Last month I went to Taipei for a business trip of two days. Though I have gone many times to Hong Kong, this was my first visit to the Republic of China (a.k.a Taiwan, RoC is the official name of the country). I travelled by Thai Airways, from Chennai via Bangkok to Taipei, roughly about 3:30 Hours each sector.
Before the travel, I checked out the Taiwanese Ministry of foreign affairs website and learnt that travellers to Taiwan with Indian Passport and a valid VISA to US or UK don’t need an explicit Taiwan VISA. My travel agent who didn’t know about this rule confirmed this after checking and I double checked with Taiwanese embassy in Delhi by phone as well. What they didn’t say is that I needed to visit Taiwanese Immigration website and obtain a self-service Authorization Certificate and carry the printout. Because of this when I landed in Taipei I was sent back to Thai Airways gate by the Immigration official. Fortunately, the Supervisor in Immigration gave me a sample printout of Authorization Certificate which I showed to Thai Airways staff, who after a brief confusion did the registration for me and got the printout. Finally, I was allowed to clear immigration. Please be warned that Taiwan doesn’t have VISA on Arrival for any nationals other than Hong Kong and Macau. Later in the hotel when I visited the Immigration Website it had spelled this out clearly “The nationals of India, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, who also possess a valid visa or permanent resident certificate issued by U.S.A., Canada, Japan, U.K., Schengen Convention countries, Australia or New Zealand, are eligible for the visa exemption program, which permits a duration of stay up to 30 days. Those who meet the above qualification and have never been employed in Taiwan as blue-collar workers have to apply to the “Advance Online Registration System for the Visitors of Nationals from Five Southeast Asian Countries to Taiwan” of the R.O.C. National Immigration Agency (website:https://nas.immigration.gov.tw/nase) for an “Authorization Certificate” before coming to Taiwan. After completion, the printed-out Certificate can be used by the foreign visitor for boarding the aeroplane and the immigration inspection”
I reached my Hotel in Taipei on a Wednesday morning and had rest of the day free to myself, the meetings were happening only the next day. There are not many places in Taipei city to see, I narrowed my choice to either Taipei 101 (the world’s second tallest building that I have seen in Discovery channel as a construction marvel) and to National Palace Museum. On the day I was in Taipei it was cloudy and drizzling, so I decided to go to Taipei 101. Even within Taipei 101, there is not much for you to see, a big mall – where there were only designer shops which I couldn’t even afford to window shop & a supermarket. I went to buy a ticket to the ride up for the viewing gallery on top, but the girl in the counter warned me that I can hardly see anything on a day like this and whether I am sure I want to pay NTD 450 for this. I decided to go with her advice and skipped the observation deck.
A lake is there in an area called Xindian where there was a beautiful park, bridge, food stalls and boating activities.
Remember that in Taipei very little “English” is used, it is almost entirely in Chinese. So for you to travel from Airport to Hotel by Taxi, it is a good idea (as my hosts advised me earlier) to carry your Hotel Name printed in Chinese characters. That is what I did and after using it few times, I realized how important it was, there is no way I could have made anyone understand the English name of my hotel (as only the Chinese name is used everywhere). I even travelled by Taipei Metro (called commonly as MRT) to return from Taipei 101 to my hotel, it was quite convenient and efficient. You can buy a one-way ticket (they give you a pre-paid token) from the Information counter (to whom you can show the same Chinese character printout of the location) and rest is same as in any other Metro (like in Singapore or Hong Kong). The difference in Taipei Metro station and train is that everything is in Chinese only, only the Station names are in English, with which you can manage to travel just like I did on my first attempt, even managing to switch two lines during my travel. Like Japan, there were marked queuing for boarding trains which were followed.
In general vegetarian food is not common in Taipei, but you can find them with a little effort. The challenge is the language and communicating this to the waiter. The hotel – Beautiful Hotel, Xindian where I was staying (I wrote to them in advance by email) had arranged a vegetarian lunch for me on arrival. My host took me to a fine dining Chinese restaurant for dinner and they manage to get me tasty vegetarian food including a Bamboo Root Dish that I tasted for the first time.
Also published on Medium.