Blog

Search | Archive | Categories
Travel

We flew to Taiwan from Atlanta to San Francisco via Delta. Had a 3 hour layover, then flew to Taiwan via EVA airlines. Travelling over there went smoothly. However, we shouldíve brought some jackets. At the Atlanta airport, it was freezing inside. It was in the 90s outside, but inside the airport, most everybody was wearing jackets. Also, the weather in San Francisco was cool. Total travel time to Taiwan from Atlanta was 22 hours. Sitting in the plane from SF to TPE for 12 hours was a big pain. However, the trip was made more bearable by the excellent service on EVA airlines.

Flying back to the US was a bit more painful. In San Francisco, all the luggage had to go through customs. We had a 2 hour layover there, but the plane was late. So, we had to rush through after passing customs to the next gate. Next time, a three hour layover would be best.

Also, Iím glad we decided to only have one layover. Though itís cheaper to have two layovers, I donít think itís worth the hassle.

3 Largest Cities

During the trip, we got to visit the three biggest cities in Taiwan - Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung. My relatives live in Taipei. My wife's family lives in Taichung. And we visited an uncle in Kaohsiung.

Kaohsiung is the most orderly of the three. It had significant Japanese influence in the city planning. The roads are wider and traffic is less congested. But, the air is the most polluted of the three. There are a lot of heavy industries around the city.

Taichung is the least well planned of the three. But, itís still not too bad. Though we stayed there the longest, we really didn't see much of it since there really isn't much to see there.

Taipei is the largest city in Taiwan. We got to visit Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world. But, only the first 4 floors were open, which was a major disappointment. Right now, it's basically just a large upscale department store.

Traffic in all the cities was crowded. But, it wasnít total gridlock like it can be here in the US. Scooters were everywhere. They were always dodging in and around cars. Car drivers have to really look out to not hit the scooters. Driving in Taiwan is a sensory overload. You have to watch out for scooters, pedestrians, cyclists, as well as other cars. Plus, some people donít follow the traffic rules, so people running red lights is not uncommon. I didnít see any evidence of road rage though.

Food

Food is a big deal in Taiwan. Even the way to greet one another is to ask, "Li gam oo ja ba?" (Are you full?) All special occasions are celebrated with food. Seafood is particularly popular since it's so plenteous. During the trip, it seemed like if it moved underwater, we were served it (lobster, shrimp, abalone, mussel, crab, fish, squid, oyster, jellyfish, frog, seaweed, sea snail, octopus, shark, and others I don't know what they are called).

With exception of the banquet style meals, it's cheap to eat in Taiwan. Competition is high and there are an endless number of places to eat.

Since it's a tropical island, there are also many types of exotic fruits. We had mangoes, watermelon (yellow ones are much better than red ones), lychee, coconut, and others I don't know the names of.

Bread, cakes, and pastries are delicious. Bread is freshly made and really yummy. Bread in the US in comparison is stale and boring.

Food in the US goes way overboard on the salt and sugar. Cakes are not too overly sweet in Taiwan. And food is not overly salty.

The only American foods that are popular in Taiwan seem to be pizza and fried chicken. Hamburgers and sandwiches are also somewhat popular.

One thing about food though is that there are not a lot of good non-Chinese restaurants. Since there are not a lot of minorities there, there are few (if any) minority restaurants. We went to one "Japanese" restaurant, but it was operated by Taiwanese, so the food wasn't really authentic.

Caesar Park

We spent 4 days at the southern tip of Taiwan in Kenting. We stayed at the Caesar Park hotel. It's quite a nice hotel and was completely full, even though it was off season. They had a very nice large breakfast buffet with Taiwanese, American, and Cantonese dishes. It had it's own beach, though the beach is not exactly what you call pristine. The pool in the back though was large and quite nice. On the weekends, the hotel has a nice outdoor dinner buffet that's reminiscent of a Hawaiian luau. Near the hotel, there's a lively night market that attracts a lot of people during the weekends.

Language

The predominant language in Taiwan is Chinese (Zhong Wen). But Taiwanese is also widely spoken. In 1949, Taiwanese (and all other dialects) were made illegal (in schools) and Chinese was the only language that was taught. Usually the grandparents (80+) can only speak Taiwanese. The parents (40-80) can speak both. And the younger generation (under 30) know very little Taiwanese.

Though Taiwanese is no longer illegal, its use is not really increasing that much. It's unfortunate too since Taiwanese is much more expressive than Chinese. It's more of a colloquial language, whereas Chinese is more dry sounding.

But practically speaking, Chinese is the better language to know since billions more people speak Chinese than Taiwanese. My uncle was trying to convince us to teach our kids Taiwanese. He says it's easy for them to learn Chinese when they grow up, but hard to learn Taiwanese later. That's true. But, if even the kids in Taiwan (including my uncle's kids) aren't spending time learning Taiwanese, how in the world would I expect my kids here in the US to learn Taiwanese? Perhaps my expectations are too low, but if my kids were simply able to know Chinese, I'd be happy.

English is popular in Taiwan. On TV, American shows are commonplace. There are more T-shirts with English words on them than Chinese characters on them. When we went to Kenting I tried to find a t-shirt with the words Kenting in Chinese on them, but I couldn't find it. All the t-shirts sold by stores had English words on them. Books, music and movies in English are also plentiful in Taiwan.

Religion

Buddhism is the predominant religion in Taiwan. Buddhist temples are everywhere. You can't go very far without seeing one. Buildings are often in rundown conditions in Taiwan, but temples are always well-kept. In peoples' homes, Buddhist statues and altars are commonplace. However, it seems like most people are cultural Buddhists rather than practitioners. One evidence of this is that it's difficult to be a vegetarian in Taiwan. Restaurants don't often cater to vegetarians. Also, I never saw anybody actually inside any of the temples. And, I've never seen anybody pray at an altar.

Health

One of the biggest negatives of living in Taiwan is that it's not very healthy to live there. At least compared to living in the US. You walk around the cities and it's common to smell sewage. When people eat, people use their own chopsticks to grab out of the common dishes. Sanitation is just not a big thing in Taiwan.

Also, I've known several people who've died young from various diseases (hepatitus in particular).

On the other hand, it's rare to see any fat people in Taiwan. I guess it's because people generally walk to get to places.

Uniformity

The standard deviation of differences among people is much smaller in Taiwan than in the US. Having lived in the US for practically all my life, it's normal to see a wide range of people from all nations, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. But in Taiwan, it's practically all Chinese-Taiwanese there. I saw some Caucasian tourists during the entire time there, probably less than a dozen total. I didn't see any homeless people or any beggars. Everybody was about the same height. Very few people were overweight (or underweight). Everyone dressed pretty much the same. This is all in total contrast to America. In the US, the predominant characteristic is individuality and non-conformity. In Taiwan, it's conformity and uniformity.

Posted: 2004-06-25 23:47:36


<< 2004 JavaOne ConferenceTaiwan Trip Photos >>

RSS/XML