Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

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Kennedy
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Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by Kennedy » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:51 pm

I have an odd trip planned for the fall. My spouse and I will be flying into Tokyo and flying home from Hong Kong. I got a great deal on the tickets, so I grabbed them on an impulse.

The problem is that we have already toured Hong Kong as well as Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. I'm trying to figure out how to visit new (to us) cities during this vacation.

Has anyone here toured the less frequently visited towns in Japan? Another option is to spend a couple nights in Tokyo to acclimate to the time change and then fly to Taipei, Taiwan before a short flight to Hong Kong for our flight home. Any other suggestions?

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by HawkeyePierce » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:02 pm

How long is the trip?

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by 02nz » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:08 pm

I haven't been to smaller cities in Japan but would highly recommend Taipei if you haven't been. Great food, friendly people, way less overwhelming than the Chinese megacities. Costs are reasonable and it's easy to get around.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is arguably the greatest collection of Chinese art anywhere. (It has a complicated history - the Palace in that name is in Beijing. When the Nationalists lost to the Communists, they shipped with them some of the best art from the Forbidden City to Taiwan. They hoped to take China back and so didn't built the museum to put the collection on exhibit until many years later, when it became plenty clear they weren't going back to the mainland anytime soon.) One of the world's great museums.

Also don't miss night markets and the hot springs. Fall is the probably the best time for visiting Taiwan - the heat and humidity will have died down.

If it doesn't cost much more, I would fly from Tokyo-Haneda to Taipei-Songshan (TSA). Easier than Narita and Taoyuan, Taipei's big int'l airport. These intra-Asia flights to the close-in airports are super convenient. All flights to Hong Kong are out of Taoyuan, though.

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Kennedy
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by Kennedy » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:21 pm

HawkeyePierce wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:02 pm
How long is the trip?
Eight days, not including days spent flying to Asia and back

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by HawkeyePierce » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:24 pm

With eight days you have time for both. Either head south from Tokyo and fly to Taipei out of Nagoya or Osaka, or head north and loop back to Tokyo.

Depends on your interests of course. I probably have a preference for Taipei over small town Japan but that’s just me.

There’s also always more to see in Tokyo. I’d consider just Tokyo and Taipei.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by 7eight9 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:27 pm

Head south to Ishigaki Island. The New York Times in 2014 had an article about it titled Ishigaki, a Japanese Natural Wonderland.
Link --- https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/trav ... rland.html
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by JD Leonard » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:53 pm

I lived in Taipei for six months. It's fantastic. You won't regret visiting!
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by stan1 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:02 am

If you like visiting Asia you'll want to do both at some point, so just pick one for this trip and save the other for next time.

In Japan you might do either Hokkaido or Noto Peninsula. With 8 days you might do both but it would be rushed.

In addition to the National Palace Museum and night markets Taipei has a large number of great restaurants and very good public transit. If you enjoy Buddhist temples there are several countryside excursions you might want to take.

I definitely would not try to visit both in 8 days.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by doraemon » Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:50 am

I haven't been to Taiwan, but I lived for a while in Japan in the late 1980's.
IMO, there are a lot of nice places worth checking out. From Tokyo, I'd consider places like Nagano, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Takayama. Even closer by is Kamakura. Farther afield, there's Hiroshima or Nagasaki or even Kagoshima. Definitely look into getting a Japan Rail pass, if you're going to use the train system to any significant extent. (It must be purchased prior to arriving in Japan.)

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by jodydavis » Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:53 am

I don't think I personally would ever tire of visiting Tokyo (or Japan, for that matter). That said, if you want something new, Taipei would be an easy stop and is very nice. As others have said, the National Palace Museum is fabulous. Also the food and night markets are wonderful. However, do manage your expectations, in that Taipei isn't so much about seeing spectacular sights (of which there are some), but more about hitting the night markets, eating the food, soaking in the culture, and appreciating how nice and friendly everyone is. In that sense, although Taipei is delightful, it's very different from visiting a city like Tokyo or Hong Kong (or Bangkok, or Beijing), where there are an unending number of tourist sights.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by WhiteMaxima » Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:55 am

Kyoto Japan.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by MGator » Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:33 pm

I lived in Hiroshima for a little while and would highly recommend the city and the surrounding areas (Miyajima for example). You can grab the Shin from Tokyo and head down for a day or two. Also, Fukuoka is pretty neat, although a bit farther south than Hiroshima. If you do go to Hiroshima, apart from visiting the dome and related museums, I would highly recommend going to a Carp baseball game - or any Japanese baseball game for that matter. They're amazing and, as one can imagine, baseball is a universal language.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Jul 23, 2019 1:52 pm

Kennedy wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:21 pm
HawkeyePierce wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:02 pm
How long is the trip?
Eight days, not including days spent flying to Asia and back
In Japan, without going too far from Tokyo (to minimize travel time), you might consider Mt. Koya (and stay in a Buddhist Monastery), or Gora (and stay in a tradition Onsen Ryokan - hot springs inn).
See Nara (and the tame deer!).

And Kyoto (lots there, including the peaceful bamboo forest).

We spent 2 weeks there, 2 years ago, and it was The Trip Of A Lifetime. Loved it all!
We stopped of in Hong Kong for a few more days "en route home". :happy

ENJOY!

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by 28fe6 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:22 pm

doraemon wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:50 am
I haven't been to Taiwan, but I lived for a while in Japan in the late 1980's.
IMO, there are a lot of nice places worth checking out. From Tokyo, I'd consider places like Nagano, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Takayama. Even closer by is Kamakura. Farther afield, there's Hiroshima or Nagasaki or even Kagoshima. Definitely look into getting a Japan Rail pass, if you're going to use the train system to any significant extent. (It must be purchased prior to arriving in Japan.)
You can buy JR Rail pass multiple places in Japan, at Narita airport train station for sure and I think also at Tokyo station. I agree it's a good deal for the tourist because you can take a few hour train ride and see a really different part of Japan and also just ride all the local trains for ''free'' which tends to inspire you to travel around more since there's no marginal cost.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by halfnine » Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:49 pm

I've spent a few months traveling around Japan. With just 8 days there is no need to add another country. Save it for another trip.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by AerialWombat » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:15 pm

halfnine wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:49 pm
I've spent a few months traveling around Japan. With just 8 days there is no need to add another country. Save it for another trip.
+1

Slow down and enjoy the scenery. Eight days is barely enough time to visit one region, let alone two.

You already visited Kyoto, so try Nara. It’s not as famous perhaps, but has even more history. I also suggest Tokushima — great museums, do a small section of the 88-temple pilgrimage. There is a ferry from Wakayama (near Nara) to Shikoku, then a train up to Osaka. It’s a nice little loop that could fill 8 days without a problem..
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by DoTheMath » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:24 pm

+1 for Taiwan. Taipei is a very pleasant city to spend time in. There are also lots of beautiful locations around the island and it would be well worth spending a few of the days visiting some of them.
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by decapod10 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 5:03 pm

DoTheMath wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:24 pm
+1 for Taiwan. Taipei is a very pleasant city to spend time in. There are also lots of beautiful locations around the island and it would be well worth spending a few of the days visiting some of them.
Yes, there are some pretty locations. it's been awhile, but I remember enjoying Sun Moon Lake. The Maokong Gondola is nice too, and there are some nice views from the top at Maokong. They also have the option of "Crystal Gondolas" which have glass bottoms if you're not too afraid of heights..

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by megabad » Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm

Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by stan1 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:46 pm

megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
Sure for an experienced independent traveler. If you've been to Tokyo on your own you'll be fine. OTOH if you've experienced a language barrier in Paris maybe not. In Taipei English is used for international business and tourism. Taipei Metro has English signs. You can use your phone to communicate with a taxi driver or ask for directions if you need to. In international areas like near 101 restaurants will have English menus. Many middle aged and younger people learned English in school but if they don't practice it they may be less comfortable speaking English. Someone who looks like a college student will understand basic English. Outside Taipei probably less English.

We each have different travel styles but we like to take 1/2 day or full day English language tours in a new location because we like to learn about history and culture by talking to someone who lives there. Guides are well paying jobs and we've seldom been disappointed. Other people prefer to read a book.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by SrGrumpy » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:06 pm

Taipei is fantastic. I'm a sucker for the changing of the guard in any country, and Taiwan does it well. I also enjoyed Chiang Kai-Shek's home. His wife was quite a star in her own right. That said, Taiwan has a complicated relationship with the crazy ol' dictator, and you can visit a surreal park where hundreds of uprooted statues of him have been dumped.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by DoTheMath » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:12 pm

megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
I didn't look up the comparative number of English speakers, but if you would be comfortable going to Budapest not knowing Hungarian, then Taipei will be fine. Especially nowadays if you have a smart phone with google maps and such. The subway and most tourist sights are in English, and many of the street signs, shops, and restaurants will have at least some English so you can work out where you are or what you want. Of course as you get further off the beaten track that becomes less the case. Many of the younger people speak some English and in general people are friendly and happy to muddle through with you even if there isn't a common language.


More generally, Taipei has a more Western atmosphere than cities in mainland China which helps with making it feel less intimidating. When my parents wanted to go to mainland China I recommended they go in a tour group, but I wouldn't hesitate for them to do Taipei on their own.
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by harrychan » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:28 pm

I would recommend Taiwan or try Okinawa or Hokkaido. I wouldn't try smaller rural towns in Japan unless you love nature and a bunch of nothingness.
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by ThereAreNoGurus » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:46 pm

OP,

I have traveled extensively in both Japan and Taiwan.

Of course it depends on your preferences, but generally speaking, if I were you, I'd listen to the posters who recommend staying in Japan. Look at the places they recommend, do some research, and decide which of those places interest you the most.

Personally, I have no use for the food in Taipei night markets. I find the food in restaurants much better. But generally, I prefer the food in Japan. Also to me (and even most Taiwanese I know, who have traveled to Japan), Japan is a much more scenic country.

With only 8 days, I'd definitely do a deeper dive in Japan and go to Taiwan some other time if you have the inclination. If you're into Chinese art or intensely curious about Chinese culture, then of course that changes the equation.

Edited to add: After reading the poster's comments below me, Japan in the Fall can be strikingly beautiful, but that will depend on your timing. You don't have to go to Hokkaido to experience it, but Hokkaido is a nice place to visit.
Last edited by ThereAreNoGurus on Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by AKsuited » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:49 pm

Kennedy wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:51 pm
I have an odd trip planned for the fall. My spouse and I will be flying into Tokyo and flying home from Hong Kong. I got a great deal on the tickets, so I grabbed them on an impulse.

The problem is that we have already toured Hong Kong as well as Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. I'm trying to figure out how to visit new (to us) cities during this vacation.

Has anyone here toured the less frequently visited towns in Japan? Another option is to spend a couple nights in Tokyo to acclimate to the time change and then fly to Taipei, Taiwan before a short flight to Hong Kong for our flight home. Any other suggestions?
I'd say Hokkaiko in the fall before Nov. The fall colors are beautiful and there's plenty of city life in Sapporo as well as nature, hikes and onsens. Onsens in the fall is one of the best experiences one will have in Japan.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by tigermilk » Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:16 am

jodydavis wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:53 am
I don't think I personally would ever tire of visiting Tokyo (or Japan, for that matter).
+1. Tokyo and London are my 2 favorite cities. I have been to Tokyo at least 20 times and it never gets old.

If I had a few free days and wanted to see some smaller towns that are somewhat convenient to get to from Tokyo, I would probably head to Nikko or the Japanese Alps for some relaxation.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by Mel Lindauer » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:54 am

Kennedy wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:51 pm
I have an odd trip planned for the fall. My spouse and I will be flying into Tokyo and flying home from Hong Kong. I got a great deal on the tickets, so I grabbed them on an impulse.

The problem is that we have already toured Hong Kong as well as Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. I'm trying to figure out how to visit new (to us) cities during this vacation.

Has anyone here toured the less frequently visited towns in Japan? Another option is to spend a couple nights in Tokyo to acclimate to the time change and then fly to Taipei, Taiwan before a short flight to Hong Kong for our flight home. Any other suggestions?
FYI, we have Bogleheads Local Chapters in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. You might want to contact the Local Chapter Coordinators and see what they recommend.

Here's the Local Chapters Map. Click on the Chapter name to see the contact name and email address;

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewe ... 999999&z=8
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by Ricchan » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:06 pm

If you haven't been to Taipei before, I'd recommend visiting there at least once. It's a big city like Tokyo, but still manages to feel like a small-ish town in some places. My memories of Tokyo are largely of bright lights, tall buildings, and bustling metropolitan areas, whereas my memories of Taipei consist of a lot of small shops and cozy restaurants. Not saying these aspects of either city aren't interchangeable-- you can definitely find all of these things in both cities-- but the overall feel is noticeably different. That's just my experience, though, and is not necessarily representative of others.

Only thing that would cause me to waver would be the heat. In the summer, temperatures and humidity can make Taipei feel sweltering. It's basically a tropical island, after all. Then again, Japan can also get pretty hot and humid, so that may be a wash.

The idea of flying into Taipei Songshan Airport instead of Taoyuan International Airport that someone brought up earlier is a good idea. It lands you more or less in the middle of the city and saves you a ~45 minute transit. Although it's not so bad now that the MRT (subway/train) goes directly there, so if you can't find a flight into TSA, flying into TPE and taking the MRT into Taipei should be fine.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by HawkeyePierce » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:37 pm

megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
I don’t speak mandarin and I didn’t have any trouble in Taipei. I’d say it’s a slightly larger language barrier than Hong Kong or Tokyo but much easier than Seoul or Beijing.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by SoAnyway » Fri Jul 26, 2019 4:53 am

Kennedy wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:51 pm
I have an odd trip planned for the fall. My spouse and I will be flying into Tokyo and flying home from Hong Kong. I got a great deal on the tickets, so I grabbed them on an impulse. The problem is that we have already toured Hong Kong as well as Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. I'm trying to figure out how to visit new (to us) cities during this vacation.

Has anyone here toured the less frequently visited towns in Japan? Another option is to spend a couple nights in Tokyo to acclimate to the time change and then fly to Taipei, Taiwan before a short flight to Hong Kong for our flight home. Any other suggestions?
This is a GREAT "problem" to have, OP. There is WAAAY more to that part of the world than just the tourist sites in Tokyo/Kyoto/Hong Kong. It's sort of like saying you've already seen the Empire State Bldg./Statue of Liberty/monuments in DC; any reason to see more of the US? :happy
ThereAreNoGurus wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:46 pm
OP, I have traveled extensively in both Japan and Taiwan. Of course it depends on your preferences, but generally speaking, if I were you, I'd listen to the posters who recommend staying in Japan. Look at the places they recommend, do some research, and decide which of those places interest you the most.

Personally, I have no use for the food in Taipei night markets. I find the food in restaurants much better. But generally, I prefer the food in Japan. Also to me (and even most Taiwanese I know, who have traveled to Japan), Japan is a much more scenic country.

With only 8 days, I'd definitely do a deeper dive in Japan and go to Taiwan some other time if you have the inclination. If you're into Chinese art or intensely curious about Chinese culture, then of course that changes the equation.

Edited to add: After reading the poster's comments below me, Japan in the Fall can be strikingly beautiful, but that will depend on your timing. You don't have to go to Hokkaido to experience it, but Hokkaido is a nice place to visit.
+1 to the above. OP, unless there's an "equation-changer" that favors Taipei - no 'mos toward Taiwan, but given the choice I'd favor Japan. It's got to be the most "gentle" place to travel in the world, esp. for an American. Thanks to General MacArthur, there's much gratitude from the general population that the victors in WWII didn't do to them as their leaders had ordered done to others, but I digress.... I'm in the same boat as TANG re. my own preferences/past experiences. YMMV, dep. on your own preferences.

FWIW, on one journey I took the shinkansen south from Tokyo to Okayama to visit friends - I'd already spent plenty of time on past trips in the logical stopping points along that way (Yokohama, Mt. Fuji and surroundings, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. - all great). From Okayama, I continued on southward with extended time in Hiroshima, Miyajima Island (beautiful) and explorations in Kyushu: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, bus tour through Mt. Aso (an active volcano), Beppu (AMAZING hot springs/spas), Miyazaki (gorgeous). Then a quick hop over to Okinawa (also gorgeous) before the flight to HK and eventually the flight out of HK back to the US.

BTW, if you have any interest/curiosity re. WWII and/or societal history, I highly HIGHLY recommend that if you choose to visit either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, that you visit BOTH on your trip in close succession. If not possible, visit NEITHER - unless of course you're not taking in any of the historical stuff. (For example, the food in both cities rocks, lol.) SoAnyway, as you know both cities were leveled within days of each other in early August 1945. However, how each city has chosen to commemorate the events couldn't be any more different. Neither is (air quotes) "right" or "wrong", but you'll definitely notice the difference. If I were to try to summarize, I'd say Hiroshima's is "darker" and more somber; Nagasaki's attempts to be more "hopeful" and uplifting. Anyway, the contrast is striking.

Regardless of what you choose, OP, enjoy!! :sharebeer
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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by megabad » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:11 pm

HawkeyePierce wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:37 pm
megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
I don’t speak mandarin and I didn’t have any trouble in Taipei. I’d say it’s a slightly larger language barrier than Hong Kong or Tokyo but much easier than Seoul or Beijing.
Great! Big thanks to you and the other posters for the info.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by Kennedy » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:42 pm

OP back. We decided to do Tokyo (again, but there's always more to see...) as well as day trips from Tokyo, Okinawa for several days at a beach resort and then one night at an airport hotel in Hong Kong before our flight back to the United States.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by JackoC » Sat Aug 31, 2019 1:52 pm

HawkeyePierce wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:37 pm
megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
I don’t speak mandarin and I didn’t have any trouble in Taipei. I’d say it’s a slightly larger language barrier than Hong Kong or Tokyo but much easier than Seoul or Beijing.
A technicality since I assume the question is 'for someone who doesn't speak the local language' but the primary dialect of most people in Taiwan is Hokkien aka Taiwanese, though most people also understand Mandarin and some people, especially in Taipei, only speak Mandarin.

I haven't traveled around Taiwan though so nothing directly to add. I've lived/worked in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. English speaking offices are common in HK and none of the other places. People on the street outside Central in HK don't necessarily speak English but IME HK is on a different level than Japan or Korea in need for local language skills. And I don't think there's a big difference between the latter two. If anything cultural factors mean that people in Korea might be more comfortable to dredge up their half remembered school English and give it a try than people in Japan who often IME seem embarrassed by such situations. In Korea I have to sometimes tell people I don't speak English to get them to let me speak Korean. In Japan there's often great relief if I try in Japanese (I don't speak either language as well as I'd like to, but I'm much worse at Japanese). In smaller cities and off beaten path places in either country language will be an issue, but people are almost always friendly and positive about working around it IME.

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Re: Visit Taipei, Taiwan or tour smaller towns in Japan?

Post by decapod10 » Sat Aug 31, 2019 4:01 pm

JackoC wrote:
Sat Aug 31, 2019 1:52 pm
HawkeyePierce wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:37 pm
megabad wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:57 pm
Can I piggyback on this question and ask -- Is Taipei doable alone for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin? Would I be able to figure out where to go and enjoy the country?
I don’t speak mandarin and I didn’t have any trouble in Taipei. I’d say it’s a slightly larger language barrier than Hong Kong or Tokyo but much easier than Seoul or Beijing.
A technicality since I assume the question is 'for someone who doesn't speak the local language' but the primary dialect of most people in Taiwan is Hokkien aka Taiwanese, though most people also understand Mandarin and some people, especially in Taipei, only speak Mandarin.

I haven't traveled around Taiwan though so nothing directly to add. I've lived/worked in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. English speaking offices are common in HK and none of the other places. People on the street outside Central in HK don't necessarily speak English but IME HK is on a different level than Japan or Korea in need for local language skills. And I don't think there's a big difference between the latter two. If anything cultural factors mean that people in Korea might be more comfortable to dredge up their half remembered school English and give it a try than people in Japan who often IME seem embarrassed by such situations. In Korea I have to sometimes tell people I don't speak English to get them to let me speak Korean. In Japan there's often great relief if I try in Japanese (I don't speak either language as well as I'd like to, but I'm much worse at Japanese). In smaller cities and off beaten path places in either country language will be an issue, but people are almost always friendly and positive about working around it IME.
I think the primary / dominant language in Taiwan is still Mandarin, especially in Taipei as you mentioned. For sure if you could only learn 1 language to get around Taiwan, you would want Mandarin, though you get more Taiwanese speakers in the South/ West part of the island.

English I believe is a required in high school. You actually have to pass an English test to graduate, so most educated people there know at least a little bit if English (sort of how you might know a little bit of Spanish if you took it in high school). Like if you randomly asked someone in Taipei where the bathroom was in English, they would probably know what you were looking for. English is also important for business people because they need/want to do business with English speaking countries.

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