I was finally able to meet Taipei, Taiwan during my 2 days and 1 night layover there last August 2019. I’ve been wanting to visit this country for a while now, and I am very happy that I did not only take away memories of great places and adventures. This progressive country has taught me a lot, and I am very grateful about the lessons that I learned.
But first . . . .
What is the #LearnFromTheWorld campaign?
Recently, I feel like a huge number of people all over the world have discovered the wonders of traveling, and I can’t help but notice that it has become a trend. With that, I am launching this small campaign of mine called #LearnFromTheWorld, hoping to encourage people to look at traveling more than just the beautiful Instagrammable places, but also to look at traveling as a way to learn from the world.
And finally, here are the five (5) things I learned from my short stay in Taiwan.
1. Affordable and efficient Mobility is Key
Taiwan has just introduced to me a very affordable and efficient public transportation system, and I honestly think that this is a major factor why Taiwan is such a huge Tourist darling of Asia. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to a place where all the significant beautiful places are accessible by an NTD 25 train ride?
Taiwan taught me that, it is absolutely possible to get all; affordability, efficiency, and quality, in a Public Transportation system. Governments from all over the world should not be able to give out ridiculous excuses on public transportation, because Taiwan just proved it all.
Before I talk about affordability and accessibility, let me just gosh about Taiwan’s reusable tickets first. Their tickets are plastic coins that you can just scan in the stations and return it after the ride. No paper tickets wasted! Plus, their transportation system also support prepaid cards. What’s not to love?
Their Public Transpo System, the cheapest by far
Let me give a disclaimer first: Given the quality of their public transportation, it is the cheapest that I have experienced by far. I needed to say that because, of course, public transport system in countries like the Philippines and Thailand are, of course, cheaper but the quality isn’t the same as Taiwan’s, or Japan’s, or Singapore’s.
I am currently living in Japan, and I appreciate the public transportation here (i.e. their Railway and Bus systems), but Japan’s transportation cost is really expensive for me. I’ve been to Hong Kong a couple years back, and I can say the same. On the other hand, Singapore might be a little bit cheaper than Japan and Hong Kong, but still it is more expensive compared to Taiwan’s. In Taiwan, I can go from 1 point to another by just spending at least NTD 20 by train, and that includes places like Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, and Ximending.
The Accessibility of the Places by Public Transport
You can go to Tamsui by riding a train that would only cost you NTD 50. To think, Tamsui is located at the farthest north of Taipei. You can go to the neighboring city of Taichung still via Train. You can go around your favorite places to visit via Train or Bus, and you won’t get lost. It is just crazy how you can just go around Taipei easily without consuming a lot of time and money. I just think that, what Taiwan shows us here is the importance of making sure Tourism is boosted by the right things, which are accessibility, safety, and beauty.
2. Culture shouldn’t be lost with Modernity
Have you seen the Taipei 101 building? If not, let me just show it to you.
Can you see how this building showcases Taiwan’s culture to the world? There’s a lot of Chinese symbolism in the building’s design. To mention a few; there are Ruyi figures throughout the building structure, that symbolizes a ceremonial scepter in Chinese Buddhism. The visible 8 segments of the building are said to recall the rhythms of Asian Pagoda.
When I saw Taipei 101, I only had 1 thought in mind. I thought that, if we, in the Philippines, can showcase our culture this way, it would be really great to see. Nowadays, I just feel like modernized buildings become more and more westernized.
3. Governments can encourage Bikeability
One great initiative from the local government of Taipei City, is their Bike Renting system. I am not sure if this is done in other cities of Taiwan, because I’ve only been to Taipei, but this is the first time that I’ve seen an initiative like this from the government themselves. I just have to give them a round of applause!
Aside from providing wide side walks, their government actually championed their Bikeable City initiatives with this Bike-for-rent system. The public can just rent a bike by paying from this automated machine.
While other countries, like the Philippines, refuse to give their people a decent side walks to bike on, you have here Taiwan, who do not only encourage their citizens to bike, but also tourists and visitors alike. A snappy salute to them! Hooray for Sustainability!
4. Affordability in an advanced Country
Taiwan for me is like Japan and Singapore. They’re already up there in terms of advancements and a high quality way of living. Last 2016, they have been awarded as the 25th Most Reputable Country in the world, for being so welcoming to foreigners and for maintaining a safe and beautiful environment. This year, 2019, they grabbed 2 awards, which are the 17th Richest Country in the world and the Happiest Country in East Asia. All of these advancements and they still maintained their low cost of living.
I am not an expert or anything, but you can compare. For example, how expensive the cost of living in the USA and Japan, which are all first-world countries. How expensive Health Care is, in the US. Taiwan is basically providing the same level of services (Transportation, Health Care, etc) at a lower price compared to other advanced countries. I mean, how are they even doing this?
Food? I only spent less than NTD 500, in the famous Toilet Restaurant for this meal. That is around Php 800, which is usually the price when I eat a meal in the Philippines in the same type of restaurant. Normal meals in Taipei is only around NTD 20 – NTD 30 (Php 30 – Php 50) for 1 meal. Can you imagine that? This country is just like the Philippines in terms of the cost of living, but the quality of life? A ton better.
I just don’t know anymore how this country does it. They need to teach us how they’re doing it!
5. Being open to other Languages works for Your Advantage
Many Taiwanese people are at least Trilingual, since they speak Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, and Mandarin, but I am not going to talk about that here. I want to talk about how these people used colonization to their advantage.
Taiwanese People know Japanese
Other than knowing the various forms of the Chinese language, many folks in Taiwan also know Japanese, because they have been under the Japanese Empire for a couple of years. This is an information I got from a friend who visited Taiwan and used Japanese to speak to many old Taiwanese people. How cool is that? I would’ve loved to try it, but I am not confident with my Japanese. So I just settled in using my English.
Their English is workable!
I always try to speak my very limited Mandarin phrases when I was there, but everytime people talk to me, they speak English. That actually surprised me. I mean, I didn’t expect them to be so open to speaking English, but they really try, and I do appreciate it. I actually understand their English, and that’s really cool!
As a Glossophile, I truly appreciate those who do not limit themselves with their own language. That was a real comfort, to be honest. I’ve met many people during my past travels who hated me when I was in their country, because I couldn’t speak their language. I’ve had a rough time in Hong Kong, and aswell as in Japan because of this problem. So, I really appreciate the Taiwan. All love!
I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to travel, see places, and be inspired by the ways of other countries. I am just taking it all in; the beautiful views, the unique culture, and the foreign inspirations. I just wish we all see the beauty and advantages of learning from each other. Me, on the other hand, I will try to apply all of these lessons throughout my life.