Written May 13, 2020.
I had the chance to visit and travel around Taiwan on motorbike in March. I stayed about two months and would have gladly stayed more if it wasn’t for the global pandemic.
Here is a list of a few of things that made me fall in love with Taiwan. It’s an awesome country that deserves more international recognition.
🛤 Modernity and old-school Asia
Depending on your standards, living in Taiwan can be much more comfortable and sustainable than most other countries in South-East Asia.
In Taïwan, Internet is surprisingly good. I got an unlimited 4G sim-card for 30 bucks at the airport. Truly unlimited, no fair-use.
The connection was excellent in the cities and very good in the countryside. I had no problem doing Facetimes with friends over in France while riding on a mountainous road, all with a crazy low latency.
Even in this remote Airbnb right in the jungle, I was able to work with tethering.
By the way, there is an awesome coffee-shop chain in Taiwan called Louisa coffee and it’s the best I found worldwide. It’s clean, cheap (like half or a third of Starbucks), there are multiple locations in each city, the drink selection is very good and there are bathrooms, good wifi and power outlet in every location. It became my trusted coworking place.
Then the transport infrastructure is really good.
For example in France (my home country) when you get off the airport, you’ll have to wait in line for twenty minute and use a ticket vending machine to take a metro ride.
In Taipei, the only thing to do to get a ride from the airport is placing my phone on the metro gate, and with Apple Pay it automatically lets me in seconds. Talk about a first impression. Everything’s more efficient.
The entire network is sparkling clean and there are free, clean bathrooms at every station. So it doesn’t smell like pee every fucking where.
People politely make the queue to enter the wagons.
Roads are in a very good state. And by the way their east-coast express-way is one of the most beautiful roads I’ve seen in the world.
High speed train joins most of the large cities.
The Taipei (north) to Kaohsiung (south) high-speed train takes only 2h30 and runs about every 1 or 2 hours for ~40€.
If you are to live there, a lot of the ingredients for a sustainable life are present.
Their healthcare system is very good, some websites even show it as #1. (By the way, it won’t show on anything WHO-related as the CCP owns them).
I was there during the beginning of COVID and the way they handled the pandemic is exemplary. Sure, something similar already happened to them, so they kinda knew what to expect, but still.
One notable exception worth mentioning is dental health. Might be a cultural thing, but they still aren’t quite close to where we are in Europe (Asian teeth can be a bit spooky to us 😁).
Education level is also very good.
I don’t know if this is from the past Japanese influence, because of the drive to prove itself to the world against the CCP, the fact they started building their infra much more recently or some other cultural reason but they just get a lot of things right.
Now the awesome thing is you’ll still find the hustle and bustle and authenticity. I like to think the experience of Taiwan as a mix of China and Japan.
🏝 Everything is nearby
I’m a lot into surfing and kitesurfing. The Taiwanese shores are perfect for water sports, especially the east coast. Not too crowded.
There are great waves in Taitung, Kenting and occasionally in other places depending on the swell.
If the waves don’t hit right in one spot, you can move a bit along the shores where you’ll probably have more luck.
If I’m in one of the cities and want to take a break at the ocean for the weekend, I can be there very shortly from anywhere.
Same from the mountains, if you’re more into treks. You’re only an hour drive to being lost in magnificent nature.
This is great for people like me who can never seem to settle somewhere for more than a few weeks.
This applies to the weather too. As with a lot of islands, the climate is very diversified depending on where you are.
If the weather sucks in Taipei, take a 2h train to Kaohsiung and chances are it’ll be much better.
🛕It’s culturally marvellous
Driving in Taiwan, you’ll see modern architectures mixed with ancient temples everywhere. It’s beautiful.
The food is 💙
When walking the streets, street food and night markets are everywhere for you to buy way too many food for your stomach.
It’s crazy tasty food, available everywhere, for cheap.
Like, quite close from what you’d find in China but with less weird stuff (less risk of accidentally ordering a pig blood soup… 🤭).
And you can buy sweet potatoes everywhere.
It’s good for your health :)
So what sucks about Taiwan?
Honestly, not too much.
It’s somewhat more expensive than the rest of SEA but still very affordable coming from the West. It’s totally reasonable given the upsides you get.
The people are incredibly nice and welcoming but if you don’t speak Mandarin, very few Taiwanese speak fluent English outside the big cities. One might say it’s a good occasion to pick up some Chinese and unlock communication with 1B+ people.
Driving in Taïwan might seem a bit scary to westerners. But I actually like it, there is some order and unspoken rules in the chaos.
Lastly, mainland China is creating military tensions. It’s been a while, but the threats are getting worse and worse.