Scott Freiberger uses his B.A. in Psychology/Chinese from Queens College, C.U.N.Y., Master's in Pacific International Affairs from UC San Diego and fluency in several languages to provide expert consulting advice.
He has contributed dozens of articles to regional tour guides and is a contributing reporter for the China Post newspaper. When not at a desk, the author rises early to explore remote mountain areas, practice tai chi, tour museums, and sip tea at traditional teahouses. After the sun has set, Scott strolls through night markets snacking on local delicacies and later dances in Asia's finest clubs.
Q&A With Scott Freiberger, Author of Taipei In A Day
Q: What makes you qualified to write a Taiwan tour guide?
Scott: I arrived on Taiwan in 1997. Since that time I've visited every major tourist attraction on the island as well as unique sights in remote locations. It's entirely possible that at some point a local government office will name a small cobblestone lane or an herbal soft drink after me.
Q: I've never been to Taiwan, or to Asia, for that matter. What is it that made you decide to visit Taiwan, and how come you stayed so long?
Scott: My closest friends at Queens College in New York were from Taiwan. I met a great guy named James through my Chinese teacher. To help him and his wife better adjust to life in the U.S. I helped them find an apartment, introduced them to friends, showed them around the city, took them to dinner and to a baseball game. They were so impressed that James said I could live with his family in Taipei if I were so inclined. I took him up on the offer and moved in temporarily, figuring I would return in six months, yet over a decade later I'm still enjoying life on Taiwan. In fact, it's possible that people will start to call me an American-Born Chinese (ABC) soon.
Q: Isn't Taiwan communist?
Scott: No. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is communist. Taiwan is the Republic of China (ROC). I explain the history of the island in greater detail in Taipei In A Day. Since former president Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law in 1987, Taiwan has rapidly become a full-fledged democracy with a vibrant free-market economy, and with great bowling alleys, to boot!
Q: What is it that allures people to Taipei?
Scott: Possibly the attractive, friendly people. Actually, Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a curious confluence of ancient Chinese tradition meets 21st century cyber city. You can spend the entire morning relaxing in the mountains with a picturesque view of Taipei, hop on the clean, modern Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and in less than an hour, visit magnificent cultural attractions in the city all afternoon and evening. It's an exciting place to work, live or visit.
Q: So if you visit Taipei you can also travel to other parts of the island relatively easily?
Scott: Taiwan now has a modern High-Speed Railway (HSR) comparable to the TGV trains in France, the Amtrak American Flyer that connects New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., and the Shinkansen "bullet train" in Japan that runs between Tokyo and Osaka. It's relatively easy to travel around the island, especially in Taipei, and there are lots of exciting things to do, eat and see.
Q: You mention eating, what is there to eat, and what if visitors don't like the food?
Scott: It's nearly impossible to go hungry on Taiwan, night markets stay open well after the sun has set and twenty-four hour convenience stores speck city streets. Visitors may be surprised to find snacks such as seaweed, squid, pork or fish balls (fish meat rolled into balls) on a stick, rice balls with fish or dried pork wrapped in seaweed, dried squid, papaya milk and a variety of outstanding juice boxes. And if visitors crave Western-style chicken and burgers, there are ample choices.
Q: You sound enthusiastic, did you ever feel culture shock or not like some aspect about Taiwan?
Scott: Since many of my friends in New York are from Taiwan and I was studying Chinese I had adapted pretty well to the language and culture prior to arriving. I didn't feel culture shock in that regard. Regarding food, however, yes, there is one food in particular that did shock my taste buds.
In 1996, while studying Chinese language and literature at Queens College, a good friend took me to a gourmet Taiwanese restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens.
It's the first time I tried stinky tofu and after the first bite I thought, "Oh my God, what am I eating?!" That food smells as the name implies-stinky.
I tried it again after arriving on Taiwan and after about six months got used to it. It's one of my favorite foods now, but it was definitely a shock trying that for the first time.
Q: How about the traffic?
Scott: The traffic on Taiwan is a bit chaotic, that's why I include "Traffic Tips," to help visitors better understand what to expect-and why to use public transportation rather than renting a car and driving.
Q: So you wouldn't suggest visitors ride around by themselves on mopeds?
Scott: Definitely not. Although I do include a section about seeing some of the sights on a moped, I don't recommend that visitors rent a moped. Riding a moped can be a dangerous activity and requires significant skill and experience.
Q: How about dating on Taiwan?
Scott: There are two sections in the book for single people out for a singularly good time, "Dating On Taiwan" and, more explicitly, "How To Find Love On Taiwan." I've also included several helpful guides, such as "Taipei Guide to Mountain Climbing" and "Taipei Pub Guide" in Taipei In A Day, as well.
Q: Is this book only about Taipei?
Scott: No, it's not, that's why the full title is Taipei In A Day Includes:
Taiwan From A To Z. I had originally completed the tour book in 2002, but after my brother Jay suggested I expand the book to be a Taiwan traveler's guide I decided to include major towns, cities and counties around the island, as well as outlying islands. It took several years to visit every area of the island but I wanted to ensure that readers receive the most pertinent travel information.
Q: What's the currency there called?
Scott: The name of the local currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NT$ or NTD).
To keep things simple, NT $100.00 = US $3.00 is used in Taipei In A Day.
During the past several years the exchange rate has fluctuated between NT
$29 to NT $34, it would be a good idea to check the current exchange rate prior to departing.
Q: Any other advice before departing, and when is the best time to visit?
Scottt: Verify critical information such as visas, health and safety, customs and transportation with the relevant authorities prior to travel.
The best times to visit are during cool autumn and temperate spring months, it rains frequently during winter and summer is typhoon season. I love the outdoors and included "Taipei Guide to Mountain Climbing," but bear in mind that it tends to be cooler at higher altitudes. Bring a hat, sunglasses and a good bottle of sun tan lotion, preferably one that offers a high level of Pf protection, as sunscreen tends to be expensive. Small portable umbrellas can be purchased easily and come in handy. Also, bring a good pair of sneakers or walking shoes, as there is a lot to do and see.
Q: Taiwan sounds interesting, I look forward to visiting!
Scott: Thank you, I love Taiwan. I worked very hard on this so it's a thrill to have the book published.