Tag Archive: Asia


Some Posts Just Never Die

I don’t want to bitch about getting more readers for my blog (I love you all, I really do), or when someone posts a link to my page on their Facebook wall. Cuz, well, that would be  the biggest sin in Bloggerdom. These are great things, and I enjoy seeing the random spike in hits, particularly since I haven’t posted too many posts that I’m proud of these past four months….but something must be said about the posts that never die.

What is it about hating or loving something too much that attracts people’s attention? This, thisthis, and (Oh GAWD) this post in particular just never seem to die. What is it about lists that make them so easy to read? I got sick of Cracked.com‘s list style ages ago. Why do so many people either love or hate Taiwan? Can’t some of us just be indifferent to it?

I can tell you, if it were me, I’d want to read the more in-depth posts that actually talk about something like this one or this one. I spent a lot of time on those posts! That last one has only been viewed 26 times in all of forever. That’s ridiculous! I’m disgusted with this unspeakable outrage and I insist you read it. Right NOW.  And then comment. A lot. Do it. Come, just do it. Come on. I know you want to, I know you do.

For those inquiring minds out there that really want to know what living in Taiwan is all about, then may I just recommend this post? No? That doesn’t excite you? How about this one then? No? Ladies, what about this one? Aw come on. Go ahead. There’s nothing like getting harassed on the streets of Taipei to brighten a girl’s mood.

For the record, this has now happened, not once, not twice, but three, yes three times. I just wish they all had such good lines. Maybe I should have gotten that first guy’s number? Who knows what sort of adventure I might have gotten into then. It might even have involved a deep dark creepy basement and dirty stained mattress somewhere. OR maybe I could have a sugar daddy right now. Sometimes that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Kidding. Or am I?

Still no, huh? Ok then, what about the quirky things about Taiwan like this or this? Annoyances? I’ve got some of those too.

How about it, should I write a Part Two list on things I love and hate? Should I write shorter and snarkier posts with less emotion and depth? Tell me, honestly, cuz sometimes I’m tempted to just go off. What better place then a public blog available to all 6+ billion of us, and that will follow me for the rest of my life, right?

I can’t think of a better, more daring, and smarter idea right now.

What are your thoughts?

 

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I’ve been taking a walk down Face Book lane for the past couple of days. A habit I’ve developed over the last couple of years when I’m bored. To be more accurate, when I’m back from a night on the town and feeling a little melancholy. I scroll through pictures and check up on old friends. You know how it is.

August first was the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Every August first at five p.m. Poland observes a minute of silence to remind us of when Poland fought back. Fought back, and lost, horrifically. It’s a time for remembering, respecting, and honoring our dead. I was trying to recall why I hadn’t remembered it last year. The moment of silence.

I scrolled back through my FB timeline to see what I had posted.

Nothing. I posted absolutely nothing. Instead, I posted something about losing my voice and being sick.

Shallow, right?

I clearly remember the articles and videos last year. Knowing me as well as I do, I’m pretty sure I decided that I wasn’t going to post anything just because everyone else was.

The upside, and the most bittersweet part of it all, was scrolling through a year’s worth of posts.

Why is it that we can always recognize how happy we were only in retrospect? I saw photos from my vacation last year in Helsinki and Tallinn with Linds, my announcement that I’m moving to Taiwan, my going away party, and my first post from Asia. It was all there.

I remembered.

I remembered like it was yesterday, my thoughts, my feelings, the sounds, scents, and scenes. The fear I felt in going. How I wasn’t sure I wanted to go but I didn’t get the job that I was applying for so I knew I had to. I gave myself pep talks. All the ‘But its good money,’ and ‘Did you ever think you’d have a chance to live in Asia? Visit sure, but live?’ and ‘ One more country off my list’. I remember all of it.

It turned things around for me. By the time I left I was excited to go. Packing was a bitch.  Trying to pack everything I could into a suitcase, carrying my whole life in a bag.

For the second time in a year I would be heading off into the unknown. What a rush.

The last couple of weeks flew by. I remember trying to squeeze in as much sister time as I could. I listened, again, to the video my sister left on my wall…the Faithless Don’t Leave video.

Yeah, sis. I’m listening to that now.

I remember the cultural festival Karolina and I stumbled upon in Old Town. Last minute drinks and lunch with Olga rehashing my going away party, getting filled in on the juicy details that I missed. Finally, my last night with Magda at Plan B, bullshitting about how Polish men suck, and why we need to be better friends and how can we connect better with other people and on and on.

I remember waking up, late. A little buzzed. I remember hearing my roommate get up. Slam into the bathroom and then his lumbering steps as he left for work. I clearly remember snapping off the WIFI button on the edge of my laptop with my heel. It was the beginning of the end of that crappy thing. I remember the ugly realization that I had no way to leave the keys inside the apartment for the roomies as I had promised. Oh shit! Then I remember thinking, ‘Screw those guys. I’m going to Asia.’

I remember my sister pulling up, seven stories below, and my nephew in the car. The drive to the airport where I told her I’d left the door unlocked and the look of horror she gave me. “That’s bad, Mish. You can’t do that here in PL. All of their shit is going to get stolen.” Feeling guilty. Calling my roommate to let him know the door’s unlocked. And oh yeah. Sorry ’bout that. Really.

At the airport. My heart racing, my stomach quivering. My luggage. overweighted. By a ton. Rushing back out to the car, trying to figure out what I could leave behind. The clothes I tossed back into the car, the movies, gifts, and then rushing back in. Talking to the unfriendly staff. Luggage still over the limit. Paying $250 dollars to lug 6 kilograms worth of weight. What a damned rip off! The airlines are making a mint off of people like me, no question.

Then the flight. Step one: Frankfurt. Six hours meandering around the airport then sitting around, drinking beer, and reading the latest Marion Keys book. I stepped outside, inhaled some German air, and headed back in. Sat down and watched the people around me and made up stories about their lives. Not better than mine I hoped.

Step two: Shanghai. I had every intention of using my 22-hour layover to explore the city. Where I ended up checking into the first airport hotel I could find and admitted to myself what I had not wanted to that I had neither the courage nor the strength to explore any damn thing.

I walked through the smothering heat back into the airport and had, quite possibly, the most disgusting thing I’d ever eaten in my life. I still don’t know what it was. It was some type of black potato-like thing with a starchy texture, and chicken feet.

Through it all, overwhelming fatigue and adrenaline, in my veins, my heart, my mind. My heart was going a mile a minute, my mind was racing, and it was all I could do to keep up.

It was exhilarating. I felt like I could do anything. Be anyone. I couldn’t get enough.

That feeling has been with me for a long time. It was with me in Poland too. Anything could happen. Anything DID happen. Anything and everything, and although shit happens on a regular basis it made life absolutely fabulous. No better experience, no better trip. No better life.

I’ve been living in Taiwan for nearly a year. I’ve had so many firsts. First time in Asia. First time meeting new people and going to expat events on my own. First time watching a plump rat squeezing its chub-assed way down a drain into the sewer. I’ve seen that too many times at this point. First time seeing horrifically massive black spiders. First time for Stinky Tofu and Taro ice cream, vinegar noodles and duck eggs. First time being the advisor to my friends. Learning to crawl, learning to walk, and learning to live. My life in Taiwan has been nothing but a series of firsts.

Taking a walk down FB lane. There are so many memories, so much laughter, funny comments, and enraging ones. The crappy times, nonsensical posts, and drunken Facebooking, too. It’s all there in my electronic brain, waiting for me to visit it.

I’m grateful for it. Are you?

How often do you scroll through your timeline?

A couple of months ago I published a post about all the things I like about Taiwan.

Well, where there’s love there’s also hate, and it wouldn’t be fair to only show the positives.

So here are the top ten things I can’t stand about Taiwan:

10. Pedestrians

People walk at the pace of crippled snails and pay no attention to where they’re going. None. They don’t pay attention instead they mindlessly get in the way of faster walkers.   If you go left to pass, they’ll be sure to veer left at the last moment and block your path. Go right and magically, there they are again. There’s no walking in a straight line here or sticking to one side of the sidewalk. Because. Well. That would be too damned obvious.

The magic doesn’t stop happening here either.

When it comes to oncoming foot traffic Taiwanese women are the worst. You know how its instinctive to veer out of the way of on-coming people? Where you veer six inches away from the person and they veer six inches away from you and you pass each other peacefully without a collision? Basic human instinct, right? Turns out that’s a learned behavior. One that isn’t being learned in Taiwan.  Oh no. Instead you veer the prescribed six inches to your right, and they just plow right into you.  Who cares about little things like full bodily contact?

What I don’t get is who do these girls think they’re messing with?  Girl, your 5’0 ninety pound body isn’t going to push me out of the way of anything.  They try to shoulder check me and go flying.  I laugh to myself because they totally deserved it.

9. Fascination with White Skin

Idolizing or idealizing white skin is a centuries-old cultural phenomena  that has negative psychological and physical side effects. In Taiwan you will see rows and rows of  skin care products designed to whiten skin. You will see women walking around in 90+ (32+) degree weather with jeans, slacks, tights and long-sleeved hoodies and jackets. All designed to prevent darkness.  Most absurd of all, you see both men and women with permanent umbrellas attached to their hands.  Like the rainiest day, the brightest day too requires heavy and consistent umbrella usage .

Considering the equally unhealthy Western obsession with tanning products and tanned skin this is just laughable.

Hey. I have a suggestion. Maybe, just maybe, we should all stop hating ourselves and each other for the colors of our skin. I know, right? Totally revolutionary.

8. Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Being non-confrontational is part of the culture. I understand that even though it is difficult to live with. So yeah. They’ll smile at you  through their anger, never let on what’s bothering them and then knife you in the back when you least expect it.  It is in all fairness, something that happens in every culture, and I’ve always thought it a strong indicator of a person’s maturity. From an outsider’s perspective though, it can be tough to deal with when you’re up against a cultural trait that you don’t understand, and have no tools or training to deal with.

7. Treating Foreigners like Monkeys at the Zoo

I’m sorry, but could you stare and point a little more?  You’re not making me feel alien enough yet.  For crying out loud, welcome to the 21st century. There are people out there who aren’t Asian! Yes. My skin is white, my eyes are green. I have double creased eyelids and my nose is “tall” or “high.”  That doesn’t mean my purpose in life is to satisfy your every curiosity about Westerners. You want a cultural exchange that will educate you and enrich your life? Awesome. So do I. But don’t sit there and watch me like I’m some monkey in a cage there solely so you can satisfy your prurient curiosity. Is it really any of your business what I’m doing in Taiwan, how long I’ve been here, or what I think about anything? Should you really make comments about my “tall” nose, my white skin, or try to touch my “golden” hair? Can you stop staring at me and treat me like a normal person? I am that, you know. A normal person. Just like you.

6. Noise Pollution

I’ve bitched about it before and I’m bitching about it again. The level of noise in Taipei is ridiculous. From vendors hawking their wares over the loudspeaker, abnormally loud conversations (everywhere), and scooters, to ear piercing street announcements and advertisements over loud-speaker or massive flat screens, noise is inescapable in Taipei.  There is no respect for the peace and tranquility of silence.   It’s absurd to run into people on mountain trails with their little attachable radios blasting away. God forbid you have to listen in silence to your own thoughts even for one moment. Who knows what horrors you might uncover if you actually unplugged from the world?

5. Pests

Hideously large spiders, cockroaches, and rats.  My first week in Taipei I saw an enormous rat squeeze its fat body down a rain drain hole into the sewer.  I was not thrilled.   Large spiders the size of your hand can be found in the woods, mountains and caves where they like to hang out and scare the crap out of you. Cockroaches are the worst though. They fly. Your apartment can be the cleanest, nicest, newest one in Taipei but it will still have cockroaches and you’re kidding yourself if you think it doesn’t.  I’ve been pretty lucky so far and only seen a handful in my place all year. But yesterday I had the extremely unpleasant experience of having one crawl across my foot. In the dark. while I sat writing on my laptop. It was HUGE. Then I had to chase after it and beat it to death with my favorite flip flop while it frantically scuttled around the floor.

4. The Weather in Taipei

Since we’re talking about the environment let me also say that the weather in Taipei sucks giant monkey balls.  I specify Taipei because due to a unique formation in the geography it rains constantly in the northern part of the island. Last winter it started raining in late November and didn’t stop until April. It rains all the time, even now, though at least the sun does come out from time to time. And now that it’s nearly July the heat and humidity are becoming insufferable. Summer’s here and with it comes 90+ degree weather and outrageous humidity.

3. Shopping Assistants and Customer Service

This can go both ways. Sometimes the service is truly excellent and I’m grateful for it. On the other hand, in all shops except for supermarkets and major department stores, I get followed around like the store assistants assume I’m a body snatcher.  And if that doesn’t happen then I’m followed around by someone trying to sell me something so hard it’s an instant turn off. Both are intolerable and have led me to avoid small shops completely unless I’m with a Taiwanese friend. I’m not Asian. That doesn’t instantly make me a thief so stop shadowing my every step like I’m on the top ten most wanted.  I hate getting pressured to buy. I have walked out of so many stores because I’m not left alone to browse in peace.  If you want my money this isn’t the way to get it.

2. Buxibans and the System of Education

The system of education in Taiwan is based on a rigorous process of elimination.  It is based on the idea that only the best survive.  Everything is designed to break students. It starts in preschool, intensifies in grade school and gets worse from middle school and beyond.  I don’t know what the suicide rates, depression rates, and rates of nervous breakdowns are for the students of Taiwan but I’m willing to bet it’s obscenely high.

These poor kids have no life whatsoever. They are robbed of their childhoods. Instead they are little learning machines. They go to school during the day, then they go to cram school every day for a variety of subjects. They are in school from eight a.m. and some of them don’t get home till after nine or ten at night. Every single day. Weekends? What weekends? They’re lucky if they get a Sunday off for fun and relaxation.

Even the kids that don’t have tons of classes are stuffed into cram school where they ghost the halls rain or shine in sickness and health for their entire childhoods.  I come to school in the morning and teach my kids. They’ve already been there all morning. When I’m leaving at nine at night, they’re still there, waiting to home.

They don’t get the time and attention they need from their parents and as a result we teachers see a lot of behavioral and self-esteem problems.

To make matters worse, the methods of teaching endorsed in schools consists of browbeating children into submission. They are not encouraged to question anything, they must simply process, and learn by rote reams and reams of material, some of it utterly useless.  They are often screamed at and punished for the most minor of transgressions.

In the areas of math and science, and indeed, in all subjects, they excel. They excel and are so far beyond the standards of a typical American student that there is no comparison. What they don’t excel at is imagination, questioning the status quo, innovation and thinking things through for themselves. This is not encouraged. In fact it is stifled brutally under the vicious tongues of their teachers. Where physical punishment may now be outlawed, it can still occur, and even where it doesn’t, kids are often demeaned and terrorized psychologically.

No wonder they are so meek and submissive. No wonder they have no self-esteem.

It is painful to watch. It is painful to be a part of this system.

1. The Work Culture

People in Taiwan are literally working themselves to death or they are forced to work themselves to death. Their rights are ignored or trampled, and that is only when they have any perceived rights at all.  The situation in Taiwan is beyond obscene. You only have to punch in the words overwork and Taiwan to come up with thousands of articles highlighting the problem. Here are a couple for your edification: http://affleap.com/overwork-culture-in-taiwan-leads-workers-at-their-late-twentys-to-fortys-to-their-untimely-death/http://rollrollrun.com/2012/05/01/literally-working-to-death-in-taiwan-33-2/http://ozsoapbox.com/taiwan/culture/taiwan-cant-seem-to-make-up-its-mind-on-overwork/.

As a culture, the Taiwanese are taught not to complain, to work hard, not to question their elders or their superiors, and it has disastrous results.

I don’t know much about civil rights but I do know that there have been no rights granted by anyone anywhere that have not been fought for by the oppressed.  It is the responsibility of the people to go out and rip from the hands of those in power their rights to their time, their health, their freedom, and their lives. Everything that we have in America, we have had to fight for. Someday, I hope to see the Taiwanese do the same.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should publish this post or not.  I wrote it several weeks ago when I was in a particularly shitty mood, and since then it has been drafted and redrafted into something beyond all recognition.  It isn’t like me to bare my soul for the whole world to see. In fact, it isn’t like me to bare my soul for anyone to see.  I’m almost 100% certain that publishing this will be a move I regret. 

Screw it. 

I accept the challenge and the risk.

What do we have to sacrifice for our dreams?

Some people say it’s nothing. Others that  it’s everything.  There are people out there that believe they can have it all, and there are people out there convinced its impossible to have it all. And there are some people out there that think we can’t have anything. Screw those guys. They don’t know how to get their happy on.

I want it all. Nothing less will do.

But living my dreams has not been without its sacrifices.  It’s an inherent part of wanting too much, I suppose.

And I want too much. I always do.

So let’s take a close look at the dangers and consequences of wanting it all.

Friendship: Friendships fade over time. We’ve all been there. People change, they grow apart, they lose touch.  There is no easier way to lose touch than moving away. It doesn’t matter that we live in an age of Facebook or Twitter. Human nature doesn’t change. Out of sight. Out of mind.  Isn’t that how the story goes?

“We’ll stay in touch over FB!” “I’ll miss you sooo much!” Not for long as it turns out.

Relationships: Romance.  Sex. The idea of finding a romantic attachment here in Asia is even more laughable than it was in Poland. And I did laugh about it there. I laughed so I wouldn’t cry. Because for this woman of the West, slumming it with a man who sees me as less than an equal is completely and utterly intolerable and unacceptable.  It was all just so impossible, annoying, and depressing in Poland, and in its own way, it’s worse in Asia. Why is it so hard to find a decent ex-pat man?  Many of the ones I meet are into local girls (some will flat-out tell you that the reason they’re out here is “yellow fever” which is indicative of such a despicable and shallow  character I just want to punch these men in the face), or, and this is a completely valid reason I understand, they are  living too transient of a lifestyle to consider a relationship.

There are two problems. One, is that the dating pool is just too small. And two, the ex-pat lifestyle, by its very nature is temporary, and for many, aimless.  I’ve met tons of men out here but tons of men I could date? That’s another story.

What about the locals, you ask? That answer deserves a blog post all of its own. I’ll write about it later when I’ve had time to collect my thoughts.

As for sex, well. It has been so long I’ve nearly forgotten what it is to mean something to a man. Or for one to mean anything to me.

And, yeah, thanks. I know I can walk into pretty much any bar tonight and get laid if that’s what I want. Obviously a one night stand isn’t what I’m looking for.

Career: A decent career.  How can I get me one of those abroad? It seems like it is impossible to get away from teaching English, which, frankly, is a profession I’m beginning to loathe. I don’t hate my students. I don’t even hate the life that much. It definitely has its advantages, especially when the money is right. However, I am just too damned smart to waste my brain like this.  Call it arrogance all you like, but its nothing less than the truth.  The amount of mental stimulation you get as an English teacher is next to none. Were it not for my daily crossword puzzles and this blog, I am convinced I would have sank into a vegetative state from which I could never recover.

Thankfully, all is not so bleak on this horizon. I am taking baby steps into exploring other options. If they don’t work out, I’ve realized nothing else will do but to return to school.  I can’t even explain how good this makes me feel. Finally! A light at the end of the tunnel. A direction. Something my life has been missing for much too long.

I was talking with a friend the other day and realized that more than being Polish, or being American, and definitely way more than being an English teacher, I identify the most with being an ex-pat. It’s a title I’m comfortable with and proud of.  Want to feel special? Be an ex-pat. Want to be cool? Be an ex-pat. Want to be sexy? Be an ex-pat. Want to be brave? Be an ex-pat. Want to have the most awesome life you can possibly imagine, with new, crazy, life-altering experiences every single day? Be an ex-pat!  The most boring crappy day of your life as an ex-pat will still be a hundred times better and more exciting than anything else your shitty home life can offer.

I love it! I can’t say anything else about it. The life of an ex-pat, it’s a hit of adrenaline more addictive than anything else I’ve tried. And I get to take it every single day.

So what should I do when the loneliness  and emptiness come roaring out of the darkest corners of my soul to smother me in a sad desperate melancholy from which I might never come back from? What should I do when I’m walking down the street and out of the blue my eyes flood with tears because suddenly I think: Damn. What the hell am I doing here? Is there even a point to any of this?

What should I do when I’ve been invited to the most awesome party life has to offer, but the party always ends with me alone?

At what point do my dreams become nothing more than a series of diminishing returns?

I’m 30 damn years old. And I’m flitting around from place to place, enjoying myself like few others will ever, in their wildest dreams, get a chance to. I am so fortunate. I am living the life.

It is nearly everything, but is it quite enough?

I’ve been struggling and struggling to come up with something “meaningful” to write about this week. I started a draft about the trials and tribulations of dating abroad, a draft about the pointlessness of life in general, and even considered a draft about my recent biking adventure to Wulai. But another member of the biking trip already wrote a post about it and now its seems pointless to write my own.  If you want to know about it, I suggest checking out his blog. The pictures are heart-stoppingly beautiful.

I  just don’t have the heart for writing about any of these things. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll regale you with exciting tales (ok, ok, horror stories) of my dating exploits. But not today.

So. In an effort to be positive on a day when I’m feeling anything but, I present to you some of the things I like about Taiwan and Taipei.

In no particular order here they are:

10.   The Food.

Yes, it’s true, Taiwan has some crazy-assed food out there. You only need to swing by the local night market to see things like chicken testes, pig intestines, gizzards, claws and other internal organs to see what I mean.  I’m not talking about that kind of food though. I’m talking about the good stuff. Vinegar noodles, Bao Tzi, dumplings, 40 different kinds of chili bean and garlic sauces, sushi, seafood, sticky rice, rice pudding, tea eggs, amazing vegetarian food the likes I’ve which I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the list just goes on and on.  It’s a culinary adventure here in Taiwan. Whatever your heart desires, and foods your heart didn’t even know it  could desire can be found for ridiculously cheap prices.

Yum!

9. The Views

Travel but a few miles out of the city to experience some of the most stunning vistas nature has to offer. There’s a reason this island was named  Ilha Formosa by the Portuguese when first they arrived.  The name means beautiful island and as it was named so it continues to be.  The unique mountains, valleys, gorges, and plains along with the weather offer spectacular views for anyone that ventures outside of the cities.

Don’t tell me this leaves you feeling cold and dead inside.

8. Open Alcohol Containers Are Allowed In Public.

This should probably be number one.  Who hasn’t wanted to sit in the local park, enjoy the views and a cold brew? Well in Taiwan, that’s no problem. No need to fear an open intox here.  On top of that alcohol is sold 24 hours a day. As far as I’m aware there are no limitations.  And for all these legal freedoms its pretty rare to see anyone walking around with a beer in hand. I love it. It should be like this everywhere.

7. Taipei Metro System

The metro system is clean, efficient and relatively cheap. Starting at 16 NT per trip by American standards it is quite cheap, though by Polish standards it is actually more expensive and less comprehensive.  The metro currently has ten lines spanning Taipei and New Taipei City, and the proposed phase three of the metro system seen below is simply amazing.

The metro system will be AWESOME once its complete!

6. Taiwanese Friendliness

My first impressions after arriving in Taipei were about how extremely friendly and helpful the Taiwanese are. At least to foreigners. Grant it, I had just arrived from Poland a country notorious for its extreme rudeness, but I’d go so far as to say that people are more friendly than they would be in America too.  Of course, you do have to take this with a grain of salt.  After living here for eight months I can assure you NOT everyone is friendly and there are many many Taiwanese who are xenophobic and they don’t hesitate to make their feelings felt.  Over all though, visitors are welcomed to Taiwan.  The people here are very curious and friendly and willing to be helpful.

5. Bike Rentals and Bike Paths

Bike rental places are available all up and down the rivers of Taipei with daily rentals  ranging from 1-5 dollars USD. A cheap way to spend the day exercising and enjoying the city.  Taipei has a comprehensive bike path system that snakes all around Taipei, usually following the rivers and their tributaries.  Biking is becoming increasingly popular here year by year and a great deal of money is being invested in supporting this sport.

4. Safety

Obviously crime happens here just like anywhere else, but all things considered, Taiwan is pretty safe.  I felt reasonably safe(er) in Poland than in the US but I feel very safe here. It doesn’t matter the time of day or night, or where I’m at, I have yet to feel at risk or unsafe anywhere. I am not so naïve that I can’t tell what are seedier and more dangerous areas to be in, but even in those, I don’t feel bothered.  I have no fears at all about traveling on my own anywhere in Taiwan.  Generally speaking foreigners just don’t get bothered that much.  As a foreign woman I get bothered even less.  What the Taiwanese do  to and among themselves can be a different story, but that’s a subject for an entirely different post.

If you feel unsafe…look for this sign.

3. City Parks

There are tons of parks in Taipei.  A couple of big ones, and tons of small ones.  Every couple of blocks you can find a city park.  They’re usually tiny, with little play areas for kids, and some benches, plants and bushes. They don’t do much to dispel the feeling of living in a concrete jungle in any way, but its nice that they’re out there at all. The larger ones usually have very nice public toilet facilities that you don’t have to pay for.  They’re tiny islands of calm in a very busy and noisy city and I love them for that.  Also, they’re the perfect place to have a beer or two.

2. The National Health Insurance

Are you kidding me here? Do I even need to elaborate?  It’s incredibly cheap, especially compared to the US. A pair of glasses can cost somewhere between 20-30 USD, dental visits around 10 USD, and doctor and hospital visits between 3-20 USD. That being said, of course procedures can be expensive and if you have health issues this can be cause for concern. But what’s covered is covered and it’s covered well.  Service is quick and easy, with surgeries and procedures being scheduled within days or weeks rather than months, and care is modern.  The US should certainly take a page from Taiwan’s book.

Look for this symbol when you need medical care.

1.Free City WiFi

Taipei has free city WiFi encompassing the entire city. It went public in October of last year. While I don’t use it much, and I’ve heard it can be annoyingly slow, I’d say this puts Taipei at the forefront over many other cities I could name. Poland certainly won’t be having any free WiFi in, what—probably never, and even the US is only beginning to offer this in some select  cities.

Have I missed anything? Feel free to offer up your favorites about Taiwan or Taipei.

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