How can I begin to talk about Taiwan? For such a small country where you can go from one end to the other in about 4 hours, it hides an enormous amount of natural beauty, modern technology, history, and my personal favorite, bubble tea. Every city gives off a different feeling. To me, among some of the easily reachable cities, Taipei represents industry and advancement, Taichung, as the city where the aforementioned bubble tea was founded, epitomizes food and beverages, and Kaohsiung signifies art and expression. There is never a shortage of the kinds of places that satisfy any given mood.
There are a few conditions that I use to rate my experiences in certain countries: Uniqueness, History, Nature, Entertainment, Price, Transportation, and Hospitality. Uniqueness encompasses concepts such as culture, heritage, and tradition; ultimately, they are things I can do that are specific to the area. History indicates important cites, buildings, memorials, or the like, where I can go to better understand what happened in the past and honor the sacrifices people have made. Nature means the overall preservation and protection of natural resources, such as mountains, reserves, parks, and oceans. Entertainment implies the availability of fun activities that are not specific to any region, but are usually recognized as fun, such as ice skating, while Price is the average cost of living and how much it hurts my wallet (and subsequently my heart). Transportation is the extent of public access to other destinations via a vehicle. Finally, Hospitality quantifies the attitude of the public and their willingness to communicate when I have questions. This system is in no way a grading system for the public to take heed of, but rather a personal one. Needless to say, Taiwan ranks high in each category and has left an irreplaceable impact in my heart.
Releasing lanterns into the sky in Pingxi, visiting a plethora of night markets, climbing to the top of Jiufen, which inspired the popular movie Spirited Away, and admiring the view, walking along Kaohsiung center amidst trolleys, people, huge interactive pieces of art are just a few of my inimitable experiences in Taiwan. Influenced by the Dutch, aboriginals, and of course the Chinese, Taiwan gives off a distinctive blend of culture and exhibits them most exquisitely within their libraries, memorials, and museums. Furthermore, their huge national parks, each characterized by something special, such as volcanic sulfur or waterfalls, are most beautiful and worth seeing. Some are even close enough to cities to take a day trip to and spend the day relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis. Not just that, but smaller parks are also abundant and brimming with life, while the streets are decorated with lovely sprinkles of trees and plants. Entertainment and Price go hand in hand, and both are very reasonable. The former is extensive, and depending on the area of popularity, such as karaoke in Asia, more or less expensive. Nevertheless, it is very doable. To be quite honest, while its transportation is far-reaching in terms of inter-cities and inner-city transit, I have a difficult time making my way out of the general public and into smaller villages, lesser known areas, or some parks. However, I do not think this is an issue of the country itself, because renting a motorcycle is a valid, safe, common, and cost-efficient solution. However, I have forgotten to bring my license and thus my inconvenience is a result of my thoughtlessness. Lastly, although I have observed that Taiwanese people are a commonly caring and helpful people, they are nervous to approach foreigners in fear that they will need to speak English. Even in markets where one must latch on to potential customers, shop attendants or stall owners stand watch at a corner and don’t approach unless I have proven myself to speak Chinese. While this is slightly disappointing in that I can be afraid to make the first move, especially when speaking Chinese, it does give me a reason to push my limits and step out of my comfort zone to better my language abilities. For this, I am thankful.
Although I sadly don’t have much remaining time here, I hope to make the most of it by exploring and experiencing everything that I can. I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to reside, albeit for a short period of time, in such a wonderful enigma of a country!
Hale is a rising senior studying Applied Mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences department at GW. She fell in love with Mandarin and Chinese culture (especially the bits involving food) after her first Chinese class freshman year and does not plan to stop studying it until mastery. Her eyes not only opened to the infinite wonders, sounds, and beauties of Taiwan, but also how deep the Mandarin language really is.