Taipei and Shanghai: My top 10

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It took a while, but here’s my wrap-up of my trip to Taipei, thanks to Hawaiian Airlines, who launched direct service there and invited me along on the inaugural flight. With so many Taiwanese in Hawaii, there’s no reason not to hop a plane to visit the motherland, or have any family and friends there fly to Hawaii to visit you.

Some travel tips before you go are in my first blog about the city, here. While the items listed here may not necessarily be THE top 10 things to do in Taiwan, they are MY top 10, and if there’s something I really missed, I guess I need to go back. If you want to see all of my Taipei photos, click here.

Guabao

Of course, the top of my list is guabao. I haven't stopped talking about it since I got back. Pork belly, cooked pickled vegetables, cilantro, plum sauce, and finely crushed peanuts in a giant steamed bun make this my favorite Taiwanese treat. I hope you get to try it when you go.

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Going to Shanghai is a 2-hour hop from Taipei, so if you have the time, it might be good to explore a little of mainland China. Here are the top 10 things that I most enjoyed and would recommend in Shanghai. I only stayed a week, though, so there were definitely things I needed to spend more time on. For both Taipei and Shanghai, I would recommend you learn some key phrases (Do you speak English? I don’t understand) and maybe even get the kanji into some flash cards so you can bust them out when you are exploring, shopping, and eating. If you want some key phrases, tips, and recommended sights or activities, check out Ryan Hew’s handy travel document, here. If you want to see the rest of my Shanghai photos, click here.

Maglev

You should try the high-speed Maglev to get in to the city from Pudong Airport. It is a high-tech train propelled by a magnetic rail and goes up to 300 kilometers per hour. You still have to catch a cab after it drops you off, to get to your hotel.

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Some travel tips before you go:

  • You need a visa to get into China. Start the paperwork process at least a month in advance and if possible, go through a reputable travel agency as they can lump you with others applying for visas and call you a tour group. The laws regarding a Chinese visa change all the time, which drives people crazy and can delay your paperwork.
  • If you go in the summer, buy a parasol to shield yourself from the sun. Everyone does it. Also, wear a lot of sunscreen, even on your lips.
  • Don’t count on using public restrooms except in nice Western hotels and luxury shopping centers — which are actually quite gorgeous.
  • Remember, despite the amount of commerce and Western influence, Shanghai is still in a communist country, so Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are blocked (as of this writing, Instagram is not blocked yet). Many Western hotels have Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in place for their guests so they can access these sites, but for posting on the go, you will need to download a VPN to your phone and probably buy a local SIM card.
  • Note to bloggers: whiny Americans may complain about NSA, but in China they also monitor your data usage. If you use too much, they will quickly limit the amount you can upload. (Communists aren’t supposed to consume more than their share, right?)
  • Be careful of the color taxi you catch. Red and purple taxis often make their own prices and impose them on unsuspecting tourists. Green, yellow, and white taxis are the most legit ones. In fact, when you disembark from the Maglev, all the red and purple taxi drivers will approach you aggressively. Ignore them and walk past them, step over the very low iron fence and take a legit taxi.

Both cities are fairly safe and I never felt in danger or the need to be vigilant. However, as with any destination, practice common sense and do be aware of your surroundings. Then, enjoy!

Mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines for inviting me along on their inaugural direct flight to Taipei, and to Catherine Toth for adding to the adventure! Big mahalos to Sara Lin and Bob Wu for taking us around Taipei, and to my personal Shanghai guides, Cymri Chang and Candice Kraughto. Hope to see you all again soon.

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