I love my life here in Taiwan, and that is why I decided that my post today would be about some of the things that Taiwan does right. And when I mean right, I mean, really, really right.
1. Temples everywhere
Taiwan is crammed with Buddhist and Taoist temples. You can throw a stone in Taiwan and hit a temple – that’s how prolific they are. They’re everywhere, and they’re crammed into the most unlikely places. I love to introduce my friends to Tianhou Temple, which is tucked away on a busy street in Taipei’s Wanhua District. Most people don’t even know it’s there. You’d never notice it if it weren’t for the heavy smell of incense in the air, and even then, most people just walk on by.
My favorite kinds of temples in Taiwan are Taoist temples, which are not to be confused with Taiwan’s many Buddhist temples. You can tell the difference between the two by their appearance. Taoist temples are known for being extremely colorful with lots of carving and statues of mythological creatures from folk tales, whereas Buddhist temples aren’t nearly as colorful and they don’t tend to have as many ornate carvings and designs.
2. Super friendly locals
Taiwan is well known for its kind and super friendly locals. People here are always willing to help, even if their English isn’t very good. Can’t find your way somewhere? Someone will almost certainly stop to inquire and point you in the right direction!
3. Recycling and trash
I am always a little dismayed by how shoddy recycling practices in North America. It seems like people hardly recycle at all in North America. In comparison people are really diligent about recycling in Taiwan. Everything that can possibly be recycled is handled with care.
In Taiwan, neighborhood garbage trucks collect garbage at specific times during the day and night, and you always know when they’re coming when you hear Beethoven’s Für Elise or Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s A Maiden’s Prayer.
Several decades ago, the Taiwanese government came up with the idea of musical garbage trucks to prevent people from dumping their garbage on the streets. When you hear the music, you better get your butt outside fast. You need to be downstairs with your trash when the trucks come or you end up chasing them or holding on to your trash for another night.
The only thing I don’t really like about trash collection in Taiwan is that you can never found a trash bin when you need one. I suppose if the cities put them out, people would stuff the bins with personal trash.
No system is perfect, but I think Taiwan does a pretty great job.
4. Convenience stores
You can find a convenience store on every corner in Taiwan, and when I say that they’re ultra convenient, I really mean it. Most convenience stores are open 24/7, and you can do pretty much anything there. You can pay all your bills, use their business center to scan and photocopy, or you can order in specialty food items. You can even order things online and have them delivered to your local convenience store. Convenience stores sell hot meals and alcohol. They even sell fresh fruits and vegetable. You can pick up a hot meal or choose from their selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Beer, bottled liquors, and wine are also available.
5. Fresh Tea
There are fresh tea stands all over the island. Any flavor, hot or cold, sweet or tart, a cup of tea in Taiwan is a treat that can be enjoyed every day for as little as NT$30 (approximately $1USD).
6. Universal health care
Over 95% of the population in Taiwan has access to health care.
For someone like me, who needs regular access to medical professionals, Taiwan is like a dream come true. There is no way I can receive the same level of care in the US and Canada that I receive in Taiwan, simply because I have access to a doctor on the day that I need it.
The system is set up as a single, government-run fund that forces everyone to join and pay.
When you need to see a doctor, you have your choice of any number of medical clinics and specialists clinids, which are set up all over the island. You don’t have to make an appointment, you rarely have to wait longer than 30 minutes to see a doctor, and once you’ve paid your NT$150 service fee ($5USD approximately), you see the doc and collect your prescription drugs on your way out.
Even if you’re not employed, health care is relatively cheap compared to what you’d pay in North America. I required an MRI, for example, a few years ago. With my health insurance, I paid around $30USD for the MRI. Two summers ago, my mother-in-law sprained her wrist badly. Although she didn’t have health insurance, we took her to our local hospital and they x-rayed and taped her wrist for the equivalent of $15USD.
7. Night markets
I’ve been to plenty of night markets all over Asia, but I hold a special place in my heart for Taiwan’s night markets, especially our local night market!
My favorite part of any night market is the food, and there are specialties to be found at every market we visit. Just a few months ago, we went to Keelung Market for some freshly stemmed basil crab. It was out of this world!
8. National Parks
There are eight national parks on this tiny island in the Pacific, and they’re all beautiful. These aren’t to be confused with National Scenic Areas, which are also in abundance. There are 13 of those.
The biggest difference between National Parks and National Scenic Areas in Taiwan is that National Parks are controlled by the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of China, whereas National Scenic Areas are run by Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of the Republic of China.
They all share something in common though. They’re beautiful, cheap to access, and pristine.
9. LGBT and gay friendliness
Taiwan is known for being one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia, and same-sex sexual activity is legal in Taiwan. In other words, people are free to be who they want to be!Taiwan is also home to the largest LGBT event in Asia. Taiwan’s Pride Festival attracts more than 65,000 visitors each year.
10. Hot Springs
Taiwan’s hot springs are known all over the world, and there is an abundance of them. There are over 100 hot spring locations in Taiwan, and this is one of the reasons why it’s listed as one of the top 15 hot spring destinations on Earth! The other reason is that it is one of just a few locations on Earth that has several different kinds of hot springs. From natural sulphur bath and cold springs to mud springs, and even sea salt springs, it’s no wonder that Taiwan has such an active hot spring culture.
What about you? What are your favorite things about Taiwan?
Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has kept a home base with her husband in Asia since 2003. A prolific traveler, Carrie has funded her travels primarily as a writer, editor, travel blogger and photographer, but she has also worked as an educator, voice over artist, model and nightclub singer. She draws upon her 15+ years of travel experience to write about travel-related issues and the countries she has visited on her award-winning web site, My Several Worlds.
Her photography and travel articles have appeared in both print and online publications around the world, including Travel and Leisure Asia, Unearthing Asia and Hip Compass Escapes.