Traveling Experience in Taiwan – Part 2

Full platform doors. There are also platform doors which are half the height.

I have always heard from various people that the metro systems in Asia are excellently designed. I had a chance to ride the metro in Taipei. I was blown away by how well thought out it was. There were many aspects which I wished were implemented in Vancouver’s (where I grew up) metro system. The first aspect which I personally loved were the platform doors. These platform doors remain close until the metro arrives and basically prevents anybody from accidentally falling onto the tracks. When the metro arrives, the metro doors and platform doors open in synchrony. In Vancouver, none of the metro stations have these platform doors and it is quite easy for anyone to fall onto the tracks. With these doors though, they make a fantastic safety barrier. The second aspect which I noticed was the presence of waiting lines. At each platform door, waiting lines on the ground were marked clearly so that passengers could form a neat line while waiting for the metro. The third aspect was the great accessibility. Washrooms, elevators, and garbage cans and recycling bins were found at every station. One other nice touch was that when the metro was about the arrive, the station would play a quick tune to let you know! There are multiple lines for the metro which each have their own unique tune! I heard this was imported from Japan.

For the metro and bus, Taipei has a metro card which you can buy and load with money. Since this metro card is sold at almost every convenience store, you can easily buy one. I know that Montreal and Vancouver also have implemented a card system, but I found that the metro card can also be used in 7-11 or other convenient stores to buy food and it feels much more integrated. I could understand why the metro system is much more sophisticated in Asia compared to Canada due to the high density population. There is a need for such sophistication in order to move massive amounts of people from point A to B every single day. It was quite an interesting experience to be able to note all the features whether it be small or big.

The picture I put in the last post was of a night markets. Night markets are very popular in Taiwan. Many food vendors will set up shop and you will get a line of vendors selling different food. Food is very cheap and you can get full very quickly for the price of under $10. Also, you can buy other things such as clothes, shoes, keychains, and souvenirs and again everything is quite cheap.

These were some things which really stood out to me in my time in Taiwan. Before I wrap up this post, I want to talk about the feeling foreign in the place I was born. I had many embarrassing moments in Taiwan when I first arrived. Since I am Asian, everyone automatically assumes that I am a Taiwanese who grew up in Taiwan. There was a time when I was at a shop trying to order bubble tea. What I wanted to order consisted of four Mandarin characters. I could only read half of them. I tried to use English first, but because there were many people there, the cashier could not hear me. She asked in Mandarin what I wanted and after much confusion and trying to figure out how to say what I wanted, she took my order. However, I could sense that she must have thought I was weird or stupid for not being able to read. There were many other moments like this where someone thought I was stupid because I did not understand Mandarin and after I told them I grew up in Canada, they understood but also had an embarrassed expression on their face (probably for thinking I was stupid).

Also due to my appearance, I am expected to follow Taiwanese culture and unwritten rules even if I do not have an idea of what they are. Although I did not make these cultural mistakes, I was really surprised when I learned about them. For example, writing anyone’s name in red ink is considered disrespectful as red signifies blood of that person. Additionally, when eating rice with chopsticks, it is disrespectful to stick them diagonally into the rice. Chopsticks must be placed horizontally on the bowl. Sticking chopsticks diagonally into the rice is representative of sticks in a bowl used at a funeral. I honestly had no idea about these nuances. It was quite an interesting experience to feel foreign in the place I was born.

Next time, I will talk about my experience teaching English and interning in Taiwan and that will be the last part of this series of blog posts for my traveling experience!

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