From the moment I landed in Taiwan I heard nothing but amazing things from everyone I met about how amazing the Taiwanese are. I was a bit skeptical at first and the intimidating language barrier prevented me from making much of an effort with the locals.
However, I soon experienced it for myself when I arrived in Taichung.
Due to a mix up caused by me buying the wrong train ticket and ending up arriving at the wrong train station, I arrived in Taichung with useless directions and having no idea where I was. Trying not to freak out I decided to take a taxi.
Out of a dozen or so taxi drivers, not one of them could speak English.
Twenty minutes later I was still stood on the street, but now I was surrounded by dozens of Taiwanese taxi drivers. Five or six of them had handed me their phones so I could talk to their English-speaking friends to describe where I needed to go. Of course, none of them actually understood what I was saying and I was getting more and more frustrated.
It’s at times like these when I really wonder why I ever wanted to travel!
At that moment a Taiwanese girl about my age approached me after having noticed the commotion I was causing. After she realised what the problem was she whispered in my ear that I shouldn’t take a taxi and had a look at the address I had written down. Not recognising the name of the street she told me to follow her back to her apartment so she could find out where it was.
As we walked along together I was silently freaking out, as different scenarios played out in my mind. Was she going to drug me and keep me as her sex slave? Maybe she going to sell me on the slave market? Was I about to become part of a real life human centipede?!
We reached her apartment and I took a deep breath as I entered, wondering if it was going to be my last ever taste of fresh air.
I soon learnt that she was artist and had the most amazing apartment filled with her artwork and sculptures. She motioned for me to take a seat and poured me a cup of tea. Reluctantly I sipped at it, wondering if I’d be able to detect the rohypnol.
She opened up her laptop and we went onto Google Maps to see the location of my hostel. Once she’d worked out where it was, she grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and drew me a map with directions to the bus stop so I could catch a bus there. She also wrote down the address in Chinese so that I would be able to ask someone for help if I were to get lost.
We spoke for an hour or so whilst we drank our tea, then she handed me the map and we said our goodbyes.
I was in shock that this girl went entirely out of her way to help me, whilst getting nothing back in return.
If it hadn’t have been for her I would have been wandering the streets of Taichung for hours and hours.
Once I’d settled down in Taichung I received a message on Twitter from Lia – a girl that I had been talking to since arriving in Taiwan. After finding out that she actually lived in Taichung we arranged to meet the following day so she could show me around her hometown.
I soon discovered that she’d actually taken the day off work just so that she could spend the day hanging out with me.
During our day together Lia showed me all of her favourite shops and places to eat that I definitely wouldn’t have discovered if I’d been walking around alone. We went for lunch and Lia insisted on paying for everything as well as for our amazing drinks at a tiny Taiwanese tea shop we visited that evening.
During our time spent together I happened to mention that I had hoped to visit Sun Moon Lake whilst staying in Taichung, but that I didn’t think I’d be able to make it as it was really tricky to get to via public transport.
A while later I discovered that Lia had phoned her boss to book the following day off work too – just so that she could take me to Sun Moon Lake herself.
Not only that, but she had also arranged for her Mum to drive us there and spend the day driving us around whilst we explored the area.
I couldn’t believe the kindness and generosity that was shown to me by Lia and her family, and it was extended even further at our day at Sun Moon Lake.
Her Mum insisted on buying me lunch as well as paying for us both to take an amazing cable car ride over the lake and nearby mountains.
As I said goodbye to Lia and her Mum they handed me a present they’d secretly bought without me noticing – a small keyring with my name on it in Chinese characters.
I was very sad to say goodbye to Lia and the next time I’m in Taiwan I’ll definitely be making the trip down to Taichung to see her again.
These two incidents were not isolated events.
Wherever I went in Taiwan, I experienced people approaching me just to say hello and see where I was from. At any time where I was walking around completely lost with a map, people would come up to me to see where I needed to go – and if they couldn’t explain in English how to get there they would take me there themselves. I was even invited to my hostel owner’s grandmother’s house one evening to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival so that I wouldn’t be alone.
I ended up staying for almost a month in Taiwan and part of my reason for doing so was simply because the people were so amazing. I’ve never visited a country where literally every single person wants to go out of their way to help you, and everyone I’ve spoken to about the country has agreed with me. I can therefore say with confidence that the Taiwanese are the nicest people in the world.
What country have you found to have the friendliest people?