Exploring Asia – week 56

September 24, 2015

The children are back to school for a month now. Lilo settled in very quickly having a new teacher and a new mix of girls she already knew from last year. The school keeps on mixing the two parallel classes every year. Something very unknown to me, but I do like it as it gives them a broader sense of community (not only their class, but their grade), and it gives them the opportunity to make new friends. This annual mix also made it easier for us to finally separate Linus and Leonard. We did not need to take one out of the class, but two classes were mixed and they are both now with old and new friends, most of whom they knew already. They are doing absolutely fine. Not once did one of them complain about being separated. They seem to like the idea very much and they recently started to have separate play dates. Linus even went to a birthday party by himself even though Leonard was invited, too. Separate play dates make my life a bit more complicated, but I try as much as I can to give them this freedom of being on their own.

Right after the first month of school the first holiday came up. The Japanese call it Silver week as three consecutive holidays allow most people to take a whole week off, and they do. Prices rise enormously and hotels are hard to find in Japan. We decided to take advantage of Mark’s brother’s visit and leave for a few days without the children. They all had sleep-overs at their friends’s houses to reduce the burden of child care for Patrick and Petra….

Mark and I took off to Taiwan and spent 3.5 days in Taipei. I did not have a very clear image of Taiwan before we went. I knew it was known for a very good healthcare system and I still had the outdated image of cheap mass production “Made in Taiwan” in my head. What a wonderful country we discovered!

Compared to Japan, people are dressed less fashionable, but more casual and colourful. People are very open, friendly and talkative and despite the fact that Taiwan is facing an ageing population, we had the impression to be surrounded by young people only. Language sometimes is a problem as we do not speak any Chinese and quite a lot of people did not speak English. Especially in a taxi, this can be difficult, but we found a wonderful tourist app for Taipei including the address cards for taxi drivers in Chinese!

Taipei sheep
They just love illuminations!

Taipei is a city of about 2.8 million people with about 6.9 million people in the agglomeration. The city is a clean as Tokyo and they love illuminations. At night the skylines are constantly changing colours and every popular building has a special illumination. Besides the illuminations I noted that Taipei is a barrier-free city. Tokyo is far from being barrier-free or wheel chair friendly as a lot of metro stations do not have elevators and a lot of places are not accessible. In Taipei all sidewalks have lowering edges at crossovers, all stations have elevators and ramps, wheel chair accessible toilets are everywhere.

Taiwn no 1

When visiting the Taipei 101, a 101-floor landmark skyscraper that claimed the title of world’s tallest building when it opened in 2004, we learned a lot about Taiwan as they have a very informative waiting line entertainment programme. A few facts that I recall are:

  • They recycle over 58% of their waste, ranking before the EU, USA and Japan.
  • Their metro system has been awarded as the most reliable metro system in the world in 6 consecutive years.
  • 80% of all Chinese pop music comes from Taiwan.
  • They have the world’s fastest elevator in 101 with ascending speeds of 1,010 meters per minute, which is 16.83 m (55.22 ft) per second (60.6 km/h, 37.7 mi/h).

Of course there was much more to learn about this country which has an excellent education system and high ranking universities.

In the mountains - Taroko gorge
In the mountains – Taroko gorge

They also have excellent restaurants and an outstanding service orientation. The landscape is beautiful. The region on the eastern coast we went to as more than 27 mountains over 3000 metres height. With some parts steeply dropping down to sea level. We enjoyed every minute of our stay. It is definitely a country to come back to and to discover more.

Leaving Taipei turned out to be a little difficult, as the hotel did not ask us which airport we needed to go to and just ordered a taxi to the wrong one. On our way to the airport our taxi had a flat tyre – and we were running just in time! After 10 minutes a replacement car came to pick us up and to drive us to the right airport. By then the check-in counter had already closed. Our hotel took good care of us during our high speed taxi ride, talking to the airline and having them call us AND the taxi driver to find out where we were on the road. We arrived at the airport at 7:30 am (flight departure at 7:45) where two airline employees were waiting for us with our boarding passes. They ran through security check, emigration and boarding check with us, making us reach the plane with our luggage (normally to be checked-in) at 7:40. Of course we were the last ones to enter the plane and of course we were the only non-Asian people! But we made it home on time!

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