Why Taiwan?

Why Taiwan”, is a question we often get asked while meeting new people and connecting with co-workers, but also randomly when travelling around Taiwan. It’s a question that makes sense, people want to know why we are stranded here. But the way it is being asked often differs; it’s not only asked out of interest, but also out of pure disbelieve. Especially Taiwanese seem surprised: “why did we choose to live in Taiwan out of all the places around the world?” This surprises us, because Taiwan has so much to offer! People tend to think negatively about their own country and think the language barrier is insurmountable, also the geopolitical situation could scare people off, or they don’t fully value the things their country has to offer. In our eyes these are all minor setbacks and people here often don’t realize how amazing their country is. In addition, it also doesn’t help that the Taiwanese national identity is somewhat mixed up due to their relation with ‘Big China’, but without a doubt people here are really helpful, especially when it comes to the language! And it is one of the safest countries in the world. Erik somehow managed to lose his bicycle lock a few weeks ago and is now parking his bike everywhere around Taipei…for over a month already! (n=1 and don’t try this in Amsterdam, but still pretty remarkable).

Lately Taiwan has become famous in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we count ourselves lucky to live here right now. Due to their lack of trust in China and exclusion from the WHO, Taiwan could control the number of local transmissions in an early stage. For months already it is under control and we can live normally.

In the beginning of the crisis we also experienced hoarding behavior for toilet paper, not because of the obvious reasons, but for making and re-using face masks… That is one thing we had to get used to: getting weird looks in the metro because we were foreign, because we didn’t wear face-masks on the street and while commuting to work and of course constantly trying to resist the urge to pull the mask off. Luckily we kind of get used to it now and in most places it is not compulsory any longer. Meanwhile, Taiwan has become famous around the world due to their approach. Erik’s supervisor, Professor and former Dean Chan even made “het NOS journaal”. Since the situation here is still relatively normal, we cannot leave the country for a while, but fortunately there is enough to discover in Taiwan!

We were happy that our mothers could visit us just before the COVID outbreak and we had a great time showing them Taiwan; travelling to Alishan, the surroundings of Taipei and letting them have a taste of Taiwan;)

With Viola’s mom we also did a relaxing side trip to the Philippines, in Februari. We visited some amazing spots for snorkeling and bird watching, where we could enjoy the local food like Pork Adobo (though we had to wait for a long time because the pork was too old as we were told). And we encountered some amazing fish while snorkeling; we took a very close look at the scorpion fish, which we learned later, is really poisonous…                      

Now we are busy biking our way through Taiwan. We got some strange looks when cycling our way up through the mountains to Wulai, a village south of Taipei, because we did this on the famous You-Bike (rental bikes found throughout Taipei). Road bikers and passing cars cheered us up the mountain, encouraging us and giving us thumbs up, which really helped us to continu. Though it was an exciting experience, after that we decided we needed road bikes. Now that we have proper road bikes, we are full on exploring our surroundings. From the mountains around Taipei to further south in Taiwan, or beautiful routes with many waterfalls along the way to cool down after an exhausting climb. This summer we will cycle the East coast and the higher mountains of Taiwan, near Taroko gorge in Shei-pa national park. We already did an adventurous hike along the Holy Ridge: a must do hike in Taiwan where you walk from the iconic Mt. Dabajian to Snow mountain (the second highest mountain in Taiwan) along a steep mountain ridge. 

We climbed the highest peak of Taiwan (Jade Mountain) in the beginning of this year, not completely realizing how cold it would be above 3000m in winter time. With a group of four we started in the afternoon and went up to the almost empty Paiyun lodge at 3400m (which is normally crowded during high season). When entering the park we were required to bring an ice axe, crampons and helmet, a little bit exaggerated we thought….Until next morning when we reached the summit at sunrise. When we pushed for the last 100 meters up, we were plagued by violent winds and the floor was covered with ice, which made it very slippery. The ice axes came in handy and we were happy that we could use the crampons on the way down. The day was not over yet, because we would take a detour to another cabin and add another day of hiking in Yushan national park. It became a very long detour in the end, with the route being vanished by landslides, traversing steep ridges, and stumbling through the dark, we hiked for almost 22 hours until we reached  the small cabin in the middle of the night.

Coming back to the question ‘Why Taiwan’, you now have some ideas and besides the wonderful landscapes and huge diversity (from jungle waterfalls to snowy mountain peaks), it is also the welcoming people that really make you feel like you’re in the right place. The only reply we can think of is ” Why not?!”

Why not?!

It’s a pity we could not come back to the Netherlands this summer, but hopefully we will see each other soon, in the digital world, another time when we can travel to the Netherlands or maybe you can come and visit Taiwan;) We wish everyone good luck during this tough time and hope to see you all soon!

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