Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Taiwan Top 10

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My initial urge to jot down a Taiwan “likes” list was immediately self-vetoed. In lieu of this, I offered up a dislikes list. That wasn’t very fair. After years of being educated as a journalist, I should try to appease my inner-demons and balance the scales a bit. Without further ado, here is what I love about Taiwan:

1. The women. Probably a given in the no.1 slot on any list I could make, but this “country” has endeared itself to me. In all my travels, I am yet to find a place with so many make-you-look-three-times calibur ladies. I recently reaffirmed this after Taiwan blew Hong Kong out of the water. I was particularly pleased my Taiwanese girlfriend joined me on the trip– really made me look like The Man, ha.

2. Scooters. A double-edged sword here. The pollution is tops on my Dislikes list, but riding a goofy bike around this goofy island is quite the experience. Unable to attain a license (by law) and abiding by the common law of not respecting any road rules makes me feel a bit James Bondish every time– like I have a license to drive like a complete maniac. There is really something to be said about a world with lesser road rules.

3. The Ex-Pat population. Taiwan brings in a much less respectable ex-pat pool. Half of my time here is spent in shock and awe of schools which actually hire such unbelievable losers. I remember reading a blog before I came where the guy bitched about foreign teachers being wankers; in hindsight, he was spot on. If I had a dollar for every loser who thought he could come here and become the next world famous dj, while he and his entourage blow ketamine and pop low-grade ecstasy… ohh, what a world. This could have equally popped up on my Dislikes list, but hidden within the shitheap of foreigners here there are some gems. People with valid ambition, self-respect, and a perspective of the world only available to those who have seen and lived it.

4. The language. I love it.

5. The unbelievable sense of security. It is easy to see how people get wrapped up in a society that makes it so easy on foreigners (read “if you are white”). I paid my rent late almost every month, not because I didn’t have the money, but because I was lazy. The landlord always greeted me with a big grin, and I always left with a bag full of some random gifts. Half the time, it was some random item from his personal refrigerator. Local people are generous and overly complimentary once they know you a bit. Everyone can get used to that.

6. Ocean. Oh, how I have missed you my friend.

7. Location, location, location. Living in Taipei heightens your appreciation for getting out of this smog cloud. There are incredible natural phenomena all over this island: white sand beaches, cavernous gorges, high mountain ranges, unbelievable tropical rivers, oceanside cliffs, rice-paddy plains, etc. Per square mile, this is one of the most incredible little spots. Not to mention its value as a jump off point.

8. Political awareness. Though you can often run into the same social faux-pas when speaking about politics, the fact remains that people here do not have the option to be ignorant of their situation. China is lurking, and not in the same way it lurks over the US. There are nearly one thousand ballistic missiles pointed at this island ready to be launched at the slightest political mishap or misperception. The stakes are high. Taiwan is an emerging democracy, doing everything the Western world could ask for, and yet it still lacks recognition and must settle for back-alley deals. This is the part that disturbs me most.

9. Convenience. You can drink on the streets. Buy beer at all hours from any of the one trillion 7-11s on every corner. Pay bills at ATMs or convenient stores. Gas is cheap on scooter. Public transportation works. Taxis everywhere on the cheap. Entire streets dedicated to one item, like wedding gown street and bird street.

10. Dongxi shops. I thought about putting the night markets up here, but I’m not the biggest fan of feeling like cattle as the herd bumps through little alleys. Dongxi (thing in chinese) shops are run by old timers who have accumulated the most bizaree collection of junk like they raided a Walmart truck that broke down on the highway… in 1987. Then they jam all of this into a room no bigger than the average American bedroom, often times smaller. It is chaos! Still, I like supporting the local guys. I walked in looking for a light bulb to a custom lamp I bought on a trip down the eastern coast, I figured no way they had it. I wandered around for 10 minutes in the mess, then I just gave up. I went to the balding old woman at the front and showed her the bulb. O sure! They had it, in the aisle too cluttered to walk down, up a ladder, on the back of a shelf, under a box of old Oreos, wrapped in plastic, they happen to have two of the exact same bulb!!! Now, that is Top 10 material!

Honorable Mention: Artist tea-houses, metrosexualism, stereotypes being true.

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Written by Miles

July 26, 2007 at 3:37 pm

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