One of our favourite new travel destinations, here are 10 Taiwanese lessons on life, love and garbage trucks. It’s time to embrace the strange.
1. The garbage trucks sing
You hear the familiar sound of music getting closer, swiftly commit petty theft from a parent’s purse, and run out of the front door screaming “THE ONE WITH THE FLAKE!” whilst furiously flagging down… the garbage truck.
To encourage people to bring out their rubbish, garbage trucks in Taiwan play music. It’s usually something classical like Beethoven (rather than grime or dirty hip hop), but they switch to Christmas tunes in December.
2. Receipts are also lottery tickets
Shopkeeper: “Would you like a receipt, sir?”. Clueless, yet environmentally-aware foreign person: “No thank you”. Mistake.
TAKE THE RECEIPT MAN! YOU COULD WIN $300,000, BUY A UNICORN AND RETIRE TO NARNIA.
A government initiative to encourage customers to ask for receipts, thus ensuring shopkeepers put purchases through their books, receipts in Taiwan also carry an eight-digit lottery number. On the 25th of every other month, the winning numbers are announced live on television, with the grand prize being up to 300,000 USD. And yes, travellers can play.
On the verge of becoming the first Asian country to allow same-sex marriage, Taiwan is considered to be the most gay-friendly nation in Asia. It also has the biggest LGBT event, with Taiwan Pride seeing over 80,000 people take to the streets for four days of festivities each October.
4. Taiwan is beautiful, fact
Jungle-covered peaks and white beaches… it’s no surprise that when the Portuguese washed up on the island in the 1500s, they named it Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island). This name was commonly used by the West until the 20th century.
5. 7-Eleven heaven
Ahh, 7-Eleven slurpees, the savior of every Southeast Asian hangover. However, 7-Elevens in Taiwan are a little different. Firstly, there are over 5,000, so they are everywhere. And secondly, they sell EVERYTHING. You can pay your bills, get your dry cleaning done, call a taxi and even have a sit down meal. Now that’s a convenience store.
6. The friendliest people
Warm, hospitable and kind; Taiwan regularly ranks in the top ten friendliest nations in the world.
7. The tofu stinks
Okay, new rule, no one can ever accuse tofu of being bland again. Stinky tofu is a well-known Taiwanese street food delicacy, but herbivores beware, it isn’t vegetarian. The tofu is fermented in milk, vegetable, meat and shrimp brine, which is what gives it that lovely (death like) aroma.
Year-round warm waters and green mountains sloping into the surf, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Hawaii. You aren’t, but Taiwan does catch some of the same storm and typhoon swells that make Hawaii such a world-class surf destination. Only in Taiwan, you’re likely to have the breaks to yourself.
Baishawan Beach, Junshan Beach in Yangmingshan National Park, Wushi Harbour, Taitung Beach and Fulong Beach all have a decent local surf scene with surf shops and board hire.