My favorite aunt had asked me for a “resume” of my travels to China and Taiwan.
There is no way, however, to summarize the many different impressions and experiences of those 10 days.
Nevertheless, here comes a short list of the things (some of them, admittedly, very trivial), that caught my attention.
About (Mainland China) I cannot say much, other than:
- everyone I met was very, very friendly
- outside the airport I did not meet anyone who spoke a word of English
- access to internet is very restricted (but that surely is no secret)
In Taiwan (Republic of China) I noticed that
- even in the most crowded places the people remained friendly, polite and appeared relaxed. Never have I heard any loud verbal exchange or witnessed any agression.
- although many streets, especially the side streets, look very bad, with pot holes, damaged pavement and missing pedestrian sidewalks, I have not seen trash anywhere: no paper, no plastic bottles, no beer cans, not even cigarette butts.
- Public transportation, at least in the cities and along the West coast (I am referring here to trains and metro) is effective, fast, punctual, comfortable, very clean and comparably cheap. The HSR (High Speed Rail) coveres the 400km from Koishung (in the South) to Taipei in less than 2 hours. I paid about € 40. I could have had this for a fraction of the price taking the slower, local commuter trains. About the East coast, which much less densely populated, I cannot say anything. Neither about busses. Within the cities I only took the metro (underground). The only bus I boarded was the “Kenting Express Shuttle” from Koishung to the vacation resort Kenting (about and hour and a half), the bus was relatively old, but clean and comfortable.
- it seems that food plays an important role in daily and family life. I have seen people eat at any time of the day and considerable quantities. Still, I have seen hardly any overweight people.
- very, very few women wear nail polish. I have seen maybe two or three of them – and not one with artifical finger nails. The same goes for facial piercings. I have not seen a single one. Tattoos, at least among younger males, seem to be as popular as in Europe or the US.
- aside from parks, there is very little public green or street trees in the cities. Instead, you see lots of potted plants in front of almost every store.
- in none of the parks, public places, train or metro stations have I seen a single pigeon. Only one time have I seen a couple of birds resembling pigeons in some tourist café picking crumbs.
- in the cities I have seen very few dogs, and definitely no stray dogs. This may be different in the country side.
- there is a 7-eleven store on almost every street corner and sometimes another one in between.
In most of them you can sit down to eat whatever you have bought there. Hot water, for example for instant soups, is always provided.
Many of them even have a restroom.
And the coffee they offer is just as good and costs a third of that at Starbucks.
They usually also have an ATM which accepts foreign credit cards.
- Sunday seems to be THE day to leave the house to go shopping, to enjoy parks and nature, to go sightseeing and to do all the things that tourists also like to do.
So unless you REALLY, REALLY like incredible crowds and endless seeming lines, I recommend to leave all those nice touristy places to the 23 million Taiwanese that day, enjoy the Sunday with a good book in some quiet place – and get ready to continue exploring the country Monday morning.