Dalin. We’d usually take a taxi there on most Mondays. When you’re in Taiwan, a night market visit is a must.

To occupy the evenings, there are quite a number of sports facilities available around campus. Bowling, pool, golf, you name it, they have it! Although the places are not always available due to team practices and what not. For bowling especially, it is quite hard to get a lane as there are uni team practices on Monday and Thursdays and it’s a pretty popular activity to do. Some people would come on in as the center opens at 6pm and leave at 9pm when it closes. But there is always karaoke down the road.

On the weekends, we would usually take short trip to neighbouring cities. We definitely took advantage of the amazing public transport system in Taiwan. Of course, the one city that everyone will know in Taiwan is Taipei. It’s a cool city to visit but everybody knows that’s so I’ll skip it. Here are two lesser known places that I’d like to introduce you to!

Chiayi: half an hour by bus from CCU

This is the closest “big”city from uni although it is much quieter compared to the likes of Taipei. Chiayi is located slightly off the centre of Taiwan and it is usually where visitors would take to train or bus to Alishan Mountain. There are buses hourly buses that go to Chiayi from the campus itself.

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Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park

Admire the collection of old trains park in this garage and take lots of aesthetic picture for the ‘gram. Free admission!

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Chiayi Old Prison

There are tours of the prison conducted by volunteer staff four times a day for an hour. It is in Mandarin though so you might not learn much but the architecture speaks for itself, I’d say. It’s quite a fascinating place to visit as you can really imagine what prison life might have been like. Also free admission.

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Sun Shooting Tower

Watch the sunset over the horizon from the top of the tower. It’s a pretty cool place to hang out, literally and figuratively. Admission to top of tower is 50 NTD.

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Sunset view from Sun Shooting Tower

It was pretty cloudy initially,  we were lucky that the clouds cleared when it did.

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Hinoki Village

This place is made up of cute little Japanese style houses selling different local products like food and knick knacks. Spend the afternoon here stocking up on souvenirs to bring back to Auckland.

Kaohsiung: taxi/bus to Minxiong train station and three hour train journey

We had a long weekend for New Years so we decided to spend it in Kaohsiung, the third most populated city in Taiwan, since Taipei was way too expensive and already booked out. We stayed on Cijin Island, a little island just off Kaohsiung, and spent most of our time there biking under the blazing hot sun and all got a wicked tan (in some cases, a wicked sunburn). We also took a day trip down to Kenting, the southernmost part of Taiwan where we scootered in the rain.

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The southernmost point of Taiwan: Kenting

Take a two hour bus ride from Kaohsiung to Kenting the southernmost point of Taiwan. The best way to get around Kenting is to hire a electric scooter, you can explore the whole of Kenting with it. It was raining when we got there, it’s quite hard to see when you’re being pelted by rain and wind!

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Elaunbi Park

The lighthouse is one of the iconic landmarks of Kenting. Took us a while to find the lighthouse as the signage is pretty small. It’s located in a park which costs 60 NTD to get in. We spent a few hours here exploring the walking trails and getting acquainted with Mother Nature.

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Take a ride on the Ferris Wheel located on top of the Dream Mall. A ticket costs 120 NTD if you show them your student ID. Frankly, I’m not a fan of Ferris wheels, they’re kinda boring but I guess why not see the view of Kaohsiung from high up?

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Cijin Island Lighthouse

Rent a bike and spend the day exploring Cijin Island. A bike is the easiest mode of transport as there are designated bike paths along the coast and to the tourist attractions. You’ll definitely see a lot of visiting families riding by in a four manned pedicab.

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Dragon and Tiger Pagodas – Lotus Pond

Take the convenient Kaohsiung Metro system to go to places such as the Lotus Pond with many pagoda and temples surrounding it. The Dragon and Tiger Pagoda is the most iconic one. It is said that if you go in through the tiger and out the dragon while running without stopping, you’ll have good luck for the year.

There are certainly many more places to be explored around Taiwan these are the two starters I’d recommend. Hopefully this post will show you that Taiwan is a country worth visiting, whether it’s for studies or just sightseeing.

As always, I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Drop me an email at jpan643@aucklanduni.ac.nz! If you want to see more of what I got up to in Taiwan, check out my Instagram @totorojane ☺️. See you next time!

Jane

Jane: Summer Internship in Taiwan – #1

Hi guys! I’ll just start off by introducing myself and giving a bit of backstory as to why I’m here in Taiwan. I’m Jane, third year Chemical and Materials Engineering student. I’m here in Taiwan for just over two months for a research internship programme. This research programme was organised by the Faculty of Engineering in partnership with three universities in Taiwan. The university I’m in, National Chung Cheng University, is located in Minxiong Township with the closest major city being Chiayi about half an hour drive away. You can imagine that it’s pretty quiet out here in the countryside.

I’ve been here for around a month now – halfway through my internship period. Time has really flown past! It was a hectic first couple of weeks trying to figure out where everything is but I think we’ve settled in pretty well.

Arrival

First thing that hit me was the weather. It supposed to be winter but I guess the sun is working overtime. With the strong sun and humid air, I was sweating the minute I stepped out of the air conditioned airport. To get to our university, we took a shuttle bus from the airport to the high speed rail train station, then a high speed rail from Taoyuan to Chiayi. From there, we hopped on a taxi to the university. The whole journey took about three hours but adding that to the 13 hour travel time from New Zealand, I was definitely worn out by the end of the day.

An orientation session was held for the research programme participants to basically introduce everyone and talk a little about the programme. Typical orientation stuff. We were then shown around the campus by some students guides. The campus is HUGE, like 10 times the size of UOA city campus. It took us a whole afternoon to go around it.

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The Gymnasium Building

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National Chung Cheng University Library

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The facilities they have are quite impressive! Outdoor and indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, football fields. They’ve even got a golf driving range!

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3D map of the campus. It takes me about 20 minutes to walk from my dorm to the lab everyday

Biking is the main form of transport here on campus. You can always see large amounts of bikes parked in front of every building. There are also local buses that go to nearby towns and train stations, conveniently leaving from the bus stop right on campus. As bus fares require exact change, save yourself the hassle and get yourself an Easycard from a convenience store such as 7-11 or FamilyMart. Easycards are similar to ATHOP cards but definitely have a wider range of use. You can use it for public transport around Taiwan and use it to pay for stuff in convenience stores. It can also be used to pay for admission to certain tourist attractions.

Communication here might be a little tricky as not many locals speak english, especially in rural areas. So getting food would be a little complicated if you don’t have someone who is fluent in chinese with you.

Essential Chinese 101:

雞: Chicken

豬: Pig

牛: Cow

肉: Meat

菜: Vegetable

What my friends and I did was to look for those characters in the menu and just wing it. Or just point at the menu and gesture. We’ve had pretty good results so far. I guess you could ask your Taiwanese friend to translate but where’s the fun in that?

Jane_1e
A typical bento box you can get around campus

Food around campus is relatively cheap. You could get a proper meal for about NTD80 (that’s just NZD 4!!). There’s a good variety of food to be found in the cafeteria or the little shops on campus. There are also plenty of restaurants just down the road outside campus. There are no cooking facilities in the dorms, apart from hot water so we do eat out for every meal and we haven’t run out of new things to try yet.

That’s all from me this time round! I hope you’ve found my first blog useful and you’re curious for more information about Taiwan. See you in the next one!

If you have any questions about Taiwan, I’ll be more than happy to answer them! Just drop me an email at jpan643@aucklanduni.ac.nz or comment down below and I’ll try to get to them ASAP.

Jane