Taiwan: A trip of exploring, experiencing and working

Disclaimer: This is a travel journal and not just a travel recommendation post. If you are looking for places to visit in Taiwan, you can skip all my blabbering and enjoy the photos 🙂 Hope you enjoy this post.

For the past 2 months, I have been very fortunate to be able to work as a Research Assistant, a job that I was clearly underqualified. Last November, when I asked my Professor (I met him during Secondary School) for a job, I was expecting an administrative job filled with mundane paperwork. At best, a slight gleam into research work and opportunity to observe his classes.

Never did I imagined that I would be fully integrated and immersed into the team. I attended multiple meetings with MOE officers and Professors who were rightfully surprised when they heard I haven’t even entered University. I was also involved in building an educational robot from scratch, which was both meaningful and interesting. I also had the privilege of conducting various workshop to share our (I hope it is fine to say “our”) work and projects. The best part of this job is that I got to go on my very first business trip. Where we travelled to Taiwan for 12 days to conduct workshops in 3 Taiwanese Universities.


  1. Day 1: Kaohsiung, a city of beautiful streets
  2. Day 2: My first ever train ride
  3. Day 3-7: Workshops in National Pingtung University (NPTU)
  4. Day 8: En route to Taipei
  5. Day 9: Taipei City from afar
  6. Day 10: Exploring National Tsinghua University (NTHU)
  7. Day 11: Workshop in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and Taipei’s Night Life
  8. Day 12: Leaving Taiwan with a full belly and filled memory cards

Day 1: Kaohsiung, a city of beautiful streets

We arrived at Kaohsiung International Airport and we took the local Metro from Kaoshiong Main station to Central Park Station, where our Airbnb was located. The only thing on our Itinerary was the beautiful Formosa Boulevard Station. After that, we just walked from Central Park station to Houyi Station, exploring the surrounding areas.

The entrance of Central Park Station
Formosa Boulevard station
Unexpected beautiful view of the Love River
We were walking along the Love River, towards Aozihdi Station, when we stumbled upon this out of place, Japanese inspired bus.
Inside the meticulously designed bus lies a humble Ramen restaurant.
Random night market in Kaohsiung

Day 2 : My first ever Train ride

Compared to most Singaporeans, I started travelling much later and went to fewer countries. Embarrassingly, my train ride from Kaohsiung to Pingtung was my first ever train ride. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of exploring a country through a window and would definitely want to take more trains in future.

When we arrived in Pingtung, we checked in to Fu Kuang Hotel, which was kindly booked by our Taiwanese host. Subsequently, we went to explore the streets and the Night Markets near our hotel. Interestingly, the Night Markets in Pingtung are very different from the touristy markets I visited in Taipei. There wasn’t any chicken cutlet and the food in Pingtung are mainly full meals like noodles instead of snacks/xiao chi.

The train ride from Kaohsiung Pingtung was about 30minutes for 50NTD
Beautiful view of the river separating Kaoshiong and Pingtung
Pingtung Station
Streets of Pingtung
The streets of Pingtung has a distinctly Japanese feel
Night markets are full of stalls selling seafood and different types of noodles. The Night markets in Pingtung are mainly full meals instead of snacks/xiaochi

Day 3-7  : Workshops in National Pingtung University (NPTU)

We spent the entire week (Monday – Friday) conducting a series of different workshops for the students and professors in NPTU. This was very exhausting as we have to prepare for back to back workshops and go for school visits and socialising meals. Furthermore, since we are overseas but for work, we have to balance Holidaying and preparing for the next day’s workshop. Surprisingly, their command of English was very limited and we ended up conducting the workshops in Chinese. I am actually quite surprised that towards the last few workshops, I was able to present entirely in Chinese.

Credits to my Colleagues for taking photos of me presenting. Just a disclaimer, my colleagues have presentations too, just that I only added photos of myself. #Narcissistic

My Boss presenting about his work


I couldn’t translate soldering into Chinese so I showed them a photo instead.
I did a block-based programming crash course a few days before doing this workshop. I actually don’t know much about programming

Apart from conducting workshops, we also had the privileged to see Pingtung’s maker culture, their student projects, and approach to teaching it in schools. In terms of Maker education, I believe Pingtung (more rural part of Taiwan) has already taken over Singapore. The teachers there all seem to believe that tinkering and maker-ing is a beneficial way of teaching Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Whereas in Singapore (based on my experiences) we are still stuck with regurgitating from textbooks and answering fictitious questions that aren’t meaningful to the learner. Even if there was some sort of hands-on approach to learning science, it is usually side-lined, overly structured or confined to small interest groups. We really have a lot to learn from Taiwan.

Taiwanese Professor showing us his RC Plane collection
He mass produced a glider kit to help students understand aerodynamics and principles of flight (physics)
In Pingtung, they have a dragon boat race where students have to create their own paddle (controlled by servos) dragon boat. They are evaluated by speed of the craft, design and environmental friendliness.
Student-made Chameleon that changes colour according to the colour detected by the sensor.
An elementary school in Pingtung
Apparently, they have a robot soccer competition, where students build robots who can score the most. The robot uses an infrared sensor to detect the ball and tries to push it into the goal post.


After we are done with the school visits and workshops we still had some time to explore Pingtung. The Professors from NPTU were amazing hosts and brought us around to try the local delicacies. On one of the Nights, the students brought us to Dong Gang (South of Pingtung) for seafood, an arcade and Rui Guang Night Market. Thanks to the Professors and Students, we managed to experience the local life in Pingtung, an experience we will never get as a tourist. Pingtung doesn’t have many touristy things to do except for the National Park in the south but you should still spend a day here to see the beautiful streets.

I really love the streets of Pingtung


One of the Professor brought us to a local tea wholesale. The Boss actually made tea for us to sample before buying. The tea is really cheap, managed to get 150g of Alishan Tea at 300NTD
Another Professor bought us to a famous local dessert stall where we tried the Mango shaved ice and Tomato in a local sweet sauce. The locals like to eat tomatoes with this special sauce as dessert.
The Mango shave ice is absolutely amazing. The Mangoes have the perfect combination of sweet and sour.
A student drove us to Dong gang, which is a small town near a dock. The sea breeze there is absolutely amazing
Our Seafood feast at Dong gang
Their Claw machine is super cheap (SGD 0.45 per try). I burned over 25SGD in an hour but it was worth it.
Rui Guang Night Market  – It looks like a Pasar Malam except that it is much cheaper and more interesting
Despite air rifle games being common in Pasar Malam, my first time playing was in Taiwan. The games are much more affordable and the prizes are more interesting.
The students who brought us around Pingtung.

The 5 days spent in Pingtung was unforgettable and really meaningful. I have learned about the Taiwanese culture, their University Student life and got a glimpse into the Academic Field. I am glad that the Pingtung Professors and students were so welcoming and friendly.

Day 8 : En route to Taipei

On Saturday (Day 8) morning, we woke up for a quick breakfast before taking the Train back to Kaohsiung. In Kaohsiung, we took the metro to Zuoying Station where we took the High-Speed Rail (HSR) to Taipei. In Taipei, we checked into our AirBnb and went to the Taipei Main station Underground Mall and Ximending.  If you like Figurines, Manga and old games, you should definitely visit the Underground Mall (my colleague bought a Gameboy black and white in pristine conditions).

On the way to High-Speed Rail station, we bumped into a Farmers Market in Pingtung
Zuoying (Kaohsiung) HSR Station – The HSR station looks like an Airport. I am actually quite amazed by the punctuality of the trains.
The HSR was really comfortable with plenty of leg room. The only problem is that it was quite expensive, SGD50 for the 90 minute ride from Kaohsuing to Taipei.
Air rifle shop in Underground Mall. You should definitely check it out as you can’t find this in Singapore since it is illegal.
Underground mall is littered with shops selling all sort of Figurines and toys
Every tourist’s favourite shopping district, Ximending
Endless rows of shops selling snacks, milk tea and clothes. A stark contrast to the Night Markets in Pingtung which focuses on main meals and games.
A Caucasian was selling spray painted paintings. Managed to get 2 pieces for SGD30

Day 9 : Taipei City from afar

On Day 9, we visited Taipei 101, which was pretty much a tourist trap with really overprice stuff. We didn’t bother going up the tower which will set us back by SGD25 since we were going to visit Xiangshan (Elephant Hill) in the afternoon. After Xiangshan, we took the metro to Raohe Night Market. Raohe Night Market was a typical Night Market with tons of amazing snacks but it lacked the allure of the Night Markets in Pingtung.

The hike up Xiangshan (183m) was easy and there were surprisingly large numbers of local from all ages. It takes about 10mins to reach the first viewing point but it is extremely crowded. If you are planning on taking some nice photos, it is recommended that you hike further until you reach a viewing point with lesser people. We hiked for about 30mins to find a half-empty shed with a magnificent view of Taipei city.

A pushcart stall that sells drip coffee for NTD60. Probably, one of the best coffee I have drunk in my life.


Hiking up Xiangshan (Elephant Hill)



Raohe Night Market

Day 10 : Exploring National Tsinghua University (NTHU)

Its Monday and time to get back to work. We have a meeting with the Professors in National Tsinghua University which was located in Hsinchu (another state in Taiwan). We took the early train to Hsinchu and walked to NTHU.

National Tsinghua University was an eye opener, the facilities are definitely comparable if not better then NUS/NTU in Singapore. The Professors from Tsinghua is also very different from the ones in Pingtung, the first thing they talked about is proof and empirical data of my Boss’s research. Their Library is designed for maximum student welfare, they have tons of study area,  multiple movie rooms and “soundproof” room for students to pick up their phones in the library.

After we were done at NTHU, we took the High-Speed Rail back to Taipei. Once we arrived in Taipei, we checked in to National Taiwan Normal University’s guest room and went for a simple dinner nearby. The room was ridiculously big and spacious, with 3 single beds, a meeting table with sofas and a desk.

Train from Taipei to Hsinchu
Hsinchu Train Station
Hsinchu Train Station – There is a distinctly Malaysia feel to the architecture
National Tsinghua University Library
A gigantic steel structure in NTHU
NTU has a pond that is apparently radioactive. This pond was the former a nuclear plant that was subsequently decommissioned and flooded after Taiwan ended its nuclear program.
Hsinchu High-Speed Rail Station
Our room at NTNU Guest House

Day 11 : Workshop in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and Taipei Fish Market

Our very last workshop in Taiwan was at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), the 2nd best University in Taiwan. The Campus design is similar to SMU, the campus is broken into different parts and integrated into Taipei City. This workshop was slightly more interesting since the participants are in-service teachers who are much more interested in our ideas since they can apply it in their classroom. Whereas in Pingtung, the participants are Professors and student teachers who are rather distant from a classroom.

After the workshop, we visited the famous Taipei Fish Market for our end of trip Dinner. It was a touristy fish market but still quite interesting to see the huge pools of giant spider crabs. There is a variety of high-end seafood restaurant that we skipped. We opt for the pre-packed sushi, Sashimi and sake.

After we were done with dinner, we went back to Ximending which has tons of cinema there according to Google Map. We found the one with the best reviews and decided to watch Deadpool 2 which was on its opening night, 2 days before Singapore released the film. The Cinema was gigantic with a giant screen nearly twice the size of IMAX screens. Interestingly, when my colleague accidentally opened his camera app during the movie, a lady dashed towards our seats and tried to confiscate his phone and demanded that he leave the cinema. Fortunately, with some explanation, the misunderstanding was solved. But this incident shows how tight the anti-piracy laws in Taiwan.

One of the NTNU Campuses. Notice that the building exterior  is actually a giant poster


Some of the senior teachers were slower with the technology and required extra guidance
Taipei Fish Market. The container was about 1m deep and filled to the brim with giant spider crabs.


About SGD90 total that was shared by the 4 of us.
Watching Deadpool 2 in Ximending. We were worried that the movie would be in Chinese.

Day 12 : Leaving Taiwan with a full belly and filled memory cards

On our final day, we had a simple breakfast before taking a cab to the airport, graciously provided by NTNU, saving us SGD40.  The Airport looks similar to Changi but oddly, with a lot of blue lighting. The Airport food court is pretty affordable and delicious. If you don’t have time, grabbing a quick meal at the airport is a pretty decent option.

Taoyuan International Airport
My loot from Taiwan 🙂 The Hello Kitty stuff is for my mum!

Concluding Notes 

I really never expect that I will get this job/internship. I never expected that I will be learning so much and be having so much fun. Not in my wildest dream did I expect that I will go on an all expenses covered (Airfare, Accommodation and Train fare) overseas trip. Neither did I expect that I will experience their local life, make new friends and give a presentation about some tinkering I did 5 years ago.  5 years ago, I was having a casual conversation with my friend and that brought me a bunch of opportunities that eventually led me here today. Never, ever underestimate how small, mundane things can compound into things that can change your life.

Back in School, I really hated to study Chinese and I am sure majority of my peers share similar sentiments. Chinese lessons are usually spent sleeping, talking with friends and praying that I won’t fail my Chinese exams. Deep down, I have always wondered why do I have to learn a 2nd language since everything in Singapore is in English.  However, after this 12 day work trip, I truly understood the importance of Bilingualism. In Taiwan, they also embrace Bilingualism but they do not have an opportunity to practice their English. Therefore, even though our workshops were for University students and Professors, their command of English was limited. After our first workshop, we decided to present entirely in Chinese. I was surprised that by the end of the trip, I was able to present and converse coherently in Chinese. I am extremely glad I “embraced” my Chinese lessons and spoke in Chinese occasionally. Otherwise, this whole trip would have been like talking to a wall.

During my 5 days at National Pingtung University, the local Professors and students brought us around Pingtung to enjoy the local food and hangouts. This gave me a slice of their local life and I realized that Singaporeans really have no “Life”. The students told me that after school they often spend time eating at night markets, hanging out with friends and playing together at the games stall/ arcade. On the weekend, they will take a drive to some mountain, river or waterfall to relax and unwind. While in Singapore, a bulk of our “Free time” is spent studying or working. Unfortunately, entertainment is Singapore is far too expensive and we have very few natural landscapes.

I am really glad I was able to go on this trip. I am looking forward to more interesting adventures in time to come :). Thanks for reading my post.

One thought on “Taiwan: A trip of exploring, experiencing and working

  1. Pingback: June 11, 2021 – CloudBridgeTaiwan

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