5:48AM. Today + One = Almost Gone. Weeeeee… e x c i t i n g!
So, Taiwan Tidbits, let’s see what I can find in the crooks and crannies of this mind and the big virtual web. But most of all, the photos from my previous trip. I fell in love with this island nation back in February. With the opposites, the culture, the people, nature, the art, modern and ancient, the food, the markets and temples, the birds, the bees, the flowers, even the cities, though that took a little.
“How is Taiwan dealing with the pandemic?”
Some of it you already know. Back in early February, when I arrived for my first visit, this country was already in full response to a possible pandemic, increasing measures in proportion to “threat level.” (Don’t forget, they’ve been through the drill with SARS.) My temperature was scanned on arrival, a phone# had to be provided, air traffic to China was already limited and heavily controlled, and soon enough, country after country, flight after flight was cancelled. Mid January vacation had started in Taiwan (the longest in the year for Chinese New Year celebrations). Public school holidays were extended by two weeks. So we actually made it to Borneo and back for 10 days in February (that’ll be a future blog, amazing trip). A huge animation conference was cancelled at short notice to stem the flow of travellers into the country – thousands would have attended.
Taiwan is a major producer of face masks and stopped exports to be able to distribute to the wider population in the country. Once schools started, everyone wore masks, had their temperature taken daily, kids lining up obediently to wash their hands. It certainly helps to have a culture of wearing face masks anyways. Predating the pandemic, Taiwan has been dubbed the “face mask capital of Asia” because the Taiwanese often wear surgical face masks. They wear masks to protect from illness or announce an illness, to protect their skin from the sun, or to filter out pollutants. Apparently, even newscasters will wear face masks while they are on the air. In that way, not much changed for the Taiwanese. Life went on, businesses and markets stayed open. I travelled, rented a car, stayed in hotels within Taiwan. See my photo page for a small selection of the many sights I was able to enjoy. Here are a few more.
Taiwan’s lightening quick reaction at the beginning of January when the first news of a virus in Wuhan arrived, has allowed this country of 25 million to keep the outbreak contained. Every day, in the Taiwan News online, you can read up on the latest report. There have not been any community transmissions in months! Here are a couple of paragraphs from a recent report – for more click the link
“During a press conference on Tuesday, CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) announced three imported coronavirus infections, raising the total number of cases in Taiwan to 543. The latest cases include a Filipino woman in her 20s (case no. 541), a Filipino man in his 20s (case no. 542), and a Taiwanese man in his 50s (case no. 543), all of whom had arrived in the country from the Philippines. …
Out of the 543 confirmed cases, 451 were imported, 55 were local, 36 came from the Navy’s “Goodwill Fleet,” and one is an unresolved case. Up until now, seven individuals have succumbed to the disease, while 495 have been released from hospital isolation, leaving 41 patients still undergoing treatment in Taiwan.“
When I arrived in October, I had to get a Taiwanese SIM card and agree to being tracked… I think this might continue past quarantine, and honestly, I don’t really care. Nothing to hide. Coming here, I was willing to do what’s necessary to allow me to be here with my daughter. Simple and clear.
Over the last few days, I’ve been cruising the internet for travel destinations – there are sooo many to add to my list! I find the Taiwan Tourism Bureau web site a great resource with many good suggestions. I can take my time and am very grateful for that.
Taiwan, unofficially Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island) as the Portuguese called it back in the 16th century, is indeed an often overlooked gem. But I think the secret is out by now. Two thirds of this island, which is about the size of Belgium or Vancouver Island (Canada), are mountainous, green, lush countryside with varying terrain and endless hiking trails, up and down. Apparently, about 50% of the landmass are mountains! You will find farm land, rice patties, bamboo forests, Taiwanese Cypress forests, cloud forests, lakes, rivers, beaches, cliffs, and 150 hot springs all over the island. Oh, and a few little islands, like Orchid Island, Green Island, Turtle Island. There are monkeys, Formosan black bears, exotic birds, over 400 Butterly species. And of course large cities. The 25 Million people have to live somewhere!
Taroko Gorge, one of the first places I visited back in February, is simply stunning with its marble canyons, blue water, birds, butterflies, and more. So beautiful! So much to delight in. I also visited Sun Moon Lake and Yushan National Park with the highest mountain Yu Shan or Yushan (also known as Mount Jade, Jade Mountain, or Mount Yu), at 3,952 m (12,966 ft) above sea level. You feel the elevation driving over the passes.
One of my favourite places which I hope to visit again on this trip is Alishan National Reserve. Actually, I would visit any of the aforementioned places again. Simply stunning. Anyways, the list is getting longer every time I look – we’ll see where life will take me.
As it is Day 13, here are 13 more tidbits about Taiwan:
- Commonly known by the name “Taiwan” officially it is actually called the Republic of China. Not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China! To this day, the majority of countries in the world, including the People’s Republic of China, don’t recognize Taiwan as an independent country due to the ‘One China’ policy.
- What is the ‘One China’ policy? It is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government. Under the policy, the US recognizes and has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day. The One China policy is a key cornerstone of Sino-US relations. It is also a fundamental bedrock of Chinese policy-making and diplomacy. However, it is distinct from the One China principle, whereby China insists Taiwan is an inalienable part of one China to be reunified one day. The US policy is not an endorsement of Beijing’s position and indeed as part of the policy, Washington maintains a “robust unofficial” relationship with Taiwan, including continued arms sales to the island so that it can defend itself. Although Taiwan’s government claims it is an independent country officially called the “Republic of China”, any country that wants diplomatic relations with mainland China must break official ties with Taipei. This has resulted in Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation from the international community. (Source: BBC News 10 Feb 2017).
- Taiwan has about half a million aborigines or yuan zhu min (YOO-an Ju min), meaning original people. Their ancestors are Austronesian, meaning they arrived from Easter Island, Madagascar, and New Zealand. Many Southeast Asian cultures can trace their origin back to the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan.
- In Taiwan, women make up more than 50% of the labor force and 33% of the legislature, a rate higher than Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
- Taiwan is one of the screw capitals of the world – indeed 50% of all screws worldwide are produced here! Can you imagine how many screws that is?!
- One of the most popular activities in Taiwan is karaoke, or, as they call it, Karaoke Television (KTV). Karaoke clubs offer private rooms, music videos,and many families have their own karaoke system in their homes.
- Taiwan is the butterfly kingdom with more than 400 different species, 50 of these are only found here.
- White is the colour of death (worn at funerals). The colour red is considered lucky.
- The Taichung Power Plant symbolizes Taiwan’s environmental shame – it is the largest coal-fired power plant and single largest emitter of carbon dioxide. (Unless the PRC has built a lager one by now.)
- An estimated 90% of Taiwanese suffer from shortsightedness (myopia) – the highest number in the world. Guess why? Taiwanese people spend far longer looking at screens, smartphones, and avoiding daylight than most other places in the world. They are forced to spend long hours in the classroom and as a result, the average Taiwanese youth spends less than 30 minutes a day outside!
- The single most important element in Taiwanese values and beliefs is Confucianism. Based on the teachings of Chinese teacher and philosopher, Confucius (551–479 BC), it focuses on maintaining harmony in the world.
- Taiwanese emphasize a unique cultural characteristic called ren qing wie, which, loosely translated, means “the flavor of human feeling.” Friendliness and generosity to strangers, duty, and correct behavior are part of what it means to “smell or have the flavor of being human.” (Don’t we all need more of that?!) To not have ren qing wie is to be inhuman or immoral.
- Instant noodles and bubble tea were invented in Taiwan. 🙂 (I love bubble tea!)
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