Saturday, January 30, 2010

10 things we liked about Taiwan

Ok, our travelogue about Taiwan's done.  So what else do we have to say about the country?  I guess we really enjoyed the trip and intend to go back again.  Why?  Cos there's lots of things to like about the place:

1. The people: Taiwanese really are nice people.  In general, most of those we met were willing to give us directions, and some even went out of their way to help us.  For example, the lady at the shop selling beef jerky went after us on her scooter as we left our map at the shop, and even drove around to help us check where to buy our instant noodles!  Or the nice couple selling desserts at the night market, who helped us to call for a cab, upon us just inquiring about how much it would cost for us to take a cab back to our hotel.

2. Everyone stands on the right hand side of the escalator, and leaves the left side clear for those in a rush.  Also, everyone doesn't rush to get into the train, and lets the disembarking passengers alight first.  Its something you never see in Singapore...

3. You are guaranteed a seat on the bus or train if you are seen carrying a baby.  Everywhere we went, people (even an old lady!) gave up their seats for us.

4. The toilets are generally pretty clean (even the public rest stops and coffeeshop toilets), compared to those you see in Malaysia (and even those in some places in Singapore!).  Also, many places have family toilets, which are really useful...

Baby J demonstrating the use of the child seat in the family toilet (That's the child-sized bowl by the way!)

5. Taiwanese seem to love dogs.  They bring them everywhere, even to the temple, and dress them up in clothes!

6. There's always little spots of art and beauty everywhere, that spring up to surprise you at every turn:

Artwork spotted from a student-exchange programme

7. Shopkeepers don't pull a long face if you browse in your shop and not buy anything, but ask you to "Come again!" with a smile.  Try that in Singapore, and you tend to get a sulky-faced shopkeeper who will just ignore you when you leave!

8. I (not so much hubby) loved the wide range of sweet treats and desserts you could get everywhere: Bubble tea, taro balls, frozen strawberries, mochi... yum yum yum!  Its no wonder I put on 2 kg after the trip!

9. The scenery here is amazing: From the wildness of Taroko Gorge, to the serene beauty of Sun Moon Lake, or even the long drives along the coast!

Sunset along the highway...

10. The Taiwanese are way more eco-friendly in terms of their recycling efforts.  For example, Tao Yuan airport in Taipei using only recycled paper products (for toilet paper, paper towels etc), and everywhere you go, you get recycling bins that encourage you to sort your trash.  Residents in apartments are also supposed to sort their trash.  Over in Singapore, all we have are huge yellow bins in the housing estates that ask you to discard your paper, metal, glass containers all together, and that results in people treating the bins as trash cans (we see all sorts of things when we dispose our recyclables, including half-filled drink cans, and general rubbish that should have gone in the dustbin instead!).

But of course, we had our pet peeves with the place as well:

1. Driving here was a challenge: Firstly, we had to drive on the right side instead of the left side of the road, which took a little getting used to.  Secondly, the drivers here are pretty aggressive (and some even carry bats in their cars for protection against road rage!).  Thirdly, you never know what's going to happen!  (We witnessed one person driving on the pavement, one road "fight" among 3 large trucks, and countless of drivers changing lanes without signalling...)

2. Sneaky cabbies that overcharge you.  We had one encounter with a cabbie that refused to run the meter and overcharged us (at least going by our estimates).  We learnt that we should always ask around (at the hotel, or any shopkeeper) to get an estimate for the cab fare, and to insist on being charged by the meter.  Also, the safest way to get a cab (and probably a reliable driver) would be to call for one (phone bookings are also free!).

Ah well... Since our likes outweigh the dislikes, we are most definitely considering another visit there!

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