The WorkAway experience we had in the big city—though the work was of a similar nature to what we did in Dulan—couldn’t have been more contrasting.
Hitchhiking in Taiwan
Instead of taking the bus back down to Taitung City and catching a train to Taipei from there, we decided to hitchhike up the coast to Hualien.
I haven’t been hitchhiking since childhood and my partner had never done it before so we were both excited to give it a go.
We’d heard from backpackers and locals alike that hitching a ride is especially easy in Taiwan and could see no reason not to find out for ourselves. Plus, we got to squeeze in a quick visit to Hualien.
Our first ride introduced himself as Xiao Pang, or little fatty. He was going to Chenggong but ended up dropping us off at the Baxiandong Archaeological Site—about twice as far as he said he could take us.
We had a little lunch break there and eventually got our next ride all the way into the center of Hualien.
We wandered through the city in search of a highly recommended dumpling house, got our tickets at the station, had some milk tea in the park, and hopped on our Taipei-bound train in the late afternoon.
One-Week WorkAway at Mr. Lobster’s Secret Den, a Design Hotel in Taipei
From Taipei Main, it was a 10-15 minute walk to our hostel—which was pretty easy to find using Google maps.
Mr. Lobster’s Secret Den is located on the ninth floor of a building on Chongqing North Road, a short ways from the Ningxia Night Market. It has a cozy common area with a nice view of the city.
We were checked right into our room, which was a dorm shared by the volunteers. Each bed was very private, with its own shelf, lamp, and curtain—a polar opposite of the volunteer room at the surf hostel.
Personally, I think there are things to appreciate about both arrangements.
In the one scenario, personal space may be lacking but you do get to know everyone better. At the Taipei hostel, you can enjoy a comfortable amount of privacy but might be less likely to connect with your fellow volunteers.
My Taipei WorkAway Review
The guys from Mr. Lobster inviting us to work with them on fairly short notice. Even though I said we could only stay for eight days, they were happy to put us up and only asked us to work for four of them.
We got our schedule right away and would be working between 10 am and 3 pm.
The training we were supposed to receive the day after arrival got bumped up to our first shift the day after, which was so slow that we finished after only two hours and were free to go after that.
That gave us the first day to ourselves and most of the second one as well. Then mothers day weekend came around and the place filled up, so we barely managed to finish by 3 pm on our other shift days.
Regardless, the work was very straightforward. At the surf hostel in Dulan, we were doing a variety of work, including handling reception, but here we simply helped clean and remake the rooms after checkout. The hotel was well organized and it was easy to learn the ropes.
Besides location, the best benefit was the simple but reasonably balanced complimentary breakfast buffet, open every day from 8-10 pm.
Another benefit was being free every afternoon and evening. Plus, even on days when we were on duty, we could enjoy sleeping in and get up in time to have breakfast before work.
Back in Taipei for the first time in eight years, I found the city even fuller of things to enjoy.
Something I love about any city is the ability to find yourself lost in nature within its urban confines. Sydney is one of those cities and Taipei another.
Even though we were in the heart of the city, you can walk or bike up the Tamsui river and eventually find yourself in an almost rural environment—complete with wetlands and funky wildlife.
Besides dinners and drinks with friends old and new—including a group of fellow WorkAwayers from Dulan—we spent our free days and time off in Taipei doing such things as playing badminton, joining an open jam, walking along Tamsui River, and eating seafood on the pier in Bali.
Foodie highlights included eating stinky tofu—which tastes just like it smells—and having ice cream wrapped in a crepe stuffed with cilantro—which tastes as unique as it sounds and is a refreshing way to cleanse your palate after eating stinky tofu.
A few things to do when in Taipei:
- Break a sweat at Zhongzheng Sports Center
- Walk or bike along Tamsui River
- Try the seafood in Bali
- Eat at one of the night markets
- Go to a rechao (熱炒)
- Feast on an all-vegan buffet at Xiangyi Su Shi Guan (祥意素食館)
- Join an open jam at Ivy Palace
- Have unlimited drinks in Ximen
- Or catch a late movie, also in Ximen
By the way, rechao—a classic Taiwanese dining experience—literally means “hot fry” and refers to an establishment where you can eat and drink your fill at a reasonable place
Pro tip: If you’re vegetarian or vegan and struggling to find good options at rechaos and night markets, look out for anything with 素食 (su shi) in the name. This has nothing to do with sushi (it sounds more like “sue-shuh”) and means vegetarian.