The Taiwan Secrets Best Travel Guide - the GOOD, the BAD, the UGLY, the WEIRD and the FUNNY

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TAIWAN vs. Canada                                             Cheap Seafood Restaurants Taiwan Wide Ocean View    Taiwan Goods And Bads

The GOOD, the BAD, the UGLY, the WEIRD and the FUNNY

By John B. Qubti

Canada and Taiwan are nothing alike so maybe that’s what attracts Canadians to this tropical island. Canadians outnumber all of the foreigners in Taiwan and many Taiwanese people I’ve spoken to consider Canada to be a really “cool” country.

I thought the best way to analyze the two places would be with a list. I’ve comprised the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY of the first year of my trip from Toronto, Canada to Taichung, Taiwan.

This is intended to help people understand some of my experiences and the difference between both countries.

Please note that this is strictly my sociological commentary based on my experiences of the past 12 months as well as what other foreigners and locals have told me.


Nice weather - The sub tropical weather of Taichung for me at least makes everything go by so much smoother. It ranks at the top of the list. Avoiding the snow, sleet and cold misery of the Canadian winter has been great.

Convenience 24-hour culture - Yo 7-11 jen-how! You got me open like 7-11! This is unreal as nothing really closes in Taiwan the way it does in Toronto. I like to joke that I could potentially buy a major appliance like a dishwasher or refrigerator at 4 a.m. and I can check two or three places around town in the wee hours of the morning. But it’s true.

Honest people - The Taiwanese are extremely honest hard working people. I found out first hand because I've done a lot of bonehead things that would normally cause me to be robbed almost anywhere else in the world. Things like leaving my wallet unattended for long periods of time at the gym, forgetting my keys in my scooter for 5 hours and also carelessly dropping money. In every case people helped me and notified me. Also, mechanics are extremely honest and charge next to nothing for an oil change and maintenance work as opposed to the rip off artists back home. It gives me great peace of mind.


Find great people at Victory Inn


Victory Inn


Cheap goods - Made in Taiwan. This is where most of your stuff is made. The Taiwanese are renowned for building and inventing products. In fact, Taiwan was second only to the United States in terms of new patents last year. The prices are ridiculously low, I bought a new toaster oven for $11 CAD and a jar of mixed nuts cost me $12 CAD, from the same department store. I figure on average everything is 33% cheaper than Canada. In some cases significantly more, but other products such as vitamins and supplements are the same if not more.

Low rent - Wow! Compared to other large metropolitan cities across the world, prices for rent are fractions of the price. In fact, brand new condos in a high traffic downtown area of Taichung are about one fifth the price that they are going for in downtown Toronto.

Food! - A very popular question I've been asked since coming here is, 'Do you like the food?' I've always been a fan of the Chinese cuisine since my Pops would go to the Chinese place at Brian Village and order take out for my brother, sister and I after we went swimming at the Douglas Snow indoor pool. Tasty memories! That was my introduction to North American style Chinese food but since I've been here and realizing that nobody really eats chicken balls drenched in sweet sour sauce and spring rolls wasn't that devastating. The selection of food in Taichung is great, plenty of North American favorites like burgers and pizza, but the only foods I really miss are my mom's home cooking. In a word the best way to describe Taiwanese food is greasy. I'm sure that's not a surprise to anyone but it's not as unhealthy as you would think. Servings of vegetables, fruits and soup are a staple with almost every meal, which helps one balance the grease.?

Scooters - They are your best friend, cherish them. They're so convenient for swerving in and out of traffic. And they're so easy to drive and so good on gas compared to the gas guzzling SUVs that litter the North American roads. If you think scooters are a novelty it's time to wake up and realize that the large tanks people use in the city will soon be the dinosaurs. A large 125cc costs about $3.25 CAD, to fill up and it'll take you about 50 km, and that's at gas being 90 cents a liter.

Basketball free throws - It's nice to see free throw games across the island. At 25 cents CAD it's great to shoot hoops when you need to kill time. I'd say basketball is probably the most popular sport in Taiwan amongst the younger generation.

Comfy busses - Some of the most comfy buses you'll ever ride in. Equipped with flat screen TVs with cable, a video game controller with plenty of selection, and a lazy boy massaging chair all for around $12 CAD each way. The Greyhound bus service in Canada is much more expensive and not very comfortable. While the transit system in Toronto is efficient but not very clean.


Racism and ignorance - This is a very touchy subject and I don't plan on offending anyone, but there is no question the Taiwanese have some issues to work out about skin color. I still find it disturbing that on a scorching hot day when I'm sweating just wearing a t-shirt and shorts Taiwanese women are wearing layers of clothes and oven like mitts so the sun doesn't hit their skin. The two explanations I've gotten are 1) they don't want their skin to turn brown as for women white skin determines ones beauty and affluence. While darker brown skin among Taiwanese is associated with hard working manual labor jobs. 2) When exposed to the sun for long periods of time, Asian peoples skin actually turns yellow, hence the derogatory term yellow people. I reckon that's just ignorance passed on from generation to generation. People of all shades are beautiful!

Traffic Smog - Some days it's absolutely terrible. The exhaust fumes and the humidity are putrid and disgusting at times. However, Toronto in the summer isn’t much better.
A 2005 study showed about 1,700 people die annually from exposure to Toronto's air.

Crowds - A misconception people have about Taiwan is that people are everywhere and it’s crowded wherever you go. I honestly haven't really felt over crowded but the fact is Taiwan is one of the most densely populated places in the world. I suppose the only times I've feel over crowded is when I'm at a Night Market on a Friday or Saturday night. It feels like a jam-packed nightclub except without the loud music and dancing.?

No garbage cans - Garbage and Recycling bins aren't very plentiful here as they are in Canada. It leads to many people being degenerate litterbugs.

Oily food stains - Any slip of grease on your clothes, stains and is almost impossible to wash out, or at least that's what my laundry lady tells me. On the other hand, this should go under the GOOD column: Laundry services. A big load of laundry sometimes costs about $3 CAD. Folded perfectly and smelling fresh! Great for the lazy foreign guy like myself.

Stinky Tofu - I'd have to say that this is by far and away the most repulsive smell I've encountered in my life anywhere I’ve been. It makes me sick to my stomach. The delicacy is called stinky tofu for a reason, and many people say it tastes great. Maybe one day I'll take the gamble and try it, but all I know is that I can never get used to the smell. It is so vile and worse than rotten moldy potatoes, which I would have ranked as my most offensive odor.


Betel nut teeth - This is a definite disgusting sight. Betel nut is 'enjoyed' through out Asia and is best enjoyed when you don't want to sleep as they function as a mild (or not so mild) stimulant. Taiwan has a nasty national addiction called 'betel nut'. It's something that grows on the island, and apparently has plenty of caffeine and nicotine in it. The way they market it is by having pretty young girls usually in mini skirts cut and wrap them in a small booth just off the street. Sometimes they wrap the betel nut with leaves and sometimes they get fancy and used dried fruit. Either way, it seems to make people shake, sweat, and buy more. It also makes their teeth turn shades of red, orange and green. I've tried it once and spit it out almost immediately, as I couldn't handle the nasty taste.



Showers above toilets - When I arrived most of the apartments I looked at had showers right above the toilets. I guess I've gotten used to having my toilet and bathroom floor wet.

Roots Canada gear - Seeing Taiwanese people wearing Roots Canada gear. It's weird because a couple of times I've tried to speak English to someone wearing a Roots shirt and they can't speak English. Canada is considered a really cool country in Taiwan I suppose.


Taxi Cabs ‘souped up’- In North America, you don’t really see a Honda Civic with tinted windows, 14 inch rims with a fat exhaust painted yellow, working cab. It's nice to see that the drivers like their Taxis to be “souped up.”

Dogs - I get a kick out of seeing strange dogs mingling like real people. Some people have told me that the Taiwanese beat disobedient dogs and as a result they are afraid of humans unlike the way it is in North America. In Canada, very few if any dogs walk around without a leash. In Taiwan, I've seen hundreds of dogs not on leashes strolling around among throngs of people. They don't bark or really ask for anything. They just mind their business. It really makes me laugh.

The Police - The Po-Po, The 5-0, The fuzz, whatever you want to call them, always drive around here with their flashing lights on minus the sirens. It's funny because all the Police officers I've looked at in the eye immediately look the other way when they see my non-Asian face.

Poor English printed, grammar etc. - Wow-a-wee-wa! Sometimes I think it's impossible for someone to have a product at a major department store with a grammatically poor label on it, but it happens all the time. It's amazing how bad the printed English is on some products, menus and bumper stickers. One of my favorites was a sign selling Beer, spelled Bear.


John Bishara Qubti is product of the “French Canadian” school system. Born and raised for the first 25 years of his life in North York, Ontario - a large suburb in Canada’s most populated city: Toronto. John studied newspaper Journalism at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. Since graduating from Ryerson he’s had cups of coffee at The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, and Toronto Community News. As well as a Media monitoring and Public Relations gig at the Bank of Montreal head office. He is quick to point out that his literary and personal legacy, are still being etched out. Stay tuned.



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