If you're travelling on a budget in Taiwan, a great way to save on accommodation cost is to stay at temples. This is perfect for backpackers as it's not only cheap but you also get to experience a lot of local culture. The other month when I went travelling around Taiwan with my sister from UK, I took her to stay at a temple on the first night, just to give her a bit of a culture shock!
This is Bi Yun Temple on the west side of the island nestled up in the mountain. It is said that a temple was first established back in 1701 here. Bi Yun temple is now a listed building.
This is the view from the upper patio that is outside my room. The white 'blob' that you can see in the front are the clouds as we're quite high up on the mountains. The black rooftop is the main temple and the main entrance is just in front of it. The buildings you see on the left are some of the older rooms with no private bathrooms.
I stayed in one of the new rooms, like this one. Pretty basic right? The toilet and wet room is on the left and there's no bed. The room is in Japanese tatami style where you sleep on the floor. In this case it's a raised floor which can sleep as many people as you can fit along the floor. Blankets and pillows are provided, but they are not washed every day. In fact I don't know how often it's washed, best not to think about it.
I tried to choose the bedding that 'looked' the cleanest and since Asians nearly always (there's always the exception) shower at night time instead of the morning, I couldn't detect any odour. Not that I tried to sniff at it really hard! There is of course no TV in the room, internet was just about ok up in the mountain, it was dead quiet outside and the main gates close at 10pm (or was it 9pm?). I think I went to sleep at 11pm that evening, a rarity for me.
Having an early night was actually quite handy as I had to get up much much earlier than my normal time the next day. Breakfast finished at 7.30am which meant I had to get up at least at 6.30am. This was the view outside the next morning. Boy, it was worth getting up this early.
Breakfast is served in the main building just beyond the main entrance.
Here's the canteen. I think we came down around 7am, and we were the only people there apart from a volunteer. Temples like these rely a lot on volunteers who are mainly villagers living nearby.
Breakfast, is of course vegetarian, this is a temple after all. Taiwanese does mean vegetarian food, my Steemit vegan friends @choogirl @evecab @delishtreat you would like it here! Do you see those two little bowls in the center of the table? They are some sort of fermented vegetable but I have not idea what it was. The flavour was very instense and was a perfect complement to the vegetarian food.
Now let's get to the most important part - the cost per night. Zero, nil, nought, null, nada, zip, 0. Yes, its free! This is a temple remember, and it operates as a charity so they don't ask for payment. Of course, a donation is always appreciated but if you walked away without making one they wouldn't really mind. Temples are rich in Taiwan. We made a donation of NTD1200 which is around USD40 - for two rooms!!! And were given a note of appreciation!
Sadly there isn't an English website which lists all the temple accommodations available, but if you're interested you can check out this Chinese website. It list many temples all around Taiwan, their address, phone numbes and information on the prices (yes, some are quite commercialised). Where it say "隨喜" it means no obligation donation. If you're ever travelling in Taiwan on a budget or want to experience the unique temple accommodation, I would recommend this, even if it's for one night.