Taiwan and its cultural quirks: Part I

Has anyone ever been to Taiwan?

My husband and I recently spent 6 days in Taipei, and we weren’t sure what to expect, but I’ll tell you what, we loved every minute of it!

I’m going to tell you about our trip by uncovering our adventures as a series of interrelated ideas. A lot of the time, one thing led to another, which made for a lot of choices on our trip. Isn’t this the best way to travel?

So, let me tell you about our street food tour and hike up Elephant Mountain – two activities which we did not end up doing on the same day, but as promised, they are interrelated.

The streets of Taiwan

We had booked a street food tour for our third day there, which we were pretty excited about. For some reason, which is strange because we both really love our food and we travel overseas at least once a year, we had never been on a tour like this before. It was almost ignorant of us, assuming we knew the best bits about Asian food as a result of our travels through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Japan because as we found out, we most certainly did not!

The food we tasted on the tour was fabulous, but so were the people we met and the cultural quirks of Taiwan that we learned about. It is such a great way to experience a new place. Walking through the busy streets allowed me to take the time to appreciate the beauty of what went on around me. A lady hunched over a bucket of nuts, shelling them to uncover the best bits, a team of pastry chefs working to create a Scallion pancake masterpiece or a fruit stall owner offering the freshest fruit with toothpicks to use as forks so that customers could keep their hands clean.

We ate some tasty and very unusual food, which I will tell you more about another time, but the people we met on the tour and the things we learned about Taipei also made it very memorable.

Market stall

There were 3 fellow Australian’s on tour, along with 2 girls from the US, a girl from Israel and an older guy from Canada. Some people, like us were travelling in pairs, but were just as keen to chat as the solo travellers. We found out about restaurants and must-see attractions that we foolishly had not factored in but luckily, we took their advice and checked out Elephant Mountain.

Where city meets mountain

It was a great hike, and we passed a lot of people on the way who were looking sweaty and accomplished as they stumbled down the steps. It was lucky that the steps had been built, as the slope was quite steep. There air was full of humidity, being April, and we were drenched in sweat. But we had dressed prepared – we made a quick pit stop to the hotel to change into our sports clothes after a busy day of sightseeing.

The views were magnificent. It felt like we could see the whole city, including one of the top 10 tallest towers in the world, Taipei 101, and the brilliant mountains that surrounded us. It was phenomenal – I don’t think I have ever seen such a contrast between a city and the surrounding mountains. It was a different view than we would get from the top of Taipei 101 – but I’ll get to that in another post.

For now, I hope you have begun to realise why this little discovered place is now one of our favourites. It was a short time there, but there is plenty more to tell you about Taiwan. Stay tuned for part II.

Life is recycled

Many aspects of our lives have always been recycled and a particular object or building may have a great history, whether it is known to the new owner or not. Other aspects of our recycled culture are new and quite interesting as they present many environmental concerns.

Whether it is homes, cars, clothes, food scraps, jobs or previous partners, there is an emerging need to recycle everything in life.

Some things we recycle have always been that way – they present an undeniable recycling truth.

Take a home for instance. Homes are recycled time and time again and sometimes transformed drastically before the next round of recycling begins.

I am quite comfortable in the house I live in at the moment but when I think of how many people have been happy here before me, I wonder exactly what they loved most, and what they changed to suit themselves better.

Second hand cars make perfect sense. If a car is in good condition but the owner has outgrown it, why not sell it to someone who it suits more?

Recycled clothes are also exciting. Trash or treasure, the fact that these clothes once belonged to someone else may make the new wearer curious about the stories they contain. Did someone outgrow them, get tired of them or have to get rid of them for another reason altogether?

I have gotten better at reducing wastage of clothes and shoes over the years. I try to just buy what I need and make do with what I’ve got.

Minimising food wastage has become a necessary trend in today’s dining scene, and when preparing food at home. Most of us recycle leftover food and many of us use every bit of a vegetable when cooking, including the peel, sprouts and leaves.

Jobs are another interesting element of life that is recycled, especially when the modern workplace is so volatile, and knowledge is readily available.

A person may finish a job that they fitted well, that they had adapted to suit their skills and their life. When the person leaves, and a new person comes along, they will bring new ideas and a slightly different skill set, so the role may be adapted again to suit the new person.

Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere. Many professions are black and white. It is clear what is expected each day and tasks may be somewhat repetitive. The people encountered on a day to day basis require the same amount of effort and the priorities rarely change.

I am certainly not underestimating the vital role such positions play but I’m not sure I could stay in a job like that for long.

One last topic I want to consider is the recycling of partners. Sure, there are some people who settle down with the first person they meet but most of us have had past relationships. We have all created different memories with another person, shared different jokes and been to different places together.

I think when it comes to recycling, people are the most difficult. Finding someone ideal for a job or finding a new partner or friend will always mean that the replacement has a shadow to fill.

When this shadow is filled, and a similar pattern of behaviours begin to occur, it can be decided if it fits.

People may be the most difficult to recycle, but they are not the biggest problem.

With waste management so topical today, I think it is important for this issue to remain front of mind.

We have it instilled upon us that waste is bad, which is a good mentality to have.

But most of us are guilty of creating unnecessary waste.

The first thing I am going to stop buying is coffee pods. These add up quickly and are not easily recycled and when there are so many other options available, it makes perfect sense to cut them out of my life. But the convenience of popping a coffee pod each morning is what makes me still use them. In minutes I have a delicious cup of short coffee to enjoy with my breakfast.

If we step back and allow ourselves to become slightly less self-absorbed and think about the real issues at stake, we can consciously make an effort to do something about it and reduce (or recycle) waste whenever possible.

That’s it, no more coffee pods for me!