Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Enjoy summer in Taiwan

Taiwan is a subtropical island nation with hot, wet and humid summers. These could be the best months to travel but for those unprepared, it could also be extremely and unbearably hot. These are some of the learnings I had from this trip:-

1) An umbrella is very useful
An umbrella is useful to help shade and protect against the sun. Don't worry of looking stupid, you will find many people doing so similarly. Taiwan's summer is also very wet and you will find the umbrella useful for those unexpected but short showers, which comes and goes. So, carry a foldable umbrella whenever you move about.

2) Only buy your umbrella when you reach Taiwan, else look for one `Made in Japan'.
I find that the umbrellas made in either Taiwan or Japan are specially made for strong winds as they are usually quite prone to typhoons, or pretyphoon storms. These umbrella are more sturdier, and if a gust of wind is to blow at you, the umbrella will fold upwards, but once you strongly shake it a couple of times, it will resume back to its original position! Umbrellas bought elsewhere (read: local) tends to be broken by strong winds. I find this concept pretty similar to the building design and technology behind the Taipei 101 tower, which was built like a bamboo pole, to enable it to bend slightly and sway (and not be broken in half) to the wind direction should a typhoon strikes. Umbrellas in Taiwan are not expensive, and cost from NTD80-200, you will find these easily available in MRT stations or night markets.

3) No point in bringing a raincoat. Only takes up space in your backpack especially if you already have an umbrella. But raincoat can't protect or shade you from the scorching sun.

4) Bring a foldable `chinese' fan! Summer weather is simply very hot and humid. Alternatively you can find the small battery-operated mini fan in 7-11.

5) Drink lots of water! and also replenish your ions intake with isotonic drinks. These can be easily found in 7-11, under the brands of `Pocari Sweat' or `Supau". Be careful not to buy the one which increases your metabolic rate. Yes, there are 2 types in TW, the latter is promoted as a weight loss aid because it will make you sweat even more.

6) Sunblock every part of your body! For my last trip, I remembered to apply on my face, neck, and arms. But I went out in pants reaching only mid calves and wear open sandals, and I came back with bad sunburn from my ankle to my toes! The next day, after learning my lesson, I remembered to apply all over till my toes but alas, I came back, having sunburnt ears!

7) If you have sensitive skin like me and prone to sunburns, better to bring a tube of aloe vera gel as most shops don't carry this. neither do they carry calamine lotion. I had a tough time trying to find this to relieve my sunburns.

8) Bring a small foldable shopping bag too as 7-11 don't give out plastic bags. Taiwan stresses on being environmental-friendly.

9) In some places, the mozzies are aplenty. Good to prepare some mozzie repellents. I brought along the patches instead of cream but nonetheless it was just as effective and takes up less space in my pack.

10) Last but not least, do remember your sunglasses!