Taipei 101 is a Tourist Trap, but is it Worth it?

Photo from wikimedia commons
Photo from wikimedia commons

Tall buildings are the quintessential tourist traps. No matter what country you’re in, you’re charged way too much money to ride an elevator, mill around for a short while and then head back down to earth with the opportunity to purchase a miniature version of the building you were just on.

The views are typically excellent, but there are diminishing returns once you reach a certain height. The 101 floors on the aptly-named Taipei 101 seemed like overkill. There were perfectly good views from the 45th floor of a hotel I stayed at. Why go up the second tallest building in the world? (skip to the bottom for the TL:DR ).

Read more

Taiwan’s Mango Shaved Ice is the Perfect Dessert

Huge mangoes grown in Taiwan

It seems like anywhere you go in Taiwan, it’s impossible not to find a place selling mango shaved ice. This concoction typically involves a bowl full of shaved ice, mangos cut into cubes, some condensed milk to further sweeten the dish. Many places top it off with a couple scoops of ice cream. This is all well and good, but when the mango is perfect, simplicity is preferred.

Down in Tainan County, about four hours from Taipei, farmers grow the most incredible mango I’ve ever tasted. I’d sampled many variations of my favorite fruit in Cambodia, where locals claim there are more than ten kinds. Tainan’s Irwin mangos are on another level and apparently a popular export to Japan. Plus, they’re twice the size of the typical mango. A shaved ice vendor in Tainan gladly told all of this to my brother, who speaks Mandarin.

Read more

Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport is the Best Airport in the World

taipei airport

An eight-hour flight delay is never pleasant. Or at least that’s what I thought before being stuck at the Taoyuan Airport in Taipei. My Eva Air flight had mysterious technical difficulties, and while many of the passengers angrily waited near the boarding area, I explored every section of terminal 2.

It was the only airport I’ve been to where I didn’t feel like I was stuck in a bleak – yet spacious – prison. There’s even a Hello Kitty lounge (if you’re into that kind of thing). Here are a few reasons Taipei airport is the best I’ve ever been to, despite the lengthy security queue.

Best of all, you don’t have to be some rewards member to enjoy any of these. You don’t even need to pay a single Taiwanese dollar.

Read more

Avocados in Cambodia

Avocados haven’t really caught on in Cambodia yet. I don’t think that will stay true for long, as the stuff that’s grown here is excellent and expensive Western food (usually of dubious quality) is catching on in Phnom Penh. These avocados made in Cambodia are huge, fresh, and for the most part, totally under the radar. Read more

Exploring the Awesome Wat Nokor in Kampong Cham

I’ve been to dozens of temples throughout southeast Asia, but none have been blended two time periods quite like Wat Nokor (also known as Banteay Prey Nokor) in Kampong Cham. From the exterior, it’s a well-preserved temple from the 11th century that wouldn’t look out of place at the Angkor Archeological Park. That’s enough to justify a visit if you’re in Kampong Cham, but it’s the interior that makes this place a must-see.

Read more

Seeing Hong Kong’s Growth from the Sidewalks

Kowloon at night

The opposite sides of the road in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district remind me of the beginning battle scenes from Braveheart. Masses of people stare at each other, waiting for just the right moment to move. When the crosswalk signal turns green, both sides make their move. Instead of crashing, the pedestrians deftly avoid bumping into the other people.

Crowds throughout the city are bigger than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The hordes of tourists at Times Square in New York seem sparse to the people in Hong Kong. Fellow city-state surpasses Singapore is the most densely populated nation in the world, while Hong Kong takes second place. Impressive considering much of Hong Kong is left to nature.

Read more