With spring break in full swing, many of my friends have taken the days off as an opportunity to relax at home. It's a bittersweet time—while I love traveling to new places, the thought of wrapping up in my own bed (not the standard twin-size dorm beds, thank goodness) and enjoying the comforts of home-cooking offers a golden temptation. Sadly, a week isn't enough time to fly back to Taiwan. Brought about by about (say that five times fast) of homesickness, here are 10 things I miss dearly when I'm not on the island.
1. Easy transportation
Taipei is known for it's convenient MRT system—it's clean, fast and can get you from one corner of the city to the next (with great A/C during the summers as well). Besides that, the taxis are all over the streets, making hailing one easier than calling an Uber. With the ability to also rent bikes from parks with the same card you use for riding the mass transit system, getting around is a breeze
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love bread with a passion. Taiwanese bakeries are therefore a heaven. With all bakeries holding a wide range of bread, salty to sweet, and both delicate French style pastries and traditional Taiwanese treats, one could have an entire meal dedicated to trying out all the different types. Trust me, I've done this on more than one occasion.
3. Night markets
Night markets are scattered all across Taiwan, from the famous Shilin in Taipei to the one in Keelung, the southern tip of the island. Not only are there multitudes of cheap food stalls to choose from, but cheap clothing, odd assortment of accessories and fun games (dart throwing and shrimp catching, as an example). Squishing your way through the crowd is very much worth it.
4. Taiwanese Breakfast Stands
The sizzling sound the radish cakes make when placed on the grill is the greatest wake-up call—add on some scallion pancakes wrapped around omelettes and you've got yourself a breakfast of champions. Savory breakfasts run the line between light congee and oily pieces of fried dough dipped in sweet soy milk. You just can't go wrong with anything on the menu.
With 7-Elevens practically on every corner in Taiwan, you'll never be left missing something. Band-aids? They've got it. Raincoats? Got it. A full meal thats actually relatively healthy? 7-Eleven has many options to choose from as well. It's so handy that you can pay taxes, pick up packages and buy tickets
6. Xinyi shopping district
I'll admit I was slightly bitter that large name brands like H&M and Forever21 only hit Xinyi the summer before I left for college. Regardless, Xinyi District is the place for relaxation, shopping, great restaurants and where the blockbusters reach the screen. The sky bridges also makes navigating the countless shopping malls easier, as there's no need to wait for traffic lights. I suppose something I don't miss is the absurd number of people waiting in line for movie tickets—it's torture, especially in the summer, when you're impatient and the little water spritzers above you just can't compare to the A/C inside.
7. Shaved ice
Something I don't miss is the hot, humid summers where mosquitoes flit around your face the whole day. But shaved ice is the glorious savior of summer. It's less guilt-inducing than ice cream but still satisfying, with an assortment of toppings to choose from. Chewy mochi balls, sweet red bean paste and that sticky condensed milk—this has me drooling just thinking about it.
8. Exercise parks
It can sometimes be hard to find good places to exercise outside in the city—the pollution, the mopeds and the narrow sidewalks don't do much. Exercise parks in Taiwan therefore takes the pressure off having to go to the gym in order to get your cardio in. It's for all ages, and while some of the fixtures look odd and don't seem like they're doing anything at all, it's always fun to jog around a bunch of grandmas doing tai-chi in the morning.
Starfruit, guavas, jujubes, mangos, dragon fruit, lychees and sweet, sweet pineapples—only some of the variety that a tropical island blesses you with. Not only are there a variety of fruits in season year round, they're sold pretty cheaply in the day markets. The yellow watermelons never disappoint either.
It wouldn't be missing home if it weren't for the relatives I have scattered all across Taiwan—whether it's family dinners during Chinese New Year's or just going to my baby cousin's kindergarten graduation, college in the states has me missing quite a bit of their lives. It makes me cherish the breaks that are long enough for me to fly the whole way back. Twenty plus hours on a cramped plane is totally worth the large family dinners, too.