All you want to know about Taiwan

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I have been asked to write a little about Taiwan. I don't know what a little is, so if I write a lot please forgive me.

We have just finished our Chinese New Year celebrations (6 days of festivities) Happy Chinese New Year. It is now the year of the Horse.

CNY is celebrated very much like Christmas, but the difference is there are no presents. Here it is red envelopes. The parents give the children red envelopes with money in them, the parents also give their parents red envelopes. The amount of money in each envelopes can vary from around 30 pounds to thousands of pounds. I like CNY because a lot of my students and students parents give me red envelopes. Again the amount varies by how much a student or family can afford. All the money given in the envelopes must be crisp new notes for good luck. Usually the banks start exchanging old notes for new notes about 1 month before New Year. The first day of the holiday is for visiting the husbands parents. The second day is for visiting the wife's parents, after that families are free to do what they want with the holiday.

10 years ago I was travelling through Asia, after travelling through, Japan, China, Thailand and the Philippines I did not know which country to visit next, so I wrote Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore on small pieces of paper, after throwing the pieces of paper into a bag, I shook the bag and chose 1 piece of paper, it had the name Taiwan on it, so I jumped on a plane and headed to Taiwan. I liked it very much and after talking to an American, I decided I would find work and stay here for a little while. It has now been 10 years and I am still here. I now have a small language school that caters to about 70 students learning English.

Taiwan is not paradise, but it is a beautiful, some parts mountainous, sometimes flat, country. The people are great. It is like living in the 1960s again. Very low crime rate. I live in a city that has a harbour right in the middle of the city centre. Believe it or not men, women and even children can walk around safely anytime day or night, even after midnight. When you travel on buses or trains you will never encounter verbally abusive drunks or gangs. In fact in my ten years here I have only come across 2 drunks in the street and they just staggered past me without even a sideways glance.

But don't get me wrong, it can still be a dangerous country. I will now explain why. Taiwanese people are very patient people, they will sit in traffic jams for hours and not an angry word will be uttered. But at traffic lights their attitudes change. two lane roads quickly become four or even five lanes, don't be crossing the road when the traffic lights turn green. It is like a drag strip, they wait for nothing and no one, once the lights do change. Then they have the sidewalks, here you would think that pedestrians would have the right of way, you are wrong, sidewalks are there for the bike riders and motor scooter riders. You must give way to them, pinning yourself against a wall or stepping on to the road to allow them through. Some sidewalks have so many scooters parked on them you have to walk on the road to get around them. Then you have the older people in Taiwan that used to walk along the roads when there was very little traffic. These people still walk the roads and expect all traffic to give way to them. There is still a lot of respect held for the older people, so the traffic actually stops for them and waits patiently for them to get off the road. Then you have the street vendors with their mobile carts, they too take right of way, crossing the road at anytime and anyplace. I drive a car, I am having to learn patience. I am a scooter driver too, I am becoming a typical Taiwanese driver, but I never use the sidewalk..

If you are a car driver, be careful, thousands of scooters fly past you, weaving in an out of the traffic thinking they should have right of way.

Taiwan is a wealthy, modern country with low taxes and quite a good health system. Government departments are very hard to work with. Taiwan is a country where everything is always done the hard way. If they give you instructions to do something, you will never get the full instructions all at once. and at every step of a process the rules seem to change. Like for example, they say to register a new company, no capital is required. So you seek approval to register a company. They give you approval, but before it becomes official, they tell you to put 20,000 dollars in a bank account. It is not the money that annoys you, it is the feeling of being blackmailed before they hand over the registration approval .

Am I happy here? Yes, very happy.

I had better finish now before I am told this is not a little. I will add to this at a later date.

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please do carlton lad im sure many of us will be interested in your experiences while out there as i said in another post i know some of your family can you remember a family called mccarthy who lived near you had a daughter i think her name was annette a little older than your sister dianne

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Nice Story Carltonlad, look forward to you adding to this thread.

And if you have a yen to give a red envelope, Please don't worry about old bank notes.

No problem, I have an iron.

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Hi Babs

Please check the Hello topic, I did reply to your comments in that topic. My biggest problem is names, I am afraid I do not recognise the name Mc Carthy or Annette.

Do not worry, My follow up to this will be about our lantern festival which we are celebrating now until the 16th February.

I am sorry Mick, I have spent all my crisp new notes and my old ones also. If you had asked me earlier I am sure I could have saved one for you.

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Thank you again for your kind comments, while you are happy with what I write, I will keep writing. Please do me a favor just tell me when it gets boring.

I have just got back in. It is very cold today about 8 degrees, strong cold winds and rain. I don't want to go out again today, so I will continue with this topic.

As I said before Taiwan is not paradise. Definition of Paradise: A place where you want for nothing. You have it all. I want some warm weather.

Today I had something happen that I did not mention in the last post. Pedestrian crossings. Forget about watching the traffic lights and walking across safely on a green light. Not thinking today, I crossed on a green light forgetting here that I must look both ways and give way before I walk. A delivery truck just missed me. If I had been walking a little faster, he would have hit me. The government about 12 months ago have told drivers that if they do not give way at crossings, drivers will be fined. The problem is the police are not enforcing the rule. Actually there is not a big police presence in Taiwan.

This post is about our latest festival. My favorite festival is the Ghost festival, but I won't spoil the fun and write about this one now as it does not happen until August. The festival now is the Lantern Festival, it is a continuation of the Chinese New Year, but we don't get a holiday for this one. The festival is on now until the 16th February. The main day for celebration is the 15th day. The festival originally was held on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar calendar. Because Chinese New year follows this calendar the lantern festival follows it.

Talking about holidays makes me think about a bit of recent local news I should share with you. The government stated a couple of days ago they are thinking of approving more public holidays to increase spending by the locals around the country. Give the Taiwanese long weekends and they travel and spend.

The Lantern festival is full of bright lights and fireworks. Mostly the fireworks are in Southern Taiwan while the North celebrates more with sky lanterns.(Rather than I post lots of photos, just copy and paste this link to view some beautiful photos).

In the old days the fireworks were used to ward off evil and disease. The Sky Lanterns were used to signal that a town or city was still safe. It starts at 6pm and finishes at 5am and there is lots to see. The photos do not do this festival justice. It is big, bright and beautiful, with lots of noise. In Taipei you catch the MRT (underground to you folks) to the main site, step out of the station and the display stretches for about 2.5 kilometres before you. The main lights usually follow the animal signs of the Chinese zodiac, but you can also find your favorite Disney characters and other characters mixed in.

The kids remind me of how kids are at Christmas, about to open presents, they walk through the lights excited by what they see, laughing or giggling as they look around in wonder. Even the adults tend to become kids again, fascinated by the lights there are a lot of oooohs and rrrrrrrrrrs as they move along. I too join them and and never tire of enjoying the experience. Taiwan is a place to feel like a kid again. There are many things to do and everyone joins in, age does not matter. If you feel young enough to participate, then you are young enough. Nights of wonder, nothing to worry about other than the lights and food.

We have underground shopping malls, here you will find gangs of teenagers, but it is more like our teenage years. The kids are there not troubling anyone. A lot of them practice group dance steps. They love dancing. They find big glass windows to use as mirrors and practice their dance steps as a group.

These same gangs may go to a festival, they can be loud and playful, but certainly no trouble.

Sorry I am drifting off track here, so back to the lantern festival, as I said before it goes for 10 days and there are things to do everyday. There are so many different displays, you could find a new one almost every night. Combine these displays with the night markets, and nights can turn into really enjoyable evenings, as there is always lots of different types of cheap food available at the night markets. (Maybe that is a thought for another post in this topic, Night markets and food). The main night on the 15th is the main firework night. Here people can still buy fireworks and have their own fireworks show, or if it is a nice night take them to the beach to let them off.

The good news at the moment is that the weather will start warming up again by Thursday. So I think I will stay indoors until Thursday. It will still give me Friday, Saturday and Sunday to join in the festivities. maybe I can give a couple of my experiences from these nights.

I think I will break up a few chairs now, and start a fire in the middle of my living room. Relax and watch discovery channel.

Be back soon.

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I visited Taiwan in 1999 with a colleague on business. While in Taipei, we were lucky enough to stay at the Grand Hotel - an amazing structure! We were there to visit a number of after-market auto parts manufacturers and were treated like royalty at every factory we visited. It was impressive, and we had a great time there - but I was NOT tempted to try betelnut (sp?)!

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More of your "escapades" in Taiwan would be great carltonlad.

I'm just so surprised that you didn't get and operate a hot dog cart.There must be "special "customers there too.

Baz :ninja:

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#6 Limey. Taipei has changed quite a bit since 1999, and it is much cleaner now that they have very regular rubbish collection. I can also tell you the Grand is still there . In fact it now has a very nice steak house, a little expensive, but fantastic food. The people have not changed much, they always try to make foreigners welcome, especially westerners. This is why I like Taiwan so much. I too hate the betel nuts, but you would be surprised how many people chew on them. You can tell a betel nut chewer by the dark red lips. But something worse than betel nuts is stinky tofu. more about this in the next post on Night markets.

#7 Bazza, you will be pleased to know there are special clients here, but we keep them in cages (not joking, tell you more in another post). Wait for a later post regarding this, and be prepared. You will need clean pants again.

As for the hot dog carts, don't laugh. You don't know how close to the truth you are. My next big post, after the lantern festival, will relate to Taiwan's night markets and their exotic and not so exotic food.

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  • 1 month later...

I would like to say I am sorry to the people who were looking forward to an update about the Lantern Festival. It rained for 15 days, on the last day (the 16th) we had sunshine and 300,000 people attended the light show on that day, so the local government decided to extend the period another week so that more people would get the opportunity to see it, me being one of them. The next day it started to rain again and it stayed until after the lantern festival finished, so I did not get the chance to visit it. Therefore I have nothing to report. This brings back memories of the English Weather. My parents always used to say that summer only lasted for 1 day. That is why we went on Holiday in August.

It is finally starting to warm up a little so I have now come out of hibernation. I had to hibernate as I had used up all my chairs and tables on the fire in my living room.

A little about the night life in Taiwan. We have many things to do in the evenings, from Night clubs ( I am getting a bit long in the tooth for those now, but I have been told most of them are quite good), Cinemas (Some with the latest English films and some with only Chinese), and theatres. Plenty of good restaurants and believe it or not, most are very reasonably priced (between 5 and 10 pound for a 3 course meal) I pay about 7.5 pound for soup, steak with a vegetables and bread buffet (all you can eat), dessert, usually fruit and ice cream (again buffet style) and coffee. This is because about 60% of the Taiwanese actually eat out, they never cook. And then there are the night markets, most of them have a food section and outdoor eating areas. So you can visit the night market and after wandering around to see what you can find you can stay and eat for around 49 pence. I will state now I do not eat in the night markets, but many people do. At shi lin market in Taipei you can even get snakes blood broth and snake stew. or if you feel you want something more exotic try the stinky tofo. It lives up to its name.

I once took someone out with me in my car, we stopped at a vendor next to the ocean and my companion went to get some food for us. I had B.B.Q Chinese sausage (they are a little sweet but very tasty for something with a lot of fat in it). My friend came back with some stinky tofo for herself. The smell was so bad I had to tell her to eat it outside the car, (I cannot describe the smell other than to say it is the worst thing I have ever smelt, Maybe close to a tannery smell. Thinking about it, the tannery may smell better). As you walk around the night markets people like myself have to hold their breath. But the night markets are good cheap entertainment. There is always a lot to see and do. Be prepared they are always bright and noisy. Talking about noisy, Don't expect to go for a quiet dinner somewhere unless you go to the more expensive restaurants. The Taiwanese are always noisy. We have got use to this and now we never forget to take our earplugs with us.

Don't worry the earplugs do not affect your conversation with your friends, because even without them you would not hear your friends talking, if your friends are Taiwanese they will be shouting so that will penetrate the earplugs. Ok, so I am exaggerating a little, but it is only a little.

To get to your preferred entertainment, use public transport. I live about 25 kilometres from the nearest big city which is the capital of Taiwan, each way on a bus I pay just under 1 pound. It's cheaper than taking my car.

I live in a small city, although it has the second largest port, we get the cruise ships coming right into the city centre. The one thing I miss here are the shopping malls, none of these in my city. But we have just about everything else (although we do not get the latest movies in the cinemas), and more. Because we are a port city, the city caters to the seamen.

This is for Bazza. Yes we do have special clients here and as I have said we keep them in cages. Towards the back of the city there is a very narrow road, along one side of this road are little rooms, each room has its own 2 foot by 2 foot window with steel bars and a door. This is so the seamen or other clients can walk along the road looking into each window until they find what they want. Once the man goes inside a little curtain is pulled across the window to tell others they are busy. I do not know when the cages started (but they do look very old), but I do know their heyday was during the Vietnam war catering to the troops on R and R. They are somewhat a secret tourist attraction, when I first came here, I was taken to this place by a local woman the first night in town. When I told her I do not need places like this, she just looked and smiled and said all our first time visitors are introduced to this road. Now I have been living here for 10 years, I take my visitors to them. They are tolerated by the community. The police don't bother them, WHS never visits them, but there are some health regulations they must abide by. I think in a couple of years time when all the women reach 80 and retire the street will close. Younger girls do not seem to be here.

The next post will be sightseeing around Taiwan. Watch this space for further updates.

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This is a link to a good blogsite that has better photos of our night market. Most of the night markets are very similar to this one some are bigger so are smaller. As I have said I would not eat in the Night Market but a lot of visitors do and seem to enjoy the food. You can also read some of the responses to the night market on this blog

I hope you can appreciate these photos.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just went outside to a beautiful `nostalgic day' that reminded me so much of an English summer day.

(Adelaide SA
Tuesday 1:00 pm
Mostly Cloudy

24 C and drizzle ,sky overcast and grey). .but able to breath the soft clean air and listen to the birds singing and doves cooing. It`s at times like this (almost winter) that I really miss Nottingham and England.


Oh, to be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning

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i always loved that poem stan thank you for posting it as i have always lived in nottingham england i have never had that home sickness feeling

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