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  • Taiwan by Mitch Burbick 2011

    One of the best things about working about Super English is the huge amount of time for vacation that you get. Thailand’s infamous for random Holiday’s scattered throughout the calendar work year but as far as allocated time off for traveling and basically doing whatever you please besides working, Super English offers the most. They’re unpaid, but what are you doing in Thailand if you’re looking to make a bunch of money? We get almost six weeks off around March and April and the entire month of October. I made use of my month this last October and went to Taiwan.

    There’s a lot of SE Asia that I’m going to unfortunately leave without seeing. Taiwan is definitely not the usual vacation go to and while I’ll say it was a really tough decision to head there over Vietnam, I won’t say that it wasn’t worth it.

    I found a ticket from Bangkok to Taipei with Air Asia for just under nine thousand baht (around $300 U.S.) which for a roundtrip 5 hour flight each way, is a screaming deal. Got into Taipei around 7 at night and took a bus from the airport to the train station, about an hour away. You’ve got to give it to Taiwan, they’ve got busses and trains fast, on time, and just generally nailed down. At the train station I was able to buy a ticket on the high speed train to head down the east coast to Hualien, a town that two of my friends from university work in.

    Friends, Taiwan is beautiful. I had never spent time thinking about it, but holy mother, it’s something to be explored. I spent just over 3 weeks there living on the coast with my friends. We rode motorcycles through canyons, saw waterfalls pouring down the sides of mist covered mountains, sat in a hot spring next to a raging river, hunted jade in the rain while knee deep in cold water, surfed typhoon waves and drank a lot of Budweiser out in front of 7-11’s.

    The country has a little bit more than 20 million people, 11 million of which live in Taipei. The country’s not huge, you can ride a motorcycle around the entire thing in a couple days. The middle is basically a giant chain of mountains with one road running through along a gorge that rivals the Grand Canyon in beauty. With the exception of one or two larger cities in the south, most of the towns are pretty small. It was easy to feel at home after just a short period of time there and I understood why even after two years, my friends had no intentions of leaving.

    There are a few large chain ESL schools operating in Taiwan, HESS being the largest. My friends work for them and they like it alright. For them, after the first year, the job has turned into a way to stay in the country while learning Chinese. They teach kindergarten in the morning, have a 4 or 5 hour break during the day, and return to work at 4 or so to teach a few hours of private classes every night, not unlike the classes at Super English.

    The cost of living seems to be a bit more than it is in Thailand, but altogether, I found things prettyreasonably priced. Definitely more than they are around here in SE Asia, but in no way as much as back home, Japan, or even mainland China.

    A nice thing I really enjoyed was the weather. Over October it was cool and a bit rainy, but in no way was it like the rainy season we have here in Thailand. The summers are pretty hot and humid, but their winters are actually cold. Coming from America’s west coast, it was kind of like being back home for a little bit. The trip was great. I’d recommend to anyone looking for a vacation a little different than the usual SE Asia circuit to check it out. Flights are cheap, food and staying are pretty cheap, and if you’re
    looking for an adventure, rent a bike and try to make it around the island in a few days stopping wherever you see fit. And don’t’ forget Taroko gorge. It’s definitely a must see.

    Coming home to Thailand though, like always, was great. I’d missed the delicious Thai food, the cheap beer, the quirky night markets and all the subtleties of the day that make Thailand such a great and fantastic place to live and work.