Top 10 Taiwanese Triumphs
Although I don’t live in Taiwan anymore, in some ways I never left, nor am I able to leave. To say that Taiwan has left a lasting impression on me is an understatement. Despite the language barrier and the cultural divide, Taiwan became far more than a home away from home. Here are my top ten reasons for this.
10. The Weather
For better or worse, Taiwan lacks four distinct seasons. I found the summers very hot, but in retrospect, perhaps high temperatures are easier to deal with than the problems that come with a Canadian winter. Heat causes discomfort, absolutely, but at least it doesn’t require the roads to be ploughed, the driveway to be shovelled, or the fitting of winter tires.
Taiwan does have a typhoon season, and some can be devastating, but Atlantic Canada also has high wind speeds (up to 120km/h gusts during winter months) to contend with.
9. The Food
At first, I did struggle with the local cuisine, but I did find a number of dishes and snacks which I really enjoyed. Taiwan lunch box (rice, any three vegetables, and a meat of your choice – for one Canadian dollar), pork soup dumplings (steamed dumplings with pork and soup inside) and hot plate (steak over noodles with a fried egg) to mention a few.
Among my favourite Taiwanese snacks are Sun Cakes, Moon Cakes and Green Onion Pancakes.
8. 7-Eleven – Taiwan-Style
Taiwan has perfected the 7-Eleven and in so doing created the epitome of convenience. Taiwan 7-Elevens not only act as 24-hour convenience stores which sell hot dogs, fresh brewed coffee and microwave popcorn (cooked in store if you wish), they also offer Xeroxing, faxing and DHL. Most even have ATMs, High Speed Rail ticket vending machines and photo printing machines. Many bills can even be paid at 7-Elevens. Add to that the sheer volume of 7-Elevens in most Taiwanese communities and you have a winning franchise!
7. Public Transit
Helping to shuttle around the growing population which stands at over twenty-three million as of July 2011, Taiwan’s High Speed Rail (HSR) connects Taipei in the North with Zuoying in the South, taking only two hours to cross the island vertically. The Taipei and Zuoying terminals are linked to MRT stations (subway networks) as well as TRA stations (Taiwan Rail – a cross-island train network). The HSR also offers a free shuttle bus service, bringing commuters downtown. With this infrastructure, travel in Taiwan is made fairly effortless – even for the non-Taiwanese.
With such a high concentration of innovative people in a relatively small area, Taiwan’s marketplace has evolved to cater to a seemingly endless variety of tastes and imaginations. Ranging from the bizarre to the brilliant, Taiwan has the highest assortment of products and services per square meter that I have ever seen.
Since seeing a Taiwanese fireworks display, I will never look at pyrotechnics the same way again. Taiwan could teach Jubilee of the X-Men a thing or two about fireworks!
4. Vacation Spots
Whether your idea of the perfect getaway is hiking up a mountain, relaxing on a golden beach or surveying the concrete jungle, Taiwan is able to meet your needs. The tropical island’s breathtaking landscape is punctuated by modern convenience, without the hefty price tag. Not for nothing does Formosa, Taiwan’s former name, mean “beautiful island”.
3. Cultural Heritage
Tainan City, Taiwan’s ancient capital, has the highest number of temples and historic buildings on the island. The original city gates have been preserved as heritage sights which dot the city with both greenery and a sense of history.
The National Palace Museum in Taipei offers a glimpse into Taiwanese and Chinese history, with some artefacts dating back over six thousand years.
While many countries have public holidays, Taiwan has festivals. During the Lantern Festival, lanterns of almost every conceivable form are displayed. Dragon Boat races happen on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, and moon cakes are eaten on the day of the New Moon festival. Every festival has an interesting story behind it, making them more than just public holidays.
1. The People
While much can be said about the place, it is the people that I find the most enchanting. Only in Newfoundland have I met people whose generosity comes close to that of the Taiwanese. With a genuine friendliness, concern for others and a work ethic that could spin circles around anything I have come across elsewhere, Taiwan’s people should be named the country’s biggest attraction.
During a promotional video, a slogan boasted that Taiwan will “touch your heart”. While it sounded like commercial propaganda, it was absolutely true. Taiwan is a beautiful country with a landscape so its own that I have yet to see anything even vaguely similar. But even if I forget that, or the taste of a Sun Cake, or the astonishing fireworks, I will never forget the people.