First impression of Taiwan

Think back to when you got off the plane…made it out the airport and took your first wiff of Taiwan. Coming from the dry western US, i remember coughing the first time i sucked in a breath of humid-polluted taiwan air.

However, when I got on the freeway…it didn’t seem like another country (well, the signs did have Chinese on them, but the layout was very familar). When I finally got to the city (Taichung)–that’s when it really hit me. Seeing all the buildings, signs and chinese characters…even words like ‘KTV, MTV, PUB’. The next morning I stood on the balcony just staring at the city.

Well i got off the plane last thursday, fully armed with info about Taipei from sites like this…i also read a lonely planet taiwan book prior to arriving. My preconceptions were that of a dirty japan (i live in japan at the moment).
The taxi ride from the airport to my friends place in liu jou(sp?) felt like i was on the set of a the bstard child of mad max and bladerunner. I had read so much about how polluted and dirty this place is but i was thinking along the lines of bangkok…i never thought it would be THIS bad!
After wandering around the area, sampling bits and peices of food and that funny tea with the black balls in it, i found that the people are nothing like japanese at all (right now a good thing for me) and that on the streets chaos reigns with regards to traffic behaviour…after wandering around shi lin night market and over to hsimen ding i realised that i love it. Ive been here a week and i go home on sunday but i plan to return to work in august…theres a lot to be said for the safety of japan and the politeness of its people but it just made me feel that it is sterile and uninteresting…maybe because i love huge filthy urban sprawls and i live in a mushroom arming village in one of the coldest places on earth in winter.
Anyway thats me…im off to see if i can find some pirate pc games…any tips?

Not sure why people always dish on asian countries as being polluted industrial urban sprawls. Obviously you have never visited some “progressive” spots in western or eastern europe. Moscow was a chaotic, violent, and dangerous urban sprawl. Poland looks like one big 1940s war factory with the pollution to boot. Hey, I like places like that though so don’t think i’m bashing them. Boring sanitary “safe” suburban environments like the ones found in the U.S. are for pretentious yuppies who feel a trip to the chinese supermarket in the San Gabriel Valley is “ethnic” and dangerous. Taiwan is NOTHING compared to the above places I have mentioned. It’s about 10x safer in my opinion, it’s still the first world. Hey, when you walk down the street in Taiwan at least you don’t estimate your chances of getting killed like in a lot of places in europe.

You’re right…I do feel tons safer in Taiwan than in big cities in the US and Europe. In fact, I feel safe in most the Asian countries I’ve been to–except for China. I’ve only been to China once (went to ShenZhen during a HK visa run). Don’t know why the locals kept giving me crustys. I felt like the people weren’t to friendly (like Taiwan)…and seeing the armed guard in McDonalds made me wonder. While I’m sure other parts of China are much different…ShenZhen gave me a bad first impression. When nightfall came I hurried back to the border

Thats funny, because many Asians describe Taipei as that too. Why do you assume that people describe Taiwan as such because its an Asian country? LOL, I’ve been asked by a couple Vietnamese “Why the hell would you want to move to Taiwan?”

Man, what I wouldn’t give for a zhen zhu nai cha right about now…
Consider yourself blessed Southpaw.
When I got off the plane in Kaohsiung it was 2 in the morning and I was so trashed by the three legged flight from Kansas City, I slept through the first two days there.
My Taiwanese friend, God bless her, knew just what was needed to jump-start me: a McDonald’s coke and peanut M&Ms. Better than a Dom Perignon and mint on the pillow at the Waldorf.
Anyway, the first few days were an eating and family-visiting frenzy. I never sat in traffic so long to get such a short distance. By the third day, I needed a laxative bad and had nasty reverb from the zhong dzi I had for breakfast two days in a row. On top of that I witnessed my first bloody scooter mishap. A small crowd gathered but nobody stopped to help the poor, bleeding woman–traffic just went around her.
It was cold and wet(Jan), it was a pit, it was crowded and chaotic. Too many people told me I was “piao liang”. I thought they were nuts 'cuz I was fatter and taller than everybody else and my skin was pasty. At night I could scrape black stuff off my face from the pollution. Then my friend had a huge fight with her mother and elder brother. What a shock–she was so sweet and reserved in my world. That’s when I woke up to the reality of it all. The time to let go of my babysitter had come. She certainly didn’t need the added stress of taking care of me!
A sense of adventure and willingness to humiliate myself helped me get my bearings and gainful employment soon thereafter.

Pollution aside, Taiwan is cleaner than any other countyr in Asia I’ve been to (except Singapore of course, and I haven’t been to Japan). Even the pollution is worse in HK and Bangkok. London’s dirtier than Taiwan - rubbish everywhere.

Anyway, to the original topic. I was a bit sick of dusty dirty, SE Asian towns and when I landed in Taiwan and got the bus into Taipei at night, with the freeways and lights and the giant video screen outside Mitsukoshi, I thought “yeah a real city again”. Made me think of my first great Asian experience in HK. My 1st impression was great.


I didnt actually want to dwell on the pollution thing, it was just a bit of a shock for me as i live in a relativlely untouched area of japan with the cleanest air ive ever breathed. ive just got back to japan and looking back over my 10 days in taiwan, i think that the heat and humidity added to the dirty feel of taipei…however i have disagree about london…as much as i hate london , taipei had piles of sh1te lining many streets, i cant remember witnessing such in london.
anyway, i loved taipei and i will be back in august

I think you need to make a destinction here between types of pollution.

Trash is not a big problem here, Taiwanese are pretty tidy. Ironically there are few public trash cans (unlike London!).

On the other hand the air pollution is dreadful. Not on a level of the former Soviet block perhaps, but terrible compared to most Western countries. Look at the way plastics, photographs, elastic etc decay - compared to other less polluted but warm places. There is a lot of dust in the air, which makes homes dirty and may cause asthma. Also there are a lot of carbon particles (from trucks/bikes…) suspended in the air, which makes for dirty faces when motorcycling and greasy black film on everything (but is not very harmful otherwise).

Heat and humidity have nothing to do with pollution, but do make it uncomfortable and accelerate the effect of pollution chemicals.

My first impression of Taiwan, on the bus from the Taoyuan aiport to Taipei was the incredible amount of factories. Coming from Australia where we don’t have much of a manufacturing industry it was a surprise, but I guess that’s why so many things come with the label “made in Taiwan”.

ABCguy24,people dish on Taiwan for beening seriously polluted because it is!

Taiwan has done very little to clean the toxic waste sites that exist in every corner of the island.

Factories dump waste directly into the nearest waterway. Once in the stream, the sludge then makes its way to farmer Huang’s canal where it mixes with insecticides to irrigate the rice paddy.The rice grows in this chemical soup until it is harvested for consumption in your next lunch box!

Would you prefer fried or steamed rice?

Originally posted by ABCguy24: Not sure why people always dish on asian countries as being polluted industrial urban sprawls.
Originally posted by chung: ABCguy24,people dish on Taiwan for being seriously polluted because it is!
Ok, the word is [b]"dis"[/b] as in "Don't go dissin' (disrespecting) yo momma, else she'll whoop yo sorry ass." I guess if one were drunk they could dish someone, eg. "I'm shorry oshifer - I shertainly didn't mean to dish yo momma" ~hiccup~

I made it to Taiwan yesterday at about 7:00 am local time. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane, the first thing that really made me realize I was in another country, was really obvious. “Hmmm… there are a lot of Asians here. And, wow, the signs are in Chinese.” I mean, duh!

After immigration, baggage claim, customs, I walked into the center of CKS airport and saw Alex, my bf. That was a great and welcoming sight. However, it didn’t begin to take away the strangeness of what was around me.

Based on only 24 hours being in the country… here are my first impressions: Modern, yet run-down; crowded, yet spacious; strange, yet familiar; scarey, yet exciting. Basically, Taiwan has been everything people told me it would be, and nothing like it at the same time. My first impression is a country that will contradict itself. At least, in my eyes.

I’ve been amazed by the number of motorbikes on the road, and the way that they weave in and out of traffic. I’ve also been amazed at how easily the drivers of cars seem to take it all in stride. Not only the bikes, but the narrow streets, the “park where you like” parking, the pedestrians walking in the streets.

Driving with Alex yesterday, I was tempted to just close my eyes and not watch. However, there was too much to watch. All the signs, the beetlenut (sp?) stands, the motorbikes with kids perched before their parents, etc…

I’ve also been amazed by the (apparent) friendliness of the people. Yes, I’ve already noticed the stares – as a 6’6", bearded foreigner, I’d expect nothing else. But, most people have been very nice and very polite; many trying to speak to me in English. And, having more luck than me trying to speak to them in Mandarin.

Well, I guess that is it for now. Maybe in a week, I’ll revisit my post. See if anything has changed in my impressions.

Jonathan, aka LJ

Welcome, LJ. Just keep your mind open and your head lowered when passing through doorways.

quote[quote] My first impression is a country that will contradict itself. [/quote] And the first contradiction is that it's not even officially a country!


My first impression is a country that will contradict itself.

And the first contradiction is that it’s not even officially a country!

That comes from spending a year and a half dating a Taiwanese bf who thinks it is.

And, I must say the second day was better. At times I even felt like I belonged here. That damn jet lag sure can put a damper on your first few days here, though.

I haven’t hit my head, yet. The operative word is “yet.”

The staring has been fun, though. They stare at me; it gives me a reason to stare right back. I usually just smile and, perhaps, nod at them. They usually stop staring.


You’ve done pretty well to be stared at already. I reckon I’d probaby get stared at once a month, called a ‘meiguoren’ once a week and called a ‘waiguoren’ about once a month. Never been called an ‘auzhouren’ though.

When I first got to Taiwan, illegal taxis at airports and train stations really bothered me. They would persistently follow me, block my path to talk to me, and grab my luggage without my permission. Illegal taxis have been chased away recently in an attempt to clean up Taiwan. You

Stinkypuppy… Since my bf lives here, I’ve traveled by MRT or his car. So, no taxi for me, illegal or otherwise, yet.


quote[quote] Never been called an 'auzhouren' though. [/quote]

I’m not sure I know what this is. But, I don’t think I’ve been called that yet. I haven’t heard myself called the others either. I have, however, had people remark on my height.

My bf, Alex, and I went to a McDonalds on Saturday. I know, way to experience the culture, but it was easy and convenient (and different, in many ways to a US Micky D’s). There was this young girl in line, probably about 12, who kept looking at me and saying… “He’s big… he’s tall… he’s big… he’s tall…” to Alex.

When I left the line to find a table, she apparently asked him “where’d the guy go?” I guess she wasn’t done staring at me and saying how tall I was.

Most of the time, I think it’s my size and beard that get me the stares. Not that I’m a “meiguoren.”

Jonathan aka LJ

Originally posted by Malkie: Trash is not a big problem here, Taiwanese are pretty tidy. Ironically there are few public trash cans (unlike London!).

Ummm, Taiwanese tidy? I think not. The only reason why Taipei is clean in the morning is cause a lot of people are sweeping the streets
at 3am. Hear they get 40,000 a month too for
a few hours work.

London would be more tidy if the IRA didn’t put
bombs in the rubbish bins so many years ago forcing the gov’t to remove most of them from underground stations and elsewhere.