Friday, August 24, 2012

Back in the USA and Notes on Taiwan

*Written August 25, 2012*

So, I made it back ok! The rain and wind had picked up just as the plane pulled away from the gate, but we took off anyway and it was smooth sailing from there.

I had such a great time in Taiwan and made so many new friends that I'm going to miss so much.

Thank you to everyone who made my trip unforgettable, especially Tim, who deserves a special shout out.

I didn't get to do everything I wanted to because I thought I had two more days, but that just means I have to return!

Taiwan is truly an incredible country (yes, I'm calling it a country... it runs itself independently and it deserves its independence). I already miss it!

So now, here's a sloppy list of notes on Taiwan that I wrote down while traveling:

  • People are super friendly and really proud of their country
  • Taiwanese culture and political culture and too different to be reincorporated into the PRC
  • Mainland Chinese food is better, but Taiwanese food is still pretty darn good. They use simpler flavors here.
  • Pinying > Wade-Giles
  • Every male must serve in the military after university for one year
  • There are a lot of gays and lesbians, and while it is much more acceptable for lesbians to engage in blatant PDA, it is still a very tolerant society
  • Many gay men lead dual-lives, despite the tolerance, because their families do not approve
  • The Taipei subway is AWESOME - super fast, convenient, extensive, and cheap
  • The EasyCard that you use on the Taipei subway can also be used for gondolas, some trains, and at many chain restaurants/stores
  • All important signs are in English, but very few restaurants/food stalls have English
  • The English on signs tends to be MUCH better than in Mainland China, and rarely has mistakes
  • 7-11, or "Seven" as it's called here, is an all stop shop. You can buy food and drinks, purchase train tickets, pay your bills, etc. Truly a convenience store!
  • They have one of the nicest high speed rails in the world
  • At train/subway stations, there are designated areas for lone female passengers traveling at night. It is under constant surveillance
  • Taiwan is not yet a huge tourist destination for Westerners. Most foreigners I know are either students or English teachers. I've seen a few non-Asian travelers, but mostly businessmen. Most tourists are from Mainland, Korea, or Japan.
  • Even though the Japanese colonized Taiwan and ruled it, at times, with an iron fist, the Taiwanese really like the Japanese. You see Japanese products and language everywhere. They're grateful to Japan for building the infrastructure they needed for the modern era.
  • People are less interested in white people in Taipei as they are in Beijing. Outside of Taipei, they're a little more curious, but this manifests in a few stares and "hellos" instead of awkward photos like in all of China
  • More people speak English here than in China, and their English tends to be much better
  • Taiwan uses traditional Chinese, not simplified like in Mainland. To combat illiteracy, Mao made characters easier to read/write (simplified). In Taiwan, they decided to improve their education system, and now have over a 96% literacy rate. 
  • Night markets are popular in pretty much every city
  • They love K-Pop and American Pop
  • Several centuries ago, the Portuguese called Taiwan "Ilha Formosa," or "Beautiful Island." Formosa it is!
  • There are lots of cool temples everywhere. Super colorful and intricate.
  • Taiwanese folk religion is integrated in with Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Christianity
  • Hello Kitty is EVERYWHERE. It's actually absurd. Seriously people.
  • Wearing glasses frames without glasses is really popular
  • Taiwan has traffic laws. And people follow them. Whaaaat?

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