Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Taipei: A Sleeping Giant.

Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Bali, Viang Veng and ……..Taipei. The list of Asian big hitters when it comes to nightlife is growing every year. Undoubtedly a hidden gem of the region, fist pumping, alcohol flowing, hard to recall nights can proudly be added to the familiar ‘made in Taiwan’ tag.

2012 has been a breakthrough year for a country overlooked in the past as a poor relation to main land China. Developing at break neck speed - bars, clubs and the unearthly popular KTV’s (Karaoke Television) are popping up all over the place and pushing the nightlife, especially in Taipei, to the forefront of Asian party venues.

Where does the night begin?
Food is cheap in Taiwan and most nights start with a few local brews over a social bowl of noodle soup or fried rice – take your pick, the choices are endless and mouth-watering. Upwards of 1000 7/11 convenience stores mark the pavements of Taipei – cheap and rowdy is the scene when drinking in the street is legal, and at £1 a pop a lot of young party go-ers find a lively social corner. Think friendly street party, not under age annoyance.

Fancy something different?
You haven’t experienced karaoke until you’ve been in a room with a group of anything between 3 and 30 people, blaring our songs you wouldn’t even sing in the shower, completely enthralled, passionately loving it!
Fairly pricey at between 300 and 500NT (£7-£11) per person, it usually includes a drink and you’ll want multiple until you get your confidence flowing as freely as the drink. My memory of KTV’s is fairly blurry – so I’ve never left sober.

Time to hit the dance floor
If it’s clubs you’re after then take your pick. From foreigner friendly pick up joints to Taiwanese packed super clubs, Taipei provides for all. Luxi is a favourite – an enormous club on multiple floors that often boasts international DJ’s, bands and live entertainment on stage. Expect to pay a steep cover charge (300 – 700NT, girls get reduced or free entry) but be supplied with free drinks, sometimes all night.

Taipei is one of the friendliest capitals in Asia. Although not advised, walking through a park on route home post night out has more chance of ending in the viewing of a martial arts or yoga class, not a nervous and speedy jog. Glaring looks are usually that of interest, approaches on the dance floor are a regular occurrence and striking up conversation with the locals is harder to avoid than start.

Other clubs to note are: Babe18 – all you can drink for 300NT on a Wednesday night, Roxy99 – a place where smiles and small talk won’t have you going home alone, Wall – Taipei’s best option for live music.
Taiwan as a country is blossoming and the nightlife is beginning to play a big part in the attraction. Packed with diversity, excitement, beauty and unique locations – the party scene mirrors the bigger picture of this intriguing nation. 

Spontaneity is the Spice of Travel.

Skimp all you want - stay in horrible hostels, eat strange street food and take every night bus you can but the blunt of the matter is that travelling is an expensive game. Decisions though, are free. Spontaneity is the spice of backpacking life on a whim you can change the course of your travels, open yourself up to experiences you’d never imagined and create bonds with friends you’ll keep for life.

Most people travel to discover the unknown, the weird, the wonderful and in my experience even the challenging parts of travel hold happy memories after all is said and done.

Freezing on a bus in Bolivia - its 10pm, I’m covered head to toe in warm alpaca and heading to the highest City on earth. It was a rash decision to venture into Chile that’s bought me to this chapter of my South American tour.

This morning I slept on a bus floor for 5 hours, broke down twice in the Atacama Desert and spent three hours at what must be the most desolate border crossing on the continent. Maybe I’m lucky, or a bit delusional, but when I finally get to throw live sticks of dynamite down silver mines in Potosi, this tough, spontaneous journey will have made it even more memorable for me.

Natalie Cihaks – now a friend for life, travelled with me in Colombia after a bold, spontaneous and slightly hungover move to change her flight itinerary, staying on the Caribbean coast with people she had known for less than 24 hours. Her story shows how having flexible, if any, plans allows you to drift into the most memorable experiences possible. No ties, no commitments, no disappointments!

‘Cheeks’ speaks so positively on the subject of her unplanned 10 days in Colombia, it's easy to see her decision has moulded her view on future travel exploits; solo travel and the importance of having changeable plans…

“My travelling companions of 6 months gone, I found myself on hold to the airline changing my flights. I was about to enter a whirlwind adventure with 4 boys I had known only a few hours.
10 days of Colombian carnage awaited but was it the rum, their alluring personalities, or just plain craziness that had me going with my instincts? Either way, the following 10 days gave me experiences I won’t be able to repeat any time soon – how often can you bathe in a mud volcano or sleep in hammocks at a surf camp on the Caribbean coast?! 

I truly feel we had a bond that should take so much longer to form - travelling is intense and the boys taught me I was confident and happy as a solo traveller, something I’d always feared.

Being spontaneous and changing my flights on instincts taught me so much. The opportunity to change plans cost nothing but the enjoyment, memories, friends and stories I gained were priceless. Thank you boys, and thank you me!”

Cheeks x x x x

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ll agree that travelling in any form is, or will be, the most invigorating, exciting, adventurous ingredient you can add to your life. When a decision comes your way, don’t think too much about it. It always works out.
P.S. – The dynamite was worth every minute of that dusty bus floor!